Learn, More: Deft
Croydon’s Deft is one of those young producers that has been simmering away for what already seems an age now; having pulled him in for a Hyp Mix back in 2011. One of those types that can seemingly turn their hand to most electronic music styles and pull it off with real panache. His early self-released hip-hop jams highlighted his knack for sound design; a skill obtained studying Digital Music and Sound Art at Brighton Uni. Whether it be footwork, that reclined hip-hop or soulful, broken-beat, boy got it covered.
Things are looking bright moving into February; his recent EP for Jamie Russell’s Space Hardware tickled the fancy of Maya Jane Coles (who opened her recent DJ Kicks CD with ‘Loqux & Past’) and DJ Shadow played some Deft in that infamous ‘too future’ set, still unsure if he was responsible for the moment of shut down.
Ahead of his performance at our party in Nottingham with Wigflex and Mimm he told us about the benefits of studying music academically, his relationship with footwork, forthcoming music and being a producer in the digital age.
For anyone uninitiated, could you tell us about a bit yourself and all that…
My name is Yip and I make electronic music under the name Deft. I don’t have much of a musical background, I play the drums and I studied Digital Music and Sound Art at Brighton University. I’ve had EP’s and remixes released through a few different labels including Brownswood, WotNot, Rwina, and Space Hardware. I’ve started a monthly (it will be monthly starting from next week) column on Brainermagazine.com, and am also a third of Offhand (along with good pals Manni Dee and Alphabets Heaven).
You have an academic background in digital music and sound art. How has this benefitted you as a producer?
Its helped me a great deal as a producer I think, and I try to incorporate what I learnt from my experience on the course in my music. I didn’t learn as much technically from the course as I would have liked, but I learnt more creatively. We worked with general studio hardware, sound with film/film music/sound design, and working with space in sound amongst other things. It opened my mind to new ways of listening to sound and music, and different ways of applying sound and music. I’d probably still be making straight hip-hop instrumentals if I hadn’t have gone to uni, I think the experience as a whole developed me as a producer.
Would you recommend a degree in music to aspiring DJs and producers?
Based on my experience I would say yes. When I was deciding to go to university, all I knew was that I wanted to study something I enjoyed and with that to hopefully go on to have a job that I enjoyed. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do apart from make music and get better at it. If its affordable and it’s a something your willing to commit to then go for it. Like I said before, the course helped me to explore and understand sound in way I had never thought of before. If I had the time and the money I’d love to take an audio engineering course and learn more about specifics that I’m now more interested in. But then saying all this, you can’t expect to take a degree course and come out the other end of it as a superstar producer. Creativity is a natural processes, and you need have a creative mind/imagination/vision in order for it to blossom. But yeah, nonetheless, learn more!
We are big fans of your recent ‘Motions’ EP on Space Hardware, could you tell us about the release and what you were hoping to achieve with the record.
Thanks! My output of music always differs, and I like having that freedom to just make what I want. At the time of putting the release together I just wanted to showcase my different influences, saying that my last couple of EP’s have been more footwork hybrids-ish. Variety isn’t always what labels want though, but luckily Jamie at Space Hardware liked the fact that I made a lot of different styles of music and was happy to put out a mixture of stuff on the EP. This was also the first time I’ve had vocals on one of my tracks too, and to have the opportunity to work with Om’mas was amazing. I’m hoping to work with a few more vocalists this year, theres a few things in motion so we’ll see!
The influence of footwork is plain to hear in some of your material, where did your relationship with the music begin and who are some favourite artists to dabble with these rhythms?
Planet Mu introduced footwork to me through Bangs & Works, DJ Diamond and DJ Nate, then on to Spinn and Rashad. It was hard for me to get into on the first listen, but I quickly fell in love with it and the raw quality the music has. It really reminded me of how I first used to make music and how I worked with sampling to make odd music. The energy in the music is great and its at a familiar tempo which has encouraged the blend with jungle and drum&bass. Working with footwork elements and at that tempo has been something new, exciting and refreshing for me.
Guys that I think pushed it to where it is now are Machinedrum, Eprom, Om Unit and the Cosmic Bridge gang, Ital Tek, Krampfhaft… They’ve all created unique amalgamations of music that we can’t really put a name to, which sets them apart from everyone else. Love the Dawn Day Night stuff too. To be honest, I do forget how small the footwork and juke scene really is still.
On the whole, how do you feel the digital age and the Internet have affected life as a young producer?
Well, obviously its amazing what opportunities the digital age has brought in terms of bringing the world closer together and giving young and new producers a platform and community to express themselves through their music. Setting up a label and selling music has become easier because information and good knowledge is in abundance and so easily accessible through the web; don’t worry about getting a music degree, you’ve got the internet! The electronic and independent music scene is bursting right now and there is so much good music out there available with a few clicks. But with that, the music has become over saturated, piracy is poppin off and now suddenly everyone and anyone is an expert at doing music.
You’ve been picked up by some pretty big names in house music, such as Maya Jane Coles, has this been surprise to you?
Yes completely, the DJKicks thing came about out of the blue and recently found out DJ Shadow played one of my tunes in that ‘too future’ set. That really took me by surprise.. It’s a huge confidence boost to have support from people you admire and look up to, very honored!
You hopped around a few different labels in 2012, what’s coming up for Deft in 2013?
Well I have quite a few remixes coming out for Ital Tek, Danny Scrilla, Glenn Astro and 123Mrk, iO and Tiga, another EP for my boys at WotNot music is currently being finished off and I’ve got a track with my bud Manni Dee coming out on 2nd Drop’s first compilation in March. Other than that I’m going to be knuckling down and writing some new material.
You play out live right? Any plans to venture into the world of disco wax?
I play live as well as vinyl/serato, depending on the night I play and what I’m feeling for. Talking about disco wax, me and my boy JJ Mumbles are hoping to start up a boogie/disco night at some point this year, hopefully..! I’ve got a fair few disco 12”s and 45s that I’ve been wanting to play out for a while now.
Are you looking forward to playing our party up in Nottingham with Wigflex and Mimm?
Very much so, I’ve been following the Mimm guys for a while now, so I’m excited to be a part of the movement they’ve got going on up in Nottingham. It’s a solid line up and looks like theres going to be a good variation of music too, I dont mind a bit of techno to be honest. Should be a great night!
Anything else you’d like to get of your chest?
I’m on the Eurostar at the moment, and they’ve got to up their toilet paper game, big time – allow tracing paper.
Interview: Josh Thomas