Under the sinister obscurantist-shaman-inspired make-up we expected to find a much more obtuse, sombre, mysterious selector and artist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Colin Baley, the man behind the alias Drums Of Death, answers our e-mail questions affably, thoughtfully and with familiarity, after freely giving us this 55-minute set. The session, far from evoking any malign spirit, is a brief review of house music of varying intensity, from a variety of periods. It places more festive transitions like the Hrdvision cut, alongside other moments of greater emotional intensity, like its epic-sounding final cut, Octave One’s “Black Water”. Not only because of the selection he’s made, we sense that DoD is at a lighter, more penetrating and sumptuous stylistic point. His recent trilogy of EPs for Civil Music, which culminated in the release of “Blue Waves EP” in June, had already signalled to us this change of tone, in which Baley has replaced frenzy with groove and anxiety with delight.
But let’s be clear that this transformation has nothing to do with a hypothetical renunciation of his artistic past. On the contrary. DoD can boast of having had a really hot career during his early years dressed as a tribal sorcerer: putting out a bunch of titles for Greco-Roman, remixing icons like Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand and Tricky, working side by side with the queen of the “unshaved armpits”, Peaches, and going onstage at a variety of latitudes all over the planet. His future looks to be as good as his past, with a new live show where the visual part is fundamental, tours around Asia and his appearance as a collaborator on Azealia Banks’ first album. From the rainy British summer, this is what Drums Of Death, who admits to being a bit more mature, has to tell us.
In the last months you have changed your sound. It seems like you have moved from a heavier sound, closer to electro-house and blunt electro pop, to a territory closer to these new UK house producers like Julio Bashmore, George FitzGerald, Mosca, Dark Sky, Breach, etc. How did that change take place?
My sound evolved because I stopped writing songs as the base for the tracks. My production drives my tracks now.… I'm letting my music do the talking. I make more melodic house and then veer into techno territory, it just depends what mood I'm in.
You have just closed a trilogy of EPs on the Civil Music label with the third release, “Blue Waves EP”. Before that, we had “Black Waves EP” and “Red Waves EP”. Why did you want to release your new stuff in a trilogy format? And what’s up with the colour name of the EPs, do you relate sounds with colours like the synaesthetic people?
It's an oblique way of showing I've changed. The trilogy of EPs came in an optical-art style set of sleeves with my face set into them. This is because as with the music, where the focus is less on my personality as it had been on stage, the point of the sleeves was to show that the face paint doesn't mean anything. It's just my way of being known onstage. I think a lot of people see colour in music, we associate music as readily with emotions and mood as we do with colour. So synaesthete or not, I think music has colour. I started at Black; this was a dark record, so it felt right. Red and Blue Waves both felt like their respective colours.
Besides your trilogy on Civil Music, recently we have seen you collaborating with Azealia Banks in “Nathan”. How did this collaboration come up and how has the relationship with Azealia been so far?
I first heard about her a few years ago when my ex-girlfriend played me 212. After that my manager hooked us up via e-mail and we started sharing ideas and I sent her some beats. We met in London last year when I started to work on her album. It's really something how much people connect with her.
We’ve seen you several times playing in Barcelona in recent years and I think all of the times were live acts, am I right? Do you prefer to do live acts rather than DJing, and why?
I play live almost all the time. Especially now with this new audio/visual show, it's so exciting to do. I only play new music now too, nothing older than Black Waves. Some tracks are very new. I love DJing too… in fact in a lot of my live shows now I go DJ somewhere after I play, this I love. I DJ with just vinyl and CD, no laptop. It's a chance for me to play jacking house, techno and also go real deep with more dubby techno… my DJ sets are comprised of the music that I love and wish I made.
In these live acts the energy was so aggressive, especially the drums and percussions. But now I can’t imagine your new music with this kind of live performance. How is your new live performance, how do you adapt your new music to your live act?
Those older shows… I was still full of punk rock energy, the music reflected this. The songs were urgent and frantic. Well, now the music can breathe deep and the show is full of energy but also features deeper sections and tracks. I've said that Drums Of Death has grown up a little and I think this is true. Believe me, the new show is a lot better.
What about the costume? Why did you choose the skull–terror costume as your Drums of Death uniform? Are you planning a change in the future?
Ha. It's my logo. When I walk on stage you know it's me. Why change it? It's never meant anything more than that, really. I love it when people come to the shows in the paint too, it's just fun. I bring live synths too and my little studio mixing desk on tour now, so it's more technical, but still everything gets covered in sweat and paint.
How did you choose the songs for the podcast? What was the criteria you used to select the music?
I just chose a lot of the newest music I'm into. I usually DJ a lot of older music too, but for once I wanted to do a mix of some dope new promos I was sent and some new tracks I'm loving. There's a little older Octave One there; alongside the new L-Vis 1990 Workout track there's one from him from a few years ago. Some MikeQ, old Green Velvet and a couple of George Fitzgerald. It's varied.
You have named the set “A techno to jackathon kind of affair”. Please, explain the meaning of the title to us.
It's me not really having a better title at that moment and then not remembering to change it… if your listeners want to re-title it then please call it something better… “Drums Of Death all up in your ears…” No, that's no good either. Tonight, I'm not good at titles. I just hope they enjoy it as much as I did doing it. If so, then I want your people to tweet me with them dancing to it.
Exactly where and how did you record the set?
I made some edits of the tracks earlier and then burned it all onto CD and then did it all live. I like the raw vibe… DJ mixes are documents of the moment.
What will you be up to for the rest of the year?
July is my writing month, but in August I go to Asia again, and then in September some club shows and a slot at Bestival here in the UK. Right now, it's writing and then touring. More stuff with Azealia too.
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