Dax J talks about his first rave & his Essential Mix ambitions
Arguably the biggest break out techno artist of 2016 and a rising techno starlight, Dax J chatted to Tommy Holohan ahead of his upcoming show at Boxed Off and live set at Hangar.
Q. So far 2016 has been a massive year for you, playing at Awakenings, Berghain, bringing out killer releases on Monnom Black & Electric Deluxe and destroying podcasts like MixMag. Could you give us an insight into a typical day for Dax J?
A. When I’m not on the road I’m in the studio as much as I can, that’s always my main goal.
I’m away for days at a time every week so it means I’ve got to make the most of my time when I’m at home and make as much music as possible. I always have a mountain of tasks that need doing, so I never have days off. It’s all good though, I can’t complain, I love being in the studio and I love touring.
Q. I read that you come from a Jungle and Drum & Bass background which is evident in ‘In The Shadows’ and ‘Afterlife’ from your Shades of Black LP. How much does this influence your music selection and productions?
A. I think it probably does influence it quite a bit. I don’t put too much thought into it but when I hear tracks with amen breaks or dark heavy bass-lines I’m instantly attracted and my ears perk up. The jungle is a part of my DNA so the influence will always be there!
Q. What was the idea behind starting Monnom Black and where do you see it going in the future?
A. Initially it was just to have an outlet to release my own music, soon after the first release I started receiving a lot of great music that I loved, so I had to open it up to everyone because I wanted to put out the music I was getting.
This year and next I am bringing through new artists and will focus on more label showcases.
Q. Everyone knows that unique Dax J style, blistering kicks and crisp Hi Hats. Could you give us a little insight on how you go about making your tracks?
A. Distort the kick, add some hats and a bass-line, mix it all together and there you go! It’s like making a cake!
Well, I wish it was that easy… The truth is I have no specific way in which I do it. I have been making music for 14 years! So I have a lot of different styles and techniques in the locker. It’s always different, sometimes I’m on the machines, sometimes I’m recording, jamming or sampling and other times its just complete random experiments.
At the end though I always do my final mixes in Logic and I will then master it myself and then go back and re-adjust the mix from the results of my master. This mixdown to master and back to mixdown process usually goes back and forwards many times. I’m doing around 40 mixes and masters of every track I do, constantly adjusting and refining. One time I did over 100 versions, and the track still turned out to be crap. This bit I don’t enjoy, but I’m a perfectionist with this type of stuff, I probably shouldn’t work like this, I don’t recommend it!
Q. How did you first get involved in underground music?
A. It all started out when I was at school listening to pirate radios, I was tuning into Drum n Bass pirates, I loved it, was so raw and fresh to my ears, I hadn’t heard anything like it before.
I was listening to a lot of tapes and recordings from raves also. I had a bit of knowledge at this point and I knew I liked the music, but it wasn’t until around the turn of the millennium when I went to my first rave at Bagleys in Kings Cross and then it all made sense. It was the last piece of the puzzle, I knew right there and then that I wanted to be apart of this underground music. I still cant believe I got into that rave looking back at it now, Nike joggers and a blue YSL shirt. I was so scared of not getting in, being so young, I also wore a whistle round my neck because I thought it would make me look like an “experienced” raver, and the bouncers might think, “yeah he’s done this before, you’re alright, come on in son.”
Well, in the end I got in, so maybe it did work!
Q. Monnom Black is bringing out some great releases from the likes of stranger and yourself. How do you choose releases for the imprint?
A. I have to be able to play them in my sets, and they need to have a raw energy to them, that’s the main factor.
If I love the track, then I want to release it! It’s that simple. I know in the first 10 seconds of listening to a track if it’s right for the label.
Q. You have a strong fanbase here in Ireland after playing Hangar, Dublin and with SubTech in Limerick. How does the Irish crowd like their techno?
A. I love playing in Ireland! One of the most passionate crowds! I feel really comfortable playing there because the crowd always make you feel welcome and they really react off what your doing. And I actually have Irish blood in me, my grandma was Irish so It feels like I’m going back to my roots when I’m there. I have two Dublin gigs coming up on the October 1, Saturday daytime at Boxed Off Festival, and then Saturday night I will play live at Hangar.
I will be preparing something special exclusively for the Irish crowd that’s for sure. Can’t wait!
Q. Currently destroying dancefloors from Moscow to London, are there any cities or clubs you haven’t played that you’d love to?
A. Well I went Labyrinth festival in Japan a few years ago just to party, and yeah it was mind blowing, the biggest Funktion 1 system I’ve ever seen, and the most powerful and cleanest sound I’ve every heard, I would love to play there!
Q. How did it feel to have two techno heavyweights, Dave Clarke and Ben Klock play out your tracks in their BBC 1 essential mix?
A. I grew up with the Essential Mix so to have tracks featured in it by two legends in the game is always very humbling, and an honor.
I’m looking forward to the day when I will be doing my own Essential Mix. Shout out to Pete Tong, I’m ready and waiting!
Q. We’ve seen you playing some live sets, do you have plans in the future to evolve your live set more and play live more frequently?
A. Yes, I think when I make my next album I will bring together a brand new live show for that, bring in new equipment and do something completely different that I haven’t done before.