Saturday, November 27, 2010
Hey, I want you to meet someone called Damu, if you have a second. That said he has an EP coming on Keysound, so if that’s an issue you can close your browser window now, I won’t be offended honest. But lemme just say this, he’s one of the most exciting prospects I’ve come across in quite some time.
Damu came into our lives in July this year, Dusk clocked him on Soundcloud, and it became really apparent very quickly that he really had something. That feeling has only intensified as he’s continued to send wave after wave of new music, we’ve played it out on Rinse or mixed it on the US dates we did and had headz come and say time and again “Who’s this? What, not Damu... again!”
I could tell you what I like about Damu’s sound, the energy, colour, the dense intensity and effed arpeggios and synths, but this is all you really need to know: when I walk down the street with my Damu playlist on, it makes so euphorically happy. Now, no one wants to be that random grinning idiot, so I keep a straight face but inside Damu beats make me glow. I just wanted to share some of that lush warm feeling with a few of you too...
Blackdown: So can you tell us a bit about yourself, where do you live, how long have you been producing for?
Damu: I’m 21, I live in a small house in South Manchester, I lead a pretty fun and simple life, spending a lot of time making music; other than that just working and chilling out with mates really. I first got into music electronic music production about 2 years ago, but I only really got to the stage where I could do it seriously this year. It was a pretty steep learning curve for quite a while, but it’s been very intense, which suits my brain and I love doing it, so it’s definitely been an enjoyable process so far.....
B: What artists currently inspire you? I hear a lot of juke and crunk sounds in your music, but then I hear UKG too. Has kuduro infiltrated at all too?
D: People doing completely their own thing have to garner the most respect. Flylo, Burial, Zomby, Bok Bok, Hudson Mohawke and Dorian Concept spring to mind. I’m really enjoying the Darkstar album too.
Genres like juke have a lot of very characteristic elements, when it started infiltrating the UK scene a bit, the raw energy of it, as well as idea of it as being geared towards dancers, really appealed to me. Just like UKF coming from American house, it seemed like a very exciting sound for UK producers to run with; to freshen up some of the more downbeat trends in urban music. In particular, picking up the pace to around 150-160bpm and falling back to classic club sounds like the 808 is a big contrast to a lot of stuff that had been coming out previously, but it I think it still kind of falls in line with this post-dubstep Diaspora, which only seems to get deeper and deeper. When I started hearing Kuduro and Ghettotech it was a similar deal really. It just sounded fresh and exciting on the dancefloor, and as someone who thrives on going out dancing, that’s bound to influence the music I make.
I’ve always really liked chopped up garage vocals and swung drums, they really help convey meaning in the tracks and give people something to connect with. I definitely try to take influence from the full range of music I’m into; that’s just music at the moment though. I don’t think there are many producers who just listen to one style of music. As for Crunk, I just listen to it more than I should; Lil Jon is a shrewd man.
B: Can you tell me a bit about the music you make, what’s it like?
D: It’s usually frenetic with a lot of elements in a short space of time. I’m very into layering of synth and vocal melodies and harmonies with a leaning towards writing catchy hooks, with varying degrees of success. My music covers a range of tempos from about 105-165bpm, but I think my style is more held together by the sounds I use rather than the genres it inevitably falls into.
B: You have a very distinctive production style, which is rare that it’s so utterly coherent so early in your career but yet something to be treasured. One of your trademarks is this dense, busyness. Where do you think this comes from and how do you channel it?
D: Modern life can be pretty intense; lifestyles have always influenced music, especially when you look at hardcore continuum music. The people I like, and for that matter the people I don’t like have shaped me into a bit of an eccentric, music is definitely one place where that doesn’t need to be toned down. On the contrary, eclecticism gives room for a lot of character in music, which is something which I really value. My favourite artists, whether I’ve been into indie, jungle, hip-hop, classical or whatever, are the ones who have a very characteristic style; with a specific way of doing things, which is the product of the way their mind works rather than a sound that they’re aiming for. When you can get that kind of character across in music it gives something more meaningful to build upon track by track. When I’m making tunes my brain is usually pretty switched on; I enjoy the process of taming a crop of strange ideas into something tuneful, subtlety can tend to go out the window a bit, I’m not really a subtle character. I reckon a lot of music I like is probably made like that, I just don’t strip it back as much as some. I’d say my tunes hopefully reflect my character.
B: One of the other themes seems to be this happy warmth, which contrasts nicely with the busyness...
D: I’m a pretty happy optimistic person, I love downbeat and melancholy music or artwork but I guess I tend much more towards transcribing my positive energy into the music I make. I love the idea of someone singing along to major key cut-up vocals, or a synthline and losing themselves in a happy haze at a summertime beach rave or something. It’s so much more often, especially in dubstep, that the most affecting tunes are the mournful, eerie or even aggressive ones. There’s definitely room in clubs for more music that excites and affects people in a more light-hearted and smile-inducing manner. A lot of the melodic and synth-laden house that’s been coming out recently seems to be a reaction to a few years of darker half-step music being at the forefront after 4x4 garage simmered down a bit.
B: Some of the ways you have spoken in recent months to me about music reflects such a deep passion for it, of possibilities and potential, is this how you feel about music making at the moment?
D: I’m sure people say this every year but I really think it’s a bit of a golden era for electronic music at the moment. The artists doing the best are the ones who can throw away the rule books in a way that moves people. That is fantastic for musicality and really encouraging as an artist, like the more effort you put in and the more good ideas you come up with, the more people are likely to be receptive to it, then it’s just more enjoyable and challenging for everyone, DJ’s producers and dancers/listeners. Art and music simply can’t keep up with the technological advances pushing it forwards, which opens up a whole world of constant new possibilities for an ever accelerating number of new producers.
In addition to this, there seems to be a collective desire from the whole global scene to cover as much new sonic ground as possible, without sacrificing quality. As a result, music from all directions becomes more and more soulful in order to stand out. I really hope that is something which doesn’t ever get lost in new technology. It’s a very positive trait found in electronic music which often lacks in a lot of forms of technological progression. I feel like there is still a lot of ground to be covered that will one day be regarded as basic, the next ten years will see a very rapid and dramatic progression in music and the clubbing experience, so being 21 and having that to come is pretty exciting. Yeah, there’s so much to look forward to, I’m glad I’ve found something that really inspires me.
B: “Ridin’” is massive - though I’m biased obviously - can you tell me how it came about and did you ever give it to Big Boi?
D: I think my tunes that work best are the ones that happen really quickly. I was really into a few synth patches I was working with and the song came fully formed in a few hours. I think it’s about getting some sharp elements to start working with and being in the right frame of mind. From there it’s just fun really and trying to work them into a sound I’m happy with.
D: Funnily enough my chance pass is on to Big Boi came and went about 3 hours before I typed this, as Big Boi, covered by a personalised towel, was hoarded into the back of a blacked out van seconds after smashing up a tiny little club show, which I’m very glad I went to. It was a nice idea, but not even close really. I’m still very into the idea of getting some tunes vocaled though so watch this space. I thought for a bit I’d never be up for working with a big hip hop or grime artist, but it’d be so much fun if the chance ever presented itself.
B: What labels have you got releases coming on, apart from Keysound?
D: At the moment, I’m really looking forward to my first EP dropping in late December on Silverback. They’ve had some brilliant stuff out recently and it’s a great pleasure working with them. Then the Mermaid EP will be out on Local Action next spring, got a few exciting things in the pipeline for that, then a split 12” on Swing and Skip audio around the same time. The prospect of holding my own vinyl for the first time is an exciting one. I've been working on a full live AV set which should be ready for about the same time as this first EP drops, so look out for that.
Damu's EP for Keysound ("Ridin", "Crystal Gaea", "Karolina's Magic J" and "Be Free") will be out next year, with one on Local Action before that. Check two fresh tracks by him on our Rinse show this month.