Southall born-and-bred Vivek Sharda, more commonly known as V.I.V.E.K, is the artist, label owner, selector and man behind one of London’s most important dances, SYSTEM.
Active since the early 2000’s, V.I.V.E.K’s pursuance of soundsystem culture can be rooted to his early fascinations of eminent systems such as Aba Shanti and Jah Shaka. His highly influential dubstep night and label project SYSTEM operates on an ethos not of LFO-based purism, but rather a celebration of London’s vibrant sound system heritage, paying heed to everything from reggae and dancehall to dub and grime.
SYSTEM’s November edition, taking place at its new home of Electric Brixton, will see V.I.V.E.K bring together originators like The Bug, D Double E, DJ Chefal, as well as a Hyperdub special guest.
Ahead of the dance, V.I.V.E.K hits us with a playlist of heavyweight classics inspired by the lineup, and stops by to discuss the journey of his SYSTEM sound, the current state of dubstep and more.
Where did your early love for Soundsystem culture and music strive from?
Music has always been a part of my life. Far back to when I would see my Grandmother singing religious songs to my Dad trying to sing a Hendrix or Zeppelin track, round to my uncle reciting Dennis Brown. Soundsystem culture, specifically with Aba Shanti playing at the the local community centre at the end of each month and me being a lanky 13 year old are my earliest memories. The power of the sound, what they were talking about. I was hooked.
Your label System music came before the System club night, how did one evolve into the other and what inspired you around that time of the dubstep landscape to start your own night?
It wasn’t the best of times. DMZ had stopped. FWD was moving towards a different sound. There was a gaping hole. I guess looking back I was lucky to fill it. But the idea behind it had been in my head way before. The label just seemed like a logical step if i’m honest, initially I was going to put just my music out. Then I realised I had a platform and I could help bring through new people so I went down that lane.
How has System developed since its beginnings, did you always have sight of where you wanted to go with it or has it naturally veered elsewhere?
The night and label has been organic. I’m proud of that, the label still has no digital footprint and initially we didn’t even have lineups. I’ve tried my best to keep it like that. I’ve never had a “business plan” of where I want to take it but I do like the idea of cross pollinating genres. Thats something I’ve done for sometime, and the next system is our biggest to date.
How much does it cost to build and run your own Soundsystem? Physically, mentally, and financially, how exhausting and satisfying can it be?
How long is a piece of string? Depends on your financial scenario. The other side, physically and mentally, it takes it fully out of you. Your the first in, last out. Nothing but respect for the sounds that are still running after 30 years. INCREDIBLE.
Dubstep nights and System itself were born within low capacity basements, how does System translate to Electric Brixton, and when you have taken it outside of London and the UK?
It works really well. People know the score. I think if the sound is on point it doesn’t matter.
Like any genre, dubstep has grown so much on a major scale, as one of the OGs; do you feel it’s lost some of its original character and definition? How do you as a leader of the movement ensure it still continues to progress in a healthy way?
Appreciate the sentiment but the real OG’s are the guys who started it. I’m just following in their footsteps but adding my own twist to it. Looking back everything is always better. Such is nostalgia. But to be quite honest I feel like the whole thing is in a very strong place. And that’s mainly thanks to the diversity of the music. That’s really the only way to keep something healthy; diversity. From Gantz to The Widdler, Caspa to Egoless, everyone is doing their thing. That’s what makes it so special right now.
On that note who or what in Soundsystem music and culture is inspiring you to keep on moving right now?
MUSIC. Always has been and always will be.
The System label exceeded 20 releases this year with SP:MC’s 10”, and continues to push out fire at a rapid rate, is the backbone of the label as much about DIY as it was when you created it?
Yes the idea behind it hasn’t changed. I’m fortunate to have such great artists wanting to work with me. Looking into the future I have so much new music to put out. For the time being I’m focusing more on new talent but also have some big releases pending.
Looking back on System as a whole, are there any particular high moments for you?
Cliche but the whole thing has been a high. Even the lows. You learn and develop on these journeys and I feel blessed to have been doing this for so long. Quite often music is a flash in a pan so to see something, which was initially a schoolboy dream, come to fruition and continue to move forward makes me feel proud and happy.
Talks us through the November edition, with the likes of The Bug, (A HYPERDUB special guest) Chefal and D Double E appearing, it seems like a nod to the originators, how special is that lineup for you and what can we expect?
I mean what can I say. If your going to use the term OG now’s the time (minus myself). I don’t need to blow there trumpets. These guys are the backbone of UK underground music . Straight honour to have them on board. But I wanna say a special shout to DJ CHEFAL. For me the best DJ there has been in the genre from the start. It was him that broke all the new releases and his back catalogue would make a grown man weep. Powered by the mighty SINAI Soundsystem this is going to be a rollercoaster.
THE ONLY GOOD SYSTEM IS A SOUNDSYSTEM!
SYSTEM: VIVEK feat SP:MC — The Bug feat. Flowdan + D Double E + DJ Chefal + more takes place at Electric Brixton on November 16.
Tickets available here.
Images: Ben Donoghue