Dieselboy…What can be said that has not already been said about the bass music legend. I say “bass music” with a little cringe in my eye. Though drum and bass technically falls under the umbrella that is bass music, it really is a genre of music that stands on its own. Drum and bass is mixed with fluidity similar to house or trance, yet the elements are much more aggressive and the bpm’s teeter on mind numbing.
You may argue that bass music is a new thing. Maybe you credit any number of artists for bringing your precious trap, twerk, and dubstep to the main stage and you may be right, but if Dieselboy is not a name that you give credit too for the boom in bass music then you would be wrong. It takes only a few questions to realize that it is Dieselboy who carried the drum and bass movement in America on his back. The highs were high but the struggle was real. Some of you have enjoyed the ride since the beginning, while other weren’t even born when he started his career. It doesn’t matter when you discovered Dieselboy just make sure you know your history.
Headlining the 45 city Blood, Sweat and Bass tour Dieselboy and Downlink, found the stop in Milwaukee a fruitful one. React Presents and Brew City Bass sold out the first night so quickly they had to book an additional Sunday show. It was the first time in Miramar’s 18 year history that an additional show needed to be added.
Both nights were electric but not as electric as the story Dieselboy tells to all those who will listen. I sat down with him after his set Saturday night; nothing was off limits.
Disclaimer: This interview was recorded live and dictated from the recording. The sentences were transcribed in exact detail to the speech patterns of the artist. None of this interview is edited or in any way changed unless needed for flow.
Thank you for taking time to sit with us. It is an honor to spend time with you on your tour.
Touring for you is not new. You have toured with other electronic acts such as Moby, Tiesto, and metal bands Orgy and Disturbed and have played most of the major music festivals in America and abroad. I have to ask: how many frequent flyer miles have you racked up over the years?
Well to clarify, I didn’t actually tour with metal bands but I opened for a couple. I don’t hoard miles. I spend them. i’ll fly my girl around, fly my friends around. I will say that on three airlines I’m almost a million miler. That’s not necessarily a source of pride; I’ve been breathing in a lot of shitty air! I probably have a blood clot in my calf that’s ready to go to my heart at any moment. But yeah…I have racked up a lot of miles over the years.
The Blood, Sweat and Bass tour is a big one. As an artist that has dj’d on six continents and with this tour taking you to international destinations, how does this tour differ from your previous tours?
The one major tour I’m known for is “Planet of the Drums”, which is myself, AK1200, Dara and Messinian. I came up with the idea when we all had a show together years ago in New Orleans. We borrowed the name from an event in Los Angeles that Raymond Roker from URB Magazine was doing. I was in charge of most of the conceptual elements for the tour. I take a lot of pride in POTD. The whole point of us touring was to bring recognition to drum and bass. Back when we started it there was the dreaded “drum and bass room” at events, so the idea was that all 4 of us combine forces like fucking Voltron to get dnb on the main stage. In the drum and bass room the sound systems had a tendency to suck and as you know drum and bass is a system aggressive music. If you’re on a shitty system then the music sounds terrible. Our goal was to bring our music to the main stage, which we did.
I really respect Sean (Downlink) as an artist, he has that old school integrity of trying to be a true dj, not just an asshole that stands on the tables, throws food at the crowd and jumps on peoples heads. Sean really embraces the idea of real djing. Not to be a sour grapes guy, but I personally still really respect the old school craft and art of djing. That’s why I got into this scene. It wasn’t to have a fucking green room and be “Mr Cool Guy”. It was to dj in front of people. I wanted and still want to master the craft and I really enjoy that aspect of it. Some of the people we have had on the Blood Sweat and Bass tour, such as Rekoil and Apashe, have been awesome. This tour is a fresh idea. Unlike with Planet Of The Drums where me, AK and Dara are all tag-teaming, BSB is just me doing me. Sean is doing himself. Everyone else doing their own thing. What this tour represents for me is a showcase of real artists. Especially for Sean and I who are like two real dj’s in a dying breed of a profession. I love djing; I love the ART of djing. This is what we are pushing for on this tour. And super heavy music.
How do you balance tour and home life?
So what I do is different. Whereas other people’s goal in this game is to make as much money as possible. I kind of reached a point in my career where I like to do what I do, but I also really value time at home…time with my friends. It gives me peace of mind. When I’m home I take it easy. That’s why I have been so slow at producing, because a lot of people go out on the road and when they get home they go right into the studio 24/7. I’m like; I didn’t make it this far so I could work myself to death. I like to come home, watch TV, listen to chill music, eat good food, drink with my friends. I really take every possible advantage that I can to have a causal home life. It’s funny because if you looked at me at home and compared that to me djing…my sound and all of that…it’s literally like I’m two different people. DJ’ing for me is a like this aggressive release. When I’m home I’m Damian and it’s a different mindset.
It would seem you have a deep devotion for a club in Philly that is no longer in existence, Fluid. Outside of djing in college it would be safe to say that this club is where you launched your career. How much of your musical style is still influenced by the early sets you played at Fluid?
Actually I would hesitate to say that. Fluid was a six and a half year weekly that played into a lot of stuff involving my career. As for my style…a lot of my style comes from going to raves in 1992, 1993, and seeing Derrick (Carter) from Chicago, Richie (Hawtin) from Detroit, Josh Wink and all these old school djs. People used to ask me back in the day about like “dj tips” and whatever and I’m like…you want to be a great dj? Go watch dj’s that are masters of other genres. Try to get close to the stage, get as close as you can, watch what they are doing because there are techniques, tricks, and skills that you can pick up watching dj’s of other genres. A lot of my career is influenced by watching guys playing house, trance, techno that are doing long ass mixes and working the fucking mixer and EQ’s. That’s what informs my djing now. I like using every element at my disposal on that mixer to play a great set. I basically impose my will on the equipment. It’s about being confident, getting up there and playing expert level video game shit on that mixer. That’s what I try to do. It’s all based upon old dj’s…real fucking dj’s. It’s like if you want to be a great guitar player you go watch Slayer, you go watch the veterans. That’s how you learn and that’s how get to be fucking great. Those people show you things that their experience has taught them. That’s how I learned.
Think back to the Moonshine over America tour in 2000? At the time Drum & Bass was very much considered a side room or patio genre. The crowds were sometimes considered the renegades or gangsters of the electronic scene. Recently bass music has surged in the mainstream but is still considered underground. What is the biggest difference between today’s bass music and that of the early 2000’s?
Today the scene has been bought by corporations and taken over by a lot of people that don’t have true roots in the scene. Back in the day rave music had to be searched for; you had to find it. Nowadays it’s commercialized, embraced by people that come to the scene much in the same way they go to a Taylor Swift concert. No offense but it’s embraced and populated by people that are not really educated in the music and the culture. It’s just so different now. I mean…It was cool and it is cool, the hardcore drum and bass fans are cool to be that focused on the genre. What hurt drum and bass is that people were so nerdy about it and defensive about it that it became this weird thing where people were TOO into drum and bass. Nowadays people like “bass music”. That’s the big difference. Back in the day people were hyper focused about drum and bass and now it’s a dumb downed market. At least people are a little more open minded about stuff though. It’s a shame that these new bass kids have no fucking clue the battle or the wars that were fought to get this music recognition. They just showed up late in the game. They have no clue the hard work that went into building the bedrock to make this situation even fucking happen. It’s a shame.
A new Project for you, Faces of Def with Mark the Beast would sound as though you are exploring new genres in production. The sound is mental by the way. What brought this project about?
Years ago I had this fantasy project, actually I have a lot of fantasy projects. But I had one that didn’t happen. The idea was I wanted to produce a metal record using different drum and bass elements. I wanted to find a metal band and have different drum and bass producers work with this metal band to do a drum and bass hybrid. This was like ten years ago. This was when there was almost no drum and bass metal besides “Raining Blood” by Concord Dawn, maybe “Pack of Wolves” by Nightbreed. But that was it. So that idea never came to fruition but was something I always really enjoyed thinking about. My boy Mark the Beast is actually a prodigy metal guitar player. I met him through his cousin who is a friend of mine. Mark produces music. He has two new tracks coming out on the Prodigy of (Mobb Deep) album. He produces for Action Bronson. He does stuff for commercials. Mark is a real ass dude and one of my closest friends at this point.
Right now we are putting Faces of Def on hold while Mark the Beast focuses on getting his name out. So right now its just me (Dieselboy) and Mark The Beast. This Tuesday we have a remix coming out we did for Bro Safari, UFO and Beauty Brain called “No Control.” We did a “drum and bass” version of it. The thing I’m trying to do with Mark is incorporate his metal skills and guitar elements into what we are working on. Stuff that has a drum and bass tempo of 175 but incorporates all the elements of metal. We have another track coming out with myself, Mark, Downlink and Mayhem called “Carcosa” that will be released May 12th. The track is featured on my last mix “The Destroyer” and is a combination of 175 BPM trap meets metal meets drum and bass meets dubstep. I’ve always wanted to make music that…when you hear it in a club it stands out. Stuff that sounds different. I don’t want to make generic music; I want to make unique music. So with Mark, I am trying to make stuff that is good…maybe it doesn’t read right off the top as drum and bass, but it is drum and bass in tempo and drum and bass in spirit. Unique. For me it’s inspirational to do something a little bit different.
Your mix compilations always garner mass attention and respect. The industry and fans alike praised “The Destroyer”. Though the sound is Drum & Bass through and through, the mix has a very different feel from classic Dieselboy. Was that your intention?
My intention with every mix is to make the best ever…to eclipse the last mix and to be honest “Beyond the Black Bassline” which was the mix that preceded that (The Destroyer)…I was really proud of it. I had anxiety of how I was going to be able to improve on it, and I was like, “how can I make a better mix that this”? And I was trying. Part of it is I am at the mercy of whatever music I have available to me at the time when I do the mix. The idea is that I take these ingredients and make an amazing creation with them that makes sense. With “The Destroyer” I spent so much time on that thing and I think that it is hands down my favorite mix that I have done. I know what I did to make it. I know how many cool little cute Easter egg details are buried in it. My intention was to make 90-ish minute mix that when you hear it and you’re done it feels like you just watched a twelve-hour mini-series. My goal is to make the best mix ever, not just the best drum and bass mix, but the best mix ever. I set the bar for myself; I want my mix to be better than any other mix out there. I push myself to do that. In my own mind I think I do a good job, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I really fucking try. I laser focus every ounce of OCD shit in my system into my mixes. So what I’m faced with now is this year’s mix – “The Destroyer II – Extinction Event”, which will probably come out at the end of the summer. I know how much time I am going to have to put into this thing and I’m a little nervous. I want to make legendary high-concept mixes that people will fucking remember. That’s why I don’t do a podcast, that’s why I don’t do live mixes, radio mixes. That’s why I don’t let myself be recorded at shows because when I come out with my new mix I want it to be like a new David Fincher movie. I want it to be something that is important to the people that appreciate my sound.
You recently announced a re-release of your back catalogue of music and for free. Was this a personal decision? What is the idea behind it?
A year or so ago I went and re-released all my VIP mixes on Soundcloud or I should say as many as I could before they got taken down by the original owners, like the Tiesto mix and the Adam Freeland mix. The idea for the free mixes is that…you know…that’s part of my history, part of my catalogue and I want to just put it out there in the wild. Maybe one of these old mixes will inspire some new kid that hears them. You can’t buy half of my mixes anymore so I don’t want them to get lost to the fucking ages, gathering dust in a used CD store. I want to put out what I’m known for. “The Sixth Session” was a mix that did so much for my career. It was my best selling CD. So yeah, I want to put these milestone projects that I’ve worked on. I want them to be available to anyone that’s willing to take a listen.
I won’t outright reveal your age but you have been in the industry for over twenty years. You have received many awards, been written about in every major dj magazine and blog, your music has appeared in film, video games and on countless compilations, and I can go ten feet without someone crediting you for the initial push out of the side room and then resurgence of todays bass music. Tell me about the struggle (if there has been one) to stay relevant all these years?
I mean the problem for me…the struggle…it’s always been a struggle. I have always said I want to be the best dj I can possibly be. I come from an era where I didn’t have to produce music to fucking dj. The idea that someone took apples and oranges and conflated the two and made it that somehow they are the same thing and blurred the fucking lines…it’s ridiculous! It’s like it is OK to produce and perform, but don’t confuse the two. I came up in an era where a dj could be a dj. Not where you had to make music to fucking dj. Not be a new person that gets a laptop, buys Ableton, makes a tune and blows up but doesn’t know how to dj? But then you have to do that to get the keys to dj..but you can’t actually dj?!
It’s so fucking ridiculous.
For me the struggle is to somehow (which I’m still trying to figure out how) try to educate this new generation of people that djing is relevant. A dj is important and that it’s not JUST about making music. The struggle has also been the fact that I’m an artist (and it took me so long to call myself an artist) but I am literally an artist in the purest sense that I just want to get on stage and dj. I don’t want to have to have a brand. I don’t want to do be forced to do social media. I want to fucking perform. That’s it. Like the singer Sia. She doesn’t even want to perform! She wants to like have her back to the crowd and have someone else dance on stage. She is a pure singer / songwriter. Me…I just want to dj, I don’t want to have to do all this other fucking “horse and pony show” stuff in order to perform. I just want to do my art and that’s it. I want to be known for my art and not have to compete with some 17-year old kid that wrote a track on his laptop and is now getting paid twice my fee to stand onstage and pretend to fucking do something. And has a manager. That’s what I’m competing against. It’s like I’m the artisanal Burger restaurant and I’m competing with McDonalds. I have to show you my product is superior over this shitty McDonalds burger with a giant ad campaign behind it and some other bullshit. I make real music, I do real art and I feel like I’m competing with like…how loud can your voice be? How loud can your brand be? How loud are you going to be on your social media? That’s what I’m competing against and that’s what I hate.
You lived with and worked for Nigel Richards, what was that like and did he ever give you any advice?
Did he give me advice? No. But Nigel comes from the same era as me when it comes to djing. Nigel is probably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He is diehard focused and takes his shit very seriously. He is a great dj and a very inspirational dj to me. Its funny that you asked this because I haven’t thought about this for years. Nigel is a great dj. He is better than 90 percent of the dj’s today. So no…he never gave me advice but he instilled the same thoughts I have which is – be a hard worker, stay focused, be the best at what you do and just be a good dude.
What advice can you give all the new and upcoming producers regarding production and self-promotion?
I think the best advice I could give them is this. You are nothing, you are nobody, you’re not shit. Be fucking humble and set the bar way beyond what you think you can reach and aim for it. But just don’t blow yourself. Try to be the best producer or dj or whatever but don’t believe in your own hype, or worry about branding. Just be a humble, struggling, striving artist. Try to be the best you can be…that’s it.
I think its safe to say that if you were not a dj/producer that you most likely would be doing something in the food industry, whether it be a chef or critic or maybe even have your own TV. Show. You are aligned with some of the nation’s top chefs, you have competed in cook-offs, and recently were involved in preparing a dish at the “Metal as Fuck” dinner featuring Chef David Posey and Chef Jonathon Sawyer. Tells us about your connection with food.
Most of my life I was a picky eater, I still am kind of and up until about ten to twelve years ago, I thought Olive Garden was a great night out. What happen was…I think…part of it was like, the whole idea of food and food network becoming more visible in society. I had some good meals and I started to realize that the cities I traveled to as a touring dj had some cool restaurants to offer up and it was a new way to experience that city.
The whole journey began when I was at my wife’s parents house for the holidays years ago and her mom had a compendium of this magazine called “Taste of Home” I guess it was a monthly magazine for foodies. I was looking through it and saw some of the recipes and was like, man, some of this shit looks really good. So it’s the holidays and there was nothing to do so I was like I want to make this, I should make this, I should fucking make this food. And for sure I made food. That was the spark that got lit and I realized that there are so many parallels between djing and food.
In djing you are taking disparate elements…tunes…and mixing them into something greater that the sum of their parts. That is the same with food; you take ingredients and you make a great dish. I did a speech at Star Chefs in New York about a year ago with one of the best bartenders in the world and another guy that does amazing restaurant concepts in New York. We did a talk about the convergence of how you get inspired to do something and why its similar when coming up with cocktail ideas, coming up with mix ideas, coming up with restaurant concepts and how it all kind of taps into the same part of your brain. So essentially if I discovered food earlier in my life, say at the same time I discovered djing, I would probably be a chef. My mind thinks I would probably be one of the best chef’s in the country at this point in my life. If I had focused all my energy on food I think that I would be there. I kind of found cooking later in life, but I am as into food as much now as I am into djing. It makes me just as satisfied. Everyone likes food, unlike drum and bass, and everyone likes to eat. I can make a dish that everyone could enjoy no matter their taste level. I think that when I decide to retire from this industry I will be involved in a restaurant concept or something. I’m not ever going to be a chef, I don’t want to work in a kitchen but I feel like I’m really good with concepts, ideas and inspiration and I feel like that could play a role in being involved somehow. I can write about food but I’m not going to be a food writer or critic. I’m not going to make a living doing that. But I always like being involved in cool projects. I like doing art and creative shit and I don’t care if its music. I just want to be doing fun stuff. Food is fulfilling a need for me right now in my life and I will be involved with food in some capacity as time goes.
A lucky fan won an online contest to meet Dieselboy and ask him a question. Congratulations LIz Czeszynski!
I was into heavy metal before I ever got into electronic music, I started listening to weird stuff like Human League and Orgy and that influenced my musical tastes now. So for drum and bass was it something that was influenced by other music that you liked before you started djing?
I mean, when I started djing back in the day, drum and bass didn’t exist. There were actually just a few genres really…there was house, there was techno, there was trance and breaks or break beat hardcore. Break beat Hardcore was like break beat with a 4/4-kick drum. That genre eventually as it splintered off into just pure breaks, became drum and bass…that was late 1993, early 1994. So what influenced me was I used to play drums, I really liked percussion, that’s why as things were splintering off I went with the genre that eventually became drum and bass.
Thank you for taking time to sit with us. It is an honor to spend time with you on your tour.