Artist to Artist: Mani Festo and Private Caller


2020 may have thrown a few spanners in the works for those in the music industry, but some artists certainly haven’t let it scupper their plans. With the wheels already in motion before Covid hit, Hooversound – the brainchild of DJs and radio hosts Sherelle and NAINA – charged on with the launch of their label in March, and have since released three more outings, each spotlighting the sounds and styles close to both their hearts: dubstep, footwork jungle and breakbeat.

The latest, release number four, comes in the form of a split EP that combines two of their favourite artists: Nottingham-based DJ and producer Private Caller and Club Slow founder and producer Mani Festo. Connected on this release by a shared love of 90s rave, jungle and hardcore sounds, collectively the pair have notched up releases on E-Beamz, Swamp 81, Tumble Audio, One Puf and Rupture.

Following the release the pair chew the fat about formative influences, evolving their sound and what 2021 has in store…

Mani Festo: Easy mate, hows things? So as we don’t know each other that well I thought this would be a great chance to find out a bit about each other’s processes, inspirations and general things!

So just to kick things off, you’re based in the Midlands right? Did you grow up there and if so what was it that first exposed you to Rave or Electronic Music in general. 

Private Caller: Hey man, yeah born and raised in Nottingham. I think my love for Rave and electronic music stems from growing up listening to the music my parents were listening to.

I remember growing up and my dad used to pump Zinc’s Super Sharp Shooter regularly on his car stereo. My mam was a big Prodigy fan too and I remember being shit scared of the Firestarter music video but absolutely loving the tune. Since then my love for rave, breakbeat and all things electro has just grown really.

How about yourself? And where did the name Mani Festo originate from?

Mani Festo: Oh wicked, so your parents actually got you into it.. Dad was a Junglist! Love that man. 

My parents kinda missed the rave thing so the music playing at home was certainly not that! I grew up in a small town on the coast which didn’t have much of a music scene going on. A small group of friends and I went searching for it really. Got heavily into Drum & Bass when I was about 18 and the rest is history haha.

As for the name for a long time I was ‘DJ Ewok’ (lol). I used to play D&B in Brighton and at free parties quite a bit. When I went to uni I started experimenting with different sounds, particularly messing with breaks at 130ish. I met Loefah and ended up working with Swamp81 for a few years and needed a new name to distinguish from what I had been doing before. It was around the time of an election I think and I kept hearing politicians bang on about their manifestos and I just thought “That will do”. It’s not deep really haha.

Is there a story behind Private Caller as an alias? 

Private Caller: I’d like to think you just played bait Star Wars D&B remixes with a name like DJ Ewok!

That’s sick that you worked with Loefah and Swamp81, I’ve been a big fan of Loefah since the early dubstep days and love the stuff Swamp81 puts out.

I got my name from the Grime track ‘Private Caller’ by Skepta as I’m a massive Grime fan and like to use a lot of Grime elements within my tracks. I was originally going by the name of ‘Baggy T’ and made proper bait 4×4 Bassline tunes which were awful so had to change my name when I started making my new stuff.

Was there anything in particular or a specific artist that inspired you to make the stuff you’re currently making?

Mani Festo: Haha bait was definitely one way of putting it! Digging down to the deepest corners of my record collection will tell a few stories! 

Mate sounds like we both got into it through the cheesy end! Nothing wrong with that though, everyone enters this at one level and peels back the layers over time. 

Yeah so my next question was gonna be about Grime influences! It’s really clear from your tracks, particularly the Hooversound release that it has played a big part in your sound. I love how you have taken that and fused it with Jungle and Hardcore in a really unique way. What’s your studio set up like, are you using any gear or working in the box?

I’d say the music I’m making now really is just a culmination of everything that has inspired me over the years. I’m really into Techno and the whole futurism of it so I like to try and apply that mentality to what I consider ‘the other side’ of my influences which is Jungle, Drum & Bass and Hardcore. 

I will say that the most prominent moments of inspiration have come to me in the middle of a dancefloor. Not having that experience for such a long time has definitely taken its toll! 

Is there any particular moment you can think of that stuck out to you as a turning point or a lightbulb with the development of your sound?

Private Caller: Yeah man, I really get the feel for the techno concept within your tracks, especially with the stuff you released on Warehouse Records, that was big.

Mate, my set up is laughable to be honest. I have an old computer that I probably got when I was about 15 and produce on Reason 4 which is about 13 years old I think! I use no gear at all, not even a midi keyboard, I literally draw in all my melodies with my mouse! I did buy a Mac and some production gear at one point but never got on with it and flogged it all. My producer friends always take the piss out of me for it and keep telling me to upgrade so I think I will in the new year!

I know exactly what you mean by getting inspiration from the dance floor. One of the main reasons I started using breaks was when I heard Special Requests VIP mix of Hackney Parrot in a club and everyone just went mad to it. To be honest I think listening to his stuff was my main sauce of inspiration to begin with, Benton too.

I know your part of Club Glow with Denham Audio. How did that come about? The stuff you guys have put out this year has been sick. I know you’ve been nominated for DJ Mags best breakthrough label of year too, that must feel amazing?

Mani Festo: Thanks man! Tbh I wouldn’t say that is laughable at all, considering the sound your getting out of it I’d say that is impressive! I’m a firm believer in whatever works for you and if that doesn’t involve spending a fortune on gear then that’s probably a good thing! 

Ah yeah man Hackney Parrot was an absolute weapon innit! Yeah big up Benton as well he definitely was paving the way for the sound we are all on at the moment! 

Club Glow has been going strong and it’s been really organic, I was helping Denham and Borai with the first tape, doing artwork and bouncing track ideas with them. Then I did the next tape with LMajor and it’s kinda just snowballed from there, we never had a plan so to be nominated for the DJM awards came out of nowhere! Obviously we were up against Hooversound which is a madness in itself. Whoever wins I’m just grateful to be able to be involved with amazing people and platforms!

Talking labels have you got any other releases in the pipeline (that you can talk about)? Or any plans moving forward?  

Private Caller: Yeah, they’re both great labels putting out some serious tunes. I’m a big Denham Audio fan, ‘Make Me’ with Borai is still one of my favourites, proper feel good track.

Release wise I have a few things in the works for next year but they’re all pretty hush hush at the moment. I’d like to get a few more collaborations out too as I really like working with other producers but I’m so lazy when it comes to networking. People will ask to collab with me and send me tracks to work on and I’ll just get sidetracked and forget I have projects to finish! So I really wanna knuckle down on finishing projects next year and work with more artists/labels.

I’d really like to start playing out at events too (that is if Covid fucks off) so promoters hit me up! Lol.

What are your plans for the new year music wise?

Mani Festo: Yeah Make Me was huge, they smashed it with that one! 

Love to hear there is stuff in the pipeline man I look forward to hearing some new stuff! 

I’m in exactly the same boat with collabs! I have a few on the go but just always get sidetracked with other ideas. Sounds like a good new year’s resolution though, to collaborate more…

Next year is obviously so uncertain but I have a few releases lined up so far. Couple of cool remixes coming soon and an EP on West Norwood Cassette Library that I’m stoked about! I’m also trying to develop something of a live set to play out, to change up from DJing, we will see how that goes haha. 

Honestly I miss playing out so much, I really hope that with things starting to look up we might actually get back to the clubs next year… I hope! 

I’m really missing being able to travel as well, something that is really important to me is visiting other countries so I hope that we can do that again. 

Do you have any other like, ‘hobbies’ or is there anything you really miss doing that you haven’t been able to this year (besides raving!). 

Private Caller: That’s sick, I look forward to hearing what’s coming from you in the new year man!

I’m in the exact same boat as you. I love travelling abroad and had 3 trips cancelled this year due to the big C so can’t wait for it to get back to normality. The thing I’ve missed most this year is the festivals. Spending a few days in the mud drinking tinnies with my closest mates is like a yearly ritual for me. I’ve been to Boomtown the past few years and absolutely love it so for it to be cancelled was a big loss for me. I get so much inspiration when I go there from all different kinds of genres.

How about to round it off, what’s your highlight of 2020 been?

Mani Festo: Ahh mate don’t talk to me about Boomtown haha, I’ve only missed one year since 2012 so it’s really a big part of my life! Absolutely crushing not to be there again this year, fingers are crossed for next year! Just need to let off some steam outdoors. 

Tbh 2020 has been a madness of a year, but I have to say I’ve kind of appreciated the time to look inwards and to develop myself in different ways. I lost my job in September which was the best thing that’s ever happened to me as it was a really toxic environment. I now have my own business and doing what I always wanted so it was a blessing in disguise. My main highlight really is learning to truly appreciate life, what I have and what I can offer back to the world.

What about you mate, any important things to take away from this year?  

Private Caller: Yeah man, 2020 has just been a write off kinda year! That’s sick that you’ve come out stronger though, having your own business must be mint!

I agree with you mate I think this year has made me really develop myself and made me realise what I wanna do going forward. As soppy as it sounds the highlight of my year has to be meeting my Mrs, she’s truly made my year something special. That and all the releases I’ve had, oh and getting followed by Special Request on Insta! Haha, it’s the little things that count eh.

Hopefully next year will bring exciting new stuff for both of us musically! It’s been a pleasure chatting with you and I wish you all the best, hopefully our paths will cross again soon. Take it easy g.

Mani Festo: Respect mate, something tells me they will, I have no doubt! I’ll see you at Boomtown next year haha! Thanks for your chatting mate, have a great xmas and new year! 

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