We are beyond ecstatic to be kicking off the first in the many pre-festival pieces we have for the amazing event known as the Shambhala Music Festival! We’ve been planning for Shambhala all year and have been slowly working away on some great interviews and mixes with artists headlining the festival that we can’t wait to share with you!
To kick us off this week we sat down with one of the leading innovators in bass music; Dieselboy! Marking huge contributions to the world of drum and bass, including shaping the genre throughout his two decades of experience, Dieselboy has been focusing on his work as co-boss at the Planet Human label (Human Imprint + subHuman) where he has been helping incubate some of the best talent in Dubstep and Drum and Bass.
Playing his third headlining set this year at Shambhala, Dieselboy will be destroying the Village and is guaranteeing to flex PK Sound‘s system as he unleashes an assault full of nothing but the best in bass music. We took the opportunity to ask Dieselboy about his Shambhala experiences and what he loves about the festival and also got the low down of all the exciting stuff going on at Planet Human! Enjoy!
Photos of Dieselboy’s live performance in Victoria BC provided by Sleepdep.ca (Tom Teotico Photography)
Dieselboy sits down with Dub Selekta
We’re catching you during your SubHuman tour and I want to start by asking how the tour has been?
It’s been good! Every city is always different but in general it’s been solid. Plus it’s great for me to travel on the road with these guys. We’re all about the label and trying to build up a family-based kind of “artists crew”, so it’s nice to be able to go on the road with everyone, have food with them, get drunk with them, and just travel around with them! It’s a good bonding experience.
Ya, and speaking of, I know last night you had a full house of subHuman artists under one roof: yourself, Bare, Smash Gordon, Messinian and Krusha…how was that?
Awesome! Unfortunately Steve [Smash Gordon] hasn’t been at more shows cause he’s been really busy with his various responsibilities as an agent and promoter. He hasn’t been able to do as many shows compared to last year’s tour when he was on most of the shows with me. But the tour stop last night was really good! It was cool to have, like you said, Krusha there because he’s based in Vancouver. And also there’s a new guy on the label, his release comes out next week, called Subshock.
Ah ok, I think I saw you posting up on your facebook about him?
Yeah. He’s from Spain but lives in Vancouver now. It probably would have been cool if he could have played as well, but I guess he had just played a couple nights ago with 12th Planet. Regardless, he was there. It was just a really sick show, great vibes all around.
Now you kinda touched on it, but I wanted to ask how long is this SubHuman tour? Cause if I remember correctly last year I saw you play it was part of the SubHuman tour as well?
We usually do it once a year. This year it’s going to be about two months, and then we might have some extra shows after that tacked on at the end. But I think the tour this year is about two months.
Ok, so moving onto label chat. This year saw the launch of Planet Human that brought Human Imprint and SubHuman together under one collective banner. I’m curious about why you felt this was necessary and what you foresee this move doing for the label in the future.
I mean it really came down to the aesthetic between the two labels; they’re similar, but different enough that it was becoming confusing. We needed a new look so our website made sense and looked cohesive. Before Planet Human, the website looked like the graphics from the one of the Human Records sleeve art. And it didn’t really fit with having SubHuman material on that same website. So we felt it was better to have a banner name and then if we decide to start a third label, we can also have it under there. I felt like, it was a good place for a main point of reference for a website. Also, it just made more sense to have ONE thing instead of one or the other.
As far as what it can do for the label – I don’t know. Right now we’re actually still working on a logo; I’ve been going back and forth for a logo for Planet Human and I figure once we get that then we can really push it a little bit harder. We just wanted something cohesive for both labels that made sense.
It totally does make sense. And you’ve got a full roster of artists on Planet Human but when you’re considering an artist for the label, what are some qualities that are a must?
It really comes down to a few things. Usually I try to think long term though because I’d like to think that we’re trying to foster relationships with these artists. When you think Bare, you think SubHuman. I want there to be that correlation between our artists and the label. I want to develop these artists and work with them, so first off – the music has got to be good! And then if I like the music and I feel like the person has it in them to continue to put out quality music, like it wasn’t just some fluke, then I talk to the artist and get a vibe and I make that judgment call.
I work with some guys where I think that there’ll be a track or two that’s good. Like we put out “Brotorious” by Hulk and Dan Wall. I’m definitely down to work with those guys in the future but the reality is, of all the stuff of theirs that I’ve heard, that track is the one that really resonated with me. So much in fact that I needed to GET THAT TRACK. That was the one time that I bent the rules a bit because I wasn’t 100% sure we would bring them into the fold.
When you hear the names Hulk and Dan Wall, the instant mental affiliation isn’t with SubHuman because they put out music with all kinds of other labels. I want my guys to have that direct correlation with our label. In general the music has got to be good and I don’t want to work with an asshole, because it’s going to be long term and the person has to be cool. Once we have that, if they’re down to be part of the crew, then it just fits.
Would you say you spend more time working on the labels you run vs producing your own music now?
Definitely. I don’t really work on production all that much. I mean I am definitely trying to work on more production, like right now I’ve got two tracks that are going to be coming out; the first one with Bare comes out two and a half weeks from now (June 20) and I’ve got another one ready to go as well. There’s a third track that’s half way finished. It’s going to be me, Bare and Terravita. Then I have the blueprint for a 4th with the same guys.
I spend a lot of time on the label. We put out music at least every two weeks so there’s a lot that goes into that. There’s a lot of social media and promotion, which is a job in itself. It’s not my favorite part of my job. Personally, I like to DJ. I feel like that’s where my real strength is. I can do the other stuff but I don’t have a true passion for social promotion, I have a passion for DJing. I have some passion for producing. Part of running a label is you have to do this stuff. I like helping promote artists and I like being involved in grass roots, bottom floor up label work.
Do you feel you’re kinda like the father figure of the label that the artists look up to?
Probably, I mean I do the label with Steve [Smash Gordon] but he’s busy with a lot of his stuff so he has more of a minor role. He’s definitely part of the label but he’s just has a lot of irons in the fire with his work. I live and breathe it. I am the direct contact with the artists. I work with the artists to develop the music they’re working on, the concepts for the EP names and graphics. I’m like the creative brain behind everything. Like Bare, I’ve really helped him out and I try to give him advice and I think he looks up to me, not like a father figure, but definitely like a mentor. I’ve been around the block and I’m willing to share my experiences.
And being a label head, you’re in the perfect position to do so! So your sound has varied quite a bit over your career, certainly in the past few years as well as you incorporate with dubstep, electro etc. Were you getting to a point where you felt you needed a change or did it just naturally happen for you?
My favorite music for DJing is Drum and Bass. Although I don’t play much, if any Electro, I feel like if I were to go any play an Electro set, I’m able to manipulate that style of music in a creative way. Kinda like the same way with Drum and Bass; I feel I’m naturally good at manipulating that style of music. I’ve always liked all kinds of music and it just got to the point with me where I felt like it’d probably be better for my career if I tried to diversify a little bit. But it wasn’t like I was trying to sell out; the music that I play that isn’t Drum and Bass, I still love it.
I love the music I play but I feel like some people think I sold out or something. To me that’d be like playing something that I don’t want to play, like going to play Top40 at a club, that’s not what I do. All I did was allowed myself to play other stuff that I didn’t play before but I always liked. I just felt given the nature of the scene, like a lot of other people have done, it’s good to dabble in other genres and I also think it makes my sets sound a lot more diverse. And as far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing.
Certainly and it’s almost seemed to open up a whole new world of untapped musical opportunities…
For sure. First off I play some Dubstep in my sets. I probably play about 15% of Dubstep in my sets and it’s very little, usually at the end. But somehow because I play some Dubstep now people, even friends of mine in the scene, think I play all Dubstep now. I always get the question asked “You going to play any Drum and Bass tonight?” I’m like, what the fuck? It’s almost baffling to me that because I play SOME Dubstep, now I’m ALL Dubstep. I’m not.
The way I look at it (this is my spin on it) because I now play some Dubstep, I’m now invited to play Dubstep weeklies, but I show up and play 80/85% Drum and Bass! So in my opinion it’s like a Trojan Horse for me – I can go into these Dubstep shows that I would never have gotten the offer to play at if I was just a DnB DJ, and go and force these Dubstep kids to listen to DnB. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a WIN/WIN.
It’s definitely a good thing and that’s been one of the best things to happen after playing Dubstep. Being able to play these shows and expose these kids, that might not even know DnB because they come into the scene through Dubstep only.
What do you have to say to the DnB heads that say you play too much Dubstep?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you don’t like Dubstep, then you don’t like Dubstep. If someone doesn’t like Dubstep then playing one Dubstep track is too much Dubstep for those people. I didn’t really like Dubstep when it was first coming around cause it was too minimal for me but there’s definitely some high energy shit and it’s just a matter of a slight BPM thing. The Dubstep that I play has the same heaviness as the DnB that I play and if you’re going to hate on the same energy level just cause it’s 30 BPM slower, then I think it’s kinda pathetic to be honest.
One of the last releases for you was the Wake the Dead mix which was an astonishing 87 tracks in 84 mins. I played the shit out of it everyday for almost two months…but I know that the idea behind the mix was in response to the “bar lowering” of current dance/dj culture. For you, was there any particular incident that sparked the need for that mix or was it just what was necessary at the time?
Here’s how it is; it’s just the way it is in the scene. There’s a giant influx of new kids and there’s this giant influx of new producers turned into performers. There’s this complete blurring of the line; people think that producing is DJing and vice versa when it’s all not the same thing. I think that I’m a good DJ but producing is a whole other skill set; apples and oranges. And I just felt that, it’s just something that has weighed on my mind and even the title, Wake the Dead, means to bring awareness and awaken these people. I tried to make it very subtle and not too heavy-handed but it’s in there.
Well and with the Walking Dead into too!
That ties into the tongue and cheek concept of the mix but just what I had the guy say, the script I wrote, if you listen it makes sense. I’m someone that’s been around for a while and I feel that, especially at least since the mix came out, I’ve been jumping down in the pit with people on my facebook page and having the discussion about what goes on onstage. I just feel that there needs to be a about it.
Here’s a good example – Beatport does a thing called Beatportal where they have these DJs that are in Denver do a live set and they live stream it online. I think it really hit me when I saw these two big current Electro producers do their “tag team” performance. Basically I watched these dudes standing in the DJ booth on camera and they hit the Play button and danced around and they tweaked a few knobs on their controller and appeared to be doing very little. And for me it was an exercise in “how do you waste time while you’re not doing much?” I just watched them do all this dancing around and making hand gestures; they were basically doing almost nothing. Literally doing almost nothing and I’m thinking – this is a puppet show.
I’m looking at this and going “so this is what it is, this is what DJing has turned into.” And for me, I don’t hate on these two guys for what they do. Honestly, they are just what they know and they are, in fact, amazing producers. But performance wise, I feel like the bar is so low. 10 years ago that would have been unacceptable. It would have been like Milli Vanilli and it disappoints me to think that this is acceptable to kids. It’s like pantomime.
Part of me thinks it should fall on the shoulders of the performers to step their fucking game up, but really it’s not up to them. It’s really up to the people to expect more from the people that are on stage. It bothers me that some guys stand on stage doing nothing and it’s frustrating, cause it’s something that I take seriously. I’m not saying these guys need to do what I do…but don’t stand on stage with a computer and let it do all the heavy lifting for you. You should work out something special on the computer and make it better than what I can do live using CD players. The computer is doing it the beatmatching for you. Go in and do something crazier than what a real DJ can do. Most people don’t.
I feel that the skill set for performance has now turned into how many cool lights can you have? and how cool can you build your stage? It’s a spectacle, and little substance. It’s like LASER FLOYD with a guy standing on stage. And for me, if this is what is the norm then fine. But I at least want people to start asking, “What is going on onstage? Is he playing live? Or with Serato? Or is he using Ableton through his laptop?”
It’s so much more engaging that way. For example, I saw Camo & Krooked and they were doing triple drops and mixing in tracks in such a way that I hadn’t heard, reworking it so it was fresh…
And that’s what I’m saying. People are like “It’s all technology, it’s the technology.” It’s like YEAH it’s great! I USE TECHNOLOGY! But use technology to do something SPECIAL. Instead people use technology as a crutch to churn out sub-level “dj sets” rather than as a tool to help push their performance over the top.
What are some other artists that you feel are also breaking boundaries and breaking away from the status quo?
Hmmm…there are a few. As far as someone I feel has set the bar for showmanship, performance, crowd interaction and entertainment I feel that Z-Trip for me is the best. I like his shit, he’s an amazing DJ and he doesn’t cut corners. I play on three decks and he can do what I do on three decks on two decks! He basically sums up what it is to be a proper performer.
He uses Serato and these things called “Dicers” that allow you to set up cue points. But he doesn’t use them in a way so it does all the work for him. He uses them in a way that helps to just enhance his own already strong skill set and it really, in my opinion, takes his set up to another level. So he is a perfect example of someone that uses technology and uses in a way to improve on what he already has, which is pretty considerable.
So one of the reasons we’re chatting today is because you are headlining the Village stage at this years Shambhala music festival. I think this will be your third year at the festival if I remember correctly right?
So in your mind, makes the Village such a special stage to play at?
Well, it feels like you’re on a movie set. Usually most stages you play on, even for a festival like EDC, you only have so much time to build that stage out. Shamb’s stages are always works in progress so it really feels like Universal Studios or some movie set, especially when it’s full of party kids. PK Sound have the best sound so you have this amazing atmosphere to play in and this amazing sound system with a shit ton of people. You really feel transported…it doesn’t feel like you’re playing at a rave it feels like you’re in another world that is completely immersive! It’s just top to bottom an amazing experience.
And I read somewhere that you don’t plan your sets, but for those who are going to be catching you at Shambhala, what can you tell them to expect?
Well, again ya I don’t plan my sets. I’m known for my intros, I did one [for the show] tonight that I got a kick out of making. I try to have cool intros and I feel like my intros, especially at Shambhala, for some reason they take on a whole new level of intensity just based upon the environment. You can expect a pretty fucking cool intro, and I dunno…I don’t like to play tunes that the guy before me played. Last time I played after Excision and Noisia so I listened to everything they played and make sure I didn’t play anything that they played.
I think I’m going to give a solid set, I always try to bring my A-game but usually the pressure is on at Shambhala. And usually, when the environment is right and the sound is good, it really helps draw that out of me. If I’m playing and the monitors are banging and I can really feel the bass, everyone around me is having a good time, usually it makes my job 100x easier to just flow into something cool.
We well look forward to it! Ok, so other than your work at Planet Human, all your touring you’ve got this year, is there anything else keeping you busy that you can share with us?
The label and the touring do keep me quite busy…
Well you mentioned some tracks that you’ve got coming up too…
Ya I’ve got two tracks that are done; one comes out in two and a half weeks and the other shortly after. I was talking with the Terravita guys and they live in Boston, which is pretty close to New York. They’re like “we should work together” and it’s like “yeah…why don’t we!?” So now my goal is to start going out there every two to three months just to get a track or two done. I like those guys quite a bit.
But my goal this year is just to consistently keep shit going. Ideally I’d wanna work on another mix but the reality is Wake the Dead, even when I think about it I don’t even know how I did it, it takes a lot out of me. I don’t want to put out anything that’s inferior to the last thing I put out so I always feel I have to constantly improve on some level, or try to at least.
The goal is we really wanna keep working on building the label and seriously developing a clothing line to go with it. I feel that the merch that we do with the label, we’ve always done really cool shirts, proper street wear level stuff. I feel like our approach is a bit more real, so I’m going to see if Smash and I can come up with a lifestyle kind of brand. We’re talking with some guy about that. We want something that’ll be cool.
Nice, we’ll watch for the new gear then. Alright so last question; if you could pass on one piece of advice to an up and coming artist, that you wished you knew when you started, what would it be?
Don’t cut corners for yourself. I used to tell every DJ that was up and coming “Don’t DJ until you can actually DJ.” Back then people were a bit more patient as well but there’s this desire that people wanna just rush out and jump on stage. But it’s better to hone your craft and be good at what you do. That’s the most important thing, and it touches back on what I was saying earlier. Djing is a passion for me and it’s something that I love and it’s fun. I don’t feel like I need to learn things to make it easier for me to DJ because it’s something I love doing. And if you love doing something then you WANT to challenge yourself at it. You can be an artist or a DJ or producer and if you’re passionate about it then you should focus on being the fucking best that you can be at it. I put all my energy into it and it’s what people should do if they truly want to become a proper artist.
I agree, thanks very much for chatting. Looking forward to seeing you at Shambhala this year!
Big thank you goes out to Dieselboy for speaking with us in advance of Shambhala, we can’t wait to catch his set this year! For more info on Planet Human and what he’s doing at the label, be sure to checkout the website and facebook pages. Big ups to Shambhala Music Festival, look forward to another pre-festival piece next week!!