INTERVIEW | Sammy Virji Talks Sold Out Debut North American Tour, Iconic DJ Mag Set, & More
If you hear “It’s Virji, isn’t it” on a track, you know you’re about to hear some absolutely filthy UK Garage beats. This now iconic tagline belongs to the one and only Sammy Virji. Although UKG certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s definitely having a renaissance in the US right now, and we have Virji to thank as one of the forerunners for that.
The British producer’s rise over the last year has been nothing short of meteoric. Ever since his viral DJ Mag set over the summer, demand for Virji has skyrocketed. He’s currently in the midst of his debut North American tour, with some shows selling out in minutes.
His particular brand of fast kicks, unexpected key changes, and deep, swingy basslines is just one of the reasons we named him one of our artists to watch in 2024. But we could just as easily point to the infectious energy of his sets. With his massive smile and goofy dance moves, it’s hard to tell who is having more fun or dancing harder at his shows: him or his devoted attendees. Filled with his arsenal of unreleased IDs and bootleg remixes, his spectacular track selections make his shows absolute must-sees.
We were lucky enough to have the chance to catch up with the booked and busy producer before his sold out show at the renowned Elsewhere venue in NYC on February 3rd. You can check out our conversation below. Enjoy!
[TSIS]: The first thing I have to ask you: whenever mentions your name, the next thing I always hear is, “it’s Virji, isn’t it?” So how did that tagline come to be?
[Sammy Virji]: There’s a producer called Craig Shapes. He produces Bru-C’s stuff, and he was recording some radio items for me. And he [tried a few] like, “represent Sammy Virji, represent radio, represent Sammy. And then he just goes, it’s Virji, isn’t it? I was listening to the raw file, and I just thought, oh that would make a good little thing and the rest is history I guess.
What was the first track that you added that to?
So the first track was called Shapes, it was named after him.
So you’re on your first North American tour. I would say the US electronic music scene is very different than the UK scene, you know, we lean a bit more bass and dubstep. The US has really only recently started embracing tech house and house, and obviously UKG. Are you adjusting your sets for this, or are you bringing the UKG?
I’m not adjusting them at all. And it’s really good because it’s going down really, really well. One thing I would say about American crowds is they’re quite open minded, which is really nice – it’s really heartwarming to have such good reception.
What are the main differences or surprises between the US crowd versus UK crowds?
The biggest difference for me is the crowd’s more mature because obviously you can’t drink until you’re 21. Well, you can’t celebrate until you’re 21. I think that those three years makes a massive difference, as there’s quite a lot of respectful crowds out here. [They’ve] been amazing, just something about the open mindedness. Nicer people. I love a UK crowd though as well, but they’re just different, UK’s more in your face.
Has the reception to certain tracks been different? Have there been any tracks that were sleeper hits in the US?
Actually, “Shella Verse” doesn’t hit as hard here. In the UK it’s massive, same thing with “Body Pump” in Australia. But then the Peggy Guo bootleg doesn’t go off in the UK, but here it has.
I mean, that was the song of the summer here, for sure. What about [new track] “moonlight”?
Yeah “Moonlight’s” gone down really well, but I haven’t actually played it in that in England.
You’ve been going viral for the energy in your sets. Especially the DJ Mag set. I think that was one of the reasons [for going viral], besides the killer track list, but your energy was just so palpable. What keeps you motivated? Do you feel you have to dig deep? Or is it just easy for you?
It’s very easy. I get naturally quite excited when I DJ.
Is it from you just being confident in your set list, or you just being like, this is the music I wanna play anyways, so I’m just gonna vibe?
I just love this art. This is my dream job. This is what I’ve been wanting to do since I was really young. So I just get really gassed. And then to see when everyone else gets happy makes me more happy, and it’s just exponential.
Yes, it’s a symbiotic relationship. I know you mentioned that when you were younger, you played guitar and that your dad was a musician. And then I know you’ve also said that dub step was a big influence for you getting into electronic music. So what would you say are your biggest musical influences – electronic, but also non electronic?
For non-electronic, obviously my Dad…he’s a jazz musician and he’s in Jools Holland’s band, he does a lot of soul music…he plays the trombone. He’s actually been on a couple of my tracks [like “5 Star”], I’ll get him on more in the future. I loved Michael Jackson growing up, like I was a big, big Michael Jackson fan, and a lot of Mo-Town stuff. For electronic – my mate gave me a Rinse.FM CD, which is a radio station in London. It was Plastician and Skream that curated these compilations…there’s way too many people to mention. Also, Chris Lorenzo, I think is, is a massive one…Flava-D, MJ Cole…
In past interviews, you said Conducta was a dream collab, and now you’ve done that [on collab track “Whippet”]. So what are your future dream collabs? Speak it into existence…
I reckon Skrillex, I mean that is a bucket list for me…I’d just love to do a tune with Skrillex, just because I think he’s just phenomenal. I’ve always thought that he’s just the best producer in the world….Chris Lake and Chris Lorenzo. Four Tet – I’d love some shifts with him.
Almost all of your shows in North America have sold out and congrats on that! That’s amazing. What would you say was the moment – set or song – that brought you here.
Definitely the DJ Mag set. Since then, it’s just gone mad. It’s still mad. I still don’t believe that I’m here, like, I’m in New York.
And not only that, but selling out a really prominent venue [Elsewhere]! Okay last question: what else should we know about Sammy Virji?
I have sciatica.