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Feature: djimboh [Interview]

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djimboh has been a musician all his life, learning classical instruments as a child before moving over to guitars and drums as a teenager, where he found his rhythmic calling. Despite dreams of becoming a rock star, it was a chance encounter on a pair of decks at a house party that ignited his obsession with electronic music.

Having honed his DJ skills over many years, he has developed a unique creative approach to mixing that values seamless melodic transitions as highly as impeccable tune selection. Since early 2019, djimboh has focused on producing original music, scoring releases on labels like Earthly Delights, Mango Alley, OKO Recordings and Immersed, with his signature blend of subtly driving, melodic and emotive sounds. Now as he returns to Immersed for a remix of Gambitt's 'Into Your Head' we catch up with djimboh in this exclusive interview. Enjoy.

Hi djimboh, thanks for sitting with us today! Tell us where in the world you are and what your plans for the week are.

Hi guys! Thank you for having me! I’m currently sitting in my studio just outside London in a little village near Reading, England. Like many of us around the world, my only plan for the next few weeks is to stay at home… I expect a lot of creators are being very productive during these unprecedented times, but I have two small children and still have a full-time job to do from home, so it’s not resulting in quite as much studio time as I had hoped for!

Tell us more about your story. How did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer and DJ?

I started piano lessons at age 4, so I’ve been into music since I was really young. Predictably, I got bored of the classical instruments by the time I was a teenager, so I switched to ‘cooler’ ways to make music, like drums and guitars. I’ve been in lots of bands over the years and loved the feeling of making music with other people, but I didn’t have much interest in writing original stuff. I think the love of rhythm, percussion and groove from the years of being a drummer is what drew me naturally towards electronic music. I had a friend at university who had a pair of turntables and played music I’d never really heard before. He let me loose on the decks for a couple of hours at a house party and I was instantly obsessed. For the next 12 years, I spent most of my spare time hunting down tunes and honing the art of mixing. While the desire to write music grew, the fear of failure always stopped me from investing the time required to learn. Then one day, I just decided that I was going to quit making excuses and commit to giving it a proper go; immediately, I fell totally in love with making music to the point where it now dominates every single minute of my spare time.

How has growing up and living in the UK influenced your career and the music you make?

My dad has a super-eclectic taste in music, so growing up I listened to everything from classical to Motown, rock, indie, country, you name it. As a teenager, I was mostly into in guitar-based music, which was boosted by the fact that everywhere I’ve lived over the years had a thriving live music scene - I spent a lot of time as a teenager going to gigs or jamming with my mates. As I got older, fun times at house parties, nights out and trips to Ibiza made me lean towards electronic music. While the club scene in general has had its challenges over the last few years, London is blessed with some incredible venues like Fabric, Printworks, Corsica Studio and so many more. Every time I go raving it’s always packed to the rafters. The experiences I have at these clubs are really my main inspiration for making music - just seeing it bring people together and make everybody happy. I really hope the venues can survive the current crisis and bounce back, because there will be a lot of people who are very ready to dance about and hug a stranger on a packed dancefloor.

Tell us about your record/music collection, what were some of your early influences?

My early CD collection was generally across the rock/indie spectrum with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Radiohead, Weezer, and more. I had a bit of a ska punk phase too, as it’s impossible not to smile when you listen to that type of music. When I started getting more into electronic music, I was listening to a wide range of stuff from Daft Punk to Chemical Brothers, Justice, Trentemoller, Mylo, Gabriel & Dresden, Jacques Lu Cont and Way Out West to name a few.

At which club or event did you experience electronic music for the first time and what memories have stuck with you from that moment?

My first proper clubbing experience was at a Godskitchen night at AIR, Birmingham in the mid 00s. I have no idea who played, but just remember a sea of fog and strobe lights, feeling the bass reverberate round my chest and absolutely loving it. I’d always expected ‘clubbing’ just to be dancing really intensely in a big room, so it was eye-opening to experience the intimate, inclusive vibe and sheer joy on every face. Although it wasn’t my first clubbing experience, seeing Groove Armada and James Zabiela at Space in Ibiza was a genuinely life-changing event. From that moment, I knew that electronic music needed to play a bigger part in my life, and it become more than just an occasional hobby.

Can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar

Juliet – Avalon (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)

Sia – Numb (Paradise Soul Remix)

Lane 8 – Every Night

Telepopmusik - Breathe

I think for a lot of artists, music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true for yourself? Where does inspiration come from?

I’m still relatively new to music production. Initially, I had a head full of ideas, and the challenge was translating those thoughts into sound using unfamiliar technology - with no workflow or clue how I’d ever get to the finished product. Now I’ve been at it a little while, the tools have become second nature. I have a set process that I follow once I get that starter idea up and running. More recently I’ve found that I’m most inspired to create new music after enjoying non-musical art forms. It might be a film, exhibition, photography series or even a TV show. If it struck a chord and left me thinking about it for hours afterwards, I try to tap into that feeling to create something new and keep it at the front of my mind throughout the process.

You have a remix out now of Gambitt’s ‘Into Your Head’, tell us a bit about how you approached the remix and walk us through the production process if you can.

I got to listen to an early working version of the original and instantly loved it - especially the vocal - so I was stoked to then be asked to remix the track. My first aim was to come up with a new chord progression and bassline that complimented the vocal, but also to leave room to incorporate some of the other original elements. Once the bassline was down, all the percussion and arrangement seemed to come together pretty easily. I played around with a few vocal atmosphere samples and quickly found a couple that fitted perfectly around the main vocal. I then added a bell lead and some pads, and the track was nearly done. It took a while to get the build and drop right, but it still ended up being one of the quickest start-to-finish projects I’ve worked on despite being one of the most sonically complex.

The remix was released via Immersed, a label you have developed a great relationship with over the last year, tell us how that began and why it’s become such a comfortable home for your music.

I first heard of Immersed after hearing a Rylan Taggart remix on their first Atmospheria compilation. A few weeks later, I randomly started chatting to Alex (the label founder) in a Facebook group for producers looking to get feedback on work-in-progress tunes. He liked the track I was working on, and signed it as soon as it was finished. From then on, Alex has been super supportive in helping me find my feet as a relative newcomer in the industry. For me the label epitomizes the type of sound that I love making and playing: melodic, emotive and chilled house music that isn’t afraid of being driving and progressive. They also work incredibly hard on every release from a promo and management perspective, which is exactly what you need from a label as an emerging artist. Although it’s a still a young imprint, they’ve managed to attract some amazing names on both originals and remix duties, which is testament to their vision and hard work. There’s no doubt the label will continue to grow and I’m excited about their future!

Which do you enjoy more, writing original material or remixing? And what do you look for when choosing a remix project?

I love making my own music but recently I’ve really enjoyed producing remixes. This often means skipping the first hurdle - getting an initial idea off the ground. The best remix opportunities are ones that have one or two elements that I love on their own but are flexible enough to be moulded into a completely new sound and chord progression. Ideally, some of the other more subtle original elements can then be blended in, keeping the end product close enough to the original while still being a completely new, unique piece of music. I’ve recently done a few collaborations as well and really enjoy that process – the end result is usually a tune that neither producer would have come up with on their own, and it’s a great way to cross over into different styles while retaining your own personal stamp on a track.

What’s a piece of gear that gets used on every track? And what are some of your favourite studio tools?

Until fairly recently, I was making everything digitally. However, I’ve now set off down the rabbit hole of analog and modular synthesis. The trouble is that you can spend a whole day just experimenting with sounds and improvising, but not have much to show for it at the end of the session. With limits on how much time I’m getting in my studio at the moment, my focus is on output. Therefore I’m mostly using VSTs for my synth sounds for now - current favourites are U-he’s Diva, Arturia’s AnalogLab and Serum from Xfer. I also recently invested in the FabFilter suite of plugins, which is unbelievably good.

Describe how satisfying it is to see a dance floor unite to something you’ve written.

A friend sent me a video a few months back of Mariano Mellino & Graziano Raffa closing their b2b set with my song ‘Find Myself’, while hugging it out. Hernan Cattaneo was also about to take to the stage for the huge event at the Forja BNP in Argentina. It was such a surreal feeling to hear my track in that setting! I honestly thought my mate had dubbed my track over the video as a prank. But it was real - an incredible feeling to see thousands of people dancing to something I’d made a few weeks prior.

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

The sheer quantity of music being released every day means that it’s now a lot harder to find the gems that might have been easier to stumble across at the bottom of a Beatport chart a few years back. A lot of tunes I choose for my mixes nowadays are recommended by friends and fellow producers, or found by trawling podcast track lists for mixes. I also now follow labels more closely rather than just artists, since all my favourite imprints are consistently releasing great music from a wide range of existing and newer artists.

There are a lot of factors that affect the perception of an artist other than his music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? And what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

There are few barriers to producing and releasing music these days that the market is flooded with producers and labels that are releasing sub-standard tracks. That said, good quality music will ultimately always shine through - but it does make it hard for newer artists and labels to cut through the noise. I’ve tried my best to stay completely organic and honest, and to let the music speak for itself. Loads of creators seem to obsess over follower counts, views, social reach etc, but so much of the content feels so contrived and unauthentic. I get the importance of growing your social media presence to boost the potential audience you can reach, but I’d honestly rather have fewer dedicated followers that really love the music, than have thousands of Instagram fans who aren’t actually into it.

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so, why?

Probably something like ‘Lost in Translation’ or ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. I love the cinematography of both of those films and could imagine feeding off the emotional storylines to create something blissful yet melancholic.

Current five favorite tracks?

Ben Bohmer – In Memoriam (Tim Green Remix)

Volen Sentir – The Great Escape

Nihil Young & Less Hate – Loss

Nox Vahn & Marsh – Come Together

Isaac Gracie – Last Words

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

My children, without a doubt. Other than that, it’s hard to beat a cold beer in the sunshine with my mates. Although I don’t get much time to do it these days, I still love doing photography.

What does the rest of 2020 hold for djimboh? Anything you can tell us about?

I just want to keep plugging away, learning, improving, growing as an artist and refining a signature sound. I’ve got releases booked in with two of my favourite labels that I’m buzzing about, and a couple of very exciting colab projects (including one with Wassu) that I can’t wait to share. When things are all back to normal after the lockdown, I really want to get ou

djimboh's remix of Gambitt 'Into Your Head' is out now on Immersed, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2JMSZzR

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