WORDS

Dieselboy: “EDM is the equivalent of fast food”

Dieselboy is back…

Okay so he never actually went away. But in terms of releases, last month saw the New York City USA drum & bass pioneer’s first release in three years in the form of Angel Dust…

Last spotted on record as Faces Of Def with long-standing cohort Mark The Beast, Angel Dust takes off where they left us thanks to its dramatic theatrics and machine gun bassline rattles. With confirmation he has plenty more ammo to follow – and the somewhat substantial matter of his monstrous 138 track Destroyer 2 mix that landed less than two months ago – we called him up to get scope on his 25 year career in drum & bass.

Regarded as one of the founding American drum & bass OGs, he’s resolutely pushed the genre since its hardcore roots and has been present and influential at every stage of drum & bass’s relationship with America. From his battles to win over the UK 20 years ago to his concerns about EDM’s dilution of underground culture, Dieselboy’s story is as deep as it is unique. Here’s where he’s at in 2017…

Destroyer 2… What happened?!

Well the original one was a pain in the ass to do. It drove me crazy. But when I stepped back and saw it go down well I knew the time was well spent… So I knew Destroyer 2 had to be even bigger. You have to keep improving and developing don’t you? So I took my time with it – maybe around five weeks, working out what tracks I was going to use. Finding things that sit right and complement each other and really fit in the mix – it’s not just a bunch of tracks blended back to back to back. Those kinds of mixes are cool but I prefer to use the music as “paint” or shades. Not use them in a linear way but to help color the overall vibe and the diversions the journey takes. Maybe I’m starting to sound too pretentious about it all?

Not at all. In a world of endless 30 min promo mixes, this level of attention to the craft is necessary…

Agreed. I’ve been making mixes since 93, so I have to keep myself interested and entertained. I love the mixes that still keep revealing details five or six listens in. Mixes you want to come back to. That’s what I aim for. I’m old school and I like “concepts” and high levels of detail. I want to make the best mixes, period. I set the bar high for myself.

What’s your favourite mix of all time?

Good question. There was a Green Velvet Sessions mix for Ministry Of Sound. I loved the music on it and the overall story of it. It wasn’t intense, it was just a really immersive vibe. Also the first James Lavelle Global Underground mix. I’ve been a huge fan of his since Mo’ Wax. He has such a cinematic take on mixes. I listened to that one hundreds of times. Plus loads of old rave mixtapes from the UK that we’d try and get our hands on. I remember some really inspirational Grooverider mixes.

Were mixtapes your gateway into the genre?

They played a role in my understanding of the genre. What happened was I went to an industrial gig, a band called Front 242. I’d broken my leg skateboarding so I was hanging out at the back of the crowd and this dude from a record shop I bought industrial music was telling me about this track Anasthasia by T99. I found it and I spent my last 30 bucks on it – didn’t even own a CD player! From that moment on I became obsessed with hardcore. It was pre-D&B, Reinforced were on release two or three. I watched it develop into drum & bass from there and became more obsessed with collecting the tapes and CDs and of course vinyl when I fell into DJing. I got into it strictly from a music lover’s point of view.

Your first release came on a UK label, Tech Itch. That’s pretty significant for an international artist at the time. It was a tight scene to enter from outside the UK back then wasn’t it?

I got shit on pretty hard, yes. Back in the DOA days especially. But the reason it came out on a UK label was because my roommate started this online romance with a guy who was best mates with Tech Itch in Manchester. I made a pilgrimage to the UK in 1995 and he hooked me up with Tech Itch to meet while I was there and we became mates during my vacation and worked on a track together. It was completely random. But that’s what got me into production and it happened to be via a UK connection.

I’ve heard stories from international acts who had to fight hard to prove themselves back then. Teebee and Marky especially. Did you experience that too?

It was exceptionally hard. People from the UK were shocked we’d even heard of drum & bass. It was a very protected scene, the guys running it were very keen to preserve it the way they wanted. I got it. I didn’t like it but I got it. Yeah Teebee and Marky had huge challenges and broke down major barriers but I felt I got extra shit because I’m American. People on DOA were brutal. I was relentlessly attacked just because I was American and this so called ‘poster boy for US drum & bass’. When I finally came over to DJ you could feel the tension. I could see people staring at me, arms crossed like ‘what you got dude?’ And even when I felt I’d smashed a set people wouldn’t approach me – unless they were fellow US tourists. It took years to break that down. For years I just felt ‘okay that’s the way it is in the UK’ but gradually, around the late 90s, early 2000s people started to realise D&B was international. It was weird, bizarre and frustrating. I’m glad those days are over to be honest.

The turning point was around the late 90s when guys like Hive, Violence Records, Gridlock, Ewun, Infiltrator, Evol Intent and many more all came through… By that stage US D&B was so loud the world couldn’t ignore what was happening Stateside.

That was a golden age. Pre-EDM, peak American rave scene. Drum & bass was popping here from 2000-2004 and there was a real momentum and energy and the UK was coming around to what we were doing. Things changed then for sure.

There was a strong connection with you and Fresh and Bad Company during that time wasn’t there?

I love Dan and have incredible amounts of respect for him but our relationship took a while actually. Let’s say we didn’t hit it off straight away but we were forced to work with each other in a way. System, the “mother label” of Human Imprint, licenced Bad Company’s Shot Down On Safari for US release and put it out on my label. I don’t think Dan was happy about this at the time but we released it and became the first people to remix  Bad Company. Dan and I toured the US to support the album. It was only during the tour we realised that neither of us were dicks and were actually cool and became friends. We joke about it now but yeah it took a while to build trust and respect.

Wow. So you mentioned EDM earlier… What are your thoughts on the whole paradigm shift that it’s caused in US electronic music and how that affects drum & bass?

Years ago I used to dream of how life might be if electronic music was eventually accepted by the mainstream as a real source of creativity and culture. Now I know. And I wish I didn’t. Drum & bass is founded on being an aficionado and getting super into something you love and really digging deep into it. Of course the drawback of that type of spirit are dickhead trainspotters who would look down their nose if you weren’t playing the newest tunes, but I prefer that to mainstream kids getting into the scene without any sense of history or why it is what it is.

EDM doesn’t require any digging, it is just fast-food music… Up goes the build, then comes the drop like some hit of drugs then an epic breakdown. DJs play a trillion drops a set – like doses. There’s no patience for DJs to learn the craft or for new fans who want instant impact and don’t appreciate the art of mixing and creating whole new tunes between two records. And yeah some of that behaviour has found its way into drum & bass over here. EDM has dumbed down the mindset of DJ culture. It’s frustrating. I am not sure we can turn things back around.

I would say drum & bass is still in safe hands… There’s a real interest in the pioneers in recent years with guys like Randall, Digital & Spirit, Roni, Bad Company, Mampi etc all getting the recognition and props they deserve and Goldie’s new album dropping later this year…

Yeah I’ve noticed that and there’s definitely that level of interest here in little concentrated pockets but I worry people don’t stay in electronic music long enough to even find drum & bass. They get tired of it or burnt out from drugs too quickly to even dig deep enough to find legitimate sounds like jungle. I could be wrong. I’m still getting a lot of shows but I see it at the major dubstep and trap events where the thrust for instant gratification have pushed DJs in a certain way. I used to love going out and checking other DJs to get inspired and I find that harder to find. It’s boring and feels phoned in – the light show, the rock star antics, all that bullshit. I want to see some real fucking DJing.

How about your dabbles with dubstep? Wasn’t Beyond Thunderdome dubstep?

That was drumstep. I’ve never done a 140BPM track. But I got to a point playing here in the states where I felt I couldn’t get away without playing some dubstep. And that got me round to thinking if I played a few dubstep tunes I could get on those line-ups and Trojan Horse the shit out of the scene, get in with a few dubstep tunes then smash it and expose dubstep kids to drum & bass. It kinda worked for a while – but I felt that a lot of fans were annoyed. Purists couldn’t get their heads around 140 beats per minute difference. If you like a type of sound the BPM range shouldn’t matter. It’s ridiculous.

It is. Finally… Productions. It’s been a while!

Yeah it has been a while! I would say production isn’t my forte. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as DJing. But it’s great to be back in the studio and Angel Dust with Mark The Beast marks the start of what will hopefully be good flow of releases. Mark The Beast and I are working with Bare on a track called Demolition with Armanni Reign on vocals. It’s kinda half-timey and goes down really well – the reactions it’s been getting are crazy and it’s had support from Funtcase and Excision and all those guys. I’m also set to remix Apashe’s Battle Royale and I have a track called Stagediver with Mayhem and Mark The Beast which has got a Virus Wormhole-era style drum kit and really heavy guitars. So yeah I’m definitely focusing on more music this year. Watch this space…

Follow Dieselboy: Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter