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DJ Digital Interview
Producing since 1994, Stephen Carr better known by his stage name Digital, has been on the drum and bass scene ferociously working and contributing some amazing music.
Digital is here to stay and we have asked him for a few questions to show you why.
Thanks for taking the time out! Where are you based at the moment?
Hi! I'm kind of based in Ipswich, Suffolk but Brisbane and Chaing Mai have been home as well for the last 4/5 years however, I’ll be in the UK from February for the foreseeable future due to work commitments.
What are your favourite home town venues?
Unfortunately the Ipswich area sucks for venues because the council around here prefer car parks instead!
Can you go back to how it all started for you, and why jungle?
Some families like to watch football, watch tv, read or whatever but my family loved music. Growing up I had the pleasure of listening to reggae, ska and dub from my parents, hip hop, funk and electro from my brother plus pop, soul and house from my sisters. All these genres had a big influence on me and furthermore, I’m the youngest in my family so I didn’t have any money to buy my own music so I took everyone elses! Anyway, all these genres played a major part in shaping Jungle so when I heard Jungle for the first time I could relate to it and loved it straight away.
Do you enjoy any other genres of music, or it is purely DNB?
It’s easier to say what I don’t like because I really can take a vibe from all kinds of music especially if it makes me feel good. I mean I could say, ‘I don’t like line dancing music’ but I reckon after a few Whiskeys I’d probably be joining the line! I’m not into Dark Heavy Metal, the stuff where you don’t know what the hell they’re saying!
What were you producing on back then, and what are you on now?
I used to produce on an Atari computer and a Roland W-30 sampler without any problems. I had 14 seconds sample time at 30khz so it was grainy and almost rusty sounding. Later I moved on to an Emu sampler and a Mackie Mixer 24/8. Nowadays I have a Mac computer with Logic Pro X loaded with heaps of plug ins and my favourites are from Softube, Rob Papen, Slate, Ohmicide, Sugar Bytes and Native Instruments. I also have a Universal Audio Apollo 16 soundcard and an M1 TL Audio Valve Tube Tracker. I have several monitors but the main ones are Adam S3-A, Adam A7 X, Tannoy Monitor Gold 12” and I love the little square Akg Lsm 50 and Auratones because they help me get my bass right, weirdly as they’re 5” monitors lol.
Is there a part of producing that you find particularly enjoyable, or anything that you find frustrating?
I absolutely love writing but I must admit I’m not a fan of the ball ache I get from engineering and anyway I don’t want to join the ‘My snare sounds amazing but my tune has no vibe’ club. If I work with Nomine or Spirit I’m quite happy for them to take the hot seat because I know they’re a lot better than me at engineering but I reckon I can hold my own when it comes to putting an idea together.
Space Funk was the first track you made on your own in 1995. Can you tell us the main differences in production then to now?
Spacefunk sounds really warm but a touch low fi because of the 30khz sampler I was using at the time although, I do like that kind of sound because it reminds me of the early 80’s reggae vibe unlike the current shiny sound . I only had 14 seconds sample time so I had to make sure every sound counted but nowadays I can use mountains of sounds and heaps of software….. I think the main difference in my sound is the sound quality as I try to keep the vibe I want while not falling behind sound quality wise (I get help with that from Stu at Metropolis mastering) I don’t think my writing has changed much as it’s still a bit random and all over the place!
Space Funk on Timeless Recordings is the only record in DNB to have remixes between 1998-2008 from Goldie, Photek, Doc Scott, and Futurebound. How does that feel?
I feel great about it because Spacefunk was my first solo track so I didn’t expect much love from it I love the fact it wasn’t hyped up by the Internet Chin Scratchers Crew, (Or the I.C.S.C.) Spacefunk did well because it was cracking in a club and one of the classic tracks from the Metalheadz Blue Note days so hell yeah, I’m very proud of that!
How difficult do you think it is to be a good music producer and a good DJ?
I think the 2 things can work well together especially if you’re an individual kind of artist who has to make a lot of music so you can achieve the particular sound you want throughout your set although, there are a lot of good producers who get trendy after 1 release on a big label and get rushed into djing and simply sound shite. On the other hand artists like Spirit, Marcus intalex and Klute can do both things just as good as each other.
What is your favourite country to DJ in?
Oh I’m not fussed, anywhere will do lol.
Spacefunk sold 19,000 copies in all formats, and features on most History of DNB compilations. What do you think needs to be done to create an anthem these days?
How can you build an anthem if labels and producers don’t give their tracks to dj’s until 2 weeks before a release? Dj’s have egos so they don’t want to play a track that has already been released. In my experience, big tracks like Deadline, Phantom Force and Gateman were on dubplate for well over a year and they gained momentum. Spirit and I have spoke about this a lot lately and we’ve decided to just give stuff out like the old days, 1 because of the reason already stated and 2, there isn’t much music like ours out there anyway so it’s not going to get lost like a popular sounding techy track as there are 100’s out there.
You became A&R for Timeless around 1999 and have the knowledge of signing and mentoring artists. What advice would you give to aspiring producers today?
Don’t be lazy and copy other artists be honest to yourself and create your own vibe. Relax, be patient, keep it fun and remember why you got into music in the first place.
You were part of signing Pendulum’s “Back To You” and the success of the sales on Timeless. What was it about the track that stood out for you?
Concord Dawn suggested listening to some tracks from Pendulum so we jumped at the chance because we already knew them from their successful release on 31 Records so it was a no brainer. ‘Back To You’ stood out because it was techy, soulful and slamming like a Concord Dawn track.
Morning Light by Concord Dawn was another huge anthem that you signed. Do you think that record label owners need to have a good ear and understand good production techniques or is signing a well-known artist key to good sales?
Luckily for me I was running a label called L Plates for new artists, so I received a lot of music. When I was djing in New Zealand Mat from Concord Dawn gave me a CD of ‘Morning Light’. Anyway I played it at my first gig in Nz and afterwards I said to him, ‘Yeah we’ll have this for L Plates’ but by the time I’d finished my tour I called my partner in Timeless Recordings to say, ‘Sod putting that track on L Plates lets stick it on Timeless! Concord Dawn were known in NZ but not worldwide so technically they were new artists so it’s not always key to good sales, club Dj support is a major help too and Morning Light got battered!
You remixed tracks on award winning LP’s from double platinum selling bands such as Salmonella Dub from New Zealand. How did that come about?
The first day I arrived in New Zealand I knew I’d love it and the people there are amazing because they’re very open and friendly so I got to know a lot of people in my time djing there. Salmonella Dub are all about Dub, dnb and generally they’re into soulful music and hard partying so I could relate to them in many ways! Basically there’s no special reason I was in the right place at the right time. They remain good friends of mine today.
You have been one of the first of Goldie’s Metalheadz crew and feature on every Platinum Breakz LP. Did you ever expect Metalheadz to be so big when you first joined?
Yes because I was in awe of most of the artists on the label. Goldie, Dillinja, Lemon D, Source Direct and Peshay plus 2 massive influences on me in Doc Scott and Photek.
Dubzilla LP sold over 5000 copies of vinyl and over 1500 CD’s. Do you think that the loss of a physical format into digital WAV’s and MP3’s being easily file shared is the main reason for the sales numbers decreasing and in turn the loss of money to artists?
It’s one of the reasons for the loss of vinyl sales for sure but I think another reason is the fact that DNB listeners have changed over the years. My brother could listen to DNB at one time because there were fusions of jazz, soul, reggae and hip hop but most DNB is only for DNB heads - So you’ll only get DNB crew buy it!
You have had further releases on 31 Records (Deadline / Fix Up), Function (Waterhouse Dub). What do you think has made these records stand the test of time?
Originality, uplifting, dubby and because they kicked it on the dance floor;-)
Phantom Force which you produced with Spirit was the first release on your label Phantom Audio. Was it difficult establishing your own label and what struggles have you endured?
It wasn't difficult starting Phantom Audio because we kicked it off with Phantom Force which absolutely smashed it.
You have created your own signature sound. Do you think new producers today have lost that?
I don’t think it’s lost but there’s a fair amount of artists making the same kind of sound, sad really as it seems like a bit of a waste. Shit you can get a 20 track LP with the same kind of track every time, another sad waste! Some producers clearly want to fit in somewhere but pity dem nah know if you do your own thing you’ll probably surprise yourself and feel stronger for it.
4 LP’s and over 100 singles released, what is next for you?
Trident Code EP featuring myself, Flava and Horrific James (December 7th) http://www.functionrecords.co.uk/blog/news/ID/104 A limited Edition 10” on Function Dubz with Y.T. and Solo Banton (Late January) https://soundcloud.com/function-records/sets/function-dubz-limited-10-vi... A 16 track collab EP late March featuring some great artists Other labels.. An EP on 31 records (Jan/Feb) Digital & Spirit - Phantom Audio EP (out now!) https://phantomaudio.bandcamp.com/album/the-vision-e-p-phud-12003 Several tracks on the Ingredients 50th release (late Feb).
You’re current on Metalheadz, V Recordings, Dispatch, Ingredients, Rupture, Tempo, Function, Lion Charge, Horrific Recordings, Fresh 86, Lion Dub International, Horizons, Technique Recordings and Phantom Audio. Is there any label you haven’t been on that you aspire to?
I’ve been on Reinforced Records already but I’d like to go on there again!
If you could work with one person who would it be and why?
Dillinja. I reckon something decent would develop in the bass area and Photek because he’s a DON!
You are still working with Spirt after all these years. What is it that holds your working relationship together?
It’s easy for me because Spirit is one of my favourite DNB producers so I respect his opinion plus he gives me a few tips now and then. It’s easy to work with him as things usually come naturally for us in the studio so it’s never forced. We’re both guilty of having no real formula so that works too (Having no formula isn’t a bad thing!)
You have a LP with reggae artist YT forthcoming on Function Dubz. What can we expect?
This wont be for a long time but expect vocalists and reggae/dub old skool jungle styles on Function Dubz.
When I see you from the bar, what are you drinking?
I’m not fussy but at home maybe Whiskey!
How do you feel about the split in genres within drum and bass and commercial and underground dnb?
I would like a bit more togetherness like the old days when you’d get several dj’s in the same club playing different styles of DNB, It was great schooling for me and it’s something I miss. The commercial DNB thing can be a waste of time. A track can fall completely on it’s arse if the right radio Dj doesn’t play it, I mean a club Dj ain’t gonna play it are they! What we see as a commercial DNB track seems worlds apart from the successful days of originators like Shy Fx, Photek and Roni Size. These artists did their own thing and had major success.
Thanks for your time, and all the best!
Bookings : http://www.bassic.co.uk
Soundcloud : http://www.soundcloud.com/function-records
Interview by Aliina Atkinson (Missrepresent)