Dax J is a London born, Berlin-based DJ, producer, and label boss. His trademark sound is heard so often in some of the most revered clubs around the globe, evident of the rapid success of his remarkable career. A capstone of which can be seen in 2016, where he was voted in at number 56 into Resident Advisor’s Top 100 DJs of the year.
Adding to his already impressive résumé, his closing sets for Awakenings at ADE in the Gashouder as well as a marathon 10 hour set in Berghain are just a couple of his many highlights from last year.
Ahead of his Australian debut for Bunker later this month, we were lucky enough to have a chat with Dax about all things sound, the success of Monnom Black, and the evolution of rave culture.
B. You’re someone who is typically known as a hard worker and somewhat of a purist – with a degree in music technology, as well as working as a Sound and Mastering engineer. How do you think this background in ‘sound’ affects the way you construct your tracks? Do you think you would be making this type of music without it? Or would you even be making music at all?
I think I tend to spend too long trying to create the perfect mixdowns, as a result of being deep into engineering and mastering, I’m always trying to make the track sound better.
I was already making a lot of Drum n Bass tracks at the time when I started to study Music Technology, and this was all I wanted to do at this time, but making dance music like that was only a miniscule part of my course which was very disappointing. I’d ask my tutors, “how do I make a reece baseline?” and they would reply “er…whats a reece?”
If I was to do it all again or advise anyone, I would do a private course like SAE. Its a lot more focused specific to DJ’s and Music production and you can do the full degree quicker than at Uni.
B. You also have a large background in Jungle, Drum and Bass and other UK styles of music. Aside from this, are there specific techno producers at the moment that are really influencing your work?
I love many many Techno artists, but I try not to be influenced by any of them, not consciously anyway! I take more influence from Jungle, and I always felt its best to try and do your own thing.
B. You’ve mentioned you create soundscapes and more experimental stuff at home but never release it commercially. Do you think there will be an avenue for you in the future to release this type of music? Or would you rather stick to club-ready tracks?
I have been releasing them for the last 2 years, my last 4 eps, and album from 2015, have all contained more left field, ambient and non-dancefloor tracks. This is something I will continue to do. It’s opened up my tracks to DJ’s who are more into that other side of the music, people that wouldn’t normally play my 4×4 stuff, so I’m happy to be reaching new audiences.
B. Tell us about the creation of your label Monnom Black. Specifically, how did you create the name, and how does it feel to watch it grow with so much success?
I enjoy working on it, bringing through new artists is always a pleasure too. I’ve never been in a rush to release music though, the label has always been about quality over quantity, and so I think this has helped to create the strong fan base it has. The people who have been following the label know and understand that every release is special. For me the aim is to get to a point where the buyer doesn’t even have to listen to the record in order to buy it. I used to be like this when I was growing up buying drum n bass records. Whenever I saw a Ram, Virus or Bad Company record it was an instant buy, you didn’t have to listen to it in the store, you just took it because you knew the record was going to be a killer!
B. When you first started creating music did it take you a while to overcome that initial unhappiness with what you created? As in, when a lot of artists first begin creating, their work often doesn’t come out how they’d like it for the first few months or years. Did you experience this, and if so, how did you overcome it?
Yes I did experience it, I think that’s normal with everyone. You only overcome it by being relentless and putting in thousands of hours, it’s the same with all arts, you are constantly learning, refining and improving.
It’s always been a roller coaster. When I first started making tracks I was about 16 years old, I remember thinking at the time that those 1st tracks, in my mind, were simply amazing! Then after a few weeks I would frustratingly realize how wrong I had been. They were absolute shit! Then I’d learn more and make better tracks, and then realize they too were not so good after all. And it stayed like that for a while.
These days I just experience good patches and bad patches. I used to get very frustrated going through a block, it can feel like the end of the world. But now I’ve learnt to try and remember that the good patches always come back around. It’s always in cycles and it’s always been like this for me.
B. What are your thoughts on the current British techno scene at the moment? Do you see more innovation and experimentation coming out of new artists or do you think they’re sticking to their roots?
The UK scene has always been very strong musically. We have always had one of the best music scenes in the world and it’s as rich as ever. UK techno is on fire, and a lot of new British artist are coming through and definitely pushing the boundaries in my eyes for sure!
B. You were nominated into Resident Advisor’s top 100 DJs last year, a really amazing accomplishment. What are your thoughts on lists in general? Do you think it allows audiences to gauge who they’re about to go and see if they’re unfamiliar with them, or do you think they’re unnecessary?
It was very humbling to be in Resident Advisors Top 100 DJ’s as I think they are one of the few credible lists left. I think lists are fun and they promote the music. I remember reading DJ Mag at school and seeing the Top 100 before I had started dj’ing, and that used to inspire me. It made me want to learn more about the dj’s and listen to their sets.
B. Looking back on your first rave in the UK to parties around the globe that you’re hosting or playing now, how do you think dance music and it’s culture has changed?
Of course it has evolved and changed, and so many factors add to this, such as, technology and drugs have both changed a lot in the last 30 years, and so this has effected the way music is made and sounds, and also the way people party. But I think to the essence its still the same, its just people wanting to go out to have fun, experience great music and escape some of the mundane routines of life.
B. As this tour will be your debut in Australia, what are some of your thoughts or expectations ahead of your trip? Can you kind of sense what the crowd will be like?
I’m very excited because it will be my 1st visit to Australia and it has always been a place I’ve wanted to go. I met a lot of Australians when I was traveling around South America and Asia some years ago, if they are anything to go by then I think its going to be a crazy party, they were mental!
B. What are you most excited for in 2017?
Upcoming tours in America, Asia, a lot of nice European Summer Festivals and coming to Australia of course!