Dillinja interview

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The word legend is a very big word and can be bounced around all too easily, but if you were to ask DJs, producers and even other notable legends themselves one name would pop up time and again. That name is the mighty Dillinja, a guy who has been integral to the scene’s shape throughout its history from the very beginning to present day, a name synonymous with the biggest basslines and some of the scene’s biggest tunes – ever! So, after a break in production and away from the frontline, Dillinja and the Valve imprint return bigger and better, so what better time to speak to the man himself and look at what to expect in 2012?

So Valve and Dillinja are back, where have you been??

It’s been a combination of things really. I’ve had some serious back issues over the last few years which hasn’t been cool, so I’ve pretty much hidden myself away and worked on getting my production where I want it to be and spent valuable time adapting and getting to grips with all the changes in my studio set-up.

And why are you coming back now?

It just feels right; my production is at a level I’m happy with again and I’m finishing tunes again. I went through a whole period of not feeling things and subsequently not finishing stuff, I wanted to wait until I was fully happy with my output again rather than just releasing for the sake of it.

Now you are back what can we expect?

A bit of everything hopefully covering the full spectrum and totally across the board. I have a new 12″ release imminent, a few more queued up and then possibly, if everything goes okay, I’ll start to think about a solo album.

There seems to be a massive resurgence of jungle and slower drum & bass tempos and the rise of music with alternative tempos which is something you have always advocated – how do you feel about the scene you are coming back to and what are your opinions on dubstep?

I think it’s great as long as it’s great music. I think it’s important to look around at what’s happening, not imitate but take what’s happening at the time and put your own twist on things and then push the envelope and see where you can take it.

Sometimes you can’t just put out something completely different as it can be too different for the time, but what you can do is look at the elements that are relative to the time and then, over a series of releases, make that sound your own and steer it in your own original direction and put your own stamp on things, something that I’ve always tried to do throughout my career.

For example, if you take one of Andy C’s sets, I could make something that just wouldn’t fit anywhere or I can make something that does fit but still has my own original take and stands out from everything else. I’m not saying to compromise your production but instead, it’s important to me to make and continue to make music which is relevant.

What are your views on digital vs vinyl? Can we still expect to see Valve releases on vinyl?

Of course, I love vinyl so I will always put out vinyl, whether it costs me money or not. I feel it’s still important for me personally and a label to release on vinyl.

After so many years in the vinyl / analogue domain, how have you found the whole transition from vinyl to digital as a DJ?

Yeah, it’s been ok but, obviously, I still love vinyl and always will, it’s what I grew up on. I switched over just over a year maybe two years ago when it got to a point where it just became a nightmare to play vinyl in clubs. I was at a big festival in the States and I was pretty much the only person on the whole line-up playing a vinyl set and the turntable set-up was literally an afterthought. Same as most other clubs now, the decks had no isolation and weren’t earthed properly so it just destroyed my set, so it was more of a case of having to switch! I do miss that analogue warmth though!

You’ve been a massive inspiration to people throughout the scene, who inspires you and what producers do you rate?

For me, it is the people who originated this music, people like Bryan Gee, Frost, Grooverider and Fabio etc. They have inspired me from the start and created and steered this music right from day dot out of pure passion, so I have massive respect for them as DJs, producers and, of course, friends. More recently, love them or hate them, Pendulum – the standard of production on the first album took the music to a next level, it was like major label standards made by people in million-pound studios, it really highlighted what could be achieved and raised the bar for everyone.

Being credited with so many seminal tunes, what tunes outside of your own optimise jungle / drum & bass to you?

There are so many for different reasons and for different vibes, Splash’s Babylon really sums up jungle to me and then you have things like Alien Girl, Yes Yes by Ray Keith and, more recently, things like Smash TV by Chase & Status. On the whole, there’s been some great music over the last couple of decades, I like a whole range of things for different elements whether it be for technicality or simply the vibe a tune creates, as long as it’s good music.

And out of your own tunes which one are you most proud of?

That’s a hard one, probably Hard Noize, Acid Track, Threshold, Friday. Again for different reasons.

Outside of drum & bass where do you look to for inspiration?

Anywhere and everywhere really! Back in the day, I was really into the Ultimate Breaks stuff and electro, soul, Motown, even through to some new rnb. I love music on the whole and have a really broad taste in what I like, as long as it’s great music I can appreciate it.

You’ve obviously seen a lot of change in production over the years, how has your studio set up changed and how have your production techniques changed over the years?

It’s obviously changed quite a bit, the early days were all about sampling and chopping within the constraints of 2mb of memory on an Akai! Now you have the whole world at your fingertips in a box, it’s changed so much! I’ve been Logic for years and still use it today and I think it’s very important to sample REAL drums, I have a whole arsenal of real percussion and it’s really important to me to select and get the best equipment you can, like mics and monitors and things so you are getting the very best sound you can. I also, as a rule, create my breaks completely from the ground up, none of the old sampled funk breaks, literally kick, snare and then everything else built up from scratch.

How do you think the scene has changed on the whole through the years and what are the good and bad points of its evolution?

There’s a lot of division now. I like the whole one nation under one groove philosophy. I love that vibe when you can play anything and everything and people appreciate it. I guess it’s just change, the best thing about this music is, and always will be, its ability to evolve so as long as you can embrace that and work with it. Change isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s just one long never-ending continuous journey.

You guys have threatened an album for years, where does this project sit right now? Can we expect a Dillinja / K-aze (formerly known as Lemon D) album in the near future?

I don’t think for now you will see a collab album with me and Kevin (K-aze), as he is off exploring different genres. Like me, he has a massive palette of taste in music and is looking at different things outside of drum & bass at the moment but for me, yes, I can’t say when but hopefully soon!

And what are the plans for the sound system and events going forward?

The whole sound system thing has been a bit mental to be honest with the constant tweaking and getting the system perfect, it’s never-ending! We have now decided to strip back on the events we associate with and only do events with artists we want on the system, at some points I’ve watched sound engineers use the system and sat back thinking “what the hell are you doing” and I’ve been listening to people playing on it thinking “this isn’t what I’ve built this for”, so we decided to take a bit more control. We could hire it out week in, week out but that’s not what it’s about for me, so it’s time to be selective!

You must have some great memories from over the years, which ones in particular stand out?

It all becomes a bit of a blur and it flies by real fast but, for me, it’s the travelling that stands out. Being blessed enough to visit places like Japan doing what you love and being appreciated for what you do. Also the first time we put the sound system in Fabric, that was pretty special!

With new releases already out in the wild, what other releases do you have coming?

Well, I have Time For You out now, Kevin has some CRST bits coming out spanning some different genres and then I’m hoping to put something out every couple of months, so watch this space!

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About Author

Colin Steven co-founded Knowledge Magazine in 1994. He also runs a book publishing company called Velocity Press specialising in electronic music and club culture.

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