Welcome to tomorrow. Dilemma is part of our massive new-generation line-up bringing in a hopeful new year: Future Vision. Kicking off 8pm GMT, Dilemma will be joined by the likes of Winslow, The Caracal Project, Deadline and more TBA. Eight acts, four countries, the full bass spectrum. Get to know…
Brighton-based drum and bass producer Dilemma is one of the most exciting talents in a fresh crop of artists representing the liquid scene. In what’s been a pretty disastrous year for many, she’s worked hard to ensure there’s been some light at the end of the tunnel.
Halfway through the year she released her debut solo EP; Exit Stage Left. A deeply personal body of work, the warm, ethereal beats echo the blueprint laid out by the liquid greats of the early 2000’s. Stripped-back but full of a dynamism and personality, the EP moves through a range of soundscapes, taking the listener on an enigmatic journey through the peaks and troughs of her moods and memories.
She burst onto the scene back in 2016 when her debut on Skankandbass led to airplay on Radio 1, before gaining support from legendary drum and bass figure Calibre. Since then she’s featured on Hospital Records on a collaboration with Ownglow, Random Movement’s Flight Pattern and the former Lifestyle Music.
She’s continually found a home on Pola & Bryson’s Soulvent Records however, praising the label for their unerring support as she navigates the drum and bass industry. Last year she collaborated with Robert Manos on the exquisite Gone Too Soon and provided remix duties for the label bosses, before showcasing what she can do in its fullest with this year’s solo venture.
Ahead of her joining us for Future Vision, we caught up with the blue-haired beat-crafter to look back over this weird year.
How have you found 2020?
Well I definitely feel lucky, as I’ve kept my job throughout the pandemic and have a roof over my head while so many others have been struggling. Overall it hasn’t drastically affected me, apart from my studio experience! I haven’t been able to write anything since my EP came out halfway through the year.
I suppose making warm, uplifting beats can be difficult with everything that’s going on around us!
Absolutely, the pandemic seems to have drained all the creativity out of me! Some people have really channelled their experiences and felt really inspired and made loads of music, while others have had their spirits dampened and felt quite uninspired. I’m definitely in the latter category!
I think it’s fair to say you’re one of the most exciting talents in liquid drum and bass. How would you assess the current scene?
Thank you! That’s a good question, I’m actually notorious for being really bad with keeping up to date with the latest drum and bass, which, as a drum and bass DJ, isn’t ideal haha! I think the scene is in a great position at the moment, there’s so much good talent everywhere, not just in the liquid community. There’s definitely been a return to the more sampled-based sound of the early 2000s which I absolutely love. I think there’s a real musicality to what we’re hearing with some really incredible song-writing. This could potentially be because we’re seeing more vocalists as artists in their own right instead of just featuring on a track. Overall, the scene is so strong!
That’s interesting you say you can hear the return to that early-2000s sound, as that’s the era I associate with your sound. If we’re talking influences, I can hear Calibre and Artificial Intelligence, but there’s a much wider music taste you pull influences from, right?
Oh yeah! I actually try not to listen to drum and bass on a daily basis as I think it helps keep your music as personal as possible. Music is like a fingerprint; everyone has their own personal style and approach. I think spending too much time listening to what others are doing can mean you could chase the sound others are making. Today for example, I’ve been blasting Britney Spears and Nelly Furtado haha! I’ve really been enjoying Disclosure’s new album as well, and I’m listening to lots of hip-hop and a bit of classical as well. I also come from a rock background, growing up on a diet of Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot and all that kind of stuff. I try and not get complacent with what I listen to so I can draw on a range of influences with my production.
You had your debut solo EP out earlier this year. That must have been a proud moment for you?
It really was. I was blown away by the response to it all to be honest, especially as it came out in the middle of the pandemic. So many people have come out of the blue to tell me they like it which is really humbling and a bit touching as well. The EP is a bit of a statement of intent, as it’s the most ‘me’ piece of work I’ve released to date. It’s like a consolidation of everything about me into one release.
What’s the story behind it all?
I always start a tune and do about 90% of it really quickly and then it takes about a year for me to finish off the rest. The EP was written quite a long time ago, which is quite common, but for me, it’s the norm. I was going through a bit of a rough time when I was writing it. It was a bit of an up and down year, so the EP is a bit of a reflection of that with its peaks and troughs. There’s some uplifting, fun bits, but also some deeper pieces of music to put it in perspective. It was quite a cathartic experience putting it all into an EP!
It came out on Soulvent Records- a label you’ve built a really strong relationship with over the past couple of years…
Shouts out to Soulvent and all involved! They’ve been incredible to me from the beginning. They’ve pushed me to experiment and try new things and have always liked everything I’ve come up with. They encourage me to use them as a resource, so if its help with my music or I need some studio time, they’ll be there straight away to help. They’ve just been so supportive to me, both as an artist but on a personal level as well.
I suppose Pola & Bryson were in a similar position to yourself a few years ago, so there can’t be many better label bosses to work alongside!
Absolutely! They came onto the scene quite quickly which I’ve kind of done as well. They’ve been so helpful in giving me information on how to navigate the drum and bass scene, as it can be quite daunting sometimes!
I read that you linked up with them after they reached out for more female producers…
That’s right, I got involved with Soulvent through my university actually. They were reaching out for more female artists and they gave me a message. They’ve always been really conscious about females in the scene, ensuring their line-ups are always diverse and the music they release comes from a range of backgrounds as well.
If there’s any kind of positive we can take from this year, it’s that the drum and bass scene has started to take some steps to readdressing the gender imbalance…
It’s definitely been a bit easier as a female artist. I put this down to the rise of streams in the pandemic. With the live streams, you don’t have to worry about anything other than the stream itself, so new artists who normally wouldn’t have been looked at can be reached out to more. We know how drum and bass is kind of concentrated here in the UK, but its reach spreads all across the world. We’re now seeing womxn from all over, whatever their background, being given the opportunity to share what they can do. Hopefully when the clubs reopen, we can continue to see more of the same!
As a female artist, does it feel like change?
There’s still a long way to go, but it seems like people are certainly more aware of the obstacles that have been holding womxn back that male artists don’t have. A few years ago, people would be like ‘we’re not going to treat them any differently if the music is good.’ Now we’re seeing womxn being given the step up that they might need so they can then be on an equal level. People in power seem to be noticing as well, take Hospital’s Womxn in Drum and Bass programme for example. Obviously, there will be people who roll their eyes at this, but as the awareness is now here, we’re in the position to start making the changes. We’re seeing a lot more female role models now, so hopefully that can be inspiring to the next generation. Programmes like EQ50 are doing some great work consciously and proactively making space for all womxn as well.
I suppose the only thing to do is now look forward, starting with your set on New Year’s Eve for Future Vision! What can first time listeners expect from your set?
I’m so excited! I can’t wait to get back to DJing again, starting with New Year! I’ve got a couple of bookings already for next year which I can’t wait for. I’ll be playing at Hospitality on the Beach, and then the following month I’ll be at Let it Roll for the first time! For my sets, I like to go between the loveliest liquid and absolute face-melters, so first time listeners can really expect a little bit of everything from me!
And then we’re out the other side and into 2021. What’s next year going to be looking like for you?
Well I’m going to be moving house early next year so I’ll have my own proper studio for the first time which I’m so excited about. I guess that means there’s no excuse not to start writing lots of new music and hopefully getting it out for people to hear! I’ve actually got a really big project which I can’t really say too much about, but that should be out next year, so ears to the ground for that!
Join Dilemma at Future Vision, December 31, 8pm