London has been the breeding ground for advances in British electronic and urban music for decades, long before Dillinja was tall enough to sniff the steel wheels of a mixing desk. It just so happens though, that when it was his turn, he took his responsibility seriously, dragging the genre of drum ‘n’ bass into plenty new territories with his literally hundreds of early releases. Now one of DnB’s most enduring names takes to the stage as part of the stonking GLADE Electronic Music Festival’s line-up, taking place in the deep and inviting Norfolk countryside.
You were in Paris this weekend, I saw via Twitter…Yeah this weekend just gone… it was good, really cool.
What did you get up to?It was just a club basically. I was DJing in a club there.
And you managed to wrestle with an 800-gram steak! Did it defeat you?Yeah, haha. No, I managed to get through it but I almost fell asleep straight after it – it was too much!
Did you get the meat sweats?Yes! Haha, I managed it but I wouldn’t do it again for a long, long time!
Now you’re coming to Glade this month, which we’re really, really excited about. When you play festivals like this one, do you bring your Valve Sound System?No, no, it’s just me DJing for this one.
I imagine it’s a beast to bring around with you! If you can’t bring it, do you ever get precious about the sound system you’re playing through, because you’re used to the crème de la crème…Yeah, I was, I was but I’m not as bad as I used to be. I had to get used to it basically. The more I DJ and the more I do gigs, the more I get used to it, you know, as I have over the years, so I’m OK now. As long as it sounds decent, I’m all right.
Are you a nightmare?! Do you take the longest to soundcheck?No, I used to, but I’ve completely given up doing that now; I don’t do any soundchecks now ‘cause I’m never gonna be happy, so it’s better if I just get there and play, rather than get there early, do a check and then it sounds crap! I’d rather just turn up and play, then I haven’t got to deal with any soundchecks. It’s about not getting let down basically.
Valve made a huge impact when it made its debut at Fabric in 2001 – can you still remember the crowd that night, and their reaction?Yeah, they were going crazy! It was brilliant in there. I can remember how we set it up in there and everything. Looking back you think, ‘bloody hell!’, even though we’ve played loads of times since then. When I think about it, I can’t believe how much the system took up the dancefloor in there – I was surprised anyone could get in the room!
Yeah, you should’ve charged a really high entry price because space was at a premium! So, I want to back a bit to your early days for those who don’t know much about it. You grew up in London – how much do you think London as a city enabled you to do what you did more than anywhere else?Oh yeah, it was really good. I suppose because there were a lot of club nights, it really helped me; clubs like the Blue Note which had a regular covering Hoxton Square and had nights there. Nights like that helped me out a lot in terms of learning, do you know what I mean? I’m glad I was in London at a time when those nights were going on otherwise it would’ve been a completely different story, I reckon.
Yeah, I don’t think you’d be quite the same Dillinja if you’d have been born in a village in Cumbria!Yeah, definitely, haha.
You put the legwork and your own money into putting out all your releases when you started out. People don’t really have to do that now because you don’t need a physical format – do you think that’s oversaturated the market?Yeah, there’s 100s of tunes on the internet now to choose from, it’s like ‘bloody hell!’, whereas before you’d have to take at least £500 out your pocket to press something up and get it out there. Nowadays it’s just free isn’t it; everyone’s just making music and putting it out there, which I think has definitely flooded it. I think people are definitely finding it harder to find good music ‘cause there’s so much out there.
You must’ve had your hand in your pocket constantly because you released so much material – I imagine you didn’t have much of a social life apart from that…No, no, I was literally just in the studio all the time and when I wasn’t in the studio I was dropping records off myself to all the record shops around London on the tube, just running around that, then in between the gaps, I was back in the studio!
I bet you were a rubbish boyfriend! I bet the ladies got no gifts…Hahaha, no!
You were so inspired by all different types of music when you started out – do you continue to be inspired by new music?Not as much, I mean, I’ve forced myself now to start going out there but I just find it harder to go out there and find music that I like nowadays. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a special thing for me to go out there now because it’s just on the internet and you’re scanning through loads and loads… I just get fed up. You can do the obvious and look in the charts, like the jazz charts and find out what’s going on and find people and just listen to them, but that’s not really getting involved, do you know what I mean? I think I actually need to start going out again!
Ooh, scary prospect I know, as you’re getting older…Yeah, I’m not used to standing in the crowd like I used to, listening to the people playing and picking out what’s going on. I don’t find it fun searching out new music now, you know what I mean, it’s not fun for me any more.
I find that even though there’s more radio stations now, I don’t have a radio home. It’s weird because even though there are more speciality stations now, it doesn’t mean the quality’s better…Yeah, exactly; I’ve given up with the radio now, I just can’t be bothered with it; it’s too much hard work.
People like Fabio and Grooverider were responsible for flying the flag for drum ‘n’ bass and artists like you back in the day. Who do you think has taken over that mantle now, and could you ever do it?No… I don’t think, nah – Friction has taken over now hasn’t he?! That’s a full-time job doing that and I’ve never wanted to just do radio.
I can really imagine you picking the gems out though…Yeah, I’d like to do that, but I couldn’t do a whole show – that’s a full on job.
It seems like America has woken up in the last few years to the power of British electronic music and even commercial US artists have started to adopt those sounds – do you think it’s good they’ve finally realised?Yeah, definitely! It’s a bit late but better late than never. It’s definitely good; the more exposure the better is how I see it.
Do you think it boosts the whole scene?Yeah, yeah; it opens up more doors for people to experiment and do other things because people are actually gonna have a listen now, whereas before they thought it was a load of rubbish! Now the Americans are actually getting in to it, which is good.
Have you seen a difference in where you travel, or have you always had wide-reaching roots?I’ve always been global really, yeah. I’ve played in all different places so I haven’t seen any change personally, but I think the dubstep guys have because they’re doing really well in America at the moment… it’s still sort of getting there.
Yeah, they taught the US boys how to do it really, didn’t they?Yeah, literally, yeah, of course.
I read that you’re putting the finishing touches to a 12” release and that you’re also contemplating a solo release?Yeah, I am, yeah; I’ve been saying it for years but I am actually now going to do it! Before I started it I wasn’t getting much inspiration, but now I’m like ready to do it, so hopefully…
What are you doing in the studio at the moment then?I’m just working on releases really, just being totally selfish and just making what I want to make. There’s nothing out there that I’m in to, I mean, there’s loads of good music out there, but I think my sort of end of music, there’s not many people out there making that sort of thing. There’s a lack of satisfying drum ‘n’ bass out there and I think a lot of the kids, like the new guys in drum ‘n’ bass don’t really know about the old style and so I think I should be making it and getting people back in to those old styles again. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment, yeah, just modernising it because obviously back in the day we used to use a lot of breakbeat, like the old drum beats and I don’t wanna use them any more because they sound dated. I want to create new breaks that sound modern in production and bring something fresh to it again, but in the same old vein… ish! Modernised basically, modernised old jungle.
I’ve read that you’ve been getting to grips with changes from your old studio set-up; what have you been changing about?Just speakers and the whole digital thing; it’s taken me a long time to get the sound that I want out of the new equipment basically and I think I’m there now. It’s a bit of a marriage of the old and new basically to get what I want because I found just using all the new stuff sounded too clinical and I find that a lot of people’s production now all sounds the same.
I find that it all sounds very clean…Yeah, with a lot of the new guys, you just can’t tell the difference; it all sounds the same, all white noisey and clean, yeah. There’s no character to the production, so I’m trying to develop that sound and put a bit more character and a bit more colour into it.
I often feel that you can hear each part, like you could take each element apart, and being able to dissect a song doesn’t make it any better, and doesn’t add any magic to the song…Yeah, definitely, ‘cause you haven’t got any sounds that are like, ‘wow, what’s that sound going on in there?’, do you know what I mean? Like a soul in the beat or whatever, or like it’s got its own energy in there. You don’t really get that so much now – you’re right, you can literally dissect it and you know exactly what’s going on everywhere. It’s all there, but it’s clinical.
You really treated us to ‘Time for You’ at the beginning of this year…It was a start, you know, I knew it wasn’t gonna be a big track but I wanted to put something out that I wanted to put out, just for myself. I thought what I’ve got to do, like I’ve done before is to put out stuff that I know is gonna work on one side, then be selfish on the other, so that’s what I’m gonna do with the next release. I do need to break through again and get people’s eyes and ears open again – prick their ears up. I need to give them a beating though, the young guys, so I can’t just be selfish on both sides ‘cause I’m not gonna get noticed! The next release, I’m gonna have a balance; I think I’m always gonna do one side that’s totally selfish though, definitely.
With a track like ‘Time for You’, you found a vocalist, Tate Williams – did he come to you, or did you go to him?Yeah, I just found him; he’s a new singer, a new guy basically; I wrote the song and he came and sung it really.
He manages to get a lot of soul through in a relatively simple vocal…Yeah, very simple, yeah he does.
As I said, we’re so excited for Glade and we know you’re gonna bring us an awesome set, so what can we bring for you?Energy, that’s what I want. Loads of energy, haha!