Following on from my recent posts on the darker breaks-orientated element of dubstep, it's my pleasure to present a rare interview with DJ Distance, currently producing some of the nastiest beats on the block. What follows are the highlights of an e-mail exchange between myself and Distance last week plus a telephone conversation on Friday lunchtime, which many people will no doubt find illuminating. Also included is a new mix that Distance put together this month, featuring many of the latest essential releases along with exclusive tracks from Vex'd, Skream, Search & Destroy and of course Distance himself.
Gutta: So Distance, tell me how you got started in this crazy musical bizzness in the first place...
Distance: Well I've always experimented with music - I've played the guitar since the age of 11, and began messing about with drum machines and audio software when I was around 16.
G:You can play guitar?!
D:Yeah, I'm originally from a Rock and Metal background.
G:Ha! I knew it! That just totally backs-up my theory last week about "harnessing some of the dark energy from rock". You are the new Beltram, official. Are you familiar with his work?
D: Er, no.
G: Basically he's this guy from New York who's rock influences brought a darker edge to Techno music about 15 years ago, and I think that you're influences are bringing something similar to garage.
D: That definitely has something to do with the dark element. I was, and still am a big fan of Fear Factory, Pantera, Deftones and Korn. They have definitely influenced me in some way. What appealed to me was the raw energy of the music, plus I love the sound of live instruments. I try and use live recorded sounds wherever I can.
G: So when did the transition to dance/dj culture occur?
D: It wasn't until I was around 16- 18 that my tastes broadened. I began listening to Aphex Twin, Portishead, Red Snapper, Prodigy and various drum'n'bass artists. I got into djing when I was 20. I was at college and a few people I knew dj'd and I guess that kind of inspired me, that and going to clubs. I kind of worked a bit backwards by teaching myself to mix on some dodgy CD mixing desk ___LONG!!! I had all these mad ideas for mixing just about every style of music together - rock, drum 'n' bass, hip hop etc. At the same time I was slowly building up a collection of vinyl, consisting mainly of garage & old d'n'b tracks plus anything else that caught my ear. It wasn't until I heard tracks like "138 Trek" by Zinc and early Wookie and Oris Jay stuff that I began to focus more on one style. Without a doubt DJ Zinc, Oris Jay and Sound of the Future inspired a lot of my early material. I then heard about a night called FWD>> and everything kind of evolved from there.
G: FWD>> seems to have been a pivotal club for most people within this scene. Any other defining moments, events or tracks that spring to mind?
D: One moment I will never forget was the first Filthy Dub night, because it was the first time a rave had been done away from East London successfully. More recently was DMZ. Track-wise there are too many to mention!!!!!
G: There's all kinds of names being used to describe the music coming from Croydon/South London right now, but how would you describe it?
D: Look, people can call my music whatever they like. Some of it could be classed as Breaks and some of it Grime & Dubstep. I don't think it really matters - myself and many others have gotten this far without it being labeled.
G: Fair enough, but it just seems that the music means different things to different people. Some would say that the stuff you do is very different to, say, the dubby half-step that Youngsta plays. Yet your mix includes some DMZ tunes, so I guess that means that you consider yourself to be a part of that as well?
D: I do consider myself to be a part of it - believe it not Youngsta was the first person to drop one of my tunes at FWD. He was very helpful and supportive right from the beginning and I have a lot of respect for him. Hatcha is currently playing three new beats of mine which are on a similar tip to "Dark Crystal" and "Nomad". I hope to collaborate with some of the dub heads soon as well. I've actually made a few beats in that style, but when I submit things to labels, they usually want to use the breaky tunes.
G: So it'd be wrong to suggest that the music that people like you and Toasty are playing is a separate micro-scene?
D: It's complicated... I like loads of tracks by many artists but it doesn't mean I'm gonna drop them in my set, and I'm sure it's the same for most DJ's. Some only want to play breaks, others dub, and DJ's like myself play tunes across the scale from Toasty Boy to Digital Mystikz to Search & Destroy. Everyone in the scene comes with something different, and that can't be a bad thing!!
G: Yes, that's one of the things I find so fascinating about it - there's so many individual ideas pushing the sound in different directions simultaneously. How do you explain the incredibly vibrant, creative energy that seems to come from the area at the moment?
D: Fresh!! There are just so many talented people around here - you got Benga & Skream, Hatcha, Plasticman, Cyrus, Mystikz, Loefah, N-type, Chef and then myself. We all link at FWD and other raves, chat about the scene and see what's happening. We support each other as much as possible - even if I've already got a track on dubplate, I always try to buy it when it gets released too.
G: So what does the future hold for DJ Distance?
D: I plan to just keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully contribute more to making this scene globally recognised. 'Empire' and '1 0n 1' have just landed on Hotflush, as well as 'Swarm' on the new label Destructive. There is a track forthcoming on Boka too called "Saint & Sinners", which may surprise a few heads. Look out for a load of collaborations and remixes as well.
G: I notice that your colleagues Search & Destroy and Quiet Storm were reppin' the scene on Radio1 this week. That seems like an important step in your sound's development. How far will it go from here?
D: definitely it's a big step. I think the scene will just keep getting bigger and bigger.
Download the DJ Distance "Deleted Scenes" Mix (dead link)
1. Skream - End Of The Earth (Dub)
2. Toasty Boy - Dibble (Destructive)
3. DJ Distance - Dark Crystal (Boka)
4. Toasty Boy - Angel (Hotflush)
5. Loefah - Twisup (Youngsta & Task VIP Mix) (DMZ)
6. DJ Distance - Tropical Rub (Sting Recordings)
7. DJ Distance - Vicious Circle (Dub)
8. Vex'd - Fire (Dub)
9. D1 - Crack Bong (Loefah Rmx) (Dub)
10. DJ Distance - Rotten Funk (Dub)
11. Digital Mystikz - Conference (Dub)
12. DJ Distance - Swarm (Destructive)
13. Toasty Boy - Too Hot (Storming Productions)
14. DJ Distance - Empire (Hotflush)
15. Slaughter Mob - Stopper (Destructive)
16. Eric H. - The Lights (Search & Destroy Rmx) (Hotflush)
17. Digital Mystikz - Da Wrath VIP (DMZ)
18. Search & Destroy - Vulcan Grip (Dub)
19. Vex'd - Lion VIP (Forthcoming on Planet Mu - Distance Exclusive)
Size: 51.6 mb
WHERE TO BUY DJ DISTANCE
HF002 - Nomad/3rd Wish (Hotflush Recordings)
12" back in stock at Boomkat, download at Karma or DJDownload.
HF008 - 1 On 1/Empire (Hotflush Recordings)
12" in stock at Blackmarket, download from DJDownload.
BOK001 - Replicant/Dark Crystal/Roots (Boka Records)
12" in stock at Blackmarket and Dubplate.
DST001 - 'Our Sound' v/a album includes Swarm (Destructive Records)
2x12" in stock at Blackmarket and Boomkat.
Sting2004 'Closer Than You Think' EP (Lix/Sting)
12" currently unavailable at my usual sources - unless someone can tell me otherwise?
DJ DISTANCE ON RINSE FM
You can catch Distance every Thursday night 11-1am on Rinse FM (although not next week cos he's on holiday!). For now, check this set from 12th May (hosted care of Dubway, Croatia's premier dubstep enthusiast - cheers, mate!), back-2-back with Quiet Storm for two hours of non-stop dark, dubby breaks. "It's a bit dodgy" says Distance, on account of some ropey mixing at the start, but I love the energy you get from these live sessions. A bit later on in the set, Storm drops a Dub Child remix of the bleep 'n' bass classic "LFO", bridging the gap with the old skool bassheadz culture perfectly. Essential listening...