DLR Interview

After an amicable split from his collaborative partnership with Octane a little over a year ago, DLR quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with through a series of collaborations with the likes of Hydro, Mako, Villem, Prolix, and Break as well as a series of high-profile releases on imprints like Dispatch, Horizons, and Shogun.

As he unleashes his Your Mind EP on none other than Metalheadz, Kmag touches down with Bristol’s own to set straight rumours on his forthcoming album projects, getting jumped into the Headz crew, and how DJ gigs that go wrong only make you stronger.

Talk a bit about how 2013 served as a transformative year for you. This was the year you went solo and were no doubt trying to establish your own identity as an artist as well as refining your personal sound. Looking back how do you see your sound evolving over the course of that year and how was it different than when you were in Octane & DLR mode?

The main difference was feeling the freedom of working as a solo artist. This felt liberating at times but was also challenging because it’s hard to do everything alone; there are only so many hours in a day, and also by the time I have worked on something tirelessly it is very hard for me to make decisions correctly, especially when it comes to the mixdown.

With that said, where I live in Bristol there are a lot of other producers who I see on a regular basis, and they all give honest and good feedback, most of the time, which helps me realign my own perception and thoughts in a way that helps me to hopefully produce a product that is better than what I could do all alone.

This is your debut release on Metalheadz which is a huge milestone no doubt, is there a moment where you remember realizing that you were officially part of the crew?

It’s definitely been a bit of a dream to get on such a prestigious label. There wasn’t really a point where someone said to me that I am now an official Metalheadz artist; it all crept up pretty slowly to be honest. It’s like you sort of wake up one morning and a t-shirt has arrived on your doorstep with the familiar logo and you remember that you didn’t order a t-shirt, and then I guess that is the point you realise you are part of a family.

Or maybe it’s reaching down to the Metalheadz podcast at Christmas, when all the crew goes down to Goldie’s, pack into his studio somehow, and then proceed to take the piss out of each other for the next 4-5 hours. This is, of course, backed up by G’s famous food, especially the jerk, plenty of drinks and good vibes. That’s the time you realise you are part of a family now, a special one at that, ‘special’ can be interpreted as you please…

I’m assuming your surprise b2b set with Goldie at the Outlook Festival is what led to the signing of this EP?

The set at Outlook definitely helped confirm the release of some of the tracks from the EP on Metalheadz, especially the lead track ‘Your Mind’ which kept the stage open for an extra 15 minutes at the end of the night.

Considering I was the stage manager for the stage with my bosses on my back and yet I was also the man on the decks with 2000 people in front of me and both Goldie and the crowd shouting at me to let the track play ‘one more time’ … it was a bit of a tricky one. But when it comes down to it, this is why I have worked so hard for such a long time. Outlook has always been a great time and an opportunity for many things…

You have Mako and Rider Shafique lending a hand on this EP – introduce our readers to your collaborators and how they came to be part of your process.

Mako is a good friend, collaborator, leader and master of Utopia Records, talented producer, chord man, and cat owner… Rider is someone with a lot of experience, has a heart of gold, works hard with youth in the Bristol and Gloucester area as well as holding down a strong reputation as an MC, who speaks of real life shit, using his platform to spread his message and thoughts.

I came across him after he had worked with good friend Dom Howard, aka Ruckspin, aka folder man, aka domwald, who produces Submotion Orchestra. I loved what he had done with them and knew he was close by so then worked on getting him in the studio which was a pleasure for sure!

Both myself and Steve were and still are blown away by the messages he puts across in his lyrics; at the time we showered him with far too much praise, but it was all deserved as the vocal he laid down for the track [“Seek Knowledge”] was and is beyond perfect in my mind, purely from the message it puts across… I wish I could sum things up so well in such few words… obviously not a talent of mine judging by this interview.

From what I understand you’ve got an album on the way that will either feature Mako extensively or is in collaboration with him – fill us in on the details, where you are in the process, and how you are envisioning the project as a whole. I know the working title of it was “Seeing Sounds” for a while there, is that still framing the project?

‘Seeing Sounds’ is my own personal album that I have nearly completed on Dispatch Recordings, it doesn’t feature Mako at all unfortunately, however collabs with Break, Hydro, Total Science, EBK, Gusto, etc. definitely spice up the proceedings. We’re looking at a release toward to back end of this year, which is not far away at all. I should be endlessly mixing down and sorting the tracks on the album to ready for its release and I’m thinking that maybe I have a few too many tracks on the album at present so will be looking at what I won’t include in the final package which should help with finalising the final product.

The album in question that you are mentioning is a project currently in progress with Mako on Metalheadz… we are still working hard getting the tracks together, hopefully we provide something that is worthy of being a Metalheadz album, and we can stick to our plan, and finish what we started. All of this is in the works so I don’t want to say too much, as yet I shouldn’t even be mentioning an album on Headz.

The tunes on this EP are so varied in their textures and yet all retain that sort of classic Metalheadz energy which I often describe as more of an attitude than a specific sound. What is it about Headz that inspires you as an artist to sort of experiment a bit with your sound and really take your time in developing the structure and overall flow of each tune?

I think it has more to do with my interests, mentality and focus for what I want to do. Listening to all different types of music over a lot of years has shown me different ways of reaching a final goal, and maybe not everything has to be like how everyone else wants it to be. Sometimes it’s possible to be good at what you do and offer up something different, something more true to yourself/myself, and of course Metalheadz is all about this sort of mentality, which is why it’s such an honour to be on the label.

I’m encouraged to think differently as an artist, to challenge myself to do something a little different, and trust in my own artistic decisions. This is the sort of confidence that really helps me as an artist, as with any profession really. Sometimes when you reach a certain level it becomes about the confidence you can gain to then be confident and strong-minded about decisions, which in the end inevitably leads to a much better output as a musician.

This is not to say your stuff isn’t for the dancefloor as a bit like “Sense of Wanting” in particular is a proper late-night hitter and everyone from Break to Noisia to Prolix are on board with whatever you’re cooking in the lab – how much are you thinking of the dancefloor as you write? Is there a clear line in your head where you realize that some things are for different kind of spaces whether that be headphones, lounges, festivals, or muggy warehouse dance floors?

In my mind it’s all about perception isn’t it? I mean of course we know some formulas work on the dancefloor and some don’t. Generally over the years the sound of main room d&b has drifted about a bit and recently it’s had more of a generic feel over a good number of years, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s quite intriguing to see and hear that d&b is really starting to re-establish itself in the mainstream to a certain extent.

There have been so many styles of d&b which have all been viable on the dance floor and not just the really obvious stuff… I’ve had various conversations based on these sorts of points and ideas and in conclusion have found that what we have in our scene is very special, and something we should feel proud of, as labels, producers, and punters are very accepting of pretty much anything an artist wants to make or produce.

Yeah because the scene is kinda large again the punters can vary and labels can have different ideologies but if you are good at making music and you have the correct outlet you will be accepted for what you do. I’m just trying to accept this mentality and believe that maybe I can do things a little differently and still have an impact…. Inevitably the final track will be geared towards what I want, and not what everyone else wants, and that’s how I’m gonna try and keep if possible.

Speaking of dancefloors, you’ve earned quite a reputation as a DJ as well – talk a bit about your philosophy to building a live set and if you’ve had any sessions where it all went wrong, how you overcame those feelings of dejection that plague even the best of us.

I can be real hard on myself and am very very critical of my own DJ sets. Sometimes I can get it a little wrong and most of the time the crowd and promoters of the event seem very happy, but I just know when things are good or bad, and it can piss me off a little if I know I’m not doing as well as I could. This used to happen a lot for me with CD’s, which in my opinion were a nightmare. I couldn’t organise them, they always broke, they were too slow to load, etc., etc. – they nearly killed my love of DJing.

Then the USB thing came about and after some brief experimentation with controllers, I now just use USB and vinyl when appropriate. I love how with a USB you can organise it a little like a record box, getting some sort of set together and creating some sort of order, instead of looking through 400 CDs that look identical, which in my case were never in any sort of logical order to begin with. All this happened at the same time that I felt my status as an artist was on the rise (a little, still small fry), so I started thinking, and noticing, that of course people are coming to see me as DLR.

I’m not a resident at my own night anymore, I’m the main act for the night, and so I need to be representing. Now I have taken the decision that I have a collection of tunes of mine, collabs, or producers that are close to me, and primarily I play those tracks, and represent what is close to me, and spend very little time searching around on AIM, etc. for more music from all the different producers in the scene. This may sound a little arsey, but I’m just trying to say that I’m really working on representing my camp so you can book me to represent a sound and I will come and do so to the best of my ability.

I’ve been through plenty of pain as a DJ, my laptop jibbing out in front of 1500 in The Moat at Outlook. I was lucky to have a great MC to cover me for a minute so no one really noticed. Serato totally failing at Central Beatz (a crew I run parties with in Leeds), all due to me not configuring it correctly beforehand. CDJ’s that are totally fucked and barely even eject the CD…

These things happen, which is why I am always happy with CDJ2000s now, which (touch wood) always feel in good shape and work well. But in the situation, it’s about trying to stay calm, and dealing with the situation at hand, making sure you do everything and anything you can to get out of the hole, whilst not making it too obvious to the crowd. This is definitely the shit that made me a lot stronger and much more confident as a DJ… so in a way it’s good that I’ve been through the shit at times.

You’ve been hitting it hard this past year and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon so let us know what you’ve got cooking in the lab project-wise and what we can be expecting from you in the near future.

I’ve done a number of remixes, Halcyon by Hybrid Minds on Spearhead, Convergence by Quadrant and Iris on Dispatch, Backhand by Gerra and Stone on Dispatch. Also there is a Murmur VIP floating about which I’m sure will see the light of day soon; it’s only just been created so be a little patient on that one. It will be part of the Dispatch Dub series which features myself and Xtrah, plus a Break remix on the first release, the plates are 180g, they come with no stickers attached, and in a special sleeve for the feel and character of a dubplate.

Keep an eye on Horizons for a sneaky release on their anticipated compilation album coming very soon! Currently Old Soul, and Bridge the Gap are available on Utopia Records, and if you remain patient there is a solo album from myself very near on the horizon, coming out on Dispatch Recordings. Few other bits and pieces plus other side projects floating about, so hopefully people aren’t bored of me as yet because there is plenty more to come n ting, you gets mi fammmmmm?