Who is Dego? Dego is an ex-sound system selector and pirate radio DJ whose highly regarded breakbeat productions go back more than a decade. He is one half of the award winning 4hero and one half of Da One Away alongside New Sector Movements' I.G.Culture. He's also the co-founder of the now legendary ï¿½co-op? club in London. His remix productions cover a wide range of artist from Pulp to Nuyorican Soul, Jackson 5 to Yellow Magic Orchestra. He currently owns 2000 Black Records, a label that delves in all music genres. He's now working alongside Capitol A, Bugz in the Attic and Face.
Below is a recent interview with Dego, courtesy of the Red Bull Music Academy (www.redbullmusicacademy.com):
Dego McFarlane is considered to be one of the founders of Drum and Bass. He set up Reinforced records with partners Mark Mac, Gus and Ian in the early 90s. Since then, Dego has recorded in almost every musical style imaginable. With each style came new monikers including 4 Hero, Tek 9, Nu Era and Jacob?s Optical Stairway.
First time I used a sampler, Gus, my partner in Reinforced, told me how to use it. It?s basically to do with getting used to using the computer sequencer and sampler because when we started off we just had an ATARI 1040 ST and an Akai S5000]. We didn?t have any keyboards. We were just in his bedroom bluffing out beats, sampling things and twisting it up any freakish way we thought was possible. We were trying to push what little equipment we had to the extreme. When you?ve only got a sampler, a keyboard or an SP1200, those first few years, you know that bit of equipment inside out. You can make things that you shouldn?t really be doing, you are able to push it there and get what you want out of it. Whereas sometimes when you are spoilt and you?ve got 30 vintage synths, a sequencer and drum machine, you might be a jack of all trades but master of none. That?s why you often find that up and coming Dance music or Hip Hop producers are the ones that have something very new ? they?re usually guys who?ve got a very small amount of equipment.
RBMA: What gets you excited these days then?
Football. It?s world cup year, it?s all about that and nothing else matters at the moment. Someone whose records I always look out for is Theo Parish because he?s on some 12-bit sampler, the tracks he does are not very complex. There?s not really much going on but he finds this groove and element to it and there is a feeling about it. You can imagine he is just tucked up in a little room really feeling what he is doing. If you can capture that groove, it doesn?t matter what kind of equipment you have. That?s what?s great about this electronic revolution, it makes music accessible for everyone.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty things like Logic, and guys that use Reason and some people that even use Pro Tools, we all know you have a friend who is a computer expert. You ask him: ï¿½You got a copy of Logic 4.1 whatever? and he gets it to you tomorrow on CD. No-one hardly ever pays for PC software. I ain?t on that kind of budget myself to be buying a Hamlin B3 organ plug-in that costs hundreds of pounds.
RBMA: Would you say that straight to a programmer?s face?
There are people that have got every single record I?ve ever done on MP3 and I can?t do anything about it. That?s just the reality of it. I ain?t got money to sue people. It?s great that music is accessible to everyone but you?re right, there is a downside to it as people are not getting their just deserve because everything is just too attainable. What do you want? To deny some people these programs? Some 14 year old girl or boy making tunes - they?ve found something that they love in life but they can?t afford all the equipment. They?ve got a couple of bootleg programs and they?re making some great stuff, they?ve found the thing they want to do in life. I can?t deny them that, I?ve got to encourage that.
When I was working with a S950v and an Atari [ST]I knew every single thing you could. I could tell Mr Akai what he done to make that shit because that?s how much I was using it and knowing it inside out. Nowadays with Logic Audio I don?t know half the things that are going on inside there. I?m not pushing that to it?s full potential. But I know the basic principles to play and record. That?s all you need to know. You can?t be intimidated by it. A man made it. A man who puts on his pants the same way you do, one foot at a time every morning.
So don?t be afraid of what he?s done. Back in the 70s and 60s there was this air of mystery and illusion given to being a record producer. The engineer would be there with some knobs and the big 48 track desk, but in reality we all know now what it is. Fader goes up there, the volume?s there, there?s graphic, bass, Mids and that?s it. Sometimes you have to just break things down to their basics and it?s the same with the computer. All right, Mr engineer knows certain things about frequencies and he knows how to make sure different basses don?t clash. I do appreciate a great engineer but the basics are play and record, that?s all it takes. You can?t be frightened of anything, any equipment.
When we started we were just working nine to five, then all our spare time and money was taken up making music. We just loved music and wanted to be part of it. You?re not really thinking about wanting to be a star or nothing. You?re just doing this thing because you love it. So Friday at 3pm you can?t wait to get out so you can go making new tracks or DJ.
In the days of Reinforced, for me there was this whole buzz and excitement. It was a real brand new thing, just racing ahead and we was part of it. The first times that we were putting out records there was all that excitement to it. Reinforced has a more ï¿½anything goes? attitude whereas now with 2000 Black, I think [I?m] a bit more purposeful. I know what I want and I?m a bit more patient with releases.
The core of us is still there. The people I went into this together with, Gus, Mark and Ian, we?re together. People are gonna come and go, you come across good talent and you do what you can do for them but people outgrow you. We are still a very small independent record label and you can?t give these people some sort of crazy contract which ties them down for five years when your label is not big enough to meet the full potential of their abilities. You have to let them go and say ï¿½good luck? and then they?re running their own labels or signed to majors or whatever. That?s just part of how it is in reality at this level of music.
RBMA: If you were starting out now would you still use different monikers or different labels or connect it more to one?
The reason why we used to change monikers all the time is because in the early 90s dance music seemed to get very split up. It was like: ï¿½You?re into House or you?re into Rave music, or you?re into Hip-Hop.? It was all very divided. It?s got a bit better in recent years, people are a bit more open-minded, checking out different types of stuff. They will come across a Techno artist that does a Brazilian tune and might dig it, but in those days it was not possible at all.
RBMA: How have people in certain camps reacted differently to what it is you?re doing. You must have come across these sorts of preconceptions a couple of times throughout the last 10 years.
They?ll catch up in time, in every genre of music I believe that there is something for everyone. Give me some Scientist and Mad Professor and that?s me sorted out. You might not like Rock music but there might be some Led Zeppelin that does something for you. You can?t look at music and just shut the door without actually allowing your ears to experience what some of these people do.
RBMA: To what degree did you ever feel misunderstood?
The hardest, worst time was when I was famously put as saying that Drum & Bass is boring. People didn?t really understand exactly what I meant by that. What they have to remember is that I was one of the people that was involved in that from the start. It?s like having a son. The son started to turn bad and did all kinds of things that he shouldn?t have been doing. I was telling him: ï¿½Don?t do that?, but he wasn?t listening. What the Jungle thing was all about was the fact that we did anything we felt like. If you wanted to put a Soul tune in it, it goes in it. Hip-Hop, Techno, Brazilian style music, whatever. It was like this great skeleton that you could attach anything to, but then it started to turn into this one thing and I was getting worried about that. That is what I was talking about at that time.
RBMA: To what degree do you think you can develop an understanding of certain styles and what is important to make that certain style work?
If you listen to the best of those styles and felt the vibe that was meant to come across in those styles, you can contribute something to it. As long as you are feeling it and actually enjoying it, which is quite a big part of it. I can?t do tracks that I don?t enjoy. If your head?s not nodding then just forget it. I?m not one to try and force a tune. I know within the first hour whether it?s any good or it?s just a pile of rubbish. I think once you got the groove or the vibe of a sort of music, it can work and it can do something for you. I?m not gonna mic up my kit like an 80s rock thing because I don?t want to make a rock. If I want to make a jazz thing I?ll use a small drum kit. There is a certain way we mic it all up. There are certain things you need to know to help get the sound across. So sonically, it fits in well with that genre. Sometimes it?s not the music or the idea, you just might be using the wrong kind of snare, or bass drum.
RBMA: Host: Of all the styles you use. Which one is your favourite?
What kind of music I?m into? No man that?s impossible. I love music too much. I love music that?s the best I could do I guess. The best I can do in one sentence. There?s just too much music out there.