A surprising amount of talented musicians producing hip hop and other electronic beats that are largely associated with the heavily populated cities like London, Amsterdam or Berlin, have their origins outside of the hectic pace of city centres. Dolenz is just such a fella.
Originally from out in the sticks of the shires, Dolenz keeps himself most busy. As well as spending much of his time crafting his music, he holds down a monthly show on Balamii, not to mention the ever present 9-5. Having been a DJ for two decades and almost as many as a producer, he spent the good part of ten years in Dubai, consistently DJing and promoting hip hop events there.
'Pull' draws you in with its meticulously constructed production, imposing an industrialised and hypnotic edge on the listener soon as it drops, with it sounding like Dolenz has drawn inspiration from the soundbanks of both Public Enemy and FlyLo. Guilty Simpson paints the sweet images, enveloping the beat with flows that really do show he does the rap thing in his sleep. With two further remixes and instrumentals of 'Pull' and the bonus b-side low BPM, bass driven, club banger 'Turnitup', you certainly get more that usual for your corn.
We caught up with the man also known as DJ Solo following the release of his second single on Exit Records featuring Guilty Simpson, ‘Pull’, with B-Side remixes from Darkhouse Family and UK DnB heavyweight dBridge.
What was the first thing you thought of this morning?My film (Lingua Franca) and the planet Geminus.
How would you describe your sound? Exploratory hip hop with an analogue sonic palette based around various tempos. Usually instrumental but on occasion with MCs and vocalists. Or just ‘hip hop’ is fine.
Tell us a little bit about your first EP on Exit ‘Eavesdrop’? Much of my music is conceptual but I also just like to make bangers. I actually set myself the task of incorporating Redman (my favourite MC as a teenager) tracks into a couple of beats and so the vocal chop here is Hurricane G from ‘Tonight’s Da Night’. The beat is kinda hard, though interesting fact: the snare is a recording of me hitting a tree in Swansea. For a while we became obsessed with the purity of the colour orange, and was using that to hide my face on photos and so that inspired the orange cover sleeve and vinyl. Looking back a lot of instrumental beats use vocal chops. I always looked at MCs like Pharoahe Monch as riding over a beat, providing that top melody/rhythm that a horn player might do on a jazz record so I look at vocal chops like that, I guess that comes also from messing around with turntablism.
Name two musicians you think we should listen to and why… Raj Mahal, one of my favourite beatmakers, released some real dope stuff on House Shoes’ Street Corner Music label. Beats are just sick, have a very coherent sonic palette and seem to capture emotions vividly, be it cinematic or melancholy.
And San Francisco’s Mophono aka DJ Centipede. I think he is still fairly under the radar. He had a release I think on DJ Shadow’s label but again his beats are just sick. He uses a lot of outboard gear, so expect a lot of stuttering synths laid over chopped up drum breaks and fuzz distortion.
They sound dope son! Now if you could show everybody in the world one thing you know a lot about, what would you show them? Geology.
Gotta know about the earth...So who / what inspires you to make music? Apart from other artists and people who say they like what I do, I’m driven to compulsively make music as a way of expressing myself and relaying a message. It is my art, so I consider the auditory and visual and how they gel to present my message.
What's the best music concert/gig you've ever been to see? A music professor in Berlin perform on his custom-made modular synth. He had spent 20 years building the synth and incorporated bizarre percussive elements that I had never seen or heard before. He also had snares, cymbals and a kick drum with drum sticks that were automated by varying voltages. The set-up had a mind of its own and every now and then he would step away and let the synth morph into its own sound.
Sounds complex and intense! How did you hook up with Guilty Simpson? I emailed him through his twitter handle and sent him the beat - luckily he liked it. Later on me and Tim (Parker) went to meet him at a gig.
Name a film you think everybody should watch before they die and why they should watch it..‘The Great Silence’ as it has a metaphorical message cleverly relayed via great acting, amazing score and cinematic landscapes. You’ve probably seen it referenced in many newer westerns but you don’t realise it.
What was the last album you bought? Swindle ‘No More Normal’.
If you could only drink one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be? Cognac.
Nice choice, might be a fine Calvados for me. East Coast or West Coast? Too much good on both coasts but I might lean towards the West. I’m talking Alkaholiks, Lootpack, Dilated Peoples, Freestyle Fellowship etc... and also Dibiase, Samiyam and all the beat scene, David Axelrod etc.
Mac Miller or Nipsey Hussle? Sad to say neither of them really floated my boat, but with full respect to both, RIP still.
RIP indeedy. Sirloin Steak or Truffle Beanburger? Sirloin.
The Maybot Or The Corbynator? Corbyn obviously but come now, it looks as if he’s squandered his opportunity.
Hemp or Cotton? I’ll say hemp even though I don’t wear it.
Tell us a bit about your latest single ‘Pull’.. My friend Oli gave the best description I’ve heard so far, ‘industrial sparse beat that sounds like it was made in a steel factory’. The beat actually started off as a remix for Bambooman’s ‘Supergod’ project with Kashmere. As he uses a lot of found sounds, I wanted to record original sounds too, and ended up recording sounds from equipment in a model-making workshop which eventually formed the bass, snare and ambient sounds. They opted to use another beat I made them, but I liked this one a lot so ended up sending it to Guilty who went in hard on it. The bass sounds combined with Guilty’s lyric ‘resident of no planet/I’m an alien’ and when contextualised within the album concept it made me imagine the gravitational pull between two celestial bodies - I then found the cuts and that was it. Following that we enlisted Darkhouse Family and fortunately dBridge to also provide remixes. I also chucked on the club banger ‘Turnitup’ which a lot of heads have been playing out.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? I wouldn’t choose one spot, I would love to have the freedom to move around.
So you lived and also Dj’ed out in Dubai for a good few years. What was the hip hop scene out there like? I connected and worked with artists from across the region including Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Syria. Dubai itself is a transient city and, besides working with my crew, (Solphonic, Toofless and Jibberish) I found it a lot more interesting to work with artists from other countries in the region. The scene in Dubai had potential but most promoters were into more commercial music, so we started doing our own nights in order to hear music we liked. For me, Dubai is a microcosm of humanity, with a fraction of the total population into music that isn't commercial. And so, if you make that real hip hop, you’ll struggle more there in terms of crowd numbers than in many other parts of the word.. On the flip side, there is less competition so opportunities for exposure are abundant. This can mean that a mediocre product gets more praise than it deserves. This could also be said to be true of all music getting both positive and negative sensationalist treatment in our viral age, unfortunate as it is often before proper judgement can be drawn.
Any up and coming artists you’re into and can clue us up on? Not sure if he’s up and coming as he’s been around a while but Venuq from Leeds never disappoints, also the homies 4Tune Empire and Jimi Perspective have some heat!
If there was an overriding message in your music, what would it be? It changes from release to release. My album ‘Lingua Franca’ which is coming out on Exit soon is the soundtrack for an imaginary film I came up with, which is basically one long metaphor as to how humans on the whole are out of sync with Earth, and how we will end up destroying the planet. I use my music to communicate my ideas, or in this case concerns so it depends how I’m feeling on the day. I’m also obsessed with hip hop and want to push it into various directions.
What are your plans for summer and the rest of 2019? I’ve almost pulled together my next release which should feature two of my favourite MCs of all time so I’m hoping to drop that. I have a couple of festivals penned in and will just be looking to travel and get more gigs. I also host a monthly show on Balamii Radio called ‘Infinite Friends’ and would like to focus on developing that and expanding the roster of guests.
Dolenz's second single featuring Guilty Simpson is out now on dBridge's Exit Records. You can buy it here from the Exit Records bandcamp page.
Dolenz - Twitter - Instagram
Guilty Simpson - Twitter - Instagram
Thanks to Simone Sebastian for the article cover photo