Dieselboy: “It serves no purpose but maybe jerk my own ego off” (UnCut)

Categories Interview, Music

Right before our national holiday, I was lucky enough to catch Damian Higgins, aka Dieselboy again in Budapest, Hungary. Although he had faced some health issues, he willingly shared his personal views on cooking, the coming elections in the USA as well as on the controversial connection between deejaying and producing

Long time, no see. How are you today? Your eyes seem to be telling me you’re quite ill.

(laughs) I was sick this week so it’s been rough. I haven’t been sleeping much because of the time delay and my crazy schedule. I’m getting better, but yesterday in Portugal was a little shaky.

But you’re the hero of the day! You’re still here, ready to rock. 🙂

So what? It’s true. (laughs)

What are you planning to play in your set tonight?

Usually I have a crazy intro, but this time it’s only a couple of words. I have the first few tracks lined up so it’s going to be pretty heavy right out the gate. But then…I don’t know. I’ve got to look and see how many people are on the floor and figure it out.

There are many, I think.

That’s good! Last time was great, so if it gets close to that, I’ll be happy.

It’s more than one and a half years, as it was January 2015 when we talked.

I couldn’t remember how long ago that was but yeah. It was cold, I remember.

How come that I can’t see any rings on your fingers?

No rings because I’m in Europe for 10 days and I only travel with a backpack and the backpack is heavy. The box where I keep my rings is heavy. So I decided to go ring-free and save myself the extra travel weight.

In our previous chat, you were planning to have your custom-made ones.

I have some awesome custom ones at home…at least three or four special ones. I know it’s funny but when I’m not deejaying, I almost never wear any rings at home – unless I go out for dinner and I want to put on something unusual. But it’s mainly for my work, really.

How about your other plan, which was the title of our last interview – that in 2016, you were about to play five decks?

(laughs) I thought about it, actually. I could do five decks, six decks, whatever. But it would be almost pointless to play 5-6 things simultaneously. The thing is that it would be lost on most people anyways. People can’t even see what I’m doing most of the time. So I feel it’d be a waste…serving no purpose except maybe to jerk my own ego off. So I’d prefer to focus on what I’m doing, it’s enough. Maybe I was joking around last year? (laughs)

Nooo, you were dead serious! 

If I thought it’d serve any beneficial purpose or that would help my set in some way then I would try to do that. But I don’t think it would make much of a difference. Also, I just don’t want to have to ask promoters for another CD player. It’s overkill. Now you know. (smiles)

Yeah and I completely agree. In the meantime, I had a chance to meet Robyn Chaos a few months ago and she told me about your plan of the drum and bass cook-off with Ed Rush, you and her.

(laughs) That is not the case… I know Ed Rush is into food, I wasn’t fully aware that Robyn was into it. I actually wouldn’t be opposed to be doing something like that. I have no doubt in my mind that I’d crush both of them because I take my shit very seriously. I’m sure they do as well. I’ve seen Ed Rush’s Instagram, I know he has some skills. But I think I could take both of them. The thing is, I don’t really talk to Robyn anymore and we never discussed it. Maybe she thought that would be a cool idea. I don’t know. But I have no doubt in my mind that there wouldn’t be much competition. (laughs)

The DJ Cookbook Dinner, for which you made a lovely mix – well, it’s just incredible!

Thank you. I did that in an afternoon. I wanted to have different music for each course. I wanted to go all non-dnb with the playlists but at the same time, because I was involved, I felt there should be some drum and bass in there somewhere. Mellow dnb was a perfect fit. I wasn’t going to play what I would play during a set. Sooo I dug up some tunes. This is the kind of drum and bass I would actually listen to at home. I was pretty happy with how it came out. I don’t collect a lot of mellow dnb, so I had to hit up some friends of mine that collect this style and asked if they could send me a bunch of stuff. I went through about 100+ tunes. This music would be played to people who don’t really know drum and bass, so it wouldn’t matter if it was the most upfront stuff.

This event, by the way, was based on the five flavours, right? 

Yes, each course was based on a flavour, like sour, sweet, bitter and salty.

And umami. 🙂

Right. And it was all vegeterian, you would have liked that! (laughs) Oh, nooo, sorry… I mean, yes, there were some vegan stuff on the menu as well and they were just perfect!

I’ve seen that you’re quite upset about the career about Trump and the upcoming elections – no wonder, of course.

(laughs) Who isn’t? Most normal people don’t like him. My mom does like him though, which is very concerning to me. Older people like Trump because he plays on their fears. He is a joke. It’s embarrassing, not only because he is terrible but I know that on the international stage, it makes America look fucking stupid. It’s embarrassing. I just dread the morning I wake up if he becomes the president. I thought it was bad when Bush became a president…but he was just a stupid asshole. But Trump is dangerous. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Apparently, he’s really down in the polls, so I don’t know. Most people don’t take him seriously, he’s just…

A clown.

Yeah. He knows how to work the media, how to get press coverage. He’s the very loud voice in the room. But he’s a fucking asshole. I mean the rumour is that people think he’s not even taking it seriously…that the more ridiculous he’s getting, the more he wants to sabotage his campaign. Because the thing is if he becomes president, he has to give up his business dealings. He’s got to live in the White House, which is a step down compared to the place where he’s living. So I think he likes the idea of becoming a president but when it comes down to reality, he sees it’s a much less comfy and cushy life. Maybe he’s actually trying to sabotage his campaign by saying more and more ridiculous stuff. I hope he is!

Then just have a look at Brexit. Most people thought it was a joke as well.

That’s right. But I don’t like Hillary, either. My reason for not liking her is that I think she is bought-and-sold, a paid-for candidate, beholden to corporate interests and special interest groups. I think her presidency will be fine…whatever…business as usual. But it’s not going to be for the people. More for wealthy corporations. That’s why I wanted Bernie Sanders to get the Democratic nomination. Even if he would have had issues pushing his policies, I think he would have been trying to do something special. Hillary is just going to be a stereotypical politician.

So you can choose between the worse and the worst.

Yeah, this is the best of the two worst situations. I don’t want to vote for her but I don’t want to see Trump winning, either. That is a future I cannot bear to see. So I will suck it up and vote for Hillary. I’m not going to like it but I cannot have Trump as a president.

You’ve mentioned your mum as a supporter of him.

It’s disturbing.

Yeah, I know, sorry, I don’t want to embarrass you.

It’s okay. She watches Fox News. I am worried how that affects people’s mindsets. I’m a very free thinker. I think deeply about stuff. My mom used to be the same but now… I think it’s commonplace with a lot of people when they get older. Not everyone, though. But a lot of people get older and they get worried and scared about certain things and they start believing the Fox News propaganda which takes advantage of those fears. It’s just weird how it happens. People stop applying free thought.

Probably because they lose their flexibility – in every sense.

Sure, yeah.

OK but then let’s talk about your dad, Bertie Higgins

He’s cool. We have a very interesting relationship. I love him. He’s a very interesting guy. A funny character. Also very successful. His career has experienced a second wind in China. He’s really big there. I’m pretty impressed. Years back he went on to directing movies and writing scripts with my brother, Julian. I hope I’ll be crushing it that hard when I’m at his age. His mother, my grandmother, is 100 years old, so I think we have some pretty good genes. I hope I’ll be alive and kicking for a while.

I’ve seen that the “Best DJ in America” voting is still running. It’s quite funny for us, Europeans, since we don’t tend to know a lot of American A-list stars from the scene.

I haven’t seen this year’s list but a lot of the nominated “DJs” aren’t DJs at all. The whole “DJ” thing has lost its meaning, for me at least. It used to be a specific person, doing a specific thing: beatmatching and performing. Standing on the stage while music is playing doesn’t make you a DJ in my eyes.

It’s still open, so we can vote for you.

You can, of course, and thank you! I guess it would be cool to get the recognition. But I know where I stand amongst other US DJs and that’s good enough for me. I think people used to understand what we do. Now it’s just a popularity contest. If DJ skill was actually the thing being voted on, then all of the turntablists would rank so fucking high.

How about your own music? What are you up to currently? Any news about your label, Human Imprint?

There is a release coming called “Angel Dust” with Mark the Beast in the next 3-4 months. Also, another release called “Stage Diver” with Mark the Beast and Mayhem – that will eventually come out. It’s about 30% done. I’m planning to write new music in the next few weeks when I have some time off. I’ve just brought my label back online again, so there will be releases on Human. Des McMahon maybe in a month, then Angel Dust, then Wraith, Rawtee, more music from Des, Mark and myself, so I’m going to do more regular output for the label again.

What has happened to Human after all?

I just stopped for a while and focused on my other label Subhuman. And then I decided to take some time off. For me, the labels are creative projects, not something to make me money. There was a period in my life when I really wasn’t focused on putting out music. But now I’m kind of reinvigorated. There are a lot of new exciting artists around.

What do you think the difference could be between the DJs in North America and in Europe?

I don’t know… nowadays the DJs tend to be producers as well. The drum and bass scene is not super huge in America. It’s underground and an underdog scene. We don’t have anything like Let It Roll or big events where the music is highlighted so intensely. There is a lot less media attention on the genre.

Although you’ve been doing it for more than two decades.

But I’m the anomaly. I became a big DJ a long time ago and I’ve tried hard to stay where I was. Every new drum and bass DJ in the states is in a tougher situation now. I feel for them. Honestly, to be a big DJ today you have to produce drum and bass. Which is ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to produce music to DJ. Producing and DJing are not the same thing. I’m an okay producer and a good DJ. I think. But I feel compelled to produce music just so that I can play more shows. Back in the day I was able to come up when I could actually “just” DJ. I got a name for myself as a good DJ. That should mean something on its own. To be a great chef you shouldn’t also have to know how to work on cars like a mechanic. You should be just a great chef! But that’s not the way it is now…

There is a huge pressure on you to release regularly, otherwise you’re not invited to gigs.

Yes. I honestly think it’s fucking stupid. But that’s the way it is. At least in the states. The mainstream rave kids know artists by the music they produce. And then they hear a track and they want to see the person perform it, almost like seeing a band perform. It’s nothing like that!

The artist “performing” the track is hitting PLAY on a CD player. It’s not the same thing. They don’t understand that DJing is a craft in itself. You can be a great producer…but that doesn’t mean you can work a crowd. That you can work the music and layer mixes and make tracks sound different. More special.

It really comes from the position of ignorance. Kids think that if you produce music then by proxy you’re a great performer. But with dance music, it is not the case. Totally different paradigm. It’s frustrating! Kids don’t know any better, don’t expect any better, so it’s not going to get better. The bar has been set low. Sounds positive, right? (laughs)

You’ve been releasing your CD only mixes via your Soundcloud

I’ve got two more left, probably in the next two coming weeks, I’ll have “97 Octane” up and the last one is “Drum And Bass Selection USA”.

What was the idea behind?

Well, most of it you can’t find anymore. And for me, it’s part of my history that made me the DJ I am today. I figured…why not put it out there? I want to have my artistic history available online for anyone who’s interested in it. Once I get the track “Stagediver” done, I’m finally going to do my new mix “Destroyer II”. I’ve had the artwork and the intro done for more than a year. Gonna put a lot of effort and time in that one and I’m dreading it. I know how much work it’s going to be.

You don’t want to know that probably. 🙂

It’s weird, yeah. I don’t, yeah. When I finish my mixes, I listen to them for like a week and then I don’t listen to them again. So when I come back around and listen to something like “Destroyer” after time has passed it almost sounds like someone else did the mix! It’s cool to hear stuff again with fresh ears. The “DJ Cookbox Mix” took me an afternoon to create but normally I spend 40 hours on new mixes. There is a lot of effort that goes in there, a lot of thoughts. Every single choice is overly thought out. I’m obsessive about it. It’s like giving birth…it takes a lot out of me.

What is going to be the question that I should ask you next time?

What do I think about “Destroyer II”? How did it and “Stage Diver” turn out? What were my final thoughts on those releases?

What about Masters of Jungle? You were about to try to resurrect it after we have chatted about it.

I’d love to as I still really love it but it’s probably never going to happen. From the original artists involved, three of them don’t even play drum and bass anymore. The thing is… we could maybe do it in Europe, like at Let It Roll…but I would have to reorganize the line-up. I’d have to get rid of Infiltrata and Ewun and maybe involve Gridlok and a few others. Maybe it’s something to think about. I’ll talk to my agent Gareth about it. But still, we would have to fly over like six Djs from America! But… yeah… maybe…

You see? 🙂

You gave me something to think about. I’d really have to choose carefully. So me, Upbeats, Evol Intent, Gridlok and maybe two other people? It’s a great idea, thank you! I’ll think about it. (smiles)

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Thanks, Pozsonyi Photo!

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