DJ Fresh: Fresh By Name, Fresh By Nature
Your relationship with Ms. Dynamite as a collaborator is ongoing with several works now shared between you as opposed to your fairly partnership with Jay Fay. So how did you go about selecting who you are going to work with?
It really depends on the tune! When I heard the original version of Dibby I could imagine it with a percussive breakdown and felt that it was missing that as I could hear it as it is now but I wasn’t sure about vocal wise where to go with it.
I knew I wanted to keep the Dibby thing because it’s wicked and that I wanted to write something that had the same energy as ‘Gold Dust’ and I felt that a Jamaican theme could fit with the carnival vibe of it so it was just a vision that sort of unraveled really with Ms. Dynamite as my perfect first choice for it. There were other people that we were talking to about doing it like Iggy Azalea who did something for it that we weren’t happy with it in the end and we looked at working with other people but it always felt like Ms. Dynamite was the perfect choice for it.
That’s really interesting. So what do you do when you can’t get the number one option who originally fitted what you had envisioned the track to sound like?
Well you can’t always get your number one option and in that instance me and Naomi had been chatting for a while about doing something new, she was going to do something on ‘Earthquake’ but was busy doing her album and we’ve always kept in touch since Gold Dust’ after working really well together in the studio so it was just the right time and the right track really.
Cool. Let’s talk about your cross over appeal, we can’t think of many other drum and bass acts who landed number ones in the UK top 40. Do you feel like you flew the flag for a whole scene in bringing it to more mainstream attention?
Well that’s always what I have been trying to do with my label, Breakbeat Kaos and that what we’ve always attempted to do from when we brought Pendulum over from Australia and were one of the first major underground labels to start operating in the same way as a larger independent imprint with radio pluggers and doing music videos and the like. The scene was pretty chaotic back in those days, with very few labels that operated like the more mainstream independents. I had a great relationship with Andy C as we’d both have ideas that we’d sit on the phone and talk about on how was best to get these records out there and we both embraced signing the kind of artists that we thought could kind of get their foot in the door of mainstream radio and deliver this music to a bigger audience.
I never really expected to pull that off myself as an artist and so I was always very focused on the label and then I was about to kind of throw the towel in as I was bored, amazing as that sounds, as I’d just been doing all of this for such a long time and I’ve always been the sort of person that constantly needs new challenges to motivate myself and keep excited about things.
Then I did ‘Gold Dust’ and suddenly this crazy new doorway opened up to present myself to a completely new audience and it was like a whole blank canvas in terms of my imagination and what people knew about the music and what you could do with their understanding of it. Within drum and bass so many things had been tried and the hardcore drum and bass listeners have heard so many things. There were certain things done in certain ways that maybe had lots of potential that were rinsed so much within the scene that you couldn’t really touch them again whereas within the larger mainstream world it becomes a whole blank canvas again where nobody has really heard that music in that context. So it was a really exciting opportunity to do something new and reach out to a bigger audience.
In regards to the more mainstream audience, do you think people are more open and receptive to new ideas than perhaps they have been before or do you think artists are packaging music in a way that is more palatable for these listeners?
I think both are happening. I think the mainstream audience is more receptive and more open but then at the same time a lot of people are playing it safe, hedging their bets and not wanting to take risks. Personally I haven’t done so much drum and bass recently as I don’t really want to do that. Say, ‘Hot Right Now’ which comes from my last album if you listen to it now it sounds like a pop tune because you’ve heard loads of other drum and bass in that context but at the time it was a really risky move to do something like that but it broke through as this massive radio success and launched Rita Ora – but it was in the context of drum and bass something that hadn’t really been done before and certainly not by a drum and bass artist who understood the underground side of drum and bass. There had been pop producer who had put a ‘drum and bass’ beat over a track and called it drum and bass but for me this was a first and what music is about. It’s about trying to do things that haven’t been done before.