Deadbeat

Deadbeat
When did you start making music? What were your early influences? Who did you look up to when you were coming up?
I started making music like a lot of people I think, playing in several bands that had different names but were made up of the same people in a friend’s basement when I was 15 or so. I didn’t start making music with computers until about four years later when I moved to Montreal. During that stage of things I would say my biggest influences were the ambient dub producers like the Orb and Bandulu as well as the Berlin/Hardwax contingent, e.g. Maurizio, Basic Channel, Vainquer, etc.

Do you feel that you’re part of a scene, or that you’re basically doing it solo?
Interestingly I feel more a part of a scene now then ever musically speaking. Of course, I’ve always had a strong connection with all the Mutek-related people both in Montreal and abroad but this is more of a family then a scene in my mind. These days stylistically with the rise of dubstep it really feels like there are other people out in the world exploring the same areas of sound design and working toward developing an entirely modern version of the dub blueprint, or bass music in general. This has been really inspiring for me as for a lot of years I kind of felt like I was thrashing around in he dark alone, so it’s nice to find out there are some other bodies flailing about down here as well.

Are you making this music for dancing and shredding sound systems – or is it pure self-expression?
As I’ve had the opportunity to play more and more often in a club context over the last years creating something that will really get people moving has become more and more important to me. The beauty of bass dominated music is there is an immediate physicality that you can really play with; you can really make people feel the music in a very direct way in the sound system is sufficient. Rattling eyeballs in their sockets, modulating voices, making the hair stand up on the back of peoples necks, etc. If I had my way this sort of thing would happen every night out.

Your music contains so many polyrhythms based on digital delays that it’s sometimes hard to keep the beat – and I mean that in the best possible way. Do you think that music built on digital delays is a key component of dub?
Absolutely. Mucking about with allowing delays to sail off in their own direction and then snapping them back into synch with the base rhythm of the track is a tried and tested trick and a true staple of dub without a doubt. It has always been a very intriguing way of processing sounds to me as our brains subconsciously try to find patterns in the music and this sort of subtle, non-linear rhythmic variation causes us to hear things that aren’t really there. That’s why I would say that more than any specific effect, the most important part of creating effective dub-based music is leaving enough empty space for the mind to wander and create these ghost rhythms of its own accord.

What, in your opinion, is the dub aesthetic? What are the essential ingredients and attitude of dub?
Transformation, subtraction and experimentation. ’Nuff said.

With electronically composed dub, do you think there is a fundamental disconnect from the analog, tape-based pioneers of the genre like Tubbys?
Of course. From a technical perspective a lot of the same effects people like Tubby and Scratch were using in the mid-’70s are the same as those being used today. This is one of the reasons I think it’s so easy to judge whether modern productions that fall under this broad dub umbrella are actually any good. We’ve all been exposed to these dub clichés for so long that it’s very easy to hear whether someone is actually pushing their sound and looking for something new or just falling back on the same old genre signifiers.

Do you work on a computer as your main means of composing and recording, or do you use a lot of outboard gear and a console?
I don’t use any outboard gear at all and at this point don’t see that changing any time soon. The music technology industry has been striving to cram an entire studio into a laptop for years now and it’s fair to say that at this point they have been entirely successful. I think the days of hardware versus software arguments are over. Of course there are tons of hardware synths and effects that due to their analog circuitry have a distinctive sound, even from unit to unit, but the important thing to remember is you don’t need any of this stuff to really get the job done. Gear lust and falling victim to the classic marketing speak that you need such and such piece of kit to get the job done is the ultimate creativity killer. In my mind it’s much more satisfying to crack open your shitty $400 laptop, sample yourself banging away on everything in the kitchen, dump it into Fruity Loops or Live, and go to town.

You seem to be constructing a hybrid of dub and dancehall on your latest disc, is that intentional?
Yes. I mentioned above playing out in a club context so much has really forced me to try and find something that works for the dance floor. At the same time I really wasn’t feeling satisfied creatively with falling back on the straight four-to-the-floor house or techno blueprint that I’d used previously. Doing the reggae nights for the last couple of years at Blizzart in Montreal with Mossman exposed me to a lot of dancehall stuff and it struck me as a really exciting alternative.

There are distinctly different audiences for dub and dancehall – do you feel that the two musics are incompatible?
Not at all. At the Dub Lounge nights I mentioned above we were playing everything from Desmond Dekker to the Bug and people were getting down in a very serious way to everything. In my experience over the last year or so the best DJ nights anyway are covering a lot of ground stylistically. Genre snobbery really doesn’t do anyone any good.

You’ve toured all around the world - are dub audiences basically the same from place to place whether you’re doing super rasta-roots styles or Rhythm & Sound-type tech-dub? Or are there different audiences for subgenres of dub?
Proper dub audiences at the very least look very similar no matter where you go with their dreads, tams, and rasta colours on everything. Visually this is a particularly strange scene when you’re somewhere like Japan or Finland. For the most part though I’m playing techno clubs and though, in that context people are off their heads having a good time and pretty much look the same all over.

Tell me about the dub scene in Germany – what styles are most popular? Are there many venues? Is it one of the best places in the world to gig/record/make a living as a dub/reggae artist?
From what I’ve seen so far it’s pretty small, and very similar to the kind of scene you’ll find in any other city of similar size. The are definitely a lot of heads in town and when the big guns like Turbulence or Tanya Stevens roll through they come out in force. But the weekly and monthly DJ nights are pretty small for the most part. The only big difference here, and this goes for any music scene you’d care to talk about, is there are a lot of small things going on all the time. It really is one of the most exciting cities in the world to be doing anything music related these days.

When you DJ, what’s in your bag for a dub set?
I’ve always felt it’s best to be well-armed and with a diverse range of weaponry, so a smattering of everything from Prince Buster to Kode 9 can usually be found in my crate.

What’s your take on dubstep? Do you plan to make any?
I think there are some very exciting producers out there really pushing things in new directions, and conversely a lot of crap that just tows the line. This is true of any music though I think. I’ve got some things that fall into the 140 bpm pocket some much of what’s called dubstep occupies that will probably see the light of day at some point. I’ve been much more into slower tempos myself as of late and I find it an awkward, and decidedly un-funky speed to work at, but I’m always up for a creative challenge.

Click here to read David Dacks' "Dub Voyage" research story featuring King Jammy.