MOJO: Well, let me just say that after the way things played out last time you were here, we are so thrilled that you’re coming back for round two. And this time you’re at The Mousetrap, which is kind of like our home base. It’s going to be bonkers.
DSL: Last time it was just so unfortunate. I was going over flights with my agent and one was the same exact routing as last time and I was like, “No. I need to get an earlier flight.”
I didn’t think I was going to make it last time, to be honest. I was just thinking, “It’s not gonna happen.” It was just one thing after another. I left my suitcase at the airport, ran off the plane, straight out the door, to the car and took off. I got my suitcase the next morning.
Even just the fact that I got to play, I couldn’t believe it.
MOJO: How did all that stress affect the decisions you made on stage that night?
DSL: Usually, once I’m up and my intro starts, I’m able to pretty much tune everything out. As long as it’s not a problem in real time- like an issue with the equipment or the guy before me played a song that I was going to intro with- as long as it’s not an issue like that, usually I just tune it out. I was just happy I made it. I was at the airport and traveling all day, so I was just relieved.
MOJO: You’re known for not having a predetermined set list for your shows. How do you sort through your library and make decisions on the fly?
DSL: A lot of the times I have songs in my head and I’m thinking I want to play this or that, and sometimes while I’m playing I have to flip through CDs and look at tracks and try to get inspired on the fly. I need to see it before I’ll know that I should play it. It just really depends on how the night goes. Some nights are so easy to play and it’s almost like I’m on auto pilot. Other nights it’s a struggle to figure out what I wanna play.
MOJO: How so?
DSL: Some nights I step on stage and my brain is working in sync with whatever is going on and I’m thinking two or three songs ahead. What can happen is, you start playing and there’s something going on in your mind and you take way too long to find the next tune. You’ll let tracks play too long and have to go into the second break down when you don’t want to go into the second break down; it kind of just blows the vibe of your set up. In drum and bass you want to keep that energy up.
MOJO: What else goes into it when you don’t have anything planned?
DSL: It’s funny, you know. For most of my career, it was the norm to go to a show and play without a set list. Having a pre-planned set- it’s kind of recent that that’s come into play. Now, the fact that I don’t pre-plan a set has become abnormal. Most of my career, no one planned their set. You just fuckin’ DJ-ed. There wasn’t Ableton, Serato, all this other stuff. It was just you, some turntables, vinyl and that was it.
MOJO: You’ve taken a very vocal stance on your feelings about the current “button pusher” debate in the EDM scene, as well as the country’s current fascination with dubstep. What I want to know is, when you look at the scene as it was when you began producing and performing in the early 90’s and compare it to today’s current state, what are your feelings toward the way it has changed?
DSL: It was so different back then. When I started to play, everything was a lot simpler. Today, it’s about your brand name. It’s almost like performing takes a back seat to how well you promote yourself, how many cool lights and visuals you have on stage, and all this other shit outside of performing. That’s actually important now. Extremely important. More important than performing. Back in the day, it was about how good you were at being a DJ. That was it.
MOJO: That bothers you?
DSL: I do find it kind of troubling that it’s more important that you look cool on stage and you’re doing all this extraneous bullshit than actually playing music. It’s a shame. I always say when I’m starting to bitch about the whole Ableton-DJ thing it’s like- when I want to go see a band, I want to see the band on stage, playing instruments, singing live. I remember being disappointed when I saw a few bands live that sounded just like their album. Sometimes you want to be surprised and caught off guard a little bit. It’s hard to be surprised when it’s all completely pre-programmed. That part of it really sucks.
MOJO: I did an interview with ill.gates not too long ago for our Mojostock festival and he said the same thing. When you come to see him live, you are going to hear shit that you have not heard before. What’s the point of going if it sounds like it does when you listen to his music in your home?
DSL: You could see me on Friday night and then you could see me a week later and you’re going to get something different. You might hear a lot of the same tracks (because I tend to focus on the music that I have and that I like) but you’re not going to hear the same mixes. I think that that’s important- getting a unique experience. I place value on that.
MOJO: How do you think it got to be this way- such an emphasis on the stage show of a DJ?
DSL: I don’t actually blame the artists so much. In one sense, I do. But it really comes down to the crowd and what their expectations are and what they want to put their money down for. I try to provide a unique experience every night, but I feel like people are scared to fuck up on stage. It’s more important to them to look cool and be popular and have this big brand name than to actually do it live.
I like what I do and I embrace the challenge of it. When I’m on stage, I’m trying to put on a cool show but I’m also fucking challenging myself. It’s like playing a video game at the high difficulty level- I’m enjoying the experience of it. Or going snowboarding. It’d be like some of these other guys pretending they’re snowboarding and doing fake tricks so that they can get sponsorship money or something. It’s comparable to that. I actually like snowboarding, so I will go snowboard.
DSL: I’m not on my social media all the time. I have a real life offline that I appreciate. But I don’t have a press or PR person. I go on my own facebook and do my own shit. You’ll read my Twitter and it’s not all promo, promo, promo. I try to use it as a way to pull the curtain back and show that I’m a completely normal person and use it as a way to express myself.
MOJO: There’s a lot of negative, annoying things that have come from social media, but I think accessibility is one of the perks that has come out of it.
DSL: Accessibility depends on how much the person wants to play into it. I try to be completely accessible for the most part, but you’re right- there are bad things that have come along. I’ll post something like, “Hey, check out this free track I’m going to give you,” and I’ll have some dude jump in on the comments and talk shit. It just boggles my mind. You’re on my facebook page in a thread about me giving away a free tune, to tell me that I suck because I play dubstep or something? It’s just like, “Wow.”
MOJO: We asked our Indy Mojo members for questions to ask in this interview. Ben Newburn wanted to know- What do you think about the way dubstep is following the path of drum and bass in the late 90s? Do you think we will see a Hospital Records* style of dubstep take over like what happened with drum and bass?
*I asked Indy Mojo Promotions Director Matt Ramsey to clarify who Hospital Records is: A big UK drum and bass label that weathered the heavy DNB era and came out of it all like a shiny new toy. They’re still considered one of the top DNB labels around.
DSL: I was with my friend Steve Smash Gordon and we were watching some DJs play. He turned to me and commented that he thought that the hard stuff was not having as much of an impact as it used to. People are getting numb to it and he feels that the melodic stuff- maybe not Hospital Records level melodic- but stuff with a lot more vocal melody is going to be the big thing. I know people like all kinds of dubstep, but he thinks that the heavy shit is definitely going to give way to more melodic stuff.
To me, I associate Hospital Records with really chill or super-funky drum and bass and I don’t see dubstep going that direction. I can’t imagine that it would. But again- I can’t tell the future and I have no idea. The fact that dubstep is so popular is kind of blowing my mind.
I don’t think it’s going to go away. I do think it’s quite possible that it’s going to become less popular. But the thing is- if it becomes less popular, what’s going to become popular? It’s probably going to end up going back to trance and fucking electro-house. I want to think it’s drum and bass, but I want to just be skeptical. At this point, I’m not seeing all the dubstep kids running to drum and bass yet so, I’m kind of holding my breath.
MOJO: Another question from an Indy Mojo member, John Mattox- What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
DSL: I’m usually good at cooking breakfast things, but if I had to pick something I could bang out with my eyes closed it would be fresh pasta or spaghetti with a red sauce. I’m really good at making basic Italian food. I spent a couple years trying to hone my perfect red sauce recipe.
MOJO: What can you not live without while you’re on the road touring?
DSL: The easy answer is my cell phone and laptop. That’s essential. Outside of those, I don’t ever, ever travel without a book. At least one book. I’ll never travel without a book because you never know when your shit is going to die on you. I can’t think of how many times I’ve been on a flight and the dude sitting next to me has nothing to read, nothing to do and he’s just sitting there. That’s my worst nightmare on a six-hour flight.
I like reading books. I don’t own a kindle or a nook. I actually love going to bookstores. I always loved reading as a kid. I like to buy books and I like to have books on me all the time.
MOJO: What are you reading right now?
DSL: I’m reading three books. I’m reading this Stephen King book that came out a while ago called Under The Dome. I’m reading this young adult book from the 70’s called The Westing Game. Someone had mentioned it in Entertainment Weekly as one of their favorite summer books and that they keep re-reading it. It’s actually very weird. And then I have another book- a metaphysical detective book called The Manual of Detection.
Today I just bought an old sci-fi book that I read years ago. I’m always buying books and trying to read all of them. I buy more books than I read so, I have a bad habit.
MOJO: You could have worse habits, I’m sure.
DSL: I read a shit ton of magazines, too. I have subscriptions to probably 15 magazines. I collect a lot of cookbooks. I’m running out of room in my apartment for cookbooks. Too many.
MOJO: I have trouble keeping up on my magazines, too.
DSL: It’s hard. Luckily, I travel. But sometimes I take a week off from work, then I get on the plane and I have this fucking stack of magazines to read. I feel like I constantly have to be reading or else I’m going to get buried.
Catch Dieselboy at The Mousetrap for an Altered Thurzdaze Oranje Peel Party on September 6th.
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