Growing up on a diet of early Jungle & Drum & Bass, East London residing producer and DJ Dax J has been making a serious impression on the UK techno scene over the last few years, having released with labels such as Sleaze, Deeply Rooted & Affin, not to mention his own label, EarToGround. Co-founded in 2010, the multi-faceted project has released works from the likes of Secluded, Markus Suckut & Truncate, alongside providing interviews, events and podcasts.
Following our review of his Unknown Territory release earlier in the week, we decided to catch up with Dax to discuss the record, his formative years listening to Kool FM, and the future plans for EarToGround, as well as his recently founded solo-run imprint Monnom Black.
This has been a massive year for you, with big releases on Weekend Circuit, EarToGround, Deeply Rooted, Monnom Black, and now Unknown Territory. Could you tell us a little about how a typical day in the studio goes for you and how you approach the music making process?
Well I generally try to gauge some kind of idea of what I want to do first off. This is important for me so that I can have some direction and efficiency in where I want to go with the track I’m making. I find that when I don’t have a specific aim for a track I tend to use up a lot of time creating random sounds for inspiration to get things going and this sometimes slows me down.
So I’ll usually start by switching on the Hardware Machines and just jamming with sounds on my synths, drum machines and outboard effects. I’ll create a few sounds and bounce them out to use as samples too as well as running some machines in direct through MIDI into Logic. Once I’ve got a good palette of sounds to work from I’ll start building the main body of the track and once that is done I’ll make an arrangement out of it. Once the main work is done I’ll leave it for a week or two and go back in with fresh ears and finish it off. I always like to have a few unfinished projects on the go, for me it keeps things interesting, if I start getting bored or stuck on a particular track, I’ll just switch things over, I find it helps with productivity levels and I’m more creative this way.
Can you tell us a little about your past and present influences, and how you got into techno?
I get a lot of influences from my past, I come from a Jungle, Drum & Bass background so sometimes you may hear some of that influence come through in my productions. I love all the old breaks and the classic amen sound, that will never leave me, it’s engrained. When I was at school there was a little crew of us, we’d always be listening to old Jungle tapes on our Walkmans at break times, Hype ‘95 at Helter Skelter or it would be Kool FM tapes recorded off the radio.
I was about fifteen when I started DJing, buying records from Blackmarket Records in Soho every week and playing on pirate radio. I had a radio show on Origin FM for four years and started releasing music on Mickey Finns’ label, Urban Takeover as well as my own imprint I started back then. Going forward a few years later I went on to study Music Technology at Uni, I was still into the Drum & Bass and It was all good for a while but slowly I started to fall out of love with the scene, the wrong people were going to the raves and the music started to get very jump up too, it was loosing its darker raw edge.
The year that I finished my degree at Uni, I decided I would celebrate by spending the whole summer in Ibiza. I had never been there before or knew anything about it or the music. It seemed like a good idea, I had heard alot about the place, I didn’t know what to expect but I wanted to experience it and see what all the fuss was about. As soon as I made it over there I was instantly blown away by the music and the spectacle of the clubs. I was drawn towards the techno I was hearing, and more so than the other music styles that were out there, I kept thinking, this music is like Drum & Bass but slower, I love it! I felt reborn again into this new music I had discovered and I was hooked. At the end of the summer I got home and immediately got back in the studio and started making this new sound, techno!
How did the EarToGround label get started?
So I had been chatting to Chris about making some music together a few years ago. We lived quite close to each other and were both into our techno so it just seemed natural to get together. My studio was at home at the time and he came round one night and brought some sounds over for us to get started with. By the end of that night we had the skeleton of the track down for “Programm”, which went on to be the first release on ETG.
After a few more sessions spent on it we had the track finished and wanted to test it out. Gareth had an EarToGround party on that weekend at a little venue in East London called East Village. I went down there with Chris before the party started to give the track we made a test play on the sound system. It sounded great. Gareth was there listening and he liked it too. It was there on the spot that he said why don’t we start an EarToGround label and release it. We all agreed it sounded like a cool project and that we would try it out, and from there the label was born.
You’ve also started your own label Monnom Black not long ago - how is that fitting in to your already busy schedule? Have you got any hints for us as to what’s going to be coming next on MB in 2014?
Yes Monnom Black is going well, I’m happy with how it’s all panned out so far, we just released the second vinyl which is an EP by Kaelan, a great producer from Italy, I really love his sound. I’m also a big fan of NX1 and they provided the remix. Next year there will be more material from myself and the artists who have already been involved on the label as well as some new music from a couple of great producers. Also we started the label podcast that will see mixes from artists associated with the label come out throughout the rest of next year.
Would you say that your productions reflect the styles that you like to play out? Or do you think of them as separate things?
Most of the tracks I make are directed mainly for the dancefloor so I do tend to play out a lot of my productions in my DJ sets. I do make soundscapes and experimental stuff but I’ve never commercially released any of them. I don’t get a chance to play those ones out as generally I feel you need to be playing a specific time, venue and crowd for those ones to really work on the floor, but I’m sure the right time will come for me to play that other sound, and maybe I will get to release a few on the future album when that time happens.
What city are you really itching to play?
I’ve loved playing in all the cities that I have in the past as each have had their own unique identity and vibe whether it has been one of the major capitals or a smaller city, so to pick out one particular place is hard to do, but if I had to choose one I’d like to play in, I would probably choose Tokyo, I am yet to play in Asia and would love to experience Japan, I’ve heard that the clubs are amazing and I love the culture and the food. So Tokyo is definitely a place that is up there high on my list.
Have you got any words to say about your release on Unknown Territory?
I’m very happy to have made the EP and be apart of Unknown Territory. When Lex and Hans spoke to me about the project I was excited to do be involved and it tied in together nicely with the Sleaze release I made at the start of the year. I really like the deeper remix from Jeff Derringer too, it gave the original track a whole new dimension. So overall I’m very pleased with it all, expect a lot more to come from the label.
We would also really like if you could provide us with a top 10 chart for December (just tracks that really spoke to you). Do you think you could do that for us?