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Purav Parmar


In Conversation with DE-TÜ


In Conversation with DE-TÜ

Most notably known for their dubstep work, DE-TÜ’s productions didn’t take long to catch ears by surprise after they dropped their first release in 2017. With music on the finest labels in the game, including White Peach, Innamind and Infernal Sounds, their weighty and intricate tracks are best enjoyed on bone rattling sound systems.

Composed of Jevon Ives and Chris Iona, both members of DE-TÜ have various roles in the music industry, which begins to explain their production standards and also the diversity of dubstep in their discography. Ives with his writing, production and engineering of countless musical styles (as well as his trademark vocals) and Iona with his co-ownership of Green King Cuts the sound system, record label and now club space, Green Works. With all of this in mind, it was only a matter of time before the duo turned their attention towards other styles of music. 

Introducing Archives, a self-released series aiming to showcase the duo’s influences and talents outside of dubstep. The first edition of the series kicks things off with trippy bursts of breakbeats on one side and spacious, eerie garage flavours on the other. Many could find themselves saying that they came for the dubstep but stayed for the versatility of the DE-TÜ sound.

Catching up with the duo we learnt about their pirate radio days, the importance and complexities of living in Bristol and the challenges of touring.

How would you define DE-TÜ’s sound?

Chris: I’ve got a big dub influence, so does Jevon with his old man and their Tubby Isiah stuff.

Jevon: You’ve got that and then my hip hop influence. 

Chris: It’s definitely got a dusty hip hop feel to some of it, but our sound is ever evolving. 

Jevon: We met back in our raving days in London when we were making tunes under our individual aliases, C-Side and Transparent. Chris was always into dubstep, I was more into drum and bass, but then we started making mad halftime which was a crossover of the two. 

What sort of club experiences did you have back in those days?

Chris: We used to go to Cable, Fabric as well. We’ve done our fair share of raving together. 

Jevon: We basically know each other from going to Cable. 

Are there any nights you remember, or is it a bit of a blur?

Chris: We used to hit up Shogun Audio at Cable. 

Jevon: It was definitely a blur. There used to be a dubstep event which had some big names from the time like Lost and Kryptic Minds, heavy dancefloor tearout stuff but also some deeper stuff. 

Chris: I was also going to events like Plastic People and DMZ a couple of years before this too. 

That era was pretty influential it seems. A lot of the people who were going out using fake IDs then are the same people playing similar events nowadays. 

Chris: That was me! I used to nick my brothers passport from his drawer and go to Fabric when I was 16, sometimes they wouldn’t even ask you for ID. 

Jevon, I know you got into production as a teenager after you learnt how to mix. Chris, how long have you been making music for?

Chris: I first made beats when I was around year 9, I’ll never forget opening Fruity Loops and having no idea what to do with it. I was just playing around and couldn’t even save anything because it was cracked. Then I moved onto Logic and Jevon was using Reason so I ended up trying to learn that because this was all on desktop computers. We were just playing around and having fun. 

Jevon: The first time I got musical with Chris was when he used to have a radio show on Dubstep FM in Tottenham in these dodgy tower blocks. It was a pirate station with loads of heads on it, it was good fun. It had proper People Just Do Nothing vibes, the real deal. Then we started making tunes and the rest is history. 

Chris: The move to Bristol played a big role. That’s when this all kicked off, around 2016. We were writing music and had all of this 140 stuff so started an alias. The name is totally random and doesn’t mean anything. 

Jevon: We just put letters together and thought it was cool. People sometimes ask what it means and it’s actually a bit of an anticlimax. 

Maybe you should have just told people the name’s a mystery… So moving to Bristol was a big part of the change, do you think it was Bristol which changed things or just the fact you weren’t in London anymore?

Chris: It was a bit of everything really, we were studying Music Production & Audio Engineering at the same music university too. Trying to craft our skills which was a gateway. 

Jevon: Definitely, being at uni strengthened our bond. We could work together on projects for our studies and for fun, whilst also getting to know the Bristol scene. Chris was in the year above me and had already started Green King by the time I was writing my dissertation, so I ended up interviewing him and using him as a reliable source. 

Chris: I forgot about that! Those were pinnacle times. We progressed, found our sound quickly and stuck to it. At the time there was a lot of dubstep popping off in Bristol. It was active and there was a real community feel. There still is now but it’s different. 

Jevon: Bristol is so small, you get integrated into everything so quickly. Then once you’ve done that you feel like you need to do something else.

Chris: It always looks different from the outside compared to when you’re actually in it. 

Jevon: The sound system culture here and just the general music history shined a light on our drive and passion for this. Being around it so much, going to soundclashes and just appreciating the music, vibes and sound systems.

Chris: There was a lot on offer. Going to Teachings in Dub, big up Stryda, that was the pinnacle. Hearing the sounds and how they’re meant to be played. 

Jevon: It allowed us to understand the culture more, and then dive deeper into that with our productions. 

Take it further rather than just imitating. Are your influences pretty similar outside of dubstep?

Chris: Similar, but we listen to different things. Jevon’s showed me some sick music over the years and vice versa. We’ve got different tastes but similar interests. 

You mentioned how the name DE-TÜ is meaningless and Jevon, you’ve said before how your vocals were exclusive to DE-TÜ in the dubstep world. Do you think the mystery that comes with not releasing too frequently in the past, not letting anyone else have access to your voice and just being mysterious in general is a big part of DE-TÜ?

Jevon: We used to keep it more elusive but if you want to evolve and stay relevant, you have to do certain things that will mean you’re more exposed. With the vocals, it’s nice to not have the tracks featuring anyone. 

Chris: People sometimes ask who it is and when I say it’s Jevon they’re surprised. When we started, there were no names or photos attached to anything. We wanted that because we were already involved in the scene and didn’t need people to know us, only the music. It gave us a blank canvas for people to listen objectively rather than have expectations.

Jevon: Now the algorithms need selfies. 

I’ve heard similar things from people who wanted to keep things more mysterious but it’s tough if you want to promote yourself at the same time. 

Jevon: For sure, but we’ve also progressed. Fans like to see your face and what you’re doing. They appreciate the updates and pictures here and there. It’s like following a journey. Now we’re trying to expand our sound and not just stay in one little box. Diversify and become more open to the public. 

What is this diversification?

Jevon: Musically we’re sitting on so many non-140 tunes that we need to start releasing them but we need a strategy because everyone expects dubstep from us. That’s not really want we want to be solely doing anymore because we’ve done so much of it. We’re growing as artists. I’ve got enough aliases as it is and Chris has enough on his plate, so we may as well try and stick it all under one name. 

Chris: We’re moving with the times. We’ve been into a variety of music from a young age, so we’re not jumping on a bandwagon. It’s our sound. But you go to events now and it’s not just one genre, so we’re throwing all of those sounds which we already had into the world. 

Definitely, it could even be starting to move past that. I saw one well known artist ask if multigenre sets were boring now, which feels like things could go full circle in a few years. 

Chris: Everything has cycles, often five to ten years. In a few years things could go heads-y again where people want one genre. If there’s more of a cult following then things could go in that direction, but music scenes feel quite loose right now. I see it in the nightclub, where people are less interested in one thing.

Jevon: It’s more about the energy it brings to the dance. 

Chris: It can be hard to get an older crowd too, other than jungle and some house events. Whereas I played in Germany and it felt like everyone was over 25. 

Jevon; Then you go to America, play garage and it’s not as well received. 

Chris: Different horses for different courses. 

That must be difficult to prepare for when you’re touring. How did you find that? Taking your music all over the world must be amazing but the challenges it brings when different gigs have different preferences. 

Jevon: It’s good to analyse what people like in different countries. In New Zealand I wanted to play some different styles like garage and electro, but really people just wanted to hear dubstep. Before I was just going off what people wanted to hear in the UK, and I took that on tour with me. But they just wanted to hear the slow, heavy basslines that we’re known for. Australia was different to New Zealand and so was the US. You’ve got to analyse the events, their videos, the lineups to grasp what they want to hear. Otherwise you’re just pissing in the wind, you can go play gabber to an empty room. 

So you went for that approach rather than being like, “Screw you, I’m going to play whatever I want and if you don’t like it then tough.”

Jevon: I still did multigenre sets for nearly all of the tour, but you just have to hone it in a bit.

What’s the dynamic in the studio?

Chris: It varies but if we’re together in the studio then we sometimes each take half an hour turns at the controls. Jevon’s solid at writing melodies and more musical elements. Then we’re just building layers and adding more. I’ll give it a mix towards the end.

Jevon: One of us could bring something we started the night before, then we’re both just taking turns at it. Chris gives it a proper mix at the end when we know it’s done because he has the sound system. 

Chris: I’m a bit more nerdy and techy with the engineering. Jevon also builds tunes on tour so things can become more difficult then, but when we’re together we tend to knock up a lot of tunes. 

Jevon: It’s the most balanced when we’re both in Bristol. 

So it’s quite fast paced when you’re both together?

Chris: Our best tunes are often written in a day or less. They come and go pretty quickly. 

Jevon: You know within an hour if it’s going to be a banger. 

Is this why self-releasing is appealing, to get music out there more quickly?

Chris: We’ve built up a lot of tunes but we’re releasing them slowly and so it gave us a reason to slow down our pace because we didn’t need more tunes. Now we’re going to have an outlet we have control over, so we can work at a faster pace, mm mbn which is how we want to work.

Jevon: It also gives us more creative freedom, because if we’re not feeling dubstep then we have a series where we can do whatever we want. 

Chris: Not thinking about how we fit in with the sound of certain labels. 

Jevon: Labels can be long to work with ñ of vinyl pressing times, Unearthed recently closed down too. It makes more sense to do it ourselves. We have all of the control, keep all of the money, do the mastering ourselves. Chris has the cutting plant so we can do short runs of vinyl with every release and don’t have to press hundreds which is a big investment. 

Chris: There’ll still be room to work with labels we’ve released with before and there are more we’d like to work with. We’re not pushing that to the side at all. 

Jevon: When we’ve made some sick original tunes that are dubstep. But all of the alternative stuff, dubplates and edits it just makes sense to do it ourselves. Why not? We’re just focusing on consistency and when you’re waiting on labels to give you your turn, that could be over a year away and so you’re not active unless you’re self-releasing. 

It makes sense, especially if you have all of these resources available to you. Chris, tell me about Green King Cuts. 

Chris: Me and Jake Hennessy started it as a label because people were struggling to get vinyl releases. We released a lot of dubstep alongside veterans in the dub and reggae field, so there’s quite a mixed bag. That progressed and the sound system which we run eventually came with that. We were cutting our own tunes and playing them at events on our sound system. That was our ethos. 

Jevon: That’s the most authentic you can get. Rather than playing the game, you’re doing everything yourselves. It started with a label, then cutting vinyl and dubs, then building your own sound systems for your own events. Now you’ve got your own nightclub. I don’t know where it could go from here. 

Chris: I feel like we’ve hit a peak, the journey’s been mad and last year we opened our club, Green Works. These have all been major risks, but it was all a hobby which turned into a job. It’s still fun, we like to take risks. Jake says, “You’ve got to be deluded”. 

Jevon: If you weren’t delusional, it wouldn’t work. 

Chris: If we knew what we were in for, we wouldn’t have done it. There’s so much behind the scenes that no one sees, there’s literally blood, sweat and tears going into it. I’ve actually got a trapped nerve in my back. 

Those dubs are literally too heavy. 

Chris: It’s getting to me. It’s all for the love though. At the start, it wasn’t planned out. It was just all one step at a time. 

That’s beautiful, playing your own tunes on your own rig in your own club with your family around you. 

Chris: Yeah man, we’re offering a platform for Bristol too. We have loads of events and have even had a lot of the free party crews in and around Bristol coming to us looking for a safe space, and because the venue is a warehouse you’re allowed to play loud music. It feels like a free party. 

You’re bringing people together and won’t even know how much of an impact it will have because you can’t be everywhere. What have you guys got coming up with the new series then?

Jevon: It will be on all streaming sites unlike the dubplate series where we’d have acapellas or bootlegs. It’s all original and different to what we’ve done before, so we want it to be heard across all platforms and not just by the heads who follow us. We’re going to focus on the digitals, the wax is a little add-on for those who really want it. It all has that DE-TÜ sound, it’s just not dubstep. We have 120, jungle, weird garage-y breaks-y stuff and everything in between. 

Are you already eying up the next release?

Jevon: Yeah, we’re looking to do it once a month. We could release a tune a week for half a year if we really wanted to, but we want it to feel like a proper series. 

How does this line up with your other work? I heard you mention on your appearance on Rinse FM that you’re trying to be more consistent with all of your aliases. 

Jevon: Balancing everything is a struggle I’ve always had. But since I got back from tour, I’ve gone full time with music and built a studio in my garden so I have a space to work in. It’s nice to have all of this time to dedicate days of the week to different projects, get a proper schedule together and treat it like work. It’s so much more manageable and I’m enjoying it more. 

I’m sure having more time gives you more headspace for everything too, it sounds like you’re both in a good place to carry things forward. 

Jevon: To be able to sustain yourselves, it’s good to have more avenues for releasing music. With that will come bookings and everything else. 

What changed to make you go full time with music?

Jevon: Getting back from the big tour earlier this year, I didn’t want to go back to work. I thought I can do this full time, I just have to put my mind to it and believe in myself. Be proactive and treat it like a proper job rather than procrastinate.

Chris: I remember you saying whilst on tour that you wanted to do it full time and look for a studio space. I just told him to build one in your garden. Once you’ve got an idea and are proactive with it, you’re not just dreaming. 

Jevon: It just needed planning, I was in Thailand decompressing after the tour and had so much time to think about what I wanted and how I’d get there. Four months later there’s a studio. 

Chris: We both have our own space, but I work a lot from home at the minute. The cutting room is in the same building as the club, where there’s also a studio. It can be ideal but when I’m there all day, I don’t want to stay there in the evening because I get a bit of cabin fever. I do have a setup here at home which is ideal because it feels more chill. 

Jevon: And we live only a five minute walk from each other, it’s so easy. 

There can be enough barriers to making music without these logistical issues so this must make things even easier. 

Jevon: Exactly, and it’s good to work in-person as a duo. 

This all sounds so positive and if this has all just happened, the next few years are going to be really exciting. 

Jevon: The only way is up bro. 

One last question, just imagine if you both came back to your own homes and noticed that there was a fire inside. If everyone was safe but your studio had gone up in flames, what one thing would you save?

Jevon: That’s such a hard question. If it’s going to be anything, it’ll be my trainer collection. 

Chris: I was going to say my Nike TN’s. 

Jevon: We love our creps. The cat can burn in hell. 

Chris: The cat’s safe…

Jevon: That’s good for the cat because I’m not taking him. 

Follow DE-TÜ: Soundcloud/Bandcamp/Instagram

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