Mixtapes. It always starts with a mixtape somewhere. And in a small town in West Virginia, a 14 year-old AC Slater started rummaging through his dad's music collection and laying down his own sweet mixtapes on a TDK D-C60. AC (real name Aaron Clevenger) upped the ante and threw in some big hip-hop and rap beats to his mixes, mastered the art of DJing and BOOM - he became the king of the decks at high-school block parties for miles around.
Now AC commands the party crowds from underground dens in New York, the grimy warehouse raves of east London to the throbbing super-clubs in Tokyo with his high-octane mix of twisted electro and dance-driven beats. Can we call him a musical hijacker? We'd like to think so, as his relentless tour schedule sees him in a world-wide whirlwind, touching down in the heart of the party scenes across the globe. Here, he cherry-picks the tracks from the centre of the hardest, fastest and freshest clubland vistas and remixes and reloads them to fire back out at his ever-growing audience.
With a background in hip-hop and rap, it took an "eye-opening" Chemical Brothers gig that sent AC charging into the dance world at the age of 16. "It became this big discovery process for me," he says. "I was already into hip-hop, rock and punk, but the Chemicals was the first ever rave I went to. After that, I just went to my local record store and bought up every electronic dance record I could find."
While AC plays driving dance-floor beats, it's his ability to fuse the underground with the overground that sets him apart from his contemporaries. He says: "I'm all about getting my music out to a wide audience, but making sure it has that fresh, underground edge." So while his tracks like Jack Got Jacked blew up the blogosphere by harnessing the (then) underground electro sound in 2008, AC wants people to see the funny side too. No wonder, from the guy who once wanted to be a comedy writer - check out the lyrics to his dubstep, big-beef tune with Udachi, Calm Down (sample: "Yo why you take my sandwich on my birthday?/You know I'm on a diet/I need that multi-grain"). "Fans quote it to me. It was just a joke but people really enjoyed it. Sometimes people get too serious. Music needs to have a humorous edge."
And behind every great man, well, there may be a woman, but there's also a crew. Falling in with the turn-it-up-to-11, bass-hungry party-starters Trouble & Bass, in New York City 2008 caused AC to not only up his game in writing, producing and performing, but also gave him a bona fide urban family too. "It was funny - I'd been to some of the parties they were putting on in Brooklyn, and one day I was Djing and I looked up and the three of them were just standing there at the back of the room, like real menacing looking," he says. Thankfully, they weren't there to tell him to get off their patch, but instead welcomed him with open arms and made it official with the infamous T&B pendant. "It just works," AC adds. "We're all really close. I consider them my best friends."
It was through the T&B crew that AC started working with Drop The Lime, a long-time collaboration which has resulted in tracks like Creepin' (2010) and numerous back-to-back sets at "if-you-can-remember-it-you-weren't-really-there" parties. Then there's his other musical partner-in-crime, rapper Dell Harris. Their hip-hop odyssey into the underbelly of NYC's nightlife, album Right Now (2011), already causing a stir.
AC's also been setting the clubs alight and making a name for himself as one of the hottest remixers around, with a back catalogue reading like a How To Dance manual. Boys Noize (Yeah), Crookers (Cooler Couleur), Moby (Stars) and Steve Angello and Laidback Luke (Show Me Love) are just some tracks in a long list of dance-floor bangers sparking out from his deft hand. In fact, Moby was so blown away he labeled AC's remix as 'a perfect song' and one of his top ten songs of the decade, yep, there's your night's playlist sorted right now.
Then there's AC's record label, Party Like Us, set up in 2009 and named after his eponymous bass -romper track. The label's become the go-to name for the most cutting-edge musicians scouted by AC on his travels and currently includes a roster of bright young things Kry Wolf, Udachi and B Rich.
And the mixtapes - they're still going strong. Bigger, better and hyped by the likes of Toddla T, Annie Nightingale (BBC Radio 1), KISS FM and a million and one muso-blogs. The mixes have catapulted AC a long way from a West-Virginian bedroom, but the ride's created one hell of a soundtrack.