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Beat Freak: Interview with DJ Deekline (2001)

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Steve Goodman and Gavin Weale
London Hyperdub HQ
Originally published in 2001

Our softwar agents, Steve Goodman and Gavin Weale, travelled to DeeKline’s studio in South West London to grill the ‘smoke free’ 21 year old DJ about breaking into the garage, but not getting locked in. .Deekline plays with MC Hyperactive on Flex FM 103.6 and now promotes the capitals premiere breakbeat garage night ‘Beat Freaks’, a monthly ‘no dress code’ affair at the Gass club.

Rat Records Discography
Rat 001 – I don’t smoke
Rat 002 – Flat Beat 
Rat 003 – Turn it Up/Jackson 5
Rat 004 – Ticket Inspector
Rat 005 – Fame & the Money
Rat 006 – All in My Mind

Deekline’s sound comprises rigid breakbeats rolling along at about 130bpm and dubby electro basslines. At its best (his remix of ODB’s “Got Your Money”) it is agressively soulful with expertly sequenced vocal tracks and crackling, driving basslines that sporadically dissolve into searing acid filtered bass. And when ‘I don’t smoke’ and the Jackson 5 remix drop, you can’t help but wind your waste. His sound also sits somewhere between the gradually converging generic factions of breakbeat and garage, leading to much confusion and pigeonholing from press and punters struggling to delineate just what exactly is going on…

SG: Can you describe the music policy of your new Beat Freaks night ?

DeeKline: The best way to describe it is hardcore, but with a new approach – a lot cleaner productions. We are using new breaks and stuff, getting drummers and funk breaks which are a lot tighter. We are using ‘drum’n’bass’ production (people say its just slowed down drum’n’bass) but we are giving a new twist and energy to it. Garage is a very inappropriate word because if you go through a lot of the records that are played, there are absolutely no elements of garage in there.

SG: What do you mean no elements of ‘garage’. Are you talking about the vocals?

DeeKline: I mean ‘soul’. Our sound is more rave-y and all our sounds are made on synths with filters. It’s not just a kick and a snare. I just find garage beat-programming very boring – to be honest with you I just don’t like garage. . .

GW: So would you say your sound is closer to new-school breaks?

DeeKline: I think new-skool breaks is inefficient, they went too nulu with the sounds. I like listening to it because it’s interesting, but a lot of it is just no good for the dancefloor. A lot of the DJs and Producers are realizing that now and some are using garage basslines, but it’s still not garage. It has been waiting to evolve for a long time, so now there are a few people getting the formula right with it. I’ve almost got a whole set of my own stuff but only just about.

SG: Do you run Rat Records along this formula ?

DeeKline: Yeah. . .we’ve done 6 records so far on Rat, but they’re pretty unofficial – white labels. ‘Rat 1’ was ‘I Don’t Smoke’, ‘Rat 2’ was a limited edition of the Darren Flat Eric track (ONLY 300). ‘Rat 3’ was a Public Enemy remix and on the other side was the Jackson 5 track. ‘Rat 4’ was ‘Ticket Inspector’ which was a bit of fun. Rat 5 was ‘Fame and the money’ and ‘Rat 6’ was ‘All in my Mind’ with Lovestation.

GW: Who has been picking up on the Rat releases? Is it predominantly DJs?

DeeKline: Pretty much, yeah. We’ve developed a good mail-out list, from Shut Up and Dance to the Freestylers and people from abroad who are supporting the sound. We make sure our core of 100 get the records, but there are a lot of DJs in the UK underground who are jumping on the stuff now so we just let them buy it. There are so many DJs that you just can’t send them to everyone.

SG: So you’ve just been to Germany, how was that?

DeeKline: Wicked. I went to Essen and Berlin. There was a really good response and they’ve invited me back out there again.

SG: What were the nights billed as?

DeeKline: One of them was breakbeat and one was garage. They are into their progressive trance and techno out there, but some of them do like garage and drum’n’bass. The R & B side to the garage they don’t like as much – they like the harder sound. I think a lot of people are not defining it well enough. A lot of people are saying they are playing “breakbeat”, when actually they are playing 2-step. The rawer sound of 2-step has been about for 3 or so years, and the media seems a bit confused about the whole thing.

SG: you’ve got a weird relation to the garage scene, haven’t you?

Deekline: Basically, I put out a mix of ‘I Don’t Smoke’ that crossed over with the scene, at least in terms of the beats, but it still had a more electro/breaky feel. Because it got so big, I don’t think they liked it. It was the first track that wasn’t a garage tune but was getting played in all the big clubs, and they were like “its not musical”. But how can you say its not musical? Half the stuff the big DJs do isn’t ‘musical’. What I was saying was: I’m not trying to make garage, it just happens to sell in this market… which is partly why I aim some stuff to that market – because it sells, and it makes it worthwhile doing.

SG: How did you perceive the tracks’ impact in the clubs?

Deekline: It was destroying the clubs. It had such a big effect. A lot of the garage boys were running scared because they could obviously see a new type of music emerging, and it’s not ‘garage’, so their careers are obviously threatened. It’s like ‘138 Trek’ and ‘Dooms Night’, they are calling these tracks garage but they’re not. I don’t like getting compared with that ‘Casualty’ track either. I’ve got nothing against them but I’m set in my ways about what I am doing.

SG: Whom do you think you are closest to in terms of your sound?

DeeKline: At the moment, probably Dominic B’s stuff, Shut Up and Dance – that’s the sort of stuff I play it with, plus maybe a few of Zinc’s tunes. They are the only people who are really pushing the stuff I make. Some of Rennie Pilgrem’s stuff as well, and Wayward Soul have a few tracks on dubplate I am playing just now. But you would have trouble finding a lot of this stuff in the shops at the moment! The only criticism I’ve got of their stuff is that it is too fast. I don’t like playing records that fast – I don’t like playing records above 134 bpm basically. If you start speeding the records up you are going to go into an old cycle again, aren’t you? You want to get faster and faster. At 130bpm you can scratch to it and chop vocals in, but when you go past there it starts to get ridiculous, and we’ve already been through that cycle 10 years ago. It’s now time to stop dead because the heartbeat ties into 130bpm. If you go to Africa, the tribes bang out a beat of about 130bpm…

SG: So you don’t see that whole acceleration cycle repeating itself ?

Deekline: Absolutely not – not with what I’m doing anyway. The most I’ll conform to is making a tune at 134bpm, because I don’t like people playing tunes on +8. I think it sounds silly. I think it’s going to stay at 130bpm and eventually it will catch on. Rather than speeding up, there are more interesting things that people are doing – like stuff that Si Begg and Tipper are doing with sound, getting it to come out of the speakers quadrophonically, 4 way panning. Also there are a few nights which start with hip hop, breakbeat and move on to drum’n’bass. That’s fine. . .

SG: Some of the stuff that has been written about breakbeat garage talks about how it is acting as a bridge between 4 or 5 different scenes. . .

Deekline: The main thing about garage is that it has the biggest crowd. I don’t like the drugs, the dressing up thing. I like the fact that you can go out, there is no attitude, you can wear what you like, and people aren’t smoking cocaine and stuff. That’s the sort of vibe I like. For example when I played out in Germany it was more of a warehouse kind of vibe rather than a ‘if you step on my shoes I’m gonna kill you’ kind of vibe. There is a lot of greed in the music. In garage there are no people putting on nights and losing money. I used to like garage back in ’92 and ’93 with the Nice and Ripe stuff. Now a lot of kids are making the music and are not putting much thought into it – they’re just finishing a tune and putting it straight out. At the same time you’ve got a lot of kids who are very talented coming through. . .

SG: Before you started producing, what were you listening too?

DeeKline: Hip Hop and Drum’n’bass

SG: Since everyone else seems to have strong opinions about it the myth of its ‘demise’, what’s your take on what happened to drum’n’bass?

DeeKline: It was good what happened. A lot of people said it went too dark but it is still the most sophisticated and advanced sound. If you look at that interview with Dr. Dre in the Face – even he says the same thing. He doesn’t listen to hip hop because it’s not going anywhere, the beat programming is boring. He is looking to both drum’n’bass and breakbeat, so he is listening to Roni Size and Photek because some of the stuff they are doing is amazing. In breakbeat some of the stuff Dave Tipper is doing is amazing but he hasn’t put that many tracks out yet to put it in the dancefloor context, but he’s got some new stuff. . .

GW: Tippers stuff is dark – maybe too dark for dancefloors.

DeeKline: Yeah, it is too dark…

SG: Did you ever try your hand at doing drum’n’ bass?

Deekline: No. I got my studio too late. I probably would have done if I’d got it earlier – I was fucking about for a year until I found my sound

GW: What kit did you start out with?

DeeKline: An Atari and an S3000…

SG: Do you make all your own breaks ?

DeeKline: I mainly sample drummers.

SG: So do you see much of a continuum between ’91 and ’92 hardcore and what you are doing now?

DeeKline: Yeah…in a big way. It’s the same in drum’n’bass now – going back to using early rave sounds where it all started. But using it with some tight nu-skool production. Every time I do a track, I use different drums and bass where as someone like Wookie or Zinc will use the same drum sounds and find a formula with a track. With Wookie I only liked ‘Down on Me’ and the track off the album with the Spanish guitar.

GW: What do you think of the Botchit sound?

DeeKline: I like the Blim and the T-Power stuff. Some is not my cup of tea – it’s like Rennie’s stuff, a lot of it I don’t like but plenty of people do like it. It’s getting a lot better. With other stuff, I don’t mind rappers but I hate MCs. My rappers don’t talk rubbish and know when to restrain themselves.

Next Beat Freaks coming at The Gass Club, 49 Whitcomb Street, London WC2 on February 22nd.

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2001 – Reprinted with permission.

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