Dieselboy Interview + Feezy Guest Mix
This episode is all about Drum and Bass. Don’t miss our segment with one of America’s favourite DnB artists. Born Damian Higgins, Dieselboy has contributed hugely to the scene through his two labels Human and SubHuman. Known for his respect for traditional real time DJing, there is no fakin’ from this weeks spotlight artist. In the interview we talk about the role of the DJ, the secret to longevity in the scene, the breaking points for Dieselboy’s career, and more. After that we’ve got a mix of some classic Drum and Bass from CFR’s good friend and old school DnB head Jason Farrell aka Feezy!
[CFR] Let’s start out with a couple ice breakers. What’s your favourite TV show?
[Dieselboy] That’s a hard question. I do watch a lot of TV… I like to watch Chopped on the Food Network, but as far as just entertaining TV, I like Spartacus on Stars or The Killing. This season’s really good on AMC.
[CFR] Do you have a favourite radio show?
[Dieselboy] No. I don’t listen to the radio, unfortunately. I have too much music of my own, I don’t have time to listen to the radio. I just listen to the stuff that I buy.
[CFR] How many gigs do you think you played last year? Do you know the number?
[Dieselboy] I probably played, if I had to guess, maybe 110. 100-110. 107 if I had to guess.
[CFR] You mentioned in the past that you’ve done some graphic design. You’ve done some t-shirt design and some album stuff as well. Are you trained in that?
[Dieselboy] I basically taught myself graphic design when I was working in the computer lab at the University of Pittsburg. I basically had time on my hands. I couldn’t find t-shirts that had electronic bands on them or anything related to electronic dance music, so, I decided I wanted to make my own stuff. First thing I ever made was this CD single by this group called Bass Heads. It was this really cool design. It was basically just helveticas, mostly a type driven design. I sat down on a computer and I taught myself how to do design by re-creating it and to make it look exactly like it. I just changed a little bit of it to be specific to my name. Just doing that was my intro into learning graphic design. I’m really into design anyway, so I feel like if it’s pretty basic I can do most stuff on my own. I’m just not a natural illustrator. I feel like that’s a really strong skill set to have to do design.
[CFR] Are you doing any current design?
[Dieselboy] No, nothing current. I mean, I’m sure I’ll be working on some t-shirt designs this year. The thing is, I’m not really doing so much graphic design, but I do a lot of art direction when it comes to the releases. I’m not the kind of guy to just throw something at a graphic designer and be like, “Hey dude! Make something!”. It doesn’t always turn out to have the best results, so I try to give a really strong art direction. I feel I’m really good at coming up with ideas, it’s just a matter of execution. I usually leave that up to the people who do that for a living to kind of realize the concepts I come up with.
[CFR] Who’s one of your heroes?
[Dieselboy] I’d say from a DJ standpoint, Z-Trip is probably a big hero for me. He represents, in my mind, the most well rounded DJ. From skill set, to rocking the crowd, to depth of knowledge about what he’s doing, to music, to all of it. I look up to him. He’s a perfect example of someone that’s taken technology, cuz he uses Serato, he uses these things called Dicers to do queue points for his mixing. He takes technology but uses it in a way that amplifies his set rather than using technology to do his set for him. He represents for me someone that integrates technology in what I feel is the proper way. Not using it to do all the work for you.
[CFR] You’re known for your take on more traditional DJ’ing.
[CFR] Recently I saw a blog. It seemed like they kind of attacked you for your view. Tears of Time. Do you know which one I mean?
[Dieselboy] Here’s what that was. It’s ridiculous. So what happened was, Z-Trip and Craze had put this thing on Twitter, this instrument picture. Basically it’s a picture of Jeff Mills DJ’ing saying “Before: 1 DJ, 3 decks, vinyl, headphones and $10 cover charge”, then a picture of Swedish House Mafia with 3 dudes and it was like “3 dudes, 1 deck, no headphones, laptop or mp3′s, $250 cover charge”. So I posted that on my Facebook page and was like “This is about what sums up my feelings about this shit”. Every time I post something that people kind of jump in the comments, I like to get in there and kind of discuss stuff. Good or bad, agree or disagree with people in my comments section. This one kid basically came in, and right off the top, the first thing he said was “You’re a douche”, and then he started arguing with me about , stuff. I was being respectful and kind of went back and forth with him a bit. Finally the guy was like “I used to be your fan, but ever since you started wasting my fucking time with dubstep, that was it for me”. I was like, “Alright dude, you’re wasting your time posting on my Facebook page. All good.” So in my brain I was done with this kid. Fine. We disagree, he’s an asshole. So then I find this website where he basically took our back and forth conversation on Facebook, added an intro quote on quote question and then framed it to look like an interview with me. It’s really just him taking our comments on Facebook and made it look like he interviewed me. Then he took a picture of me DJ’ing at Starscape in Baltimore, where DC’s laptop was in the picture, and he’s got an arrow in the picture pointing “LAPTOP”, and it’s not even mine! And a picture of me saying “Douche”, awesome. That and my headphones are on my neck at that point, because I was yelling at the crowd for one second. That was ridiculous. That was actually really annoying. He’s not a journalist, but that’s so shitty to take something completely out of context. Anyone that would actually see that would think that I was interviewed by him. I had people hit me up and be like, “Wow, you actually interviewed this guy and he called you a douche?”, no. The conclusion of this story is, I posted this on my Facebook page, and was like “Yeah, this fucking kid posted this stuff about me”, and within 6 hours his website went down and it hasn’t been up since then.
[CFR] I saw it this evening.
[Dieselboy] Oh, you did? Because I wasn’t able to get on it yesterday afternoon. But, I mean, it’s one of those things. The kid is a total loser. His Facebook page… His photo gallery is MySpace angled photographs of himself, and like, picture of his cat. That’s it. And a bunch of posts on his page about Ron Paul. Okay dude, I get it, you have no life, so it’s fine.
[CFR] Is there anything you’d say to him after all this?
[Dieselboy] No. The reality is this– This kid in particular is.. I think he’s like an internet troll that actually has a face. You know how those internet trolls are annonymous. He’s an internet troll. I honestly look at stuff like that, I look at this kid’s profile and how he approached me, and I just feel sorry for him. People that I know that have their shit together and are doing things and have lives, they don’t act like that. People that act like that are people that have serious problems. They have their own issues. I have nothing to say to this kid. He’s an asshole. I can’t waste my time talking to people like that.
[CFR] Thanks for commenting on that.
[Dieselboy] Nah, it’s cool. I mean, it’s weird. I’m a normal person like you. If you saw the same shit about yourself, you’d be like, “Really, dude?”. One last comment. It does boggle my mind that someone would put so much time into something like that. He obviously put time into it. He had to make the photo and do this and that. What would motivate somebody to do that? What would motivate you to take some comment on a Facebook page that you made, and make it look like you interviewed me? Like, really? Who has a life that would do something like that? I’m done. I’m rambling, I apologize. Moving on, moving on.
[CFR] What is the role of the DJ?
[Dieselboy] First off, I’ll say, a DJ is a DJ. I think there’s an issue nowadays, in my mind, a problem, when the line became blurred in the crowd between a producer and a DJ. People kind of think they’re the same thing. Somehow this mean it’s the same thing, and it’s not. Now I think there’s a differentiation between a DJ and a performer. If you’re on stage playing, you’re a DJ. Like deadmau5– they call him a DJ. He’s not a DJ. He has nothing to do with DJ’ing. A DJ is a DJ. I think the role of the DJ is to obviously rock the crowd, not to sound cliche from 1995, but take them on a journey, in a sense. Express music. Express their point of view through music, but do it in a really clever way. That’s what I think is the role of the DJ. To play music, express a point of view, take the crowd on a journey… And for me, this is my own feelings, but, I think it’s important to do it live. I don’t want to see Milli Vanilli. When I’m out in the crowd, I don’t want to see Milli Vanilli. I want to see a guy playing live. I want to see a guy fuck up. If I go see a band, I want to see them. I want to know I’m getting something that’s unique for that show, and I’m not getting something that’s prepackaged that everyone else has seen. That’s just my own take on it, because I know you can do it live. If you can do it live– It’s they always say in these cooking shows. If you can prepare fresh foods with fresh ingredients, it’s better than using frozen, prepackaged food that you cook in a microwave. That should be the goal, I think. That’s just my own opinion about it.
[CFR] What would you say to the critics of electronic dance culture? The ones who say it’s got a lot of drug ties, and that it’s a drug culture.
[Dieselboy] Yeah, true.
[CFR] Over other genres and other cultures? Do you take any offense to that?
[Dieselboy] No. It’s sad when you say it, but, obviously the reality is– people do drugs across the spectrum of life. I feel though that there are elements of dance culture where they fetishize drug use in a way. Certain songs, you know. Fetishize it. It’s obvious. I feel like in other genres, like people who follow fish around, like old Grateful Dead culture. People takes drugs and listen to music and other types of things, and I feel like they’re more low key about it. I feel like ravers are… I mean, you go to a party and you see these kids that are total fucked up. It’s this blatant thing. That’s really the issue. Kids are just more blatant about it in the dance music scene. Maybe I’m agreeing with you that it is unfair to pin drug use just on the rave scene, and that that’s where it’s most prevalent. It’s prevalent everywhere. I just think it’s more obvious at the parties. Kids blatantly do drugs out in the open. They don’t give a fuck, whereas other people drugs and they’re a bit more subtle about it. No one wants to say that the drug use is in the rave scene. People want to not say that because that’s the correct answer. That’s the politically correct answer, but I don’t think that’s my experience with it.
[CFR] Sonney Moore quoted you in his Grammy’s speech as saying, “All the boats rise with the water”.
[Dieselboy] He kind of misquoted me. The actual quote I think is John F. Kennedy, “It’s a rising tide that lifts all ships”. But, he kinda paraphrased it. He got the point across, yes.
[CFR] Can you elaborate on that?
[Dieselboy] I had a discussing with him one night, drunk, after a party. A lot of people hate Skrillex or hate on him. A lot of people don’t know him, so they kind of project their own feelings about him. They feel like he’s out to ruin the dance scene. He’s just a nice guy that makes music that he likes. That’s really it. It just so happens that the music he’s made has become very popular and has brought him this whole new group of kids that don’t know shit about dance music but they know Skrillex. That’s not his fault. That’s just the kind of side effect of this guy doing what he does. He does what I do. He’s passionate about being artistic with music, in his way. That’s what he does. So, I had a conversation with him one night trying to give him some perspective. I said, “Look, as you gain success, all you’re doing is helping lift everyone else up around you that is also in the dance music scene. You’re bringing attention, good or bad, to dance music”. Ideally, he’s going to help bring attention to everybody else. That’s what it means. As you gain success, your popularity, your rising tide, will lift everyone elses ships along with you.
[CFR] You’ve had a super long career. A lot of guys come in and out…
[Dieselboy] I’ve seen generations of DJ’s come and go, yes.
[CFR] You’ve been in it over 20 years. Is there a trick to your longevity?
[Dieselboy] I don’t know, not really. I’m passionate about what I do. I don’t let my shit stagnate. I try to roll with the times. I don’t try to constantly reinvent myself per se, but I definitely don’t like to wrestle my morals (???). I don’t take what I have for granted. Everything I do, like every mix I do, for instance, I try to improve on the last one. I’m always putting the bar higher for myself, and I feel like that’s really important. I feel like a lot of people gain success and then they kind of take it for granted. They don’t keep pushing themselves. You have to constantly be focused on your work and constantly strive to work and put out good work. A lot of people don’t do that. I guess that’s the key to my success, maybe. I think I have good taste, and I think that’s part of the reason why I was able to get successful in the first place. I’m kind of thinking that maybe part of the secret is that I have a pretty good eye on what’s good. A lot of people kind of agree with me in a way, which is why I can still do this. I don’t know. I mean, who knows.
[CFR] You feel like you’re a good selector.
[Dieselboy] I feel like I am a good selector, but again, as I mentioned earlier, I feel like that’s becoming less and less important. Things like skill set and selection is taking a back seat to things like spectacle and how much money you spend on stage show. How many MC Hammer backup dancers you have, fucking dancing behind you. It’s more important than content or taste.
[CFR] You just launched your Umbrella label (Planet Human) for Human and SubHuman. What’s the story there?
[Dieselboy] It’s pretty simple. Our website, which was super outdated– it had the graphics from a human record sleeve, was the graphic. So, when we were trying to encorperate SubHuman stuff with it, we had a similar kind of vibe with both labels. However, they do have their own esthetic. It was weird. We had this HumanImprint.com, and we were putting SubHuman shit on there. We felt that we needed something that was Umbrella so that it would be more of a generic look, esthetically, for our website. We really wanted to start working on the website more and having more content on there, so, we felt that we needed to do that so we could represent both labels. Even potentially a third label, or other things that we could all put under the same company name, and have it not be confusing. Especially esthetically it’s not confusing. That was really the reason why we did it.
[CFR] You’re doing a lot of this stuff with Steve (Smash) Gordon?
[Dieselboy] Well yeah, he was brought on initially– we were kind of collaborating a little bit, but now he’s so busy. He’s got a lot of other stuff going on. He’s one of the main guys at Circle Talent Agency. He’s part of Steve’s Promo… They throw some of the biggest shows in the east coast, a lot of shows. He also DJs. He does a lot of stuff. It’s gotten to the point with his work load that he’s kind of taken a backseat and I kind of run it. I’m the creative, I A&R it, I find the artists, I work with them, try and develop their production, develop their tunes, help them come up with concepts for naming tracks… Just stuff like that. Steve works on the bigger stuff, like doing the tour, but I’m the guy that does most of the creative.
[CFR] I saw a quote recently, well, it’s just a Facebook meme, but, kind of like you, it said that nowadays you have to be DJ, you have to be a producer, you have to be a performer, you have to write your tracks, sing your tracks, do everything. You have to do all these things. There’s so many facets to having a music career right now.
[Dieselboy] True. For me… I don’t know if this is going to make me sound like an asshole or not, but, my passion is DJ’ing. Like, really, that’s it. I’m also into being involved in creative stuff, so, that for me is what I do with the label. I can use it as a launch pad to put out t-shirt designs, develop artists… I do that aspect of it as well, but really, it comes down to, I like to DJ. I like performing, that’s it, but, the way it is now, you can’t just be a DJ. You have to also produce, you have to also be on top of all your social media. You have to do all this other stuff just to keep your head above the water. To me, I don’t have a lot of passion for that stuff. Producing, I can get into it, but, it just doesn’t come really easily to me, so maybe that’s why I kind of shy away from it, but I can do it. It’s not really my main love in life. Everything else is just an obstacle to kind of continue to do what I want to do, which is to DJ. I kind of long for the days where I was just the happy little forest animal prancing around the forest doing my DJ’ing, and not having to think about the real world. Now you have to do all this other stuff, and it’s kind of a drag. Having to promote shit on Facebook takes a big backseat to playing records on stage or playing CDs or whatever.
[CFR] Who’s your favourite artist right now?
[Dieselboy] That’s a good question. My favourite artists right now is probably Gridlok. He’s always been my favourite artist. I feel like he’s the most consistant. I feel like no one is ever completely consistant with every release, but I feel like, overall, he’s more consistant than any other artist that I’d play. I give him props. He’s American as well, which is also cool in my book.
[CFR] Is there a moment, or moments, in your career that really stand out?
[Dieselboy] A few moments in my career that really helped me along were… One of them was getting booked to play a show for a company called Ultra World. In Baltimore, I played a party called, I think, Rave the Bay. That gig opened up all these other shows for me. It was biggest promotion company on the east coast at the time. The promoter wouldn’t hire anybody that played music like me. This was before the world wide web, and there was this mailing list group called New England Raves, Indie Raves. He went on this mailing list and was like, “Alright. We’ll book a break beat DJ. Who should we book?”, and everyone on this list was behind me because I was on this list from the get go. They were like “Yo, book Dieselboy.”, so, they basically championed me, he booked me, and after that it opened up all these doors to all these other gigs on the east coast, and that’s when it kind of took off. So that was a big turning point for me. The next thing was, getting my first mixed CD done. That put my mixes in peoples hands across America. That then opened up playing in California and all over the United States. That was huge. Also, I think Succession was the other big point. That sold a shit ton. People starting knowing me. People would know me but wouldn’t even really know that much about me. I was like the Skrillex of drum and bass for a minute. I would go to my shows, my shows would be so packed and the promoters wouldn’t know where these people were coming from. They don’t come out to any drum and bass shows, but they know Dieselboy. My name became… I was the Skrillex of my time. People knew Dieselboy. They didn’t know exactly what I was, but, I was Dieselboy, and it was because of that CD. It was really well promoted by the record label I was on and it sold a lot. That did wonders for my career. Those are the three big moments.
[CFR] Do you have any new projects that you could let us in on?
[Dieselboy] Yeah! This week we have a release by Sub Shock called Richter Scale that comes out on SubHuman. That comes out on Wednesday. Then 2 weeks after that there’s the first collab I did with Bare called WMFD. We have another track called Beyond Thunderdome that’s coming out this summer that I played tonight. I feel good about it. It’s one of those tunes that, when I play it, people know if it’s me or not. It’s gone off every single time that I play it. Like, gone off. When you see that as a DJ… I know it’s going to be a good release, I’m happy. I take a bit of pride in that track. I have an unfinished tune with Bare that Terravita’s gonna finish, called… I think we’re going to call it Space Madness. Then we have another track I’m gonna do with Terravita and Bare, this metal drumstep thing, called Jump into the Pit. I think I’ll be going to Boston in a couple of weeks to work on that with Terravita. So, four tracks, we’re doing remixes. Original Sin is remixing Beyond Thunderdome, and we have a bunch of remixes coming out of WMFD and Beyond Thunderdome. I’m just trying to work with Terravita this summer more. We haven’t worked together, and I realize they live in Boston… It’s very close to New York City. I talked with them, I saw them up in Boston and were like, “Why don’t we work together more? We’re so close to one another”. So, I’m gonna do that. On the label we have a ton of shit coming out. We’re trying to release stuff every 2 weeks. I feel like every week is too much. Even now, on the schedule of every 2 weeks, I have too much stuff to put out. I’m trying to put it out as fast as I can. I have a giant back log of stuff that needs to come out, but it’s all good. The label is gonna be super busy, for the next 6 or 8 months, easily. My next mix I’m going to probably be working on at the end of the year. I can only do one mix a year because it’s like giving birth to a child. It’s too strenuous for me. I put too much of myself into those mixes. They just wear me out.
Connect with Dieselboy on:
Find Dieselboy music on:
Checkout Human + Subhuman at:
1.Tiesto – Flight 643 (Paul B & Subwave Remix)
2.Dieselboy – Live at Beta Mix (Clip)
3.Skrillex – Goin’ In (Skrillex Goin’ Hard Remix)
4.Dare – OD (Gein & Counterstrike Remix)
5.Tech Itch & Dieselboy – Atlantic State (Gridlok Remix)
6.Subshock – Catch Me
7.Terravita – Total Solar Eclipse
8.Dieselboy & Bare – W.M.F.D.
Feezy’s Classics Mix
1.Dieselboy – Prologue from Dungeon Masters Guide
2.Tech Itch vs Trace and Dylan – Legend
3.Kosheen – All In My Head
4.Tech itch – The Rukus (Dkay VIP)
5.Dylan and Ink – California Curse
6.SPL – Deus Ex
7.Evol intent + Ewun – Reality Check
8.Bad Company UK – Mass Hysteria (Hive Remix)
9.Apex, Spor, Ewun, & Evol Intent – Dirge
10.Keaton & Hive – The Plague
11.Tech Itch & Kemal – The Calling
12.John Rolodex – Can’t See Me
13.Bulletproof – Fifty South