The bass is fat. The bodies are squirming. The lights are blinding; like having brights reflect off the rear view during a late night drive. It’s oddly hazy in the club, made even more hazy by the array of smoke machines on the stage, but it pays homage to the dog days of summer which future bass fans revel in. On stage is Rich Lonbay – a young producer from the U.K. who began touring before he was old enough to drink in the U.S. But what Lonbay lacks in age he more than makes up for with spirit and the innate ability to work a room; despite it being 6:30 in the evening, he’s got the 9:30 Club feeling like it’s running at peak hour. He’s working the crowd like a Machiavellian mastermind underneath the safety of a nondescript baseball cap other than the fact it’s some kind of off-white color.
I’m on the balcony: out of my element, comforted by a whiskey ginger and my moleskine. I’ve been told to meet Lonbay stageside shortly.
Lonbay, who goes by the name Daktyl when he takes the stage, has been making a name for himself as one of the young producers to keep an eye on in the Mad Decent family since his energetic sets at their various Block Party events in 2015. This, combined with his humble reputation and a unique album debut mainly comprised of richly textured and contoured tracks, makes him a needle in the oversized EDM haystack. A needle that is shiny, new, and full of surprises.
Mid-way through a set by tour mate Giraffage, I see Daktyl’s silhouette. Maybe it was the haze of the club, the shadow of his baseball cap onstage, or a combination of the two, but he looks more fresh faced than I expected.
He turns to one of the security guards and charms him into letting me come backstage. The green room we go to is cozy. Here, Rich looks like he has a chance to relax which he embraces as he slips into a sofa like butter in a hot bun. After a brief introduction, we begin.
zacheser: Daktyl – what’s your name? How old are you?
Daktyl: My name’s Rich. I’m 23. I’m from Worcester in the UK. I currently live in London.
z: Do you like living in London?
D: Yeah. It’s nice.
z: I hear London is actually pretty expansive and not as small as us Americans want to believe it is.
D: It’s quite a big place. It’s not as bad as L.A.
z: I was just in California for the first time. It was insane.
D: [Laughs] Yeah. It’s kind of ridiculous.
z: So – waffles or pancakes?
z: Does choosing one over the other dictate your choice of side orders?
D: [Laughs] No.
z: So what do you normally get with your pancakes?
D: I would have bacon, sausage, two eggs sunny side up, hash browns, toast, english muffins. And if I’m in the U.K., I go for the black pudding as well.
z: The black pudding? What exactly is black pudding?
D: It’s kind of gross honestly, man, but it’s really nice. It’s actually, like, congealed blood, I believe. It’s pretty nasty, but it tastes fucking good.
z: That sounds really gnarly. That sounds like it was invented during the dark ages.
D: There’s other stuff in it as well, but it tastes amazing, honestly. But if you’re ever in the U.K., get a full English breakfast. I can tell you’re a breakfast man already.
z: I’m all about breakfast. Not an egg guy, but everything else? I’m all about it. But you’re also supposed to eat beans –?
D: You are indeed. Yes.
z: What’s the one thing you miss about home when you’re on the road?
D: My friends and family.
z: That’s a really cute answer.
D: Yeah, but it’s true.
z: I thought you were going to say a decent shower.
D: [Laughs] I would have said that, but I literally just had a shower ten minutes ago. It was amazing. I’m feeling really great right now. It’s got to be done, man. Got to stay fresh on tour. Otherwise, it gets messy.
z: Talking about staying fresh on tour, what’s the oddest thing you ask for in your rider?
D: I’ve been asking for fresh pairs of socks on this tour which is essential, but otherwise it’s pretty boring. It’s pretty standard. Beer, chips and salsa.
z: On to some of the more harder hitting questions. What are the two tracks that you believe anyone – DJs or appreciators of music in general – should listen to with their eyes closed?
D: Off the top of my head, I’ve been listening to a track called “Recovery” by Rival Consoles. It’s on [the label] Erase Tapes. And it’s definitely an eyes closed, headphones song. It’s absolutely, incredibly produced. I really like it. The second one, I’d say, is any track off the new Sufjan Stevens album. It’s really well produced. It sounds so crisp.
z: Slow Magic said the same thing.
D: Did he say the Sufjan Stevens album?
z: Yeah. He said that as well.
D: We’re both big fans of his.
z: That must be a common thread with you guys as far as who you appreciate.
D: We have a lot of similar tastes. Definitely.
z: Especially since a lot of your [and Slow Magic's] sounds, Giraffage’s stuff, is very lush and warm.
D: We all have a lot of crossover influences. We’ve been having a lot of fun indie rock sessions, 90′s R&B bus sessions on the bus PA system. A lot of really punky and American soft rock stuff like Jack’s Mannequin or Our Lady Peace. Having some sing-a-longs.
z: When you’re on the road, you probably shouldn’t be listening to all of the stuff you’re typically playing.
D: True. Someone did put on a Giraffage song the other day and we were all like, “What are you doing!” We love his stuff, obviously, but you hear it everyday. I could hear his set everyday and still love it. Same with Slow Magic.
z: So, you started when you were 19. Now you’re in your early 20′s. And since you started, you put out an album with Mad Decent, you’ve been featured on Diplo and Friends, Toddla T’s show on BBC One Xtra. Considering how young you are, how do you keep yourself grounded?
D: My friends do that for me [Laughs]. I don’t think I’ve changed at all. I still do the same things I did when I started which is just make the music I enjoy making. Whether people like it or not, I don’t really care.
z: So, for you, it’s a non-issue being like, “Look at my airplane. It’s dope.”
D: I hate that stuff, man. Not a fan of having an ego. No time for it.
z: Cool. If you had to describe your sound as the plot of a movie, what would it be like?
D: It would be some kind of interstellar-esque, sci-fi thriller.
z: Like “Matthew McConaughey Interstellar“?
D: Matthew McConaughey, maybe. Will Smith as co-pilot. I think Kendrick Lamar would star in it as well for some reason. I don’t know. He’s, like, some extra space pilot dude. [Laughs] I would say anything that’s weird and spacey, I suppose, because those are the kinds of movies I’ve been watching lately and they inspire me loads.
z: What movies in particular?
D: I’m just a big fan of science fiction in particular. I just saw Interstellar now. Obviously 2001: A Space Odyssey. Such a great film. I saw The Martian recently in the cinema. I really liked the cinematography. It was interesting. Have you seen that?
D: What did you think?
z: I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t like how the last third of the movie was off Mars, for 20 minutes, and Matt Damon on Mars was the most interesting part of the movie.
D: I agree. Though, he could be a bit annoying in that film. Like, he kept cracking jokes. But you could get behind him.
z: In terms of influences, you just said you get easily influenced by spacey stuff, but in your music you can hear things that range from hip-hop style beats to dub as well as future bass and synthpop. What inspires those choices?
D: I grew up listening to a lot of acoustic music. A lot of classical music. Then got into hip-hop. Then my brother introduced me to people like Four Tet and drum and bass in the U.K., like Hospital Records, and that opened up a whole new world. And then SoundCloud came around and there’s more good music than you can listen to in a day. I take influences from everything basically.
z: SoundCloud increasingly seems to be a modern musicians best friend. But, do you see SoundCloud ever suddenly uplifting the restrictions they’ve been forced to do? There seems to be such an abundance of music that pops up every day.
D: Restrictions in terms of…?
D: I feel like they’d be losing so much money just by serving us and they couldn’t keep up the costs of running the website just with the subscription service they were providing before. So, I feel in terms of adverts, they just had to accept it after a while. Either they advertise or they go bust. And then no SoundCloud. In terms of the copyright, I think it’s bullshit. I think no one has ever lost out from someone remixing their song. It’s so stupid that an edit can be taken down by a major label over copyright issues and it’s screwing over the younger artists. Lido recently had his account strikes which is just crazy. It’s bullshit. There’s no need for labels to do it. They’re just kind of scared, I think.
z: Do you think it’s hurting younger producers because they’re trying to get noticed?
D: Yes, but it’s not the end of the world. They can still make originals and still upload some remixes. I do think it’s a shame, though, to take away some of the creative freedom that people have who want to upload edits of some of their favorite artists which, I think, is more about paying tribute to the artist.
z: You’ve had training in piano and guitar since you were little, correct?
z: What’s your first musical memory?
D: [Laughs] Probably playing piano as a toddler. We had a piano in my house. Either that or playing one of those glockenspiel things.
z: The multi-colored ones?
D: Yeah. That. It’s kind of fuzzy, though, honestly. My mom was also one of those Beatles superfans from the U.S. She used to play all of that stuff and Bob Dylan to me. And then a lot of classical music as well. She used to scare me with Phantom of the Opera if I was ever being bad. If I was ever doing something wrong, she’d put on Phantom as punishment.
z: My mom did something similar. If me and my brother were being little shits, she’d play “Night on Bald Mountain” from Fantasia.
D: That shit’s scary.
z: It would shut us up immediately.
D: It works. I’m gonna do that if I ever have a kid.
z: If you ever have post-traumatic stress –.
D: I might break down and cry if I ever hear Phantom of the Opera again [Laughs].
z: Your music has a dreamy quality to it. It’s cozy. I said warm earlier. What made you make that choice? What made it click?
D: Honestly, it was from experimenting. I was messing with a lot of different sounds and I settled on it. There’s no limits with what you can do right now with electronic music and I only did what really came to me. It was never a conscious choice. I just sat down and did it.
z: It was organic.
D: Completely. That’s the way I like to work. In the studio, I have a ton of world instruments which I play into microphones and resample. It’s very loose. I just like to go ing and jam.
z: Making a remix or an original, for you, is more than just using a MIDI keyboard.
z: And during your live set, I saw you play guitar and sing some vocals. What spurred your decision to invest in live instrumentation?
D: I love playing DJ sets, and I don’t want to say I was getting bored, but I wanted to push myself and have more fun playing out and just wound up having fun playing live. And not to put DJ sets down: I’ve seen amazing DJ sets. Some of the best nights of my life have been from seeing DJs. But I feel like if people want to pay and come out and see me, I want to give them a bit more. There’s also more risk involved which makes it more fun.
z: Well, if you fuck up, it’s a sign to everyone that you’re human.
D: Last night in New York, my laptop dropped off the whole table. It was a nightmare, but lucky for me the music kept going.
z: Any lessons you’ve learned the hard way?
D: Oh. That’s a good question. Can’t really think of anything off the top of my head. No.
D: I think so.
z: If it came down to it, would you choose a lot of fame and a ton of casual fans or a tiny bit of fame, but with small amount of ravenous, obsessive fans?
D: Tiny fame. Any day. I don’t want to be famous. At all. I want to be appreciated for my music, but fame isn’t something I’ve ever chased or wanted.
z: What if we were to change ‘fame’ to ‘recognition’ or ‘notoriety’?
D: Oh. Yeah, it would still be a few people who care a lot, I would say.
z: That’s what everyone should say.
z: But that wasn’t a test. It’s not like that was a multiple choice question.
D: Great. Because I was kind of like, “Uh.”
z: So future bass is kind of on a peak right now. Do you think artists should evolve to stay in line with the current sound.
D: No. Not at all.
z: So stay true to yourself.
D: Absolutely. Never do that.
z: Having put an album out, are your focusing on another one right now or are you just trying to put out some EPs?
D: Honestly, I will be thinking about that when I am off tour. Haven’t made up my mind yet at the moment.
z: Do you have any plans for upcoming Mad Decent events?
D: I played a few of the [Mad Decent] Block Parties this summer. They were really fun. And hopefully I’ll be on them next year as well.
z: And if you had to give one nugget of wisdom to kids your age, or kids younger than us looking to get into dance music, what would you say?
D: I’d say don’t be afraid to share your music. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Always experiment. And most of all, have fun with it.
Daktyl’s album, Cyclical, is available now on digital retailers.
It’s 1:30 PM on a Tuesday. I’ve been asked to interview Slow Magic prior to his headlining gig at the 9:30 Club later on in the week with Giraffage. I’m given a number to call and a time to call it. Slow Magic is a shroud: a mysterious figure whom not much is known about other than his music which is described as something made by an “imaginary friend.” He treasures anonymity for the sake of artistry much like SBTRKT or Daft Punk, but not for kitsch; he treasures anonymity so the focus is less on him and more on the music.
I feel unprepared. I have listened to Triangle, his first album release on Bandcamp, a thousand times since its initial release, but what questions do you ask a shadow? The phone rings. A voice answers.
After brief introductions, we begin discussing his current tour. As it turns out, I’ve caught him on a day off. “My deal, at the moment, is some coffee which is keeping me alive right now,” he says after I ask him what he’s up to. “Just kind of chillin.’” He’s earned the right to chill: between releasing two full length projects, including last year’s How to Run Away, the young producer has also been on an extensive tour schedule in addition to constantly working on new material. During this rare opportunity to talk with him, I started asking the hard hitting questions.
zacheser: If you had to describe Slow Magic as a pasta dish, what would it be?
Slow Magic: Well, lately I’ve been trying to stay away from pasta for the most part because if I eat it before a show, I get full. Weighed down. So, I’d say zucchini pasta. Veggies with chicken on there.
z: That’s a good combination.
SM: Try to stay healthy.
z: Your sound has shifted a lot between your earlier work, like “Corvette Cassette” which has more of a Washed Out kind of vibe, and your new work which has more of a future bass attitude. What sparked this evolution?
SM: I’ve tried to stay true to the original sound, but I think also I’m just kind of excited about different things. Different music here and there. Especially like my track with Giraffage [“So Cute”]. We just wanted to make the most fun – and loud – song we could. I think it has a lot to do with getting to play more in front of people. And the energy there might influence me to play more upbeat music.
z: You are touring with artists like Giraffage and Odesza, and they have a very specific kind of crowd, so is playing in front of that crowd and seeing what vibes with them influencing the way you think about your new music as you’re making it?
SM: I wouldn’t say that so much, but more so since I’ve started and I’ve gotten to play more around the world, I think maybe it’s the interaction with the crowd instead of just being in the bedroom is making the music a little more upbeat. I think it might all come back to the same place in the end. We’ll see.
z: Artists like yourself, your current tour mate Giraffage, Jamie XX, Kaytranada, etc. All of you guys seem to be breaking into the mainstream consciousness, at the very least on the level of sites like Pitchfork, and all of you guys seem to have this common thread of deconstructing the tropes of electronic music to try and re-tool it and think of it in new, fresh ways. Do you think this might be a glimpse into the future of dance music?
SM: First of all, that’s a very flattering question. Thank you. I like all of those producers. But yeah, I think that is my hopes because there’s a lot of stuff that’s really trendy or really exciting, but I always try my best not to just make a carbon copy of anything. Like you’re saying, I try to deconstruct it and rebuild it in my own kind of weird, messed up way. I think all those guys that you mentioned are pushing that kind of pop music and electronic music in a real interesting area. Especially Jamie XX. He kind of broke out with that kind of stuff. It’s cool to see. It’s pop music, you know?
z: One of the things that pops up in interviews with you is “your imaginary friend.” Describe to me the process of working with him. Is he a nice guy? Does he sleep too late on the weekends? What is he like?
SM: When I started, I liked the idea of the music I was hearing through the speakers, that I was making, that it was from somewhere else. I liked the idea that we all have this imaginary friend that is making music with no time or place or identity. That was kind of the concept for starting up the project the way I did. I think Slow Magic has taken on a character of its own. I think he, or it, is a nice dude. Pretty positive. Kind of crazy. Unexpected. Chaotic sometimes.
z: And this idea of being disjointed from the music, letting the music be its own character, I’m assuming that’s where the mask you wear comes into play?
SM: Yeah. It all kind of simply started when I first made a few songs. I wanted them to be separate from an identity. I think the first few photos were pictures with my face cut out. The mask kind of came into play when I was about to play my first show and I just asked one of my friends, a really cool artist named Jonas, if he could make me a mask. And it all kind of went from there. It’s all evolved and continued.
z: There’s this thread in music, in popular music specifically, that ties into this with artists like David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust or Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo as Daft Punk. Do you think this theatricality in music is a lost art?
SM: I think that even a producer with a t-shirt on and a laptop is still theatrical. If you really boil it down, it’s still a performance on stage. To me, I just wanted to do something more exciting for myself and, in that same sense, throwing a weird and energetic show is more exciting for everyone else.
z: Do you think that gives you more freedom? Do you become less aware of you as “The Person”?
SM: Yeah. It definitely gives me more freedom and it goes beyond just not having to show my face. It helps me break out and be weirder. I think there’s a lot of types of music, like punk or hardcore, different kind of electronic bands I grew up seeing that kind of made me want the kind of show where the crowd is involved and they’re all together. That’s what excites me.
z: In your shows, you have a lot of live instrumentation which, in today’s day and age of electronic music, is kind of uncommon because it’s so easy to show up with a flash drive, plug it in, and play to a crowd. So back to the idea of lost art: do you think live instrumentation is a lost art on people?
SM: Maybe. The drumming in my sets is the probably the main live aspect and I think it’s a really primitive and simple way of playing music. One of the most obvious ways to see something on stage, and know what’s going on, is the drum. But I think that just kind of happened by accident, as well. My first few shows, I just had a MIDI controller and I was about to play my second or third show and my computer’s sound card just stopped working. I just borrowed a tom from the opening band and I gave my iPod with my songs to the sound guy and I just played through that. It was the first time I had drums on the set, and it was fun for me, so that’s what started the drumming. It was kind an accident, but I think it’s such a simple and primitive visual element.
z: Do you think that’s why artists like yourself or Disclosure or Autograf with their mallets are picking up speed with people? Because it taps into something primal?
SM: You did mention it’s kind of rare, but I think it’s becoming more normal to see electronic and organic, acoustic instruments together on stage which is exciting to me. Tycho’s a good example of someone who I’ve looked up to for a real long time doing that and he’s progressed in that, too. But I’ve seen people with just a laptop and no controller that play a really, really cool set. I do think that it connect people to the music, though.
z: As far as influences go, you just named Tycho. We talked about Jamie XX. Anyone specific that triggered you into making music?
SM: I think in the early years of my life, I remember listening to the Beach Boys on a cassette tape that my parents game me. And my dad was in a rock band. That may have helped me to start messing around with instruments that we had lying around and I kind of admire that. But I would say as far as electronic music, I could say so much. Tycho. Gold Panda was someone who challenged my views on electronic music when I first heard him. Aphex Twin. There’s so many. I think my favorite bands are like Sigur Ros and Sufjan Stevens. Just kind of beautiful music.
z: Are you the next Brian Wilson?
SM: I would never say that because that’s very high praise, but you can say whatever you want.
z: We’re both from the Internet age. Do you feel like the internet has made the act of discovering music more accessible not just to people who are actively searching, but also to people who are just clicking through website after website after website?
SM: The internet is pretty much the most important part in the creation of Slow Magic. I think if it weren’t for blogs or people sharing when I first started this, I wouldn’t be here at all. Some of it’s changed, but it’s still really exciting to discover new stuff on SoundCloud or YouTube. Accessibility and ease of making music is only in the end going to create true talent that stands out. Even though there will be more to sift through, we’re discovering 14 year olds who can make the best beats I’ve ever heard.
z: Do you think it will ever somehow ruin our abilities as musicians to be creative?
SM: It’s what we make of it as humans. It’s easy to see the negatives of over-saturation and sites that change based on money, but even if that were to happen, there’d be a better alternative quickly and we’d all be there.
z: If you could choose people right off the top of your head, who’d you want to work with in the studio?
SM: That’s awesome. Ever since their record came out, I’ve wanted to do a song with the singer of Rhye, Milosh. So he would be there for vocals. And then let’s say Brian Wilson because he’s still here. That’d be cool.
z: When was the “holy crap” moment for you? When you realized you made it as a musician.
SM: The first thing that comes to mind is the first time I went to Iceland. It was to play an after party for Iceland Airwaves, but I’d always wanted to go to Iceland. It was a dream to just visit. I remember playing my show and I got to meet the band múm who’s one of my all-time favorite bands and influences. I ended up playing their drum for the show and I just really remember that being a cool moment. It’s not so much about monetary success or anything beyond just being able to see the world because of music. There’s a lot of moments like that for me. It’s always good to remember this isn’t normal: I get to make music and it’s my job.
French Horn Rebellion, Brookyln-based purveyors of ‘Next Jack Swing,’ has been making the rounds supporting their first EP of original material since 2010, Foolin’ Around. The EP, an eclectic array of 80′s and modern funk inspired trips through indie pop, showcases influences that range from Genesis and David Bowie to Daft Punk without skipping a single funkadelic beat.
The title track off the EP, “Foolin’ Around,” sees the duo at their most outlandish extreme blending bright flashes of cheery guitar with heavy synth bass and rich horn sections. It’s a track that yearns for big hair and even bigger padding in the shoulders of your favorite sportcoat. In many ways, French Horn Rebellion does a great job of condensing the cityscape of New York into an auditory medium; “Foolin’ Around” sounds like the type of subconscious soundtrack playing in the background every time you visit the big city with wide-eyed wonder. It’s like Peter Gabriel by way of Prince or Huey Lewis having a jam session with Chic: a discotheque aesthetic chopped up with big, 80′s pop-rock. That said, their latest EP will bring comparisons to similar artists on DFA and Stones Throw, particularly Mayer Hawthorne’s side project Tuxedo, but tracks like “Foolin’ Around” show a dynamic balance between personal voice and the inspiration behind it which will give French Horn Rebellion longevity in the road ahead.
Alan Palomo’s passion project, Neon Indian, has been a remarkable product of genius since its debut in 2009 successfully putting forth a sensational blend of pop, psychedelia, and electronica that feels both timely and timeless. Currently on tour promoting his latest album, a collection of dance-by-way-of-hipsterdom tracks called Vega Int’l. Night School, Neon Indian is set to make a stop in our nation’s capital at the 9:30 Club where he’s prepared to share his newest psychotropic dance visions with us. And guess what? We want you to be there with us!
We are giving away 2 tickets to see Neon Indian’s show next week at the 9:30 Club. All you have to do is the following:
The popular dance music producer Bit Funk is a beast. Having approached everything from pop to trance to nudisco, the Brooklyn based musician is currently making the rounds with more original material to complement the steady stream of banging remixes that he’s been putting out in recent months.
His first original since the fabulous Soul Satisfaction EP release, “Off the Ground” is a radio ready, poppy four-on-the-floor heater by way of Oliver Heldens. The future house aesthetic is strong in this release as it guns for Tchami territory without sounding amateurish or run of the mill: the bassline is like a Ten Walls’ style horn that has been given performance enhancing drugs; the percussion snaps without sounding canned; and the vocals are catchy, but not cloying for earworm status. In a lot of ways, “Off the Ground” is the kind of track producers have been trying relentlessly to make since “Gecko” came out, but have fallen just short of accomplishing as it sounds far from sterile despite its cookie cutter structure. This is helped by Shae Jacobs’ spirited croon which adds warmth to the track as his falsetto asks to be lifted from his current plight; he goes from sounding like R&B hotshot The Weeknd to the enchanting AlunaGeorge in one fell swoop elevating the track with a tour de force level of dynamism.
You can stream Bit Funk’s “Off the Ground” on SoundCloud and pick it up when it hits digital outlets on October 9.