WORDS

The Rise Of DJ Premium

From UK to Belgium. From liquid to jump-up. From the grottiest, weirdest bass textures to the most euphoric goose-bumping synths via the bounciest, wooziest riffs and trippiest switches… Premium is a man of multifaceted musical contrasts and extremes.

He’s also a man on a bit of mission. He has been since he emerged 10 years ago tinkering under a variety of aliases before honing the frenzied sound we know him for now on labels such as Subway Soundz and Dubz Audio. The mission then levelled up in a major way in 2015 when he moved to Belgium due to his loyal following and weekly bookings there.

It’s where he’s called home ever since and it’s where his mission one-upped again earlier this year with the launch of his own imprint Exert Records; a label established to help the next generation of Belgian artists break through and develop. He’s also started tutoring production and, most recently, followed Heist and Annix as the third artist to create a sample pack for Hedex’s By The Producer series. Which is where our conversation started with him. Get to know…

You’ve just done a sample pack for Hedex. They seem like quite a fresh take on sample packs…

Definitely. Sample packs are the nature of the game. Whether you’re an established artist or you’re breaking through, it’s good to have some proper quality samples to hand. But I’ve found a lot of sample packs don’t give the best stuff. You’d listen to one by an artist you rate and they didn’t sound quite the same. It didn’t add up. The bits the artists are giving us aren’t their best.

Scraps!

I wouldn’t put it quite like that! I get it from a producer’s point of view: you do want to keep your special stuff special. But on the same hand, you should aim to give your best stuff so it pushes you to make even better sounds. Most of my samples have come through my own productions. I literally put in the pack what I would use myself. It’s an insight into my own production. This is something I’ve thought a lot about since I started teaching people production.

Teaching helps you realise what you actually know doesn’t it?

It keeps me learning. I have to be prepared to answer any question and all it takes is a student trying to push you to see how much you know and you could be stuck for an answer. It’s led me down some really interesting paths. I’ve got a better understanding about the maths behind it. How the algorithms on synths work, for example. It won’t help my creative process, but to teach it it’s important for me to know that stuff.

That’s got to have a positive impact on your own creations, or make you more confident in the studio?

I’ve never felt so confident about what I’m doing in the studio. In the past I’ve made liquid, I’ve made the darker stuff too. Everything I’ve learnt in the studio through this gives me a push to try more and be more experimental.

You already are. Your tracks often have some crazy contrasts and trippy elements. Super grotty and mad euphoric elements in the same track…

That’s a reflection of my own personal music tastes. Beyond drum & bass. I’m always trying to put that into my music. I guess it’s a cliché you hear a lot but it’s true.

A lot of fans are always surprised at how little drum & bass music drum & bass artists listen to outside of the studio and DJing. You need more influences than just the genre you’re making don’t you?

Totally. I’ve always made different bits over the years. Most of them I never made public or released them under an alias. I did liquid under the name Drudge way back in the day when I was doing things with Decimal Bass who also had an alias. I was making really dark stuff and some commercial liquid vibes which had quite a bit of support back in the day. But that was all a long time ago.

What were the turning points for you release-wise? The Contract EP for Biological Beats stands out. Maybe 150 Stitches with Macky Gee.

The first big one was a release on Subway Soundz called Deadman’s Shoes which got a lot of support and became my first big track. That kicked off my DJ career properly, that and 150 Stitches were getting me booked a lot in Belgium before I moved here in 2015. That’s when it went from a hobby to a career and I decided to move here. Actually that led to another turning point in terms of releases. The Sour Diesel EP was the first EP I made when I moved here.

Nice. Brings back memories too now, I’d imagine?

Massively. I wanted it to represent me moving there and how the city influenced me. I listen back and get really strong memories of making it. I was in a tiny apartment, really excited not knowing what the future held or if I’d made the right decision. A lot of music is like that for me, though. I have a strong connection to each track and the time it was made. A lot of track titles have quite personal meanings because of that.

So maybe it’s no coincidence that you’ve named a track Take Care when you’ve recently become a dad?

Ha! That was a bit of a coincidence really. But one thing I’ll say is that my production confidence and abilities have come on a long way since I knew I was going to become a dad. I kinda went into panic mode. Just this real feeling like I cannot fail now. I really focused and upped everything I did to get better and Take Care was one of the tracks I made during that time. The Telepathy EP was written during that. I just really, really tried my best from last summer and pushed myself more than I have before.

Including launching your label Exert. It’s a proper Belgian label isn’t it?

Yeah it’s totally built around the Belgian scene. There aren’t that many people here. Murdock supports loads of great artists but not on the jump up side. I could really see a need for a professional platform for the new generation of producers here. They’re the future of things here so I want to help them learn about the industry and get expose on a professional platform.

You’re keeping the Belgian torch lit

That’s what I want to do. It’s a shame UK labels don’t seem to pick up on these guys – besides Dubz Audio and Low Down Deep and a few others – so I’m creating a place for them to develop.

So what comes up next?

Next is one of the best new generation Belgian artists out there. Captain Bass. Then there’ll be an EP from me towards Christmas. We’re doing some exclusive releases too. Like limited runs of 50 downloads on dubs. Like a dub clubs but with no obligation to buy, just a need to be quick if you like it. They sell out in 24 hours max.

Interesting even though it’s digital…

Yeah, it works too. I’ve had people calling and messaging for a copy, but that defeats the object. It’s limited and it’s special and once it’s reached its limit that’s it, it’s gone.

I bet fans respect that too and don’t share it themselves!

It would be stupid of them to because then what they’ve just paid for isn’t as exclusive. It’s just something cool for up and coming DJs who want something exclusive or special and are switched on and watching what we do. It’s all about giving back and doing cool interesting things that feel special, have some type of meaning and make people feel like they’re part of something.

DJ Premium – By The Producer Sample Pack is out now

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