Dec 14, 2018
Behind The Album: Dirty South & darko
Two-time Grammy nominee Dirty South is on a roll this year, and we’re celebrating the release of his second studio album “darko” with a very special episode of the 1001Mix for Apple Music! Each month we’re coming to you with a special DJ Mix exclusively cleared & distributed to Apple Music through our partner Dubset Media and there was no better choice for our second edition than Dirty South. Always insightful, we chatted in-depth with Dragan about the album and the process behind it, the future of Dirty South, and even some detailed production questions!
Dragan, thanks for joining us today! Your brand new album darko is a phenomenal piece of work — been on repeat since the day we got it! When did you first start working on the album?
Thank you for the kind words! The idea of doing another album in the same year kind of started as I was wrapping up the XV album this year. Some tracks were floating around the hard drive as sketches a while before that, but this is how I always work. I usually have lots of sketches and when it feels right, I finish them. So to answer your question, there really wasn’t a particular date when I started on darko, I sort of always have a ‘work in progress’ as you might say and then I decide what the body of work should be, and where everything belongs.
What is the concept behind darko? What story are you trying to tell?
Every album I do is an evolution in sound for me personally. I get bored of things and feel like I need to experiment and try different things. The older I get, the less I want to repeat myself, or at least repeat the very last thing I did, so naturally it has to move on to something else. This is the case for darko. It is still based on dance music because I love to play my music out when I DJ, but It’s moodier than previous stuff I’ve done. There are no vocals on this album, so music is doing all of the work and since it’s quite moody and melancholy, I feel the listeners will really feel this through music and patiently make up their own story for each track because there are no words to tell you how to feel. I think that this is a great way to experience music…make up your own mind on what the music means to you.
You had previously premiered a majority of your album tracks during your set at the Mixmag Lab NYC — how has the fan reaction compared to your expectations of the release as an artist?
So far it’s been incredible. I’m really happy with the feedback from the fans. My favourite thing in the world is fans going along this ride with me as I’m changing up my sound and giving them different things and I really appreciate this. I think that this is important to evolve as an artist and I’m very grateful that my fans are down for whatever new sounds I offer them.
One of our personal favorites out of the new album has to be “Konda,” which we heard in a Kölsch mix early last year under a different alias and fell in love with it since! What was the inspiration for the track and how has the track evolved since its first play?
Ah yes that thing :) Well Kölsch is a good mate and he’s been a great support musically also. He was the first person who had some of the early darko tracks. I’ve been toying with the idea on putting music under different names (Teser), but I just decided that at the end of the day it’s just music and if I’m happy making it and people like it then that’s what really matters. “Konda” started off as one of the tracks meant for the other alias Teser, but as Dirty South evolved, naturally it just made sense to include it on darko. Inspiration came from a little hypnotic riff loop sample I made and it just went from there into this gypsy groovy thing. It’s one of my favourites too and Kölsch has told me when he plays it out, all of the DJs round up asking “What track is this??!!”
“Rossa” is also one of our favorite tunes of the album, from the groove to the way every element ties in perfectly with the rest of the track. Take us through the production, what were some cool elements that you incorporated into the mix that give it the extra sauce?
Thanks! So “Rossa,” believe it or not is probably the simplest track for me on the album as far as production goes. It’s supposed to be that way. The main riff comes from me doodling around on the Korg Minilogue. I played a stabby type chord repeatedly until I found an interesting rhythm, but I also automated a lot of effects onboard the Minilogue to accentuate the stab rhythm slightly so it’s different each time. Automating delays and opening the filter quickly did some of that magic. It’s all kind of loosely programmed so there is a groovy feel to it. Really simple stuff with subtle automation.
The tracklist for darko is quite short compared to a typical artist album which includes anywhere from 12 or more songs — but more and more artists are now opting for shorter format albums like this one. Why do you think this is? What personally drove you to keep this one shorter than your previous works?
The album clocks in at 42 minutes so it isn’t that short I think. It will get you through at least a dentist appointment or maybe doing a full load of laundry, but it’s definitely sufficient for a gym work out. I chose this amount of tracks/running time because it felt right to me at the time and I loved all of the tracks and they all belonged to this project. That’s really the main thinking behind it.
How do you see yourself evolving musically over time? From singles like “Better Day” to “City of Dreams” to your latest two albums, what differences do you notice in your production process and the way that you approach music? Has the way you start/finish a track remained the same?
I would say the music making process has never really changed because the ideas begin differently each time. This is how it has always been. The main difference I would say is that I added many more synthesizers and outboard gear along the way and I would say this has gotten me away from just clicking the mouse and flicking through presets. Now I spend more time with the keyboards and instruments and I play around more which is really fun and I think that’s what music making should be, having lots of fun, getting lost, figuring stuff out, vibing out, making crap sounds, deleting them, getting lost again, finding the magic sounds and pulling it all together once you’re done with having fun and experimenting.
Can you name three artists who currently inspire you? What about their music do you love and how does that translate into your own productions today?
I would say musically and artistically, Kanye West is on top for me because he does whatever he feels and that gives me the feeling that I should do the same. Of course I make completely different music than him but it’s something about him being free and doing whatever he wants that gives me a good feeling and inspires me to do the same. Another person (maybe not so much an artist) but equally inspiring is Gary Vaynerchuk. When I hear him talk, it reminds me each time that I should do whatever I feel is right to me, rather than focusing on the outside noise of people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. It can be tough out there mentally for artists and I think it’s important they all stay strong minded and keep their heads right. It’s a lot of mental and physical work to navigate through all of this on top of making your art. My 3rd person is my family. They are my balance in life. They keep me sane and remind me of the real life outside of music. I love music so much that it’s like a fantasy sometimes and it’s easy to get lost, and I feel like having my family and close friends keeps me grounded.
Who are your current favorite producers at the moment? Any talent we should know about/keep an eye on?
There are so many! Cristoph, Superflu, Patrice Baumel, Kölsch….and the list goes on.
Lastly, turning our attention to the upcoming year, any plans for an accompanying darko tour yet? Can we expect another album next year or are you taking some well deserved time off after this one?
Yes there will be touring of course and there will be more music of course. I’ll stop and take a break when I get bored. :)
You can buy or steam your copy of darko on your platform of choice today! http://smarturl.it/PHAZD005
short link 1001.tl/cd7kll