We speak with one of DNB’s oldest and most revered legends in the game to date, AK1200, producer and label boss of Big Riddim Recordings.
You have been one of the biggest names pushing DNB and Jungle in the States since the 90’s and have seen the highs and lows of it. What has kept you going all these years?
I guess it’s equal parts of passion for DnB culture itself and sheer stubbornness. I feel like I got to such an accomplished point in my career that I have a sense of obligation to represent it with all I have, now more than ever. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like I have achieved things that can never be taken from me, and that I actually belong to something far greater than me. I guess pride… yeah, pride is the simple answer to that question.
More and more DNB/Jungle acts are being booked and big tunes are releasing as of late. Do you feel US DNB is in a high period as far as the music goes?
I think American Drum and Bass is at its most promising point right now. There are so many artists that have been at it for a long time and finally found their zone. The one thing across the board that I think is not quite there yet, but well on its way, is comparable mix downs. I hear so many tunes every day that are amazing but if only they were a bit bigger sounding without being muffled or distorted. It’s coming though and quick. I think throughout this year, USDNB will itself have an identity and global appreciation more than ever before.
Last year you did a tour with Gridlok, who recently won US DNB Producer of the Year. Will there be a #DNBSTRONG2015 Tour this year?
DNBSTRONG is our brand. Our vision is to build an entire network based on unifying and collectively supporting every active DJ, Promoter, and Artist who devotes themselves entirely to Drum and Bass culture here in North America. This is the time for all of us to “put up or shut up” and if this form of music is going to truly thrive again over here, it will work with everyone involved pushing nonstop, focusing on what can be done rather than dwelling on any negativity or hostility. We are planning something very special for this year, and including more people as a unit and making it to where each region we travel will also feature the key players from that given market. announcements will be coming soon with regard to our overall concept.
The Florida DNB scene lately has been booming, especially with the upcoming Florida D&B All Stars party. Can you tell us a bit more about this party series?
Well this is an example of me “doing” rather than “saying”. In Florida, specifically South Florida, there are so many crews or collectives and for whatever reason some have fallen out and the result has been counter productive. My hope and goal with what we are doing, is to include every crew and every DJ or producer who is doing their part to push DnB in Florida, forget about any beefs or whatever, and focus on what is most important, strength in numbers, and together we can collectively make a difference and create a demand for the culture we devote ourselves to. Also, it will become much more appealing to the newer generations of post EDM fans searching for a more stable identity. It goes without saying, most DnB fans, are full time DnB, to the core… that passion and that commitment is infectious. If we can project that sort of image through camaraderie, it will drive people to us and the music can then speak for itself. We have fought too hard and too long just to be accepted by promoters, or DJ’s of other genres, and to be taken seriously. And no wonder why, if we can not come together and use collective momentum to add value to the overall aesthetic, why should anyone else take this music seriously, let alone the people involved in it. So this series of shows is a tool to do just that. Unite each other and collectively push the music we care about, and leave our egos at the door.
You recently made a post asking US DNB producers for new and unsigned tunes for an upcoming CD which has everyone excited for it. How is this project coming along?
The “Divided We Fall” concept has been put on a small hold for a few reasons. Most importantly, we may be incorporating this into our DNBSTRONG model, and when we announce our plans with that, it will make more sense, but it may become a bigger thing than just me doing one concept mix. It is likely going to be a series of mixes by multiple people all involved with the forthcoming tour and brand. the idea is still the same, getting all American DnB artists and using whatever influence we have to help give attention to these people who may otherwise not have had the chance to be heard properly or somehow not yet been on the radar of the global DnB labels and “powers that be”…
Do you have any other projects come up that we should keep an eye out on?
I have been completely consumed with my own production lately. It has been difficult to keep up with the standards constantly being set by new artists who master new technology. those of us who were successful 10-15 years ago with production do not automatically have an upper hand nowadays. it’s actually the opposite because the levels of clarity and dynamic range with modern technology makes most any tune from back then sound dull and pales in comparison. I have always put all of my focus into being a DJ, and respected the craft of writing music far too much than to just assume I can jump in and make a tune that will be good enough. I think maybe this is the main thing that causes traditional DJ’s to get salty about producers who quickly become DJ’s to go make loads of money by touring. It is as if they haven’t paid the proper respect or given the adequate amount of attention DJing and its craft have deserved, yet a DJ will always tell you how much work would go into being an artist, it just isn’t reciprocated, so that has probably been somewhat of a catalyst in that whole “instant DJ” thing…. anyway, obviously your question had nothing to do with what I was rambling about, so in short, I have been working my ass off trying to learn how to make really solid tunes on my own, and hopefully you will soon see a few releases, both collaborative and solo, that will help maintain my profile. Just remaining relevant has been the biggest project I have endured in this lifetime, and continue to learn all I can daily to be a better DJ, producer, label owner, friend, Dad, and husband. 🙂
From the entire US DNB community I’d like to say ‘Thank you’ for pushing the music we all love so far here in the states and keeping our scene alive through your dedication for so many years. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, sir.
I just want to say how thankful I am to have had such an amazing career all these years, and am honored to still be considered as someone who matters in this community. It has been a long road, and much of it I learned along the way. I realized what matters most is not who I am or what I have done, but how lucky I have been to even get to make a difference. My passion is this culture specifically, it isn’t just being a DJ, it certainly isn;t the money or the attention or any remote fraction of fame once upon a time. It is because I truly love this music and what it has always stood for. I put this music first, and that has really hurt me many times, especially financially. However, I would not trade it for the world, because I know deep down, long after I am gone, my name will be remembered, and people will see me as someone who gave all of himself to what he believed in and stood firm through thick and thin. thanks again for this opportunity to share my words and my insight.