After laying low a few years to recharge his batteries, the inimitable Digital has returned with a vengeance. Knocking out big tunes for stalwart imprints like Metalheadz, Ingredients, Horizon, and Rupture, Kmag steps into the studio ahead of his massive Digital Sounds EP for Technique to discuss everything from the proliferation of new genres to aging like fine wine. As if that wasn’t enough, the big man steps in with a “filthy dubbed out 3am mix” for all the bassbin soldiers out there – look out!
You’ve recently returned from a little hiatus in the scene – fill us in as to what you were up to during that time and what pulled you back in…
I like to wander off into the distance now and then to clear my head of the general rubbish I experience in life plus I felt I needed a break from music. I originally planned six months away but unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it the six months turned into two or three years!
Around three years ago I did attempt to make some music but for the first time I had my studio away from home but it was the worst thing I ever did in regard to my career because the acoustics in the unit I chose were shocking and the fact that it felt like I was going to work made me feel too grown up and we can’t have that can we! Anyway the result was I got nothing done whatsoever. Grrrrrrr!
How do you see the scene having changed during that time away and where do you see yourself fitting in to this new rave world?
It feels like the ‘new rave world’ isn’t that new at all because I think the music scene has gone full circle as artists are more open minded these days just like they were in the early 90s; you have dnb and dubstep artists producing techno, house, reggae and dub (plus some of the other randomly named electronic music genres out there today).
Speaking of which, have you been paying attention to the new styles of bass music like juke, footwork, and future jungle that have been emerging?
I can’t keep up with all the zillion trillion gazillion different genres because I’m the worst trainspotter ever but there is a lot of music I hear in mixes that I love. What does slaughter me is when someone makes a track then immediately makes up a new genre for it. Perhaps I should have been a dweeby nerd and started a genre myself when I made certain half time tracks many years ago like Natty Dread, Jester, Deadline, Flames, Lower Depths, etc. How does DIGITIME or HALFITAL sound like to you?
While there’s still a touch of that classic Digital vibe, there has been a noticeable shift in your sound – looking back to your ‘Waterhouse Dub’ days to now, how would you describe that evolution?
The evolution in my sound is the fact that my tracks sound a lot cleaner because I mostly use synthesizers for drums, bass and sounds as opposed to samples however, I still use samples to help stamp my identity on my tracks. Trust me they do sound a lot cleaner because I’ve been going through my old DAT tapes and they sound er, interesting! Ha-ha. So I still think I’m the same Digital but a fresher version plus I’ve matured like a fine wine (a drinkable fine wine not one of those undrinkable million dollar wines).
So much of that freshness can be heard on “New Age Jungle Funk” and “In The Basement” – these are some deep and heavy vibes that seem to be pushing against the hands-in-the-air festival vibe dominating the scene at the moment. Talk a bit about these tunes, how they came together, and what sort of dancefloors you see these being played on.
I couldn’t totally be honest with you and tell you how these tracks came about in case my mum reads this haha! But let’s just say they’re not tracks I thought about making they just came along after being awake for three days straight! In my eyes they’re two totally different tracks because I think ‘New Age Jungle Funk’ is a 1-2am raving party track and ‘In The Basement’ is a deep 4am filthy number for the soldiers who don’t want to go home yet. I love both of these tracks but I’m especially proud of ‘New Age Jungle Funk’ because it’s the first dnb track I’ve done which doesn’t have an obvious ‘Digital’ bassline but it still works.
“Night Moves” has you linking up with vocalist Stepa – are there plans to continue to work with her and perhaps other vocalists in the future?
Stepa is an awesome singer from New Zealand. She’s very chilled and modest and a pleasure to talk to and work with so I will definitely be working with her again for sure. Another thing going for her is she’s from New Zealand which is one of my favourite places! I have a few more tracks with vocalists on the go now with Klose, YT and Solo Banton and I’m waiting for some vocals from New Zealand star Tiki Taane.
Trei drops in with two wicked re-fixes of the tune for the EP – how did he come to be involved in the project?
Another lovely Kiwi! The tracks I like from Trei always have some roughness with the smooth because he knows how to tear a track out but he still adds a soulful flavour so I knew he’d do a good job that would suit myself and Technique Recordings. I was not only right but he went one better and did two different mixes; one tear-out and one soulful (it makes me sick when people are so clever).
There seems to be a bit of a New Zealand thing going on here – what is it about the NZ and Digital connection that works?
It’s a different world over there. I love the fact that you can’t tell who the big stars or up-and-coming artists are because they all mix together happily. Don’t get me wrong, there are egos but nothing at all like the UK scene! I’ve been going there since 1999 and I’ve had some amazing times with some genuine friends who are special to me.
Looking to the future, what’s next?
I have been thinking about an album because I think it will be a good look if I do one a year but before I get into that I want to release some singles with established labels as I’ve been away for so long so I want to say ‘I’m back’ first.
In addition to that there are more Phantom Audio tracks on the way; some for our label but we also have tracks forthcoming on the 31 Records LP, an EP on Metalheadz, and a track on the forthcoming Horizons LP.
You’ve put together an exclusive mix for Kmag readers – what kind of vibe can we expect and are there any extra-special treats we should be looking out for?
I went for a filthy dubbed out 3am mix on this one. Decide for yourself if there are any special treats but look out for er, all the tracks!