Check out the September drum and bass special of DJ Mag and it's clear to see that it's far from a linear genre. Whether a track is a chopped up, twisted amen break, a dutty gully riddim or a jazzy fusion of futuristic tech soul, the boundaries of the genre are obliterated even more frequently than the dancefloors and souls that they encompass.
If there is one producer/DJ that highlights the scene’s true musical diversity it's DJ Die. Born Daniel Kausman, the Devonian turned Bristolian veteran junglist has flitted between a range of cuts from boogie to hip-hop, honing that ever forward thinking Bristol sound.
Having a Mercury Prize under his belt with ‘New Forms’ - delivered through the drum and bass super group Reprazent, headed by Roni Size - he is not one to rest on his laurels, continuing to feed the diet of the d&b junkie to this day as head honcho of the ‘anything but d&b’ label Gutterfunk and the classic rolling Clear Skyz.
With Die educating fields, beaches and clubs aplenty this summer in how to diversify your DJ sets, DJ Mag caught up with the happily sunned selector after Outlook to speak parties, labels and mental playlists…
You have just got back from Outlook Festival, did the festival treat you well?
“Ah man, it was wicked. It was the first time I had been out there and it was an amazing festival with a wicked vibe. It was full of good people and the weather was perfect. Just boat party after boat party, and you don’t get bored with them."
You have been playing a few festivals this summer and even rolled out a boogie and disco set at Secret Garden Party. How did you get involved with playing with sound and this set?
“Yeah, I got asked to play a Laminate Radio set at The Drop stage which I was involved in a few years back. It was basically a set of all the tunes that we grew up with as kids in Bristol and what we were hearing in clubs. It was a weird mix of music in Bristol, you had the hip-hop and all the house, but you also had this boogie funk, disco vibe that used to get played by some of the DJ crews. When we were growing up we were soaking up all of this music and it got to a certain point wheere we were like, “Do you know what? We have got to bring back some of these tunes we used to hear at house parties and clubs as kids.” So we did a Laminate Radio mix, which was a history of the music that we grew up with that was still buzzing round our heads. It was all straight funk and disco, taking it back to that original groove. We just went back to the original uncut source, to the boogie, to the funk and to the soul. People seemed to love it, I’ve got a partner called Gus Pirelli and we usually DJ together for Laminate Radio, but this one I did on my own. I think it was just one of those sets where I got the right time and the right place because there was a lot of smiling and happy people.”
As you are primarily known for drum and bass how do the d&b heads react when you play a set like that?
“It’s actually quite funny because I have been trying to work out a way of fitting disco and d&b into the same set. It is a little bit mad but you have just got to do it and not really think about it. I have definitely come out of hard rolling d&b into Sister Sledge ‘Lost In Music’ a few times at raves just to see the reaction from people. To me, it is all good music. I have got to the stage now where genres are dead, music ain’t a genre, it’s a vibe and you have just got to go with the vibe and the moment.”
Is this the idea that drove the creation of your label Gutterfunk?
“Gutterfunk was started really for a new outlet to have a place to release all styles. I have been making a lot of different styles of music for years now, but never really had an outlet for it. I was always making little hip-hop tunes, R&B tunes, house tunes and off key work from what I usually do. Eventually Gutterfunk came about as an outlet for that, to not just make tunes that stay in the studio but actually have an outlet to release them. It’s going really well so far, six releases in but I would say the sets that I played at Bestival and at Boomtown are a reflection of that.”
What are your sets consisting of at the moment then?
“I’m playing the different tempo stuff from the label. I start off from maybe 135bpm moving into hybrid grooves, then drop random old rave tunes from the '90s while working my way up to 150-160bpm, playing some of the footwork inspired stuff that I'm making with Addison Groove and some other stuff around that tempo that I'm feeling. There is a kind of footwork thing that is going on in America, in Chicago, which seems to draw from UK early jungle vibes and that has inspired us again to go back in and play jungle footwork - we’ll call it jungle juke. It’s a mixture of the 808, which the juke guys were using, and a lot of early jungle influences which, because it is a bit slower, between 160-170bpm, seems to spark a whole new area of grooves and experimentation. It’s just a real fun style to be working with and me and Addison Groove have linked up and made quite a few tunes.”
A lot of DJs have been playing with different genres in drum & bass but why is it so prolific now?
“I’ve got to big up Shy FX and Digital Soundboy for taking the lead on that kind of stance. Now as a DJ you get the chance to kind of tell your story. Rather than telling one chapter, you can tell your whole biography of your history, of where you come from and how you got there and where you are now. Shy FX would turn up at a jungle rave and roll out grime and reggae. You had to have balls to do that at that stage because jungle and drum and bass is such a specialist style, but a lot of people that come from that scene have come through a lot of different styles of music. Jungle and drum and bass was a scene where you could express that, but I think it has got to the stage now where you have got to go back to the source and to the original art form and to where it all began. Sometimes you have got to go back to go forward. I think where I am at with my DJ sets now and I definitely love playing at festivals because it's the one place you can get away with dropping Chic and DJ Hazard in the same set. It’s a good time to take off the restrictions that have been given to one style. It’s hard for people to accept because and it’s hard for the promoters to get their heads around. What they want is a safe bet.”
When you moved to Bristol what was it that initially got you into the rave scene?
“It was through skateboarding really. I was a skateboarder and I met this guy called Jody, who was Way Out West. His dad was running a skateboarding magazine and we made our first record together. It was just living in Bristol and skateboarding around the streets of Bristol meeting people and bumping into heads. There were a lot of parties going on, a lot of house parties where I got to hear the music I was talking about earlier. Before that I was always a festival kid. I went to a lot of festivals as a kid with my mum so I have always been exposed to a lot of music and a lot of different styles of music as well. Coming to Bristol, it did all come together with the people I met and the parties that went with it. As a crew we would all move together, we would all go raving together and we would just drive every weekend to wherever the party was. Through '92 we were pretty much away from Bristol every weekend until the Criminal Justice bill came in and shut it all down. We were out there at all the raves. We used go to Circus Warp, Spiral Tribe and Bedlam parties. We would travel to London to go to warehouse parties and house parties and follow the party trail around England. I was just a budding DJ then and the free party thing was a platform to be seen and heard on. From that I bumped into Roni and Krust and I have never looked back. We started making tunes, Full Cycle and V started and we would just jam it in the studio all the time.”
What was the idea behind creating a drum & bass group like Reprazent?
“Roni had the vision for that one, I would say. With Reprazent he had a vision to put together this band. I think it was one of those things where all of the players played their part, we were a team and we moved as one. After the Mercury Prize stuff it all unfolded for us and it was like, “Okay, we better get a tour bus.” Suddenly we had more people coming to shows and that was when it really took off. Breakbeat Era came after that and that was a project that we had made one tune for. The time came up between Reprazent and we did the ‘Breakbeat Era’ album, which I think, even to this day, was a little ahead of its time. It is definitely an album that I am very proud of. The singer Leonie Laws bought something different to the table.”
What are you hoping to achieve with Clear Skyz and Gutterfunk in the near future?
“On Clear Skyz I have a new release coming up soon from a guy called Critical Impact featuring Jakes. It’s a sick tune and it is definitely bringing that Bristol flavour back. It’s got the rollers, and with MC Jakes on there it’s definitely a hot vibe. I think with Clear Skyz I just want to keep it quality drum and bass, quality jungle and quality rollers. With Gutterfunk we are just throwing curve balls with every release, and we are just trying to keep it varied and exciting and keep putting fresh energy in there. Jus Now have released ‘Tun Up’, which has been a massive tune this year, and they are definitely blowing up right now. ‘1000 Soul Songs’ has been a good new release and we have some footwork stuff coming. There is some stuff coming from K-aze and he has got some crazy beats coming through. We just want to keep pushing the envelope with Gutterfunk, with Sure Thing we a working the '80s boogie influence and there is loads of stuff coming from that. We are working on an album for that with Futureboogie. We are going to do a compilation at some point with all of the releases so far. There is more stuff coming from Jus Now. It is all just starting really as we are only six releases in.”
The latest Die release ‘1000 Soul Songs’ features Jenna G, how was it working with her again?
“Jenna is an absolute pro, she has got soul to the bone. I have always wanted to work with Jenna from when I first heard ‘Midnight’. Me and Clipz did a tune years ago, when Redlight was called Clipz, named ‘Work It Out’ and that was always something I wanted to follow up. We did 'Soul Songs' and that was, in a way, a dedication to the music we love, to jungle music and also soul music and it was connecting the two together. I was really happy with the response from all my peers and the people I care about, and the ravers’ response was wicked from it.”
Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you have coming up that we should know about?
“I’m working on some tracks with MC Inja. I’ve got to big up MC Inja, he has done all of my shows with me and he did Boomtown and Arcadia sets as well. We pretty much roll most places together and now we are working on some material. There is stuff coming with Addision Groove, Sure Thing and of course solo stuff. I just want to enjoy what I do and that is the main thing that is important to me.”
Words: DAVID SULLIVAN