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Dave Jenkins

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We Need To Talk About Flite

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We Need To Talk About Flite

The first time Flite realised drum & bass was the music he’d been looking for all his life, it was on UKF. 10 years later, he’s rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mat Zo, Wilkinson, Camo & Krooked and Hybrid Minds on our UKF10 album.

An album comprising some of our closest friends and artists who’ve developed with us, there could be no way he couldn’t be on it. The young Austin-based artist has been a regular fixture on the network, averaging two tracks a year for the last five years. Consistently weaving and bobbing between styles, he’s deftly kept himself free from subgenre restrictions: Flite tracks can range from the widescreen dancefloor scud missile Elevate to the dreamy departure of Audioscribe and all things in between.

Another example of his sonic range can be found this month; a few weeks back we shared his nuclear-powered D&B twist of RL Grime’s Core, then this week Tragedy, Humanity. Musical, bittersweet, laced in equal measures of hope and melancholy, Tragedy, Humanity is one of his boldest pieces to date. And it comes courtesy of our album UKF10 – Ten Years Of UKF.

The last time Flite was mentioned on this site was November 2018 when DJ Fresh explained how he was a key inspiration to the re-launch of Breakbeat Kaos. Exactly a year later he’s here telling his story; from how playing in a marching band and video games led him find UKF in the first place to how he still feels new to drum & bass even though he’s been producing it for eight years…

Let’s just quickly rewind to this summer with your Calm Before The Storm EP. That was a big release for you wasn’t it?

It was. It was a long time coming and some of those tracks are two years in the making. Decisions was literally called Decisions because it took me two years to figure it out. A lot of feelings went into that EP.

Was that your inner perfectionist holding things up?

An inner self-critique, I guess. Like ‘hey dude get a grip on who you are and what you make!’ Then I realised I don’t make a particular type of drum & bass. I don’t ground myself in a niche. I don’t have a set style I have to strictly adhere to. Which is cool because you’re often bounded by certain expectations.

That must be liberating? You cover a wide range.

Feeling categorised makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m often described as a liquid artist. I make liquid, I love it. But I’ve made a lot of dancefloor too. Then I have tunes like my Shots remix and my In2 U remix. Then, soon to come, even darker stuff that people haven’t heard as much of.

I think we can hear that darker vibe in the RL Grime – Core remix. That started as a bootleg, right?

I was a bit cheeky. I didn’t ask him at all. I came through as a Soundcloud boy and a lot of people were just making flips and bootlegs. It was less formal to me than I realised. But I guess he noticed, someone tagged him in the videos I put up. I knew he was playing drum & bass. He liked it a lot and he got in touch with me. I’m stoked that’s happened.

We’re stoked about Tragedy, Humanity. Are you musically trained?

I played piano to third grade when I was a kid then got into a marching band. That was a massive education. I credit my band teacher Jim Paxton to why I have a career now. He had a huge affect on me. He inspired me to take a leap of faith into something I was passionate about.

I love that. Could you consider any parallels between marching bands and drum and bass?

Less parallels and more inspirations. Marching band started me on this and then I played jazz band and that’s how I learnt to improvise, which was super helpful to writing. But it was video game music that got me into it. Learning and playing these tunes expanded my music knowledge massively.

I wonder if UKF was an early portal into this world?

100% fact. I found electronic music through Pendulum. I didn’t know it was drum & bass at the time. But the first bass music tune I found was the Numbernin6 remix of The Prodigy’s Breathe, which was on UKF in 2009. 10 years later and I’m on the 10 year album.

That makes Tragedy, Humanity even more of a personal achievement

It’s a very significant track for me. Sometimes a tune falls out of you. It’s a creation you felt so strongly it went from your head to your fingers. I’m lucky to have achieved a level of confdence in my production where I can take what’s in my head and put it into the world. It’s taken a while but now I’m at a point where I can translate that to music.

That must be a good feeling?

A good example of this is that I had a dream once. A music dream. At the time it was an explosion in my mind. I woke up and immediately got on my computer and that track became Between Sky & Sea. It was so vivid in my sleep I remembered it and translated it.

Wow, that must have been super vivid. Amazing how things can come to you in a dream. So back Tragedy, Humanity. It’s bittersweet. Where’s it coming from?

There’s a lot of ways you can see it. Humanity as a tragedy on earth, tragedy being next to humanity as a process of life itself. Or a self-reflective way; this is my tragedy, it’s part of my humanity. I was feeling that. One of the lines I sing is “why are we so blind to see all that we were meant to be?” That’s an explanation of my work so far. I want to be something grand and feel good about what I do but I often can’t. It’s led me to such huge self-doubt. But in the meantime, I make a piece like this which has a hopeful sound but is also melancholic, and I can’t even see it for it is sometimes.

You can’t. you’re too close to your work. Poison chalice of having a job you love doing. You doubt because you have a high quality standard.

There’s a lot of ways to see it. I also thought a lot about thousands of years of human life on earth and civilisation leading up to this moment now and all I’m doing is sitting on Twitter feeling depressed. What kind of a fucking life is that?

Nail on the head for a lot of us to be fair…

People have created all these incredible advancements in human life and evolutions in science and art, drastically life-changing things and I’m sitting there feeling shit on Instagram? That’s my tragedy. I can’t help but look at the entire products of the past and see these great people and ideas that have come to last forever and sense that we’re in a point where it’s tough to see the macrocosm when you’re so obsessed with the small occupying things of social media. I’m addicted to scrolling and I hate that.

On the flip side you must have had positive interactions especially with how you’ve built a following.

I have and I am very grateful for that part. That’s also a tragedy because sometimes when you’re so in your own head, you can’t even grasp you affect people with your music. I have to thank the internet for my music career and a lot of my friendships. So yeah, that’s a good thing and not a tragedy.

I understood the meaning of the track to be humanity is the tragedy. The world is better off without us.

Totally. Calm Before The Storm was literally about climate change. I’ve been thinking about that so much. It’s another piece of the pressure when you go on the internet and you’re bombarded with bad news and you realise how critical it all is. It can be crushing.

It’s totally crushing. Can we talk about the fact that your first UKF upload was five years ago? You’ve been on the channel over half our lifetime!

That’s crazy. I still feel like a newcomer.

I’d say you still have the vibe of a newcomer!

Thanks. I’ve been doing this eight years, but I still feel like a newcomer. It’s powerful to see the cycle of drum & bass. It has this longevity but it’s still constantly fresh and developing with new artists and new ideas. I adore that about drum & bass. But I do feel new and I do feel I’m still getting into and finding out who I am and my relationship with it. There have been moments when I’ve felt like ‘okay this is working.’ Like looking artists who I’ve been inspired for years in the eye and they’re talking to me like they’ve known me for years or that I’m a peer.

Like who?

Andy C was a recent one. I met him at Liqucity and we had a chat back stage. We kept in touch and he’s inspired me for years. That’s mindblowing.

DJ Fresh too, right? He bigged you up in the last interview we did with him about BBK

Oh man that was just insane. Gold Dust was a huge hit when I was growing up. The Flux Pavilion mix too. To be asked for a remix by him after he randomly found my music on the I Love D&B playlist was crazy.

I can see a shared spirit between you both. He’s never stuck in a set sound. When he sets out to do something, he does it. Whether it’s a banger or a pop hit. Unapologetically.

That’s a good word man. I don’t have an old school attitude; I love progress and Fresh does progress. He pushes things forward. Camo & Krooked are another example. They just blew the roof off what drum & bass can be. Loa is just ‘wow’. Every time you drop it you get such a crazy reaction and it sounds nothing like anything drum & bass could be 10 or event 5 years ago.

That’s the old school attitude and the spirit of drum & bass; pushing machines, pushing boundaries, doing something new

Yeah like when they were discovering time-stretching and pitch shifting. There’s a documentary about Goldie and how he pitched his drums. It blows my mind now. Guys like Pete Cannon making compelling modern tunes with techniques from 15/20 years ago and documenting that on Twitter. That’s been fascinating.

I love how there are so many options, you can find your instruments that make your sound and not just use the same stuff. Camo & Krooked did that between Zeitgeist and Mosaik.

Totally. And what I love about their approach, and what I do with my mine, is create an organic feeling. We had a lot of hard screechy stuff when I first got into D&B in 2011 and it’s been a journey into organic, big, warm and natural sounding stuff. Joe Ford is a great example. He makes organic, beautifully sculpted sounds that sound natural to me. As if they were playing in the room. That’s what I want to see more of in my tunes. The same weight of a club hitter but still feeling organic and full.

I think you’re on the way there… Is Tragedy, Humanity your last of the year?

Yeah my final tune of the year but I’m following it up with another thing in January on Liquicity which I’m very excited about. One of my favourite moments this year was Dimension jumping up onto the stage to see what the track name was.

Nice. Let’s give it up for US drum & bass right now to sign off man…

It is a great time right now. I haven’t been this excited about it since I started. I hear it in people’s cars as they drive by. I’ve seen people I’d never expect from my personal friends who’ve been lifelong Bassnectar fans asking for D&B playlists and getting their friends into it. There’s a fascination with drum & bass in the EDM community right now which I guess is what happens after you’ve developed something to a point. Dubstep is here to stay but I don’t think it could get any bigger. And now the dubstep guys are even playing it. Funtcase plays drum & bass he makes. Mat Zo is playing it. Porter Robinson. RL Grime. I won’t say these guys are bringing it to America, but they’re helping and exposing it. There’s a whole generation of guys here forging ahead.

Namecheck them, then sign out!

Well Bensley is super fresh. Boxplot and Ownglow are two very good partners in crime. There’s more than a few amazing newcomers, Winslow, Karmasynk, Echo B and a lot of younger artists who are really just starting but showing such promise. Polaris and Schematic are holding down beautiful liquid in Canada, Des McMahon and Nesium are smashing out impressive dark tunes, Audioscribe is back from hiatus on a brilliant new level, and Quadrant & Iris are just unstoppable right now. There are so many more, I couldn’t possibly name everyone. It’s awesome to see. We even have a nice congregation in a Discord server called DNA (DNB North America), where we can all give and get help on tunes or career advice. I love seeing it in action.

All said, the hugest of gratitude to all my fans, you yourself Dave, and the people who have helped put me in this place I am now. I can’t thank you all enough, especially UKF, which I am honored to feel a part of. Much love.

Tragedy, Humanity is out now on UKF10 – Ten Years Of UKF

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