In The Spotlight shines a light on Little Giant’s artists through a series of Q&A followed by a DJ mix. In preparation for the labels fifth release, we gladly introduce you Giles Dickerson.
- Describe yourself as an artist…
Music making has become somewhat of an essential component of my daily life. It has a really meditative quality to the whole process, and so it’s really just something that I’m doing as a part of almost every day. I try to get what I’m liking recorded to audio as quickly as I can so that I don’t need to worry about re-capturing something via midi or field recordings, and that’s all part of a focus on finishing songs that I self-impose on myself. I think as long as the time is being committed to as a discipline and the focus is on recording songs, over time a ton of material gets produced, and then it becomes a process of deciding what gets released and what doesn’t.
As an artist I’d say I’m definitely very much focused on dance music. I like a lot of different genres, and I think there’s something in all of them to be learned and inspired from, but I try and keep things focused on music for a dance floor because for me that “I want to dance” feeling you get from a killer beat or song is just what it’s kind of all about for me. That’s what I’m pursuing. I’m interested in understanding what it is that makes these strange rhythms and sounds work so well towards making people feel that feeling, it’s really the closest thing to real magic I can think of in the real world.
“I think as long as the time is being committed to as a discipline and the focus is on recording songs, over time a ton of material gets produced, and then it becomes a process of deciding what gets released and what doesn’t”. – Giles Dickerson
- When did you start making house music?
I started about 15 years ago and was mostly hardware based with an MPC at the center of the studio. I wasn’t so into synthesis like I am now and was making a lot of music but had a really hard time getting to the place I was hearing in my head. Rick Wade and Jordan Fields both gave me some tips on studio setup, and that was super helpful since there wasn’t a lot you could learn from unless you had producer friends, which I didn’t.
I think when I realized how fascinating synthesizers are to play and learn was when I really got deep into music making and put enough time in to start releasing music. I took a break from electronic music about 10 years ago though to learn guitar and some bass, and was playing in a reggae and rock band, but something was kind of missing for me. Then when I got back into music making when Ableton started to get solid as a DAW I got super serious about production and started to really commit the time and finish sings.
- Describe the first gig you ever played.
I think the first gig I played was probably in someone’s living room back in my 20’s when I was first doing a lot of record shopping specifically for house. I honestly can’t remember the first gig really. But when it started to get really fun was at these loft parties I threw in Boston down on Congress street. I lived in a converted hot tub factory back then and we had a friend with an incredible club quality sound system and those parties were bananas. I think playing one of those big bashes from 5-7am was probably one of the first really memorable gigs for me because of the magnitude of the parties and the freedom you feel when outside of a club in a private atmosphere with just your friends and people you know and their friends.
- How would you describe your sound?
I’m not sure as I think it’s always changing. I think my sound is mostly about a search, a search for something in the sounds I’m creating on synths that is both satisfying to my ears, and dance-able, but also maybe sometimes reminiscent of the sounds that I’ve found appealing in songs that I’ve heard or are hearing. I really love layers in songs and I like to experiment with how harmonics from different sounds play with each other. So, I’d say “my sound” is whatever particular experiment I’m currently pursuing is. It’s strange. it’s very hard for me to predict how a song will come out as my plan is only to synthesize sounds that are pleasant, engaging, arresting, emotional. The whole studio environment to me is kind of a sound design experiment but it’s set to a rhythm and that dance structure gives it a foundation that can be pursued and fine-tuned.
“I think what I find so incredible about electronic music is that to me, basically we are designing an instrument, and THEN we are playing it.” – Giles Dickerson
- What influences you? Where do you get your ideas?
I mean definitely the masters of this music that I have listened to and are listening to all the time. I think anything that makes you want to dance can be inspiration for dance music, whether that’s disco, African drums, jazz, house, techno, whatever. I think what I find so incredible about electronic music is that to me, basically we are designing an instrument, and THEN we are playing it. That’s kind of how I see synthesizers and drum machines, they really are just potential, but we have to go in and create an instrument by making a sound, but it’s an instrument that we are inventing. And sometimes it hasn’t ever been heard before. I think the sweet spot is when something is new, but reminiscent of something familiar. We can digest it, but it’s curious and interesting and takes our minds somewhere new.
I also have a bit of a process that helps me keep things moving forward. Whenever I’m listening to music, usually people’s mixes or an album I bought, I have a note document and when I hear something done that I want to reproduce, I write a little note down about the technique. This started as a list of 5-10 things to do in a current song I was working on, but it turned into a list with hundreds of entries in it. So, when I’m making music I open this up, put my phone away, and have time with just me in my studio and that list of things to pursue open, and I try and apply as many of those ideas to my music as I can. Usually one is enough to really spark creativity and go down the rabbit hole of creation.
- What do you like the most about dance music?
I mean it’s all about that feeling you get. I was at Cielo the other day with a friend, we went to check out Kevin Hedge from Blaze. The guy is just a master. Blaze to me, on the soulful side of things is just perfect music. And he was playing records you know, and I walked down onto the dance floor and stood in the middle of the room with that really nice sweet spot that system has, and it was just magic. All you can do is move to the music. It commands it. It’s really hard to describe. It’s house music you know? It’s the thing that if someone doesn’t listen to dance music doesn’t understand. It’s the thing that translates the “untz untz untz” in your brain to something totally transcendent. But that’s it. And when I hear it in one of my songs that I’m working on I get that same feeling I get in a club, or when I’m record shopping and find something really fantastic.
- Who are some of your favorite DJ’s?
So, I had this radio show on Makerpark Radio for a while. It became a little overwhelming for me trying to schedule a show and a guest every week and so I’m taking a break from it for now, but I’ve had a ton of DJs on as guests and all of them blew my mind. It’s a really rare treat actually to have people in there and watch them play what’s essentially their favorite music for me and a small audience. And so originally the show to me was about me playing records but very quickly it dawned on me that what the show really should be about is the guests.
I learned so much just watching people tear it up in there. I don’t want to play favorites, but I will say that Simon Heyliger really blew my mind. His DJing style is so technically sound, and his command of the decks, the mixer and the CDJs as a creative tool really freaked me out. After watching him I felt like I knew nothing and needed to start over from scratch.
I think Karizma is very similar. I don’t know if you’ve seen him play but he just wrecks it on the decks. He has absolute command over what he’s playing and is essentially doing live remixes on the decks in a way. Just amazing. He’s a DJ’s DJ I feel.
But also, I’m crazy about the whole Detroit vibe, Rick Wilhite, Rick Wade, Kenny Dixon, so many more … from both the techno and house side of things, that city is a very special place for dance music.
- Describe your creative process.
I have my studio set up for jamming pretty much and I use the DAW mostly for recording. I have all my instruments which are really just synthesizers all on and I use their various sequencers mostly but also record things I play on those instruments as MIDI. I build devices in Ableton that let me do interesting things with modulation, like drum racks filled with 16 FM synths controlled by an arpeggiator that’s being modulated by a few LFOs. But really, I’m just getting grooves going and when it sounds nice to me, I capture it as audio immediately. My songs are mostly just me jamming on various instruments trying to find that magic groove or atmosphere and then recording it. The arrangements are mostly chopped up jam sessions. I like to get stuff to audio as quickly as possible, so I don’t need to worry about saving sound patches or midi sequences because I think it’s easy to lose the magic of a moment. I don’t really sample records for material although I’d really like to learn some time, I think it will be a ton of fun because I have a big collection of disco and soul to draw from, but I’ve kind of constrained myself to just using synthesizers and trying to understand what is in the DNA of good dance music, and then trying to produce those parts from scratch. Like, “How do I reverse engineer” a dance groove?
- What shows/releases do you have coming up?
Well my label Just Fine Records has a new release, number two coming out late October. It’s a record that’s really special to me because one of the songs is really one of my favorites of all time. When I heard it, I was thinking “Oh I must have this record”, it turned out to be unreleased, so I worked on a record project with Intr0beatz the artist who wrote the song. It just captures my idea of good house music so perfectly. And then I asked Luvless, another of my favorite artists to do a remix and what he came up with was just really heavy and super gnarly. It rounded out the record really well. That’s on pre-sale now and should be out soon.
I also have 2 vinyl EP’s signed that are scheduled for early 2019, and a digital EP with a label from San Francisco called PYT coming out later this year as well. There’s a remix of one of the songs being done now and when that’s complete I think we’ll have a release date.
Giles Dickerson – ‘Other Sides’ will be available tomorrow on Traxsource, 11/9 worldwide.