There are few artists that make quite as big an impact upon dancefloors as Dax J. The London-born artist has obliterated clubs with both his omnipotent productions and his destructive DJ selections, gaining notoriety for his relentless commitment to high-energy sets.
In recent years his popularity has catapulted, perhaps a reward for his longevity as a DJ – over fifteen years – which has led him to traversing the world techno stage with aplomb.
Sound and mastering being his forte, it was only a matter of time before his ability behind the decks and in his natural studio habitat were recognised on the international scene.
Fresh off the release of his second album, Offending Public Morality, we caught up with the man on the pulse of techno music.
Resident Advisor paint quite a morbid picture when talking about the influences for this album, and if the name is anything to go by then they have it right. Similarly, your previous album Shades of Black has quite a macabre relevance. What causes you to associate your music with the darker side of society or spirituality? Do you see techno’s brash nature a perfect sound to approach these destructive aspects of society? Much like Detroit techno was used as a way of channeling the political frustrations of the city’s youth?
It’s just real life, it’s a mix of what I see, what I have experienced, and just what I feel. I’ve always been pulled in to that side of things, in music and life. Everyone has to deal their own struggles, and this is just my own way of dealing with mine and documenting it. I just channel out how I feel through my music.
The tracks feature film samples to document the relationship between free expression and violent repression. Is this something as a techno producer, that you feel strongly about? Particularly with techno’s Detroit roots and the city’s historical and ever-present problem with violent repression?
There’s a lot of brain washing and messed up stuff going on in the world, we get bombarded with lies and bullshit everyday in the media. Sometimes I get angry when I see it and other times I just find it fascinating if anything, just observing this bizarre behaviour of humans. I think the new generations are awakening more and more now, and the higher powers are slowly losing their control as a result.
Babylon Brutality uses Arabic-inspired samples that are certainly going to induce euphoria on dancefloors. What would you say is behind these compelling samples?
It’s an introduction to the album and sets the tone, the themes and the emotion for the rest of the story. There’s a lot of messages in this track and throughout the whole album, but I leave that to the listener to make up their own mind about what it all means.
How long in the making has the album been? Have you found it easy to juggle touring and studio time?
No it hasn’t been easy finding the time, it’s been a nightmare to be honest. I did 120 gigs last year, so with all the travelling it’s been getting harder and harder to find time to work in the studio. And because of this schedule as well as some unexpected turn of events, it took longer than I expected it to finish. 11 months in total! But I try not to moan about the lack of the time, I have to be grateful for the situation I am in!
How would you say this album differs from your last?
For me it’s a lot more of a listening album, I can listen to it from start to finish. Something that stays interesting to the listener, with twists turns and a real flow and direction. There are only a few club tracks on it, but even those I made and arranged in an interesting way, to keep them listenable, rather than just being DJ tools. I went a lot deeper in production on this album than anything else I ever did before.
My previous album Shades of Black was more focused on club tracks. It felt right at the time to do an album like that. And now I’ve matured a little bit with my sound, I feel this new album direction has come at the right time too.
Drum and bass was your first love is that correct? If so, are you still familiar with the scene or has techno completely abducted you from it?
I still listen to quite a bit actually, old classic albums from Bad Company, Ed Rush & Optical, Goldie. But I don’t really follow the current sound or new stuff, apart from one young guy that was pointed out to me recently, he’s called Tim Reaper and plays really cool, old school inspired jungle. Check him out! I recently discovered a lot of old great albums too that I missed before, like 4hero – Parallel Universe, Hive – Devious Methods, A Guy Called Gerald – Black Secret Technology. I’ve recently been getting back into old early ’90s jungle, I think I will write some jungle this year. I noticed the new generation are writing jungle again and this is cool to see. I hope we are on the verge of a revival.
Your sound is probably most distinctive because of its brash and unrelenting nature. Does any of this come from drum and bass influences?
Yeah I think there is definitely some influence going on there!
I’m always intrigued by how foreign artists find adapting to life in Berlin, how have you found the transition?
Generally it was quite smooth. Coming from London where it is always busy and chaotic, Berlin felt so chilled. That’s the best part about it for me. Time and space to breathe and think.
A marathon set at Berghain is behind you, please divulge?
Yeah that was a long one, played a 10-hour set, finishing at midday! It was just a few days after Prince died, I ended up closing with his track “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Will always remember that moment.
What does the club signify to you? Is it on a pedestal as it is with a lot of both artists and listeners?
It’s still the best club in the world. I think for this reason it will always stay on a pedestal. It’s the King of Clubs!
Have you ever been awe-struck by anyone?
About 10 years ago I saw Zinadine Zadane in the airport. He walked past me and I wanted to ask for a photo but for some reason I couldn’t pluck up the courage to do it, I didn’t feel worthy enough and I really regret that now. It would’ve been a cool picture to have, he’s a legend!
You released your debut album on your own Monnom imprint, and likewise with Offending Public Morality, did you always have the idea of starting your own label and releasing on it? Is it the complete freedom that you prefer?
Since I was 16 and in college I knew I wanted to have my own record label, it was always a goal of mine. The freedom is one of the best parts. And it’s quicker to self-release, because there are no release schedules to wait for. I feel it’s more underground and authentic when you do it yourself. It’s a true representation when its self-released, shows strength, and that you truly believe in the music.
Shades of Black is one of my favourite album covers, combining a retro image with a certain sexual tension. What prompted the choice of image?
Thanks, it’s nice to hear that! I was at a flea market in Berlin, searching for images, and then when that popped up I knew straight away it was “the one.” I always spend a lot of time looking for the right image for the releases on the label. I love pictures and photos that ask questions and tell stories in their own subtle way. Most of the time I don’t know what i‘m looking for, but I know the emotion that I want to feel, and when I find it I usually know in an instant that it’s the one.
Last weekend saw you play a homecoming gig in London with an all-night-long set at Village Underground. How is it returning to your home city to play? Do a lot of your friends and family get involved?
I was completely overwhelmed by the response, it fully sold out 2 months in advance. And yes a lot of friends came down for it, my guestlist was at about 40+ names, don’t know if Village Underground were too impressed with that haha.
Where can we expect to see you this summer? Is there a festival or club you are particularly looking forward to playing?
This summer you can catch me at Life Festival, Riverside Festival, Awakenings, Dour Festival, NeoPop, Digital, Instytute, Off Sonar, Glitch, Extrema, Aquasella, Nature One, Astropolis, Ikarus, welcome to the future and more. I’m particularly looking forward to playing at Duisburg Nord Landscape Park becuase the venue looks incredible, an old ironworks and industrial wasteland. Also the location of Instytute looks pretty amazing too!
Thank you, Dax.
Thanks for having me!
Offending Public Morality is out now on Monnom Black.
Order it here.
Words: Samuel Asquith