Get To Know: dBridge
Drum and bass pioneer Darren White (aka Dbridge) is a highly respected veteran DJ/Producer whose 24-year career has been as influential as it has innovative and digging deep through his discography is emblematic of how unafraid White is to push boundaries. Indeed, his forward thinking approach has impacted many, via his time as Future Forces, drum and bass supergroup Bad Company, the Autonomic series and with his experimental label, Exit Records. Throughout all of this, White has continued to work as a solo artist under dBridge and more recently, Velvit. With this in mind, we got in touch with White, in order to talk through some of the insights that can only accompany an exceptional and extended career.
With a 24 year career under your belt your first solo album, The Gemini Principle, was released in 2008 - that came quite late on in your career, was there a particular reason for that do you think?
To be honest, probably just apathy [laughs]. I was sort caught up in crews. I’m not sure how long, I think it was 2003 that I started Exit. So I was concentrating more on singles, an album didn’t really figure much. I had people asking me all the time, “when are you going to do an album, when are you going to do an album?” I was like, “Oh God!” Yeah I just wasn't able to finish it and then I gave up weed and I was able to [laughs]. I’m not sure what it is, I don’t think it was any particular reason. I think what is the better question is, why is your second album taking so long [laughs].
Yeah, can you answer that?
I fall in and out of love with the format. I like what you can do with singles and the way people consume music today, albums aren’t enjoyed or appreciated in the right way or the way they used to be. If I did one I never want it to be a collection of singles, which a lot of albums are. To be fair, I am in the process of it; I’ve finally decided I need to do one, so I’m just going to do it and see what happens.
I read that you said your music is influenced by the way you are feeling at the time. Can you talk us through your creative process and what environment you work best in?
I like having lots of equipment around me mainly. I jump from thing to thing, I might start working with my Elektron stuff or mess around with different DAWs and synths. I end up with these massive batches of ideas. I’ve actually had one of those sessions today where I’ve listened back over three/four years worth of un-finished music to see if it’s any good and worth exploring anymore. I’m surprised how much of it is alright!
I like to be by myself in my house, surrounded by synths and guitar pedals and just seeing what happens really. I think like most people you have to be in the right frame of mind. I’ve had studios that have been outside of my home and never ended up using them as much as I should have really, even though the bulk of my equipment was there, I would end up creating my own little home set up- I liked the idea of just rolling in and out of bed basically [laughs]. The environment has to be right, so that is what I’ve got here, in Antwerp, I’ve got a room with all my stuff in it. I have a hard time making music I can’t connect with, as a result, I don’t build stuff that I play when DJ-ing, even though it’s predominantly what I do in terms of making money, there’s a real disconnect from me there because sometimes I feel like I’m making it for the wrong reason. The stuff I make is generally for me to listen to and to hear and sort of enjoy in that environment, so as a result my output is probably a bit more limited. I also really enjoy working with other people, I get a lot out of that.
Earlier this year in an interview when talking about your label Exit you said that, “the underlying tone for me is soul, honesty and no gimmicks which I think seems to translate” - can you expand on what you mean by this and what say the the opposite is to this?
I feel like I can tell when something is done for the wrong reasons, because I’ve been a part of the scene for so long, especially drum and bass, I’ve seen what shaped it and where the dance floor has shaped the music that’s been made. You then get music thats been made to elicit a response and I don’t really care for that, personally. I don’t see that as moving things forward in any way, not that that’s what we’re here to do. As an artist, the artists on my label and what I’m looking for is people that have taken an idea and a theme and expanded on it. Whereas I feel sometimes it’s paint by numbers, those tricks have been around for ages, especially in D&B, so I don’t really want that to be a part of what my label is about because there is plenty of other people that cater for that and if that means that we’re not as popular, then so be it. We’re not really doing it for that.
Whats on the horizon for Exit? I read in the same interview you said you are in the process of finding new artists as you’ve had Charlie, Alix and Skeptical a couple of years now. I understand you don’t want to tie them down to purely releasing on Exit but surely there is enough scope for them to continue to release on Exit among other labels…?
Oh yeah of course, yeah definitely. At the same time, I encourage them to in some ways start there own labels as well. For what they do there’s not necessarily enough labels doing it, so it tends to get a bit incestuous with people releasing on the same batch of labels and it grates me that kind of stuff. Especially from a label point of view where I put time, money and effort into producing an artist and pushing an artist, then other labels come along and sort of jump on it and I find it really boring. I don’t do it with other labels but it seems to be a thing [laughs], that I’ve noticed. I’m all about crews, I grew up in that environment with Future Forces, Bad Company, Renegade Hardware, No U-Turn and watching labels like Full Cycle, Reinforced and V so that whole mentality is a part of my DNA. I want my Exit crew of artists and I also want them to be able to go off and do their own things, then come back and do stuff for me when they’re ready and know they’ll always have that home. I’m always on the look out for new artists as well. So there is a fair bit on the horizon, there is a guy called Dolenz, he’s had a couple of releases out I think, he’s doing a project for me, there is a guy from Toronto, he’s doing some stuff for me. Skeptical needs to finish his LP, I have to keep mentioning it in every interview because it gives him another kick up the arse [laughs], he’s got until November to hand it in! There is an act called Poison Arrow who I really like, who aren’t D&B, well they have D&B undertones but it’s a different tempo. So yeah there’s a few things coming.
3 years in the making, New Forms Season 1, your latest release - can you tell us more about the release, how the collaborations came about, your history with Kabuki?
I’ve known Kabuki since ’97. We did some tracks together when I was in Future Forces back in the day. I’ve known him for a long time and I bump into him now and then. I saw him in Tokyo at a club where Mala, Coki and Goth Trad were playing. He said we should do a project. He had a hookup with Watergate in terms of putting a night on, on a Thursday, so that was awesome already, it was a case of expanding on the idea. So yeah we approached Red Bull with this idea involving us using their studio in the afternoon, creating a track, getting it to a stage where hopefully we can play it out at the gig that night. They were really into the idea. Some of it was me calling in favours and trying to sell the idea to people, saying look, ‘it’s not a big money thing, it’s a project, it’s on Thursday so it’s not really going to fuck with your DJ gigs. You can come over, we can have some fun in this wicked studio that’s got all this amazing kit, have a party and see what happens and we’ll look after you.’ People were into it. What’s great is it’s leading onto other things, we’re already working on season two. I’m really pleased with how it came out. I didn’t have any pre-conceptions of what to expect, apart from sticking to a tempo, so there was some cohesiveness on the finished product. Even though that wasn’t necessarily the idea, originally we were going to keep the Berlin parties going, but I didn’t want to over do these things. That was something I learnt from our Autonomic podcasts, if you give a project an end date, for me, it solidifies the whole work. Breaking it down into seasons means we can look ahead and work out what we want to do and who we want to work with and where we’re going to work. So yeah I’m looking forward to that.
2017 has brought very sad news, the passing of your friend Marcus Intalex/Trevino - can you tell us bit about your relationship with him and what a lose he is to the music scene?
Umm… it’s still hard for me to get my head around. I miss his honesty, more than anything. He would tell you if he thought what you’re doing is shit [laughs], he wasn’t one for blowing smoke up your arse. He made some amazing music, you go back over someones catalogue once they’re gone and I was like ‘Wow, ok!’ There is a lot of stuff that hasn’t come out that is amazing as well, the stuff he was doing as Trevino. There’s not many people within, not just drum and bass, but within music, that are able to find their own sound and that’s something I always look for, those are the artists that I really connect with and he definitely had soul and a sound. So I think it’s going to leave a massive hole… Like I say, I just miss the guy, he’s still here laughing now and then.
Online recently you said “with the techno audience they have more patience, they can wait 2 minutes for a high hat to come in. With the D&B crowd, they want to have heard five different tunes within that time” - why do you think that is?
I think the pace has got something to do with it, I think the DJ’s have got something to do with it… The technology, the fact we’ve all got CDJ’s now, so we can just bang things in and get things in quickly and get them out quickly, whereas before we were mixing on vinyl and you had to cue it up, it wasn’t a case of mixing from a certain point… It’s all these sort of little things that have added to it. D&B has had a lot to do with it, electronic music as a whole, EDM, Dubstep has all contributed, social media, phones… All these things, everything has to be instant, instant gratification. Also, I don’t know if it’s the drugs people are taking as well [laughs]. The crowd get bored really quickly and you can see it, I see it when I’m DJ-ing, people are looking at me, I think I’m doing an amazing job and there’s someone at the front like, ‘come on’, and it’s like alright [laughs], they’re just on a different buzz. It’s all these tiny factors that have fed into the whole problem. Techno, the evolution of the music is part of it and how that’s pieced together. It’s not just D&B, but D&B does have that problem, it’s pieced together differently. Now everyone wants to get anywhere up to 50-60 tracks played in an hour [laughs], almost taking the best riffs from everything and combining them to this god awful jive bunny interpretation of D&B.
Talking generally about the D&B scene as a whole - are you happy with where it’s at at the moment and where do you see the genre going in the next few years?
From my perspective, I think it’s cool. I keep saying it every time when people ask me, it still feels like there’s a lot that hasn’t been explored. There’s the standardisation of stuff and people tend to repeat that and that’s all well and good, but, there are people out there that are messing with rhythms and exploring what is possible within the confines of what’s possible at this tempo range. From my perspective there is some cool stuff going on and hopefully that will continue. From everyone else’s perspective, as long as they’re happy… what is it… I’m not gunna yuck their yum.
Your house and techno alias, Velvit. Can you name any artists you really rate in the house and techno world? Also any upcoming releases under the Velvit alias?
I haven’t done as much as I would have liked to. I loaded up a load of stuff today… Dusky occasionally keep sending me emails asking if I’ve any got any more stuff for them, I should be saying yes, but I’m really bad at finishing things, so I did listen to some stuff today and I have got some stuff that isn’t too shabby.
Who do I rate…I’m really bad with names. I was talking about this with Martyn from 3024, I don't actively listen to it so I have this disconnection from that scene and he was saying that probably gives you an advantage as you’re not influenced. I maybe need to use that more to my advantage, but yeah I couldn’t give you any names.
In the summer you played a brilliant set at Houghton festival, a festival curated by Craig Richards - what’s your history with Craig?
First time I met Craig, he probably won’t remember this, was at a Smirnoff tour in Spain with him and Lee Burridge, it was messy! Keith, Radioactive Man hit me up saying he wanted to make some tunes together, I was like, sure. We didn’t build them with any label in mind, but once we had finished them he said, Craig is really into them so I was like alright, cool, that would be amazing. So my main connection with Craig is through Keith.
You said on social media you felt honoured to be apart of Houghton - what did you think of it and the line up that Craig curated?
I thought it was really good. It’s really positive to see… For me that line up is a no brainer, but I think for a lot of festivals that would have been a bit of a risk. I think it’s proved that you can put on these really amazingly curated festivals and people will come. I really enjoyed it, I’m just gutted I couldn’t stay around longer. The sound was really on point, I went to see Calibre do his reggae set at 11 in the morning and it was an amazing sound. Where I was playing as well sounded great. This was the first one right?
Yeah, it was.
Yeah, well fingers crossed it’s a regular thing because Craig knows what he’s doing and the organisers know what they’re doing, clearly. All in all, it was a great festival and anyone that asked me about it, as a lot of people did ask me about it, the response was nothing but positivity. More people, just through word of mouth, are going to be wanting to go next year!
Rest of the year for DB?
Family, I’m on a family one for the rest of the year. I’ve gotten married and become a father.
Thank you! Before all that though I’m trying to write as much music as I can though!
Lastly If you had to play one track as the final track for a months worth of gigs - what would it be right now?
I would have to go back in time, a classic, Storm by In Sync.
It seems you can tell the quality of an artist from their approach to production, over the course of our conversation it became more and more apparent White exemplifies this idea. An honest, considered and quality concerned artists can only be a positive, especially in a genre as precariously commercial as Drum and Bass, and with this being the cornerstone of his artistic definition, there is little more that needs saying. White was happy to share all over the course of our interview, we can only thank him for this and wish him the best in the oncoming new year.
Intro: Hugo B
Interview: Ben C