Photo: Khali Ackford (dBridge)
Clubs are rarely built, but usually only temporarily occupy other spaces – abandoned theatres or warehouses, former electricity plants or buildings that used to house the delivery horses of the British Post Office. The latter at least was the case with The End, one of the most important nightclubs in London history. Opened in 1995 by Layo Paskin and The Shamen’s Mr C, it counted Roni Size and Fatboy Slim as its residents and before closing permanently in 2009, helped foster the careers of DJs like Erol Alkan. With his mix for our Groove podcast, Darren White pays homage to the sound to the club with the first instalment of three mixes dedicated to the club, which next to techno and house nights was also a meeting point for the burgeoining drum’n’bass scene, a style that White under his dBridge and as the owner of Exit Records has shaped and pushed forward again and again. And while both he and his label have diversified considerably over the years, his mix pays tribute to the many facets of drum’n’bass music that inspired him. Because even though clubs are temporary spaces, the memories and the music remain.
First off, how have you been doing these past year and a half and how do you feel about the reopening process in the UK, how was your experience of that so far?
I’m currently based in Antwerp in Belgium, so things are a little different for me. I’m just going with the flow, to be honest. Things are constantly changing and I’m just having to adapt I, you know. In terms of going back to work, I’m not going to lie: I’m anxious about it. The anxiety I think is natural for everyone. I’ve just come back from a motorhoming holiday around Europe though, so that’s kind of eased me into the idea of travelling again. (laughs) I was in my own little bubble obviously, with my family, but we were visiting places with people so that’s helped, I think, for me. But for the past year, I’ve just been writing music, doing collabs, and trying to connect with people digitally, I suppose, like everyone else.
You have kept quite busy throughout the pandemic and released two albums by yourself and a slew of singles by other producers through your Exit label. What kept you motivated during that time?
I enjoy the process, I enjoy making music. To be honest, this is what I’d rather be doing than going out there DJing and performing. In an ideal world, I’d just be sitting in my studio making music with myself and other people and not having to perform it. Almost having the opportunity to do that and not having to worry about going to clubs and dancehalls has been motivating in its own way. I’ve just really enjoyed it, just enjoyed exploring my studio and my equipment and all those kind of things. It’s been good.
Exit is still mostly perceived as a drum’n’bass label, however recent releases like Malfnktion’s hip-hop leaning No Dough EP and more experimental entries by the likes of Itoa speak a different language. What in your view does Exit stand for, musically speaking, nowadays?
That’s always been a bugbear and something I’ve had to get used to: that for some reason, people see Exit as a drum’n’bass label. Sure, that’s where we come from, but our catalogue would suggest that we are more than that. If you look at it throughout the years, you know, the first album on Exit was a hip-hop album by my brother, Black Pocket. So that should give people some indication of what the label is about. I’ve just always wanted it to be a strong independent label. I’ve been in the fortunate position to release good drum’n’bass that has been influential and I’d like to think that the other music that wasn’t drum’n’bass has also been influential in its own way. (laughs) It’s a difficult question and something I’ve had to deal with personally as well. It’s why I changed agencies, because I just felt like I was with a too drum’n’bass-oriented agency and the kind of gigs I was getting weren’t really beneficial to me and my label. I wasn’t able to really play the across-the-board music that I wanted to play to an audience that I felt needed to hear it. That’s why I’ve made those changes, and hopefully those little things kind of help! I think if people look they can see that we’re about more than drum’n’bass, but it’s just one of these weird myths now and I suppose if it is that what people want to think, then so be it. But if you care to dig a little deeper, you’ll see that it isn’t.
The Weak or No Signal and the digital Inhibited Love LPs closely followed up on Lineage and A Love I Can’t Explain from 2019 and 2018, respectively. Before that, you had mostly eschewed the album format. What got you so interested in working with that format again in recent years?
I suppose I’m a child of that format! I have grown up listening to music in that in that way. From whether it was my mum putting on a John Holt or Dennis Brown album or later, when I started to define my own taste in music, listening to brass albums as a teen young teen in Malvern in the West Midlands or Stone Roses LPs – that was that was my way of experiencing those things. It’s always been something that’s been there. It’s nice to release singles and EPs, just putting out those little snippets and ideas. But I’ve always enjoyed the album format as a as way of telling a story or being a footnote to a certain part of your career or where you’re at musically. It’s something I’ll always be into. But newer generations are consuming things differently, and they consume things differently from such a young age that this format may not be as relevant anymore. So I don’t know. I’m just gonna do do my thing, and hopefully people will be into it!
Marco [Freivogel, a.k.a. Prequel Tapes] reached out to me because Midnight Shift wanted to do release and he asked if I wanted to do it with him. It’s pretty well-documented that I love collaborating, especially with people out from outside of my scene, so I just jumped at a chance, really. We worked remotely, basically, via Dropbox, talking through WhatsApp. I’ve done a few projects like that already, so that wasn’t really a difficult thing for me to adapt to. I like working that way as I still have my own space and I can mess about and fuck things up and not have to worry what someone’s thinking if they’re sat next to me. (laughs) So it worked out really well, I think! I like that I can do my bit and then they can just apply what they do with with the elements that I’ve added. I think he had an idea of what he wanted to produce, but also wanted my sound within there as well. And I think that worked.
Collaborations have played an important role throughout your career. What’s your motivation for working with others and what does a successful collaboration need?
My motivation is just the enjoyment of it, the ease of it. There’s no pressure. Whenever I do collaborations, I’m like: ‘If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work!’ It’s no big deal. And if you don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. Whatever I give to you, just chop it up, do whatever you want to do with it. I’m not precious about about any elements that I add. I think it’s easy in that sense when I work with people, there’s no ego in the way. And generally, things seem to come out quite well. Collaborations work in two different ways. The first is where someone else will start it and maybe have a basic idea of how things should be and I’ll add sounds to it. In that case I almost prefer them to arrange it because they’ve started it that way and I’m just embellishing it with my sounds. Vice versa, if I’ve started a beat and a chord progression or whatever, I arrange it. When working remotely, the arranging side is slightly different, I found. We’re not really like: ‘Maybe you should put that there or that there!’, which will probably happen when you’re in the same room together. But I’ve quite liked the results that have come out all the collaborations I’ve done so far that way. In terms of successfulness, maybe that’s part of it: letting people do their thing and not battling, arrangement-wise, allowing them to do what they want to do. It gives them a peace of mind in some way, and likewise with me. Because they might ask me to change something in an arrangement and I’m just like: ‘Umm okay, for the sake of this collaboration I’m going to do it, but I’m not really into it,’ whereas that doesn’t seem to happen over the internet, weirdly. Maybe it is the kind of letting go when it comes to certain aspects and just not getting in the way of the process. That’s a good part of a successful collaboration.
When Harold Budd died in late 2020, you posted about it and referred to his importance for your work with sampling. What exactly was it that made his work so crucial for you?
Since my first release in 1992, sampling has always been a crucial part of my production before I got really got into synthesis and synths. What goes with that is crate digging and record shopping, and finding an artist and searching out their work. Harold Budd was a part of that for me. Whether it was Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Kitaro or Vangelis: I was very drawn to those to those sounds. Finding those chords and pads and stabs and things that I could use – you’re looking for those those nice, clean elements within a record to be able to manipulate them yourself. I think Budd’s work was definitely a part of that for me, discovering who he was and who he worked with, the labels he released on, led me down these these other paths. And it also led me into into collecting synths as a whole. Rather than sampling I would look into the stuff that they were using, and how they were creating sounds, so I can do that myself. His work and that of others like him were an important part of my journey as a producer. I loved what he did. Rest in peace!
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I’ve done a few mixes recently, among them an Essential Mix, and they kind of reflect what I’m into and I try to cover a range of things. But with this one, and I hope you guys don’t mind [we don’t, ed.], I wanted to send a love letter to The End club. I was sitting and thinking about the fact that we can’t really go clubbing at the moment, and it’s not what it used to be. You start thinking back to some of the good times you’ve had, and it just dawned on me how influential that place was to me, The End, and the music that came through there. Even from its early days to its peak and its demise, it had a huge effect on me and my career. We did the first Renegade Hardware night there. It was the first real club in which I DJ’d where I was like ‘What the fuck!?’. The space was almost intimidating, in a way, but also the sound was like nothing else at the time. There was just so much amazing music. It was when Virus were in their heyday, Prototype, Ram Trilogy … And then obviously, when Fabio was in there, Good Looking was in there … there was just so much great music. I wanted to do an ode to The End and what it meant to me. This is part one. I feel like there’s more to it because there was so much that I couldn’t cram it in. (laughs)
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Collaborations really, I’ve got a lot of collaborations I’m working on. They’re slowly coming out. I’m working on my live set for upcoming festivals and gigs. I think I’m going to be doing more of that than DJing, but we’ll see. Finding new artists as well, releasing new music, we just keep doing what we’re doing and, you know, hopefully just reinforcing the fact that we’re a strong independent label. We release all kinds of music!
Stream: dBridge – Groove Podcast 307
01. Future Forces Inc – Dead by Dawn (Renegade Hardware)
02. DJ Krust – Brief Encounters (Full Cycle Records)
03. Matrix & Dilemma – Spring Box (Genetic Stress)
04. Shimon & Andy C – Quest (VIP) (Ram Records)
05. Optical – The Shining (Metro Recordings)
06. DJ Die & Suv – War & Peace (V Recordings)
07. Ed Rush & Optical – Watermelon (Virus Recordings)
08. Dillinja – Violent Killa (Valve Recordings )
09. Digital & Spirit – Mission Accomplished (Razors Edge)
10. Decoder – Fuse (Elementz)
11. dBridge – Bring Da Flava (Gang Related Remix) (Trouble On Vinyl)
12. Lemon D – Going Gets Tough (Prototype Recordings)
13. Makai – Northstar (Matrix Remix) (Precision Breakbeat Research)
14. Konflict – Roadblock (Renegade Hardware)
15. Ed Rush & Optical – Alien Girl (Prototype Recordings)
16. Jonny L – Piper (XL Recordings)
17. Goldie – Kemistry VIP (Grooverider Remix) (Razors Edge)
18. Faith No More – Ashes to Ashes (Dillinja Remix) (Motor Music)
19. DJ Krust – Soul In Motion (Full Cycle Records)
20. Boymerang – Soul Beat Runna (Regal)