[INTERVIEW] DAVE ANGEL
It was a real honour (and seriously fun) to talk with Dave Angel recently! So pumped, full of life, down to earth, real and inspiring. I felt a depth to him undoubtedly born out of experience, dedication and passion. A true UK techno pioneer with an illustrious, constantly expanding production catalogue, we covered his current set up, production tips and perspectives, life stories, the magic of Day Zero in Tulum, Mexico and much more..
Thank you for taking the time to talk today!
Two of your latest EPs are titled, “Incoming” (Vol 1 & 2), as is your North American tour, can you talk about the significance of that word for you and what it means to you?
Thank you! I haven’t been to North America on a regular basis for many years really. I was there two times last year, two mini tours, so I’m getting back out there, you know? It was a way of saying, I’m incoming! I’m coming to America and Canada to show people what they been missing, basically! (Laughter)
I’ve had a really rough time over the last 5 years. I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and it slowed me down a bit. I also lost my brother as well. My little brother, he’s just a year younger than me.
Sorry about that..
It just really wrecked me. I couldn’t work anyway, I didn’t have the strength to work. I spent almost 5 months in hospital, two major surgeries. I’m back now, I feel good. I’m not feeling any pain now, so that’s why I’m back on the road. I’m trying to rebuild my shit, you know? Because I’ve never stopped making music, I’ve always been making music. But there was a time when I didn’t give my music out to anyone. I just made it and kept it, after Rotation [Records] went down. I just didn’t give my music out to anyone, I kind of went underground.
I think the whole change as well from analog to digital played a big part in it. I found it quite difficult to settle with this whole digital thing. Working with analog you want to see things in the red, it sounds better when it’s distorted in the red, but digital you can’t distort digital so it was a complete reverse engineering that I had to learn. It took a bit of time. I think I’ve found my sound now in the digital realm. And ya, I’m incoming! (Laughter)
Amazing. So digital for both production and DJing, in terms of gear?
Ya, absolutely. I mean, first of all I tried vinyl with CDs. It was okay, but I didn’t feel really on top of it. So then I moved from vinyl because there weren’t enough tracks coming out on vinyl and I like to play fresh music, so I started playing CDs. And that was cool. It was okay for awhile. I mean, it was a bit tedious burning CDs - all that stuff I hate doing but you have to do it. And now it’s moved to USB sticks, and I’m quite cool with those. I quite like them. Ya, so I’m settled in it now. I feel at home with it now.
That’s great to hear..
Sometimes I use my TR-8, which is a clone of the 909/808 drum machine. I use that sometimes depending on if they want me to do it.
How are you finding the new technology with your creative flow as a producer?
I love it because the possibilities are endless now. Whatever you can think of, as long as you’ve got a computer that’s strong enough to do it, you can do it. That’s what you want, you want real fast speeds. As long as you’ve got a nice fast computer, and you don’t really want to overkill yourself with plugins. Just use the ones that you really like, and that really make your sound individual, and stick to those. What I found was that in the early days I had so many plugins, it was like, “Ya, all these plugins!” But, what do I need all these things for? I don’t need a million EQs or a million compressors, I just need one or two to do the things that I need to do. So I got rid of them all. And whatever I want, for whatever sound I’m working on, I’ve got it - it’s right there.
To take it back to New Orchestrations and that piece of work - in response to what would be the quintessential Dave Angel track to own, you mentioned that one. Do you remember what kind of inspirational space you were in when you did that, as compared to more recently as you produce?
I’ve always been pretty one track minded. I’m always in the studio. Mates come around and they’re like, Dave why don’t you come out tonight? But right now, unless I need to leave my studio to go out for any necessities or whatever, I’m not leaving here. I’m constantly working. I would work at least from 2 o’clock in the afternoon until 5 in the morning. Maybe I’ll take a break during the day, but the rest of the time I’m in the studio working, doing stuff. So with the New Orchestrations project, I had these orchestral sounds and I wanted it to be just real and beautiful, really. That’s how I wanted it. I don’t actually remember making the tracks, it was a long time ago. There have been a few [interviewers note : many dozens of] tracks since then. I can remember the studio that I made it in. And I’m looking around the studio now in my head and it was quite limited, I didn’t have that much equipment at the time. Maybe two or three sound modules, maybe three synthesizers, an 808, a sampler and a mixer. But as I said, it doesn’t really matter what equipment you’ve got. Like right now, I’m working on this little 4 gig MacBook Pro [while waiting for his new computer]. You can do your stuff but it just takes a bit longer to do it. Because you’ve got to do it and then bounce it to free up space to allow for the CPU, but the whole thing back in those days you didn’t have CPU or anything like that it was just how many channels you had on the decks.
So your process now is just get into the studio and do the work..
Ya. I’ve always got something that I’m working on. I’ve got some stuff coming out on Bedrock, and hopefully a second release on Crosstown Rebels as well, which is a cool project - really nice. It was inspired by Day Zero. I went down to Day Zero in Tulum, Mexico. It was amazing. I’m getting goose bumps now just thinking about it. It was the greatest party I’ve ever seen in my life, really.
What made it so great?
It was the whole suspense, you know? I didn’t know what to expect. So we went - we get picked up by this shuttle and he drives for 45 minutes down into the jungle, deep into the jungle. So we get to the edges of the jungle. And there’s this little spanish dude and he’s like, Arriba arriba! And he’s cutting down bushes and stuff and it’s pitch black, you can’t hear any music or see any light or anything like that. And you’re walking for maybe 10 minutes and you see a floodlight - and that’s where you go and pick up your passes. So then, there’s loads of people there and I don’t know what to expect from this party. What’s it going to be like? Is it going to be a load of crusty people in some dirty.. I didn’t know, I thought it was going to be a little shady. So you pick up your pass and you start walking through and there’s little lanterns lit up, you know, spaces where you can see what’s going down, but you still can’t really hear any music and you can’t really see anything. And you’re walking for another 15 minutes. And all of a sudden you hear the music. Boom, boom boom. And then, what I saw was just unbelievable - I’d never seen anything like that before, in a jungle. It was done up so nice and had white sand on the floor and Felix Da Housecat was playing. I went up high to the edge of the valley to have a look at it to see what was going down. People were dressed up like Jesus ’n shit. I’ve never seen anything like it, you know. (Laughing)
I’ve never experienced a vibe like that before. It was almost magical. Like it was a whole new world. I had such a good time. So, ya I took inspiration from there and made two tracks from that experience. I get inspired from anything really, this conversation with you, a conversation with anybody, you know?
And just hop in the studio and translate it..
Sometimes I come in the studio and it just flows. Sometimes you could be in there, and you’re searching and you’ve got something in your head, and you just can’t translate it. You just keep searching and searching. My first studio, I called it The Dark Alley because you just never knew what was going to come up on you. It was like a surprise and you just didn’t know. For me, it’s creating something from nothing. I love it. It’s just the buzz, and you sit back and press play, and you listen to that track and you think, ya I feel it. And it’s yours! It’s mine, you know? I made it. But then, I give it to my manager and he sorts it and racks it all up and then it’s no longer mine. It’s for everybody else to listen to, it’s no longer my baby. It’s for everybody else to share and check it out. It’s so personal, the music.
Can you talk about your perspective on music as a journey or story? And the whole point behind why you’re doing this for yourself or for others?
For me, music is a way of life. It’s a relationship. It’s like you meet people that come and go in your life, so many people come and go. You meet wonderful people, you meet some not so good people, but the one thing about music is that she’ll always be there for me. No matter what. Even when I’m at my lowest. When I was ill, sick, I’d put my headphones on and she was always there for me. The way I look at music is as a love affair.
I also remember my bedroom was very near the living room as a kid growing up, so I could hear my Dad playing music at night, entertaining friends, smoking weed and just doing stuff, you know? I could hear just crazy music and I’d always drift off and paint these images in my head about the music. Traditional instruments, they were okay but they weren’t like “Wow” for me. When I heard synthesizers, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report and shit like that it was like, what is this? That for me was just the sound of controlled electricity, really. That really turned me on, you know? Because that’s what it is.
Wow - so dope - controlled electricity, haven’t heard those two words together in that way..
You played drums at 8 years old, what did your Dad play?
He played everything. He was a session player. So he’d go to the studio and sit around and wait for whatever they wanted. A bassist, a guitarist, he could do it all. Just give him the music and he’d work it out, go in, record it and get paid. All of us were into music apart from my brother. Ya, music was around the house everyday. My Mom, bless her, she didn’t have any kind of connection with the music. She’d write books and read a hell of a lot and so she used to go off in her own little world and we’re there banging away making noise. It was a way of life for us.
And then you discovered controlled electricity..
Ya, I suppose it started through DJing really. When I was a kid I wouldn’t be buying sweets or whatever, I’d be buying records.
We started a band when I was a kid, because I was a drummer. We had a bassist, guitarist, vocalist, backing vocalist but there was always a problem. Everybody couldn’t make it to rehearsal that day, or someone was ill, or some shit like that. There was always some sort of thing that was messing up rehearsals. When this whole technology thing came in and became accessible, at a cheaper price so you could buy a sequencer and a drum machine, for me that’s when I thought, you know what, forget them boys, this is what I’m doing. I didn’t need them to do it, I could do it all myself. And that’s how it all started.
Love that story. I’ve heard that a lot as a theme in this industry, where the band thing doesn’t work because people don’t show up, and they’re like, I’m just going to do it myself.
Any life lessons you want to share?
Never start something you love and not finish it because you’re going to regret it.
That’s it right there..
I learned that in a couple ways as a kid as I was growing up. One was where I used to skate. And I was pretty good, I used to skate for a team called Benji Boards and I was often at the skate park and stuff. But one day I fell off my board and broke my arm and I didn’t go back to the skate park for about 6 months, I just didn’t go. And when I went back the dudes who weren’t skating as well as I was skating, they were doing some incredible stuff and I thought, I wish I’d never stopped skating. I used to be way beyond that. So that’s sort of a lesson I learned - to never stop. And that’s maybe why I put so much love into this and so much time because it can’t part with me now. Some people refer to it as work, I don’t.
You saw the power of sticking to something..
Ya for sure.
So for you it’s not work.
No way (laughter). I love it. I love it. I’m in bed and I can’t wait to get back and hear my track. (Laughter)
What do you think is the most important skill to have as a DJ?
Well, there are a few skills. Preparation is key. You got to prepare your stuff. A lot of people think you just turn up and play a lot of records. It doesn’t go like that. I spend maybe two, two and a half days going through promos. Just listening to nothing but promos, to new stuff people send. And the stuff I like I put into a folder, and the stuff I don’t like I’m ruthless you know, I just throw them straight in the trash. Otherwise, you’re going to have too much music and you don’t know what they are. Everything gets labeled and they get put in their correct folders so I can go to them any time I want. And then you just mess around with tracks and see what works with what and just get to know them. Get to know your tracks. Nowadays, it’s lucky because it shows the waveform, you can see the break or you can see everything, whereas back in the day on vinyl you gotta know, because you can’t see it, the groove. You gotta know the break and what comes after the break and mix it correctly in the right spot. You’ve got to practice. And just love what you do. Or the people will pick up on it, they’ll get the vibe you’re not enjoying it.
What’s next for you? What are you most looking forward to when it comes to music, life?
I can’t wait to get my new computer, it’s coming in a couple days. I’m really looking forward to this North American tour. And it’s my birthday in a few weeks so I’m looking forward to that. And I haven’t been to Toronto in I’m not quite sure how long.
Is there anything else you wanted to add that’s meaningful to you that you wanted to say, to the people, your fans?
Well, I’d just like to say really, thank you for the love. Even you, for yourself, for wanting to interview me. I mean, it means a lot to me. Because as I said, you’re in there doing your stuff and you don’t really realize that people are checking you out and it’s nice, it’s really nice that people appreciate my stuff and it keeps me motivated. It keeps me moving. Ya, I want to thank everybody for that, for sure. And come out, come to the party! Come check me out! (Laughter)! [Toronto - check him out at Cabal, Saturday, May 21st]
Love it. It’s going to be great. I’m so glad we got the chance to talk today. Thank you so much!
Many thanks to Dave for the awesome conversation, and Jennifer from Most Wanted Entertainment for setting this up!