Described as Cologne’s ‘Trentemoller of drum & bass’, Dizplay has a long running history of dance floor tearing tunes, often made alongside his brother, N-Phect. However, his first solo album ‘Shift Happens’, which has just dropped on legendary label Basswerk, is an epic of 26 track proportions. Spread across two cds, we see a more dance floor based approach for the first whilst CD2 strays away from the confines of 170bpm for some amazing downbeat music perfect for the sofa rather than the club. We caught up with him to get the low down and see what inspired an album of such epic proportions. Check the promo mix at the bottom of the page as well!
Hi, I understand you’re from Cologne? What’s it been like growing up there, would you say it’s got a decent d&b scene and how’s it influenced you as a person and your musical output?
Cologne has always had one of the biggest d&b scenes in Germany, with its focus less on huge raves (like Bremen and Mannheim), but instead on a vivid club scene. Electronic has always been strong in Cologne, just think about Kompakt and various other labels and artists in techno and electro.
When I moved here, I was instantly hooked by the intense club nights, both d&b and other styles. Having played in bands before, it was just too infectious to not start producing. Along that way, I’m glad to say I’ve met a lot of nice people in the local d&b scene. It’s always about those activists and how they spread the d&b virus.
Who would you describe as your main musical inspirations, both in and outside of d&b?
I’ve grown up with influences like Pink Floyd and Pat Metheny, so I’ve probably always had a favor for electronic music. I can remember me at the age of 10 trying to record and extend a loop of a synth riff off a Pink Floyd song with my cheap tape player, but obviously that didn’t work too well. As a teen I’ve built two musically split personalities by both enjoying Depeche Mode and harder Crossover/Hardcore stuff. It all came together in Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy I guess. From there, the mentioned early d&b nights with their early Virus and No U-Turn sound took over my brain. Konflict and Stakka & Skynet were probably those producers to inspire me the most though.
How did you come up through d&b? What made you first take note of it and start producing?
At my parents’ home, there always was a background of creating music. We had an off-tuned piano at home, and n.phect and I were jamming on it, just hitting low octave notes, which sounded best to us. Later I learned to play guitar in my early teens and played in bands, before I checked out how to create sounds on my computer, back then using Trackers, etc. So producing has always been with me, one form or the other.
How would you describe a typical Dizplay DJ set, both in terms of tune selection and mixing style?
Being a producer in the first place, I’m primarily interested in delivering my vision – instead of trying to be a turn-table wizard. I’ve always mixed digitally, which was the best way to check out my newest tunes and give me some musical freedom, and which btw always was a pain because promoters in the beginning always assumed you would just play vinyl ;) My style as a DJ is very similar to the floor productions of mine, hard but still grooving, with a flavor of techno and bits of melodies.
Your second album, ‘Shift Happens’, is actually your first solo album, with ‘Beaufitul Bytes’ being produced alongside N.Phect, how did you find it working on your own for this one and what differed in the way it was put together?
Instead of doing tune after tune, as before, this time I’ve worked on a big load of tracks in parallel, remixing myself until every single one felt good. I think it’s easy to hear, the album has been kind of a longer ripening period instead of the typical “built in one night” approach. I’m glad I followed this new path because it gave me the time to re-evaluate things, not so much on the details but instead on the broader vision. It also made a lot of sense in giving the album a consistent feel.
‘Shift Happens’ features 26 tracks in total between it’s two CDs, that’s a lot of music! How long have you been working on it and what made you decide to produce such a long release?
Honestly, there was a time in late 2008 when I was pretty much done with d&b. Everything sounded so musically thin, just floor material. Back then I started to produce other stuff, electronic music free of formats. But I couldn’t deny me roots, so more and more d&b tracks started to emerge. But from the beginning of this process I knew it had to be two separate sides/discs, because I wanted the non-d&b tracks to be part of that album release, just as they are part of me. I could put it all onto one single disc, but then the statement wouldn’t have been so strong, it would have looked more like a “me too” approach where neither side would have had the space it required. And for the listener, this hopefully means twice as much fun!
I’ve seen ‘Shift Happens’ described as more mature in it’s sounds and influences then your debut album ‘Beautiful Bytes’, what did you set out to achieve when you started producing it, and how did you want it to progress from your debut album?
On Beautiful Bytes, n.phect and I were focused on delivering tunes to go crazy to when played in the club. Looking back, I’d say this feels more like a collection of 12” kept together by our combined aesthetics. This time, I’ve focused on being a good musician and really working on an album with a broader spectrum of sounds. I especially wanted it to contain both tracks for the floor and to listen to. It’s actually a hard task to consistently combine those two goals in one release, that’s probably why most producers just go for one thing at a time.
Can you give us a walk through of the album, are there any stand out tracks for you? Also, what changes between the two cds?
Side A features 13 d&b tracks, containing euphoric (Mykonos Summer, Panoramic), heavy (Don’t Tell Anyone, Angels’s Share, Punk) and laid-back (Beauty Of The Naïve, Wisdom Of Crowds) tunes. There are also is an n.phect remix of “The Syndicate” I really like. Side B covers a wide range of electronic sounds, both pushy and deep. You’ll also find various vocals tracks. My favorites are probably “Don’t Tell Anyone”, which is a forward-thinking, heavy snare-monster of a tune, and “Midnight”, a versatile song which starts as a piano-based Dubsteppy thing, develops to a pushing house track and ends as a beautiful piano track.
I find CD2 particularly interesting due to it’s more experimental, musical vibe. Are you a musician outside of electronic production? What inspired things like the piano solo at the end of ‘Midnight’?
As mentioned before, I’ve had the luck to be engaged in various musical experiences all my life, played guitar in bands, later added to this the part of managing electronic drums sounds, which was a powerful stage experience to me. On the other hand, I’m listening to a wide range of music, from Jazz to a lot of classic piano albums, besides the obvious electronic stuff. Not too much d&b actually. What matters to me is not the way a piece of music is created, but whether it touches me. Sometimes a new song really strikes me, like the outro track of the last season of “Six Feet Under” (which is Sia – Breathe), and I’m instantly stunned.
Midnight is such an example, based on the piano work of a friend of mine, which I tried to put into an electronic context. The song really takes you on a musical journey, so the piano solo really fit in perfectly.
‘Shift Happens’ has been released on Basswerk, the legendary imprint that’s perhaps the most well renowned out of Germany, how did that come about and how does it feel to have an album released on such a high profile label?
Basswerk boss Heiner aka The Green Man and I know each other for quite some time. Back then when I got into d&b, his club nights were an inspiration, so I was really happy when I found out we share a passion for classic electro sounds, kind of a Detroit techno love. After playing a lot of my just-in-production tunes at a Basswerk sessions night two years ago, I was more than pleased that he asked me whether I’d like to release a solo album on Basswerk. It’s the perfect label for “Shift Happens”, because I doubt many other labels would have had the balls to release such an album.
There’s a few tracks which Leon provides vocals for. How did this collaboration come about and how different did you find it producing with Hip Hop styled lyrics in mind?
Leon and I used to play in a Prodigy-meets-Korn band together, named Sunbomb. I dropped out to focus on producing d&b, but we’ve kept contact, so it’s great to have him featuring his powerful, aggressive style on the album. You should see him perform live!
I don’t really have a Hip Hop background, but I’ve always found the blending of d&b and lyrical styles to be very interesting. On the collab tracks I provided him with rough sketches on which he then performed onto. I then kind of remixed his interpretation using his voice as a “natural instrument” in the arrangement. I think this will be something I’ll use more in future works.
CD1 features an N.Phect remix of ‘The Syndicate’ and I understand he’s your brother. What’s it been like progressing through d&b alongside a sibling also making the same style of music and how do you think it’s influenced your output? Although you seem to produce less together in recent years, to you still bounce ideas off each other a lot?
I think the mutual influence has been the best thing that could have happened to me. Being brothers, we could skip the “building trust” level and focus on the music. Due to the same background, we also share the same aesthetics, although we probably each have a different focus. Also, sharing the DJing experience shaped a lot. When he moved to Berlin, we soon felt it wasn’t the same as sitting in front of the same computer. There’s too much sub-context we couldn’t replicate remotely, so we put things on hold. Of course, whenever possible we talk about the music and sometimes meet for creating beats, so I’m glad he still is the sparring partner to honestly give me feedback. That’s really hard to find in the AIM times.
I’ve noticed a bit of future garage and dubstep working it’s way into the album, are you looking to explore other musical genres? Where do you see your production progressing in the future?
I will surely progress further into those areas. I’m currently working on setting up a live-act, which will allow me to further break boundaries between single tracks and complete styles, which is something I’m really interested in.
What’s next for you release wise?
Until recently, I’ve put all effort into finishing the album, so right now I’m back on start, kind of reset. After this much work in the previous months and years towards “Shift Happens”, I’m really looking forward to the next steps, without really knowing where I will end up next in terms of styles or releases.
Cheers for the time Dizplay! Any shout outs or last words?
Keep an eye on my blog www.neurocode.de, which contains some outside-the-box thinking ;)