From NZ to US, Evan Short lays down a brutalist mix while looking back over his career... And teasing us with what's to come!
Kiljoy has been on 1 More Thing’s mind a lot lately…
Recently spotted dropping 1 More Tune tracks on his Twitch stream, he’s also been critically appraised by his peers in a number of interviews lately.
Most notably by the legendary DJ Storm in our popular podcast interview, in which she effectively describes him as a hero of modern drum & bass jungle.
Most poignantly, though, he was mentioned in one of this writer’s last interviews on UKF with the tragically departed Jay Bulletproof, in which he describes the late 90s New Zealand scene and categorically states Evan Short (and his Concord Dawn partner Matt Harvey) as New Zealand drum & bass pioneers.
For a long time, his pioneer status as part of Concord Dawn was his lasting contribution to drum & bass. But in 2018 he returned to add a whole other chapter. What began as an “itch that needed scratching” ended up in a full return to the scene thanks to the inimitable energy of Digital who lured him back into fray releasing the electrifying Kiljoy debut on his label Function – Bad Man / Air Raid – in December 2018.
I spoke to Evan at the time for this interview. Reading it back, the interview captures a unique moment in his musical history as he returns to the genre after a break of over 10 years. Back then he was living the Cook Islands, about as disconnected as he be from any tangible contemporary D&B scene. Now based in Washington DC, he’s in eye of the perfect storm as the US recharges its love for drum & bass on levels we’ve never seen before.
He’s also packing a hell of a lot of incendiary bangers. Since that debut we’ve had the scorching Kiat collab EP Enki, we’ve had a walloping remix of Digital’s seminal anthem Waterhouse Dub, the forever-rinseable Ghosts Of Old and, for those with enough stripes to already have them on dub, already huge anthems like Depth Charge, Heart Of A Lion, Stick ‘Em Up and Space Bells.
In light of the imminent (and LONG-awaited) release of those tracks, and his re-kindled love for mixing and recent move onto Twitch, we thought it would be churlish not to cop a mix for the 1 More Mix series and have a good catch up since our last interview over four years ago.
Content warning: this mix WILL have you skanking around your room and pulling despicable bass faces like a veritable loon. You have been warned.
Yeah that’s been a big thing for me. It was still covid times and I started to explore Twitch. I saw John B on there playing DJ streams and I got quite inspired. He’s such a fun dude. We’d talk a lot back in the AIM days so it was amazing to catch up with him and watch his sets. I love his visuals and approach to it all and that was me inspired to be honest mate. It got me exposed to a lot of new drum & bass and I was really into his classics sets.
So when we moved over here to Washington I got myself a little controller and jumped on Twitch. I want to get back into playing out so it’s great practice and I’ve really enjoyed the process. It’s quite a time investment. My poor wife has had to put up with hours and hours of DJing, tweaking tunes, practicing mixes and all that type of stuff.
You might as well do it properly and put the prep work in, right?
Yes and no… I did really love the vibe of just picking up a crate of records and going to the club or a mate’s house and just vibing off it and going in the direction of what we were feeling. I love spontaneous mixes much more than prepping anything and that’s actually why I fell out of love with D&B towards the end of the Concorde Dawn stuff because we were touring so much and playing very similar sets, I felt like a performing monkey. I’m much more into reading the crowd, trusting my gut instinct and reacting to what I’m hearing and feeling at the moment.
Yeah that’s definitely the essence. You sound pretty inspired though man.
Yeah I am. A lot more than when we last spoke and I’d just come back with my first productions as Kiljoy. I wasn’t really feeling a lot of contemporary drum & bass when we last spoke but you actually said there was good stuff out there and recommended particular Sun And Bass mixes. Through them I did find those little veins of drum & bass that I did get into and found a lot of newer things that I’ve really enjoyed.
Sick! Very happy to have played a role in that…
Oh definitely. Steve Digital has played the most substantial role in that too in terms of bringing me back. We both reach back into the past for certain vibes and sounds. And it’s really interesting having gotten back into production and DJing after a substantial break.
The amount of tutorials that tell you specifically how you can sound just like a particular artist, for example. How to make a HLZ bass or how to make DLR drums, you know? It’s great the info is out there but the mystery and the process of trying to work out how someone had made that sound was all part of it for me.
I’m still like that today. I still make tunes like I did when I was 16. Start with a raw break and build it up from there. The fun is the exploration for me. I don’t want to make a shiny thing, I want to experiment with an idea and see if it works. If it doesn’t work? I’ll hammer it until it’s the right shape and go, ‘This is as good as it’s going to get.’ Then you put it out there. I don’t think I’m ever happy about particular tracks I’ve ever done. There are always tweaks – little EQ or mixing tweaks. But it’s done, that chance is over, it needs to be out in the world.
Do you ever get pleasantly surprised when you do hear stuff?
Yeah after about 10-15 years! I was listening to some of the Concorde Dawn stuff, like going right back to 98/99, and thought, ‘This isn’t that bad!’ Some of it was absolutely awful, but in some bits I could hear some redeeming qualities which I’d never thought about before. So yeah that’s going back over 20 years and I’m just starting to be happy with it.
Wow. High levels of quality control.
Yeah but it’s also an appreciation of those little imperfections that are often the character and colour of the tune. It’s important to be able to step back and say, ‘Okay that sounds fine, that’s got a vibe.’ You have to accept that it’s not going to sound as big or as heavy as let’s say a Noisia production or something or as a brutal and banging as Digital & Spirit, but it’s going to work, it’s got a vibe.
That’s the best advice I often give to people: Just finish something and move on. I know people who are still working on tracks they’ve been working on forever and it’s not healthy for creativity. I’ve done it myself, too. So yeah, finish it to the best level you can and then move on to the next idea.
That’s great advice. It’s funny hearing about your levels of self-critique as the last time you came up in a conversation was with DJ Storm in my recent podcast and she was so complimentary about you!
Oh man I’m still getting chills thinking about that! She’s one of the biggest pillars of drum & bass full stop. Her and Kemi were a universe of power when we were getting into this, you know? I was blown away that she’d picked up on certain tracks of mine. She’s bigged me up in a few interviews and I regularly see videos of her dropping tracks like Depth Charge and Heart Of A Lion at places like Rupture and Sun And Bass. So yeah it’s really nice and very affirming to hear positive praise like that but I can never quite believe it!
Haha. Have you played out much since you moved back to the US?
I’ve played a few times and local joint called Jimmy Valentines. I’ve got an agent now and we’re planning some things later this year. It’s funny here. D&B was never massive in the US. It’s huge in New Zealand right now as you know but here it’s very underground and very small but the local scenes are very tight and passionate. Like Lenore’s Elements night in Boston which has been going on for 25 years.
DNB Tuesdays, Respect…
Yeah Torque in Florida, too. These were the nights I was playing at when I first toured the US 20 years ago. Maybe even at the same venues and on the same set-ups! It’s a very different vibe here.
I know a local person who’s part of that long-standing supportive movement in the US. Harry R4nsom. I think he might even be Washington based, so near you. I think you know him?
I do. I reached out to him when I moved over here, he’s moved to Boston now. He jumps on my streams and I play a lot of his music, he’s making great tunes now.
Yes he is! I think the US is in a great state of flux with D&B right now. The new generation of talents are impossible for the old guard to ignore.
I agree. I think America is just recovering from that huge dubstep / EDM explosion that happened here like 12 or 13 years ago. As that whole hype has waned a little there’s been space for people to discover things like jungle and techstep and all these things and it’s brought some new blood to older scenes. It’s definitely a very healthy time for the culture here.
How about in your native New Zealand? Could you ever imagine how big D&B would get there?
Certainly not. When Matty and I started getting into D&B in 95/96 and started going to weeklies it was a very small scene. You’d have hippies turning up with no shoes on who’d just want to stand by the speakers and the camo nets, close their eyes and wriggle away while other guys would be total dubplate spotters, hanging over the rail to try and see what was coming. But it wasn’t massive. Then that whole boom happened at the late 90s and early 2000s. Roni Size, Andy C and Shimon, Shy FX… That same boom that happened in the UK happened here too.
It’s unbelievably massive in New Zealand now. But I wasn’t really part of that because I’m the older generation and not part of those communities. I did go to this huge Upbeats event a while back. It was in a massive theatre.
Oh man! They told me about that at the time. It was in the middle of lockdown.
That’s right. And it wasn’t mainstream music either. It was really slamming, uncompromising neuro and thousands of kids were going mental to it. Like back in the day we’d be happy with 300 or 400 people in a venue and thinking ‘yeah! We’ve packed it out!’ On the flip side over here you’re happy if it’s 50 – 100 people at a gig. It’s a vibe, it’s family, we all know each other. And that’s a similar vibe to when we started.
I’m not taking anything away from big gigs at all but there’s a lot to be said for those small venues and those compact gigs where everyone there is really, really into it and has a passion for it and wants to be there.
That’s when you really get to read a crowd!
You’ve done some wicked collabs with Kiat since we last spoke…
Yes! Matty and I got to know Jon around 20 years ago. I never got to play in Singapore but I would often stay with him for a few days when I was travelling back east from west. He’s such a talented soul and so underrated. I haven’t seen the guy in 15 or so years, but we chat regularly, we’re working on some music right now. We share similar views on creativity and not pandering to the commercial sense of it all. He is much more interested in the vibe and not scared of doing weird or angular left-of-centre things. We work together really well even though the time zone between Washington and Singapore is a very hard to work with. We get these little windows when we can speak – just before bed for me while it’s early morning for him!
You must be well versed in time zone perplexities by now? Having lived in the Cook Islands, New Zealand and the US. You working in an international industry and must have professional and creative discussions at weird hours all the time.
Yeah! But I still have to do those time zone gymnastics. I’ve lived in different times zones for most of my adult life and still have to do that. I reckon one of the most Googled searches must be, ‘Time in whatever city now’
Haha yeah! I’ve done it three times today! Tell us about this mix man!
Yeah I’m really into this and have been exploring some of the samples and themes and key ingredients we use. Like the Amen break, like Joey Beltram mentasms, like the reese bass. They are still as relevant to the sound and culture today as they did back in 92 or 93. While the music has changed over the last 30 years there are these certain elements which still exist. Like single cell organisms. So the idea is explore those elements which I first fell in love with to begin with. So that’s the starting point for the mix and we’ll see how it goes…
There’s a bunch of stuff that’s imminent. There’s Heart Of A Lion, there’s a remix of the Enki EP Kiat and I did on Function. Digital’s done a remix and I’ve done two remixes. That’s a digital only release and is landing very soon. Digital has another Dirty Dubs collection coming soon which should hopefully have Remote Control and Reflection on. And then Heart Of Lion after that.
That’s such a tune. So, pretty good year to be a Kiljoy then!
Haha. There’s more too. There’s an album coming on Function which we’re two tracks deep on. I want to finish that this year and release it next year and some other stuff on another label which I can’t quite talk about yet but watch this space.
Oh intriguing! Anything else we need to know about Kiljoy right now?
I want to get on road as much as possible! I want to play over here, I want to come back over to Europe and catch up with a load of mates and I want to get to Sun And Bass, too. I’ve watched that event from afar for so long and I know it’s everything about me and what I love about the culture. So yeah, fingers crossed I’ll see you soon…