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DLR: Escape Into 'Dreamland'


With so much going on in the world of drum & bass, it's easy to become enamored with an artist than totally lose track of everything they've done. I feel like that's what's happened with me following DLR, who I originally knew from his work with Octane before going solo in 2013. Their Method In The Madness was seen as one of the top LPs of 2012, but DLR's moved on from strength-to-strength since.

In 2015, he dropped Seeing Sounds via the always forward-thinking Dispatch Recordings imprint. There's something about the way Ant TC1 and the crew approach the genre, and DLR exemplifies their ethos in quality controlled, forward-thinking drum & bass. Surprisingly, he's back with another full album, Dreamland, which is available today on vinyl and digital download.

Dreamland is much more of a concept project, highlighting the importance of having your personal haven in this massive (and massively fucked up) world while paying homage to drum & bass being done right; we're talking a keen ear for the late '90s vibe, and some top-notch sound design. With a number of captivating interludes guiding the way, it's easy to see the thought DLR put behind this project.

In our convo, DLR and myself look at the reasons behind going back-to-back with album releases, his own private dreamland, and the importance of dnb returning to its punk attitude.

Dreamland is coming just one year after the release of Seeing Sounds. What made you choose to hop back into album mode so soon after releasing that project?
It was just a natural progression, really, nothing intentional, and during the process of this album I’ve been feeling like its a mistake so soon after the last one. Realistically, with how fast the scene moves these days, locking yourself away for a year writing albums after albums is maybe not the best way to progress, as it leaves everyone thinking and wondering what is happening in regards to new material. I was looking at a long play EP with Dispatch, [but] during [those discussions] we looked at the possibility of doing an album. I was obviously easily persuaded because before I knew it there I was writing the fourth album of my relatively-short career. Until this day I have no idea if its been a good or bad idea writing so many albums…does that mean I’m known as an album artist? And if so, what does that mean for me?? Can I do the interviewing now?? [laughs]

[laughs] Maybe next time. This album has a deeper meaning than many; there's a feeling that the album deals with you wanting to “resist the inadequate reality we are sleepwalking into,” as the press release says. In a year where the UK went through Brexit while the US saw Donald Trump win the presidential election, would you say these issues specifically came to play in the concept, or is it more involved than that?
Like most of us, you know where we are at in this world; we know what we’re doing this beautiful place. As humans, we're are destructive and dangerous, we've done so well just to make it this far. So here we are witnessing some of craziest political disasters that our generations have ever witnessed. We often pretend that we blindly walk into or wake up in this reality, that we don’t have control over our own future, etc. Of course we have some control—we have control over our own lives and futures. Why can’t that involve the lives and futures of others? We can definitely work together to fix up where we have gone wrong in the past and at least try and sculpt a future which is at least 0.0001% better than the future we are currently walking into; that to me is a success, so lets strive for more than that and see just how much we can do to create a better world for ourselves, for the younger generation, and the generations to come. All we can do is try, and when we stop trying, inevitably we are fucked…

The idea of a “dreamland” alongside the different issues you bring up about today’s society come into focus via the multiple interludes throughout the project. How do you feel the use of these interludes in progressing the concept or story of the album forward?
I wanted the interludes to reflect either the dreamland that we live in or the dream-like state that we all love. This can involve the reality of the world that surrounds us, or the escapism that we all seek in TV, gaming, raving, taking drugs, dreaming, exercise, whatever your escape may be. I felt like a few interludes should help get that message across to the listener so that the idea of Dreamland was not just one-dimensional or a name for an album.

The flipside is that Dreamland you dug into a more older school style of dnb, with an emphasis on sound design specifically. Did you take a lot of influence from the dnb producers that came before you in Bristol? And how important was it to keep that Bristol vibe alive with the collaborators you chose?
Collaborations were all natural, I just work with the people around me because I enjoy working with them; no massive amount of thought was applied.I am a big one for totally overthinking everything to the extreme, so I feel happy when i can let things evolve naturally. It makes sense that three of the collaborators (Break, Hydro, and Mako) live close to me in Bristol, and I think all of us are influenced by the history of this city. However, I do feel we are trying to create our own sound, and direction, although paying homage to what we love and know, we always want to push things forward. Personally, I love minimal funky steppers that roll out for days, that's the sound I grew up on and that's what I want to hear.

Did you go back and listen to your favorite older dnb tracks to build influence?
Funny you say that! I was thinking [about] this the other day; I really should go back and compile some absolute favorites, study them and try and recreate a modern day version of the sound that I love. However, every time I think [about] this, I never actually do it. A lot of that sound is locked up in my mind anyways, and keeping my distance means that I can try and write music that is at least original sounding—I hope—however currently I am majorly lacking in inspiration, so I feel it's massively important for me to trigger some form of creativity and passion in my mind; I might just do this!

How do you find your own private “dreamland?” Is it something that comes out through your production, or do you find other ways to escape?
I guess I find a lot of escapism in production, but especially DJing. When the party is good [and] the set-up and soundsystem are good, I can get totally lost in the music and my mind for an hour or two. It's such a pleasant experience, I wish I could access that moment on more of a regular basis as it offers me so much peace and allows me to feel the positivity that I otherwise do not feel because it's masked in the madness of the life that surrounds us. Pretty standard story of escaping reality, but something most of us share in common!

We don’t really see a lot of album-based dnb projects really going where you’re trying to take things. Do you think the genre has more room for headier ideas?
I think so, we can do what we want after all. It can be hard to think outside the box; there is a lot of pressure in the modern world to adhere to a certain policy, or in our case a certain sound. Musicians since the dawn of the art had this pressure, and since then its grown and grown. Now with the internet, it leaves us all very confused and I personally find it extremely hard to start to think outside of the box, be a little more selfish, and achieve what I want to achieve [while] not worrying about the mass market reaction or lack of reaction to a project that I’ve poured my heart and soul into. I don’t blame people, but it would be nice if we all grew some balls and started to bring back that punk attitude that dnb is famed for, we can break down some of these recent conventions and start rewriting our own future. Or at least we can try…this is what is important.

What are some of your standout tunes from Dreamland?
Classic cliché from me, but I definitely have some favs like "Wheel of Fortune" or "We’re All Wrong." The album is all about the holistic approach instead of breaking it down into individual works and missing the whole concept and point of the original album.

Could you see yourself working towards an album release in 2017?
I said this after the last one, but I just don’t think i can do it! I’m hoping this statement will be the catalyst to more creativity and inspiration as it worked last time! Realistically, I don’t think I can bring myself to delve so deep into my own mind again; it's destructive for me, and the people around me. Also, in a music scene where everything moves a thousand million miles and hour, it means that my head is in my computer constantly procrastinating over trying to finish yet another album instead of keeping things moving, working on smaller projects whilst building up my energy and sanity to start that next big project whatever it may be.

Don’t forget myself and Mako started a new project called OneMind which is on Metalheadz; the album already done, and being released in parts starting this month. So things are absolutely crazy!

DLR's 'Dreamland' is out now via Dispatch and all good digital download outlets. Here's a collection of interviews—and mixes!—based around the album and some of its contributors.


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