Dolenz, real name Neil Andrews, is an artist who portrays the present and dwells on the influences of his past. With previous aliases including DJ Solo and Wriggly Scott, Dolenz is now firmly the musical persona that has stuck to the London producer.
In a way a futuristic, London producer Dolenz first came through the mist back in 2015 with an eight-track EP on Sonic Router. Drawing influence from ‘80s breakdance films, science fiction and Eastern sounds, Hysteresis arrived in beat tape format and demonstrated Dolenz’ knack for combining hip hop drum work and gritty analog techniques.
Now a staple of dBridge’s Exit Records, the label has just dropped his debut album, Lingua Franca. Catching up with Dolenz, he shares in detail the concept behind the new record, his thoughts on the evolution of hip hop and how it inspires his own music, and the material he continually looked to when recording.
“The album is an attempt at story-telling where the medium of experimental music meets science fiction. Hip hop has always conveyed some form of story and I am particularly obsessed with the era of 1978-1983 in New York where the underground music and arts scene collided, and then collaborated resulting in artists such as Rammellzee and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Musically this was the time that drum machines infiltrated hip hop. A time when technology drove not-only hip hop production but Detroit Techno and new-wave amongst others. In this brief moment before Marley Marl started to use SP samplers to chop up drum breaks and replay them, (replicating what break djs did with two records and hence returning in a sense to the origin of hip hop) there were producers such as Larry Smith (??) looping incredibly funky basslines over DMX drums, to create the musical backdrops for MCs to rhyme over.
Since the term ‘rap music’ was coined I feel that hip hop has stagnated in many ways, sticking to the typical format of a sampled break, a loop or ‘groove’, and an MC who takes centre stage. Nowadays there is a resurgence of the use of the 808 in hip hop production, and producers such as Swizz Beats or Scott Storch have been instrumental in putting ‘playing’ back into it, but in my mind it was artists like DJ Shadow, Live Human, The Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Mophono, El-P, Dimlite, Flako, Mono/Poly, DJ Rashad (to mention a few) that have continued to push the evolution of hip hop into different directions. To me they are a selection of artists that have succeeded in capturing its essence and interpret it to create unique works.
When asked the inevitable ‘what kind of music do you make’ question I have distilled my answer down to ‘exploratory hip hop across various tempos’ which, as wanky as it sounds is the best way that I can sum up what I try to do.
Dolenz is an art project which is helping me to understand what I love and I live vicariously through Jeffrey. I take old and new elements, throw them in a blender and funnel them through my music to communicate a concept that’s pressing on my mind. On this album I had a story idea for a science fiction movie, and so the music took a retro-futuristic direction. The film is set on the planet Geminus, which is the sister planet of Earth in another dimension. It provides a glimpse into our own future as Geminus is a century ahed of us, so already at a time where the atmosphere is polluted to the point where it is inhabitable. Industry was monopolised and the main corporations became so big that they became the government which meant that they can do exactly as they please. In Geminus’ case this has led to intensive mining into the planet’s core for a valuable ore that generates energy. In the closing act of the film the main protagonist breaks though a wall in one of the mines to discover a network of tunnels that surround the planet’s core. The sound inside the tunnel is deafening, and he realises that it is the creatures of the planet ‘singing’ to the core which keeps the planet turning, and hence maintains balance. So the basic metaphor for the album is that humans as a species are completely out of sync with Earth, and we could end up destroying it.”
1. Jimmy Spicer – Dollar Bill
2. Brave New World
3. Rammellzee Interview
4. Basquiat – The Radiant Child
5. Mophono – VL Mono
6. DJ Excess – Lally
7. Breakin ’n’ Enterin’
8. Futura 200 (ft. The Clash) – The Escapades of Futura 2000
9. DJ Rashad – I Don’t Give A Fuck
10. Mono/Poly – Ra Rise
Lingua Franca is out now on Exit Records.
Buy it here.