He might not be a household name, but FD (Freddie Dixon) has been involved in drum & bass for almost 20 years.
Diligently grafting away at the game behind the scenes, running parties, events, labels and record shops he’s committed his whole career to drum & bass. All the while honing his studio craft to his brutally critical self-imposed levels of quality.
Slowly but surely it’s paid off. From his earliest studio encounters with Sub Focus in the late 90s to his emergence in 2010 on Critical, he’s dropped releases on some of the most respected imprints in drum & bass: Metalheadz, Soul:r, Hospital, Spearhead… And, since last week, Sun & Bass Recordings with his highly anticipated four-track Serious EP (complete with a Calibre remix)
One of FD’s most remarkable and memorable tracks to date, Serious – also mistakenly known to many ID-seekers as Still Asleep since Lenzman broke the dub on his Dope Tape mix – marks the start of a new year of activity for FD. And while still stringently sticking to jungle’s less-is-more rule of only a few releases per year (if we’re lucky), he promises more output than we’ve enjoyed before.
We caught up with Freddie to find out more…
Do you think you’ve gone under the radar a little bit?
It’s hard to say. I think my new tunes are better than my old ones, but it might be a little bit arrogant to say I think I’ve gone under the radar. I think the fact I’ve had tunes out on Soul:r, Metalheadz and so on is brilliant and I should be really happy with that, but at the same time I want more – it seems like I’m constantly moving the goalposts! It’s so essential these days to release music constantly; you have to stay in people’s line of vision all the time. I haven’t done that in recent years but I’m going to try and change it this year.
So you’re not a believer in the whole quality over quantity thing?
No, I definitely am. But I think that’s one of the problems with how music, or drum & bass at least, is today. As everything is digital there’s so much more music around and you need to shout more, and louder, to keep noticed. When I used to have tape and CD collections I only had what I had, which meant I knew all the ins and outs of the music and really valued that particular album or single.
Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great being able to discover so much new music on Spotify these days but how often are people going back to it? It’s far more disposable and it’s really hard for anything to have any longevity. If you want to be successful it seems you have to have a constant presence, whether it’s new music, a mixtape, merchandise or whatever. I’ve always believed and wanted that the most important currency is music, but maybe I need to change that view.
It sounds like you’re stuck in the days of vinyl…
Ha, I guess I am a bit. I actually tried to play records for the first time in years on Saturday and it was a fucking disaster – I think pretty much every record skipped! I hadn’t cleaned them so maybe it was my fault… But a vinyl release used to mark out something which was a bit special and something worth taking a financial risk with; something you actually wanted to have as a physical object. Things change as time goes on so maybe I need to change my outlook …
And releasing on vinyl is something of a luxury these days isn’t it?
It seems so. But to me it’s still how I want to see my music packaged and released.
The Sun And Bass EP seems like it’s going to be a big one for you?
Yeah hopefully. Lots of people are liking it which is cool. It’s being really hyped which is great and the lead track, Serious, really popped off in Lenzman’s Dope Tape a while back. However the other day my girlfriend said ‘I really don’t understand why people like that tune so much, you’ve done much better ones’ so who knows! I’m happy with the EP as a whole but can already hear the faults and the little things I would change if I did it again, but that’s the same with everything I write; it’s part of the journey and development I suppose.
Is it called Serious because you feel like it’s time to get serious in your life?
Haha no, nothing that deep… The vocal says ‘serious’ and not ‘still asleep’ as some people seem to think. That’s what it kept getting called on all the forums before it was released so I was a little bit worried nobody was going to know what it was when it came out! In one Facebook post, someone was talking about Serious and wrote ‘I like this tune but when is Still Asleep coming out?’ which I thought was quite funny.
Calibre must be taking you pretty seriously if he was prepared to remix one of the tunes of the EP. What was it like having him put his spin on things?
Ah man, it felt like a real full-circle moment. He’s one of the reasons I still like drum & bass so to have him put his interpretation on one of my tunes was a real privilege. I really like what he’s done with it. When I first listened to it I thought ‘that’s what I should have done!’ He just made it sound so charming, as he always does. His music is somehow more held back than everyone else’s, never as up front, which gives it a beautiful feel.
You’re involved in many areas in the scene. Do you ever think you should just focus on producing and forget the other stuff?
Hmm, I don’t think I could just make music seven days a week – it can get pretty lonely being in the studio on my own. There are lots of other interesting things in music to put your attention to, whether it’s making it, designing stuff, doing promo or whatever, and that diversity is one of the things that attracted me to it.
Maybe you should find someone who wants to form a duo to combat the loneliness?
Nah I quite like working on my own really as it means I can really try and express my ideas, although it took me a while to learn to enjoy doing it by myself. I got my first studio experience making tunes with a friend back in 1999, none other than Sub Focus – I don’t talk about it too much because I reckon it sounds like boasting. I used to go to his place where he pressed all the buttons and I just watched and shouted out ideas. You could already tell then he was on to something then and he worked so hard. He would stay up reading music technology magazines until about 10am or something ridiculous like that, well after I’d gone to sleep. He’s a really clever guy too, as well as very talented as we all know.
Wow, nice! So you’re coming up to two decades in the game then…
I guess I am. It’s taken me a while to mature and become half-decent. I reckon it’s definitely a hard thing to be good at; there’s a lot of science behind making something sound good.
I hear you’re also partial to a bit of techno?
Definitely. I’d never been to a proper techno night before I went to Berlin seven or eight years ago but I think – and really enjoy that – there’s more room for creative artistry in techno than drum & bass; it allows people to flex their creative mind in a different way. There can be scope in techno to do something really interesting.
So you’re saying you hate drum & bass?
Haha no no, not at all. I probably sound a bit grumpy but I do still really love drum & bass and there’s a lot of good stuff out there at the moment. I’m actually feeling a lot of jump up, it’s fun – but there’s definitely a limit.
And finally – you’ve released music on a wide range of labels – would you like to be exclusive to one?
I think I might have an easier life in a way if I had that exclusive label support but also, you have to be careful what you wish for. I wonder if I’d be stifled if I was signed to one label or feel frustrated and constricted musically. I feel like I definitely still have my artistic integrity in tact. Is that something to be proud of? Definitely.