Digital Soundboy are the soundest sound system in the world
Since its launch London's Digital Soundboy label has gone from strength to strength, maintaining the respect of the electronic music community worldwide. Having just dropped Jakwob’s new single Somebody New, we sat the whole team down for some tequila...
DSB by Stephanie Sian Smith
Born almost 10 years ago, the label remains one of the strongest and most respected in the dance music scene. Digital Soundboy has curated a family (and they really are like a family) of like-minded, undeniably talented individuals through the medium of sound.
Introducing the squad; Breakage, B.Traits, Dismantle, 'boss man' Shy FX and the newest member of the DSB team, Jakwob - a dream team of producers and DJs spanning the bass-forward genres of drum & bass, jungle, reggae, dubstep, house and everything in between with an unequivocal wealth of musical knowledge between them. Thick as thieves, the DSB family appear to be an unstoppable force, taking the Digital Soundboy revelry to festivals and carnivals across the world and back to sell-out shows in the DSB birthplace of London. Keen to get to know his new crew a little better, Jakwob had a few questions for the the team, so we thought we'd listen up and learn a thing or two about the team currently keeping the Snowbombing mountains alive with the sound of music.
B.Traits: I like this... Digital Soundboy: The Round Table. I think the first question should probably go to Shy!
Shy FX: Can I have an easy question to start off with please? I just woke up.
Breakage: What's your approach to nurturing artists like myself?
Shy FX: So easy! Well, it depends because everyone starts at a different level. When you joined the label you were obviously already doing your thing. You'd roll out tunes for like 12 minutes, so the vibe with you was more to learn what to keep in a track and what to get rid of.
Jakwob: Will, [Dismantle] do you get teased for being the youngest?
Dismantle: Yeah. Quite a bit.
B.Traits: He does the most amazing things though, like when he falls in pools.
Dismantle: In Prague I was at a gig in a bunker and to get into this third room you had to climb across a ledge over a pool of bunker water and I fell into it. I was soaked and I had to change clothes into baggy trackies with holes in them and a T-shirt that didn't fit with paint on it.
Breakage: Classy bird!
Shy FX: So, when can we expect your album Breakage?
Breakage: Sometime between now and early 2025. At the speed that the internet moves it'll probably be up for all to see in about two hours?
Shy FX: What can we expect from it?
Dismantle: I was checking it out in the car on the way here actually.
Breakage: Yeah, he looked really unimpressed... like 'I can't believe I thought of you as a friend.'
B.Traits: Classic Breakage? Or are you going for a different sound?
Breakage: Slightly different. Definitely more of a mixed bag than the last one. The slowest tune is 97bpm.
Jakwob: Are you singing on any of them?
Breakage: I've actually done a couple of vocals on the album but they're all in the background and got loads of effects and pitch shifters on. So I'm essentially just whispering like a creep in the background.
Jakwob: How did you all meet?
Breakage: I remember when I met Shy… you did a compilation CD and re-licensed one of my tracks, So Vain, years and years ago. I was out with my mates in one of those semi-poncey clubs up central London. I was standing there and I was pissed and…
B.Traits: Typical breakage.
Breakage: …Yeah, right? And then, I saw Shy and I was like 'oh my god' to my mate 'that's Shy FX, that's Shy FX.' And he said 'you should go and say hello' and I thought fuck it, why not. You looked a bit bewildered as to what I was doing. Like 'why is this drunk boy talking to me?' So I sent over some tunes, acted awkward around you for about 3 years. Then started up being my own natural, weird, stupid self.
B.Traits: Would you say that Shy helped you become that weird, natural, stupid self?
Breakage: Well he definitely doesn't help keeping it under wraps!
Shy: I met Bri [B.Traits] in Canada on a world of drum & bass tour. Which was a tour DJ SS used to do. Was it Vancouver? We started talking properly once we started touring together and it went from there!
Jakwob: I met Shy in Jersey…
Breakage: Holiday together? [laughs]
Jakwob: Pretty much. No, we were both there for a show and I knew that we were going to be stuck on this island for a while and that I could probably say anything I wanted and get away with it. We were backstage and just talked for ages didn't we? It was a really weird one. Wait, I mean the show was a weird one! [laughs]
B.Traits: Jersey got a bit weird huh?
Jakwob: Yeah, Jersey was weird.
Breakage: Like Grease. Summer lovin'! [laughs]
B.Traits: Does anyone here still pull out the old vinyl? What's your favourite 12"? Will?
Dismantle: My dad owns Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon vinyl, which is pretty good.
Shy FX: My favourite vinyl is a Donna Summer tune, because it's red. It's the first time I saw coloured vinyl.
B.Traits: Mine would probably be my first one which was Dillinja - Live or Die (laughs).
Jakwob: Bob Marley and the Wailers - Live! That's what my family used to play around the house.
Breakage: Mine is between Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III and Led Zeppelin IV. If I could put all of those together that would be the one. And maybe a couple of the later Beatles albums when they got really weird and started doing drugs and shit.
Shy FX: If there was a track you wish you'd made, which one would it be?
Breakage: Baby Elephant Walk if anyone knows that, or Little Spanish Flea.
B.Traits: I do know what that is! That is weird as fuck!
Breakage: They play them at like baseball games though! It's just super happy tunes. You can't be mad listening to those tunes. No matter how mad you are, if you listen to Baby Elephant Walk, it will automatically change your mood. So therefore, I'd love a sea of all this deep music and then just something ridiculously flamboyantly happy. That would be hilarious.
Shy FX: Okaaaaaayy….
Jakwob: I probably wish I'd made Staying Alive by the Bee Gees. Something like that.
Breakage: You've got the hair for it!
B.Traits: I think I'd say Heart of Glass by Blondie! It's another thing to ask, could you have made that tune? Like fuck, that's my bass line! That is MY bass line, that's something you would say Shy! You've totally done that before.
Shy FX: No, you can always tell when someone's been influenced by what you've done. Let's just say that.
Dismantle: How does it feel when you hear a track that's clearly influenced by you?
Shy: It actually depends on the time because if I've just made a tune and someone's ripped it and hasn't even given it a chance to breathe and do it's thing then I get really, really pissed and I make a few phone calls. But when a year goes by and someone's influenced by what you're doing then that's all good. It all depends how close they get as well. I mean I literally had someone copy the drums, bass line, melody, everything. It was a remix, a bad one.
B.Traits: Something you have to know about Shy is he is the bass line king. The bass line master!
Shy FX: I have my moments.
Dismantle: So Jakwob, Somebody New's a bit different isn't it?
Jakwob: Yeah, that's kind of the idea really. It's quite a change in direction.
Shy FX: It's a wicked tune.
Jakwob: Thank you! The new single's cool. I'm still trying to keep a classical side to it with keys but I've given it a dancier side too, that's what Shy's been helping with. It's all about making them work together - working on the relationship between the bass line and the kick drum for a week! It has turned out to be a really interesting record that definitely sits somewhere between where I've come from and where I'm going.
B.Traits: I think with every release on Digital Soundboy, someone else on the label has got a hand in it too. I mean Shy is always on hand for everything that comes out on DSB, and Breakage is definitely a drum man.
Breakage: How did everyone get into DJing?
Dismantle: I was the only one that liked drum & bass out of my lot. So yeah I bought some vinyl! My first one was actually a Digital Soundboy one, Everyday by Shy FX and T Power, and then I just started mixing and finally realised what you had to do to actually mix two tunes. I didn't know what I was doing to be honest. I'm still learning. Then I got a copy of reason and started making tunes, making drum & bass, then dubstep and into whatever it is now…
Shy FX: I started in the soundsystem days. I was doing the whole reggae sound system thing, carrying speaker boxes and what not and I upgraded from that to DJing or selecting, we didn't have the mixer at that time, and production followed then the DJing followed that.
Dismantle: When did you change over from vinyl to CD?
Shy FX: I can't remember the time but I remember why! I had a bag of dubplates that went missing! I didn't really want to let go of the whole dubplate culture and vinyl culture so I cut the dubplates all over again, spent a ridiculous amount of money and then British Airways lost my records AGAIN! So that was when I decided to make the switch.
B.Traits. So the future of the label and releases, what's going on bossman?
Shy FX: Jakwob's single has just dropped, which I'm really excited about. We've got Breakage's album coming soon.
Breakage: Which he's less exited about…
Shy FX: We've got a project from Dismantle...
Breakage: Even less exciting... [laughs]
Shy FX: Yourself with your compilation and singles and I've got a reggae album coming out with a dancehall project. And also a joint DSB comp!
Breakage: Why Reggae?! You're supposed to make drum & bass forever!
Shy FX: Reggae has always been at the roots of what I do and especially when it comes to bass lines and the general vibe so I thought instead of sampling or being influenced by reggae its time to actually make a reggae album similar to the stuff that I grew up on.
Jakwob: What does label need to stand the test of time?
B.Traits: This man! [points to Shy]
Shy FX: I don't know, I don't even think about that. I look at labels that I really loved back in the day and there were labels that were just concerned about putting out good quality music no mater what. I don't believe in labels that have sister labels to test out a tune. If it's a good tune, it's a good tune. If its not, its not. I think all of us we share the same vision and we all talk about music 24/7. But you also have to just be aware of what's going on. Like when Dubstep was really popping, just because I was a fan of the music it doesn't mean I should make the music and the bass house thing is popping right now but it makes no sense me getting involved just because I like some of the tunes that are around at the moment. I like to make music when not many people are really on that wave…
Jakwob: I've experienced Shy's mentor capacity recently… how's he helped you guys out?
B.Traits: He helped me become an artist rather than just a DJ, which is what I was when I first started. He's really great at moulding people into becoming artists; I think everyone will agree, he's really good at telling you how it is. Even if you don't want to hear it. Even if I cry!
Text James Hutchins
Photography Stephanie Sian Smith
Hair and makeup Nicola Moores
Jakwob – Somebody New ft. Tiffani Juno is out now.