There are many levels and connotations of ‘old school’ but few artists can take things as foundational as Dopplershift… He’s taking us right back to the dawn of civilisation with his debut album Cradle Of Humankind.
Named after a World Heritage Site in his own native South Africa, and released on Melinki’s Four Corners label, Cradle Of Humankind packs a whole menu of punches for the Cape Town producer…
As his debut album, it’s a statement of bold intent; a vast rainbow of styles from gritty dancefloor to emotional, deeper explorations.
As a salute to the entire D&B movement, it’s a powerful shock to the senses as the likes of Formula, Trex, Medic MC, Yatuza, Stokka, Melinki, Leks and Dedman all feature across the collection.
Most of all though, it’s a love letter.
Not just a love letter from South Africa to the world, showcasing the country’s rich musical heritage, it’s also a love letter from Dopplershiftto South Africa. A body of work that showcases his roots, his passion for the country’s underground scene that goes right back to the days of Counterstrike in the late 90s and his energy for helping this culture continue and thrive.
Oh you’ve only just heard about that? Power cuts have been happening since 2010 and it’s pretty bad right now. You’ve got to be prepared man, we have inverters fitted on various lights and things like the internet. It effects everything. The traffic lights go out. Businesses shut. Cell-phone reception is compromised because people steal the battery packs from cell-phone towers. It’s fucked.
Wow. A sad indictment of the times when you consider what your album is named after… The Cradle Of Humankind. Basically the dawn of civilisation!
Literally! The whole project and inspiration was for me to do something that really represented South Africa. That’s been a big push and driving force for me for a long time. I’m proud to be South African!
So it started with that title track, which came together really nicely on my laptop and headphones. I used to work recording bands years ago and I had this sample of an African boys’ choir. I really wanted to represent that African flavour and have some powerful chanting style vocal energy in there and that’s where it started.
I actually had the privilege of going to the Cradle Of Humankind recently. It’s got a very special energy about it. They found the oldest human remains there and the oldest dinosaur remains there. In that one spot. How fascinating is that? This is where it all started and we haven’t really gone anywhere but we’re coming back to this place. That’s what the album was about essentially.
I love that. Do you go there regularly? Or was that recent trip your first time?
It was my first time. I had a show in Pretoria and I asked the promoter if there was a possibility of going there. It turned out to be right by her house! It’s an incredible place. It’s like all four seasons in one place.
Yes! I’ve been to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania which is very similar. It has its own ecosystem there.
Yes that’s very similar. It has its own climate and plants that only grow there and everything. That’s very similar to the Cradle Of Humankind. It’s very humbling to be in a place like that isn’t it?
Absolutely. So this has been on your mind when you wrote the album, then? The roots, the land, the sense of place and belonging. That’s important for your debut album to say, right?
Yeah. I mean it didn’t begin as an album. It began as a big single but I was talking to people about collabs and it kinda developed into an EP then it was going to be a series of EPs but I have to give full credit to Sonny Melinki. He’s the fucking man!
He really is!
I mean it. From a South African perspective, you can email people all day long and hit people up with your music 24/7 but it’s the people who actually respond to you that are the ones who really spark you, right? And it’s nice to go full circle. That’s something I really cherish; the fact I’m able to talk about where I’m from through my music to a global audience. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be from Bristol, but it’s nice to be different.
100%!! And the album’s a very social experience for you too, isn’t it? There’s a lot of collabs on there.
Always! The whole thing about being a DJ and a producer and having a label and pushing this music is a very social experience. Especially here as there aren’t that many of us doing it so it’s once again a privilege to be that type of ambassador in that way.
I think it’s interesting that on the same week you released Cradle Of Humankind you were releasing Noise Souls’ debut album. You were going through the same process on both sides…
Yeah it happened to fall that way. It was interesting. I take lessons from all the labels I work with and all the people I sign on the label. Everything is a learning experience in that way isn’t it? Especially when we’re working on an international level, it’s a cultural exchange in that way. So what I learnt from Sonny I applied on the Noise Souls album, you know?
Yeah totally! That’s a great way to look at it!
It’s the only way as far as I’m concerned. It’s funny. Someone asked me the other day ‘what’s going on in the South African drum & bass scene right now?’ And I told them that everything is happening, everywhere, all of the time. It’s how you take it and how you deliver it. And for sure the scene is growing here. Drum & bass is here to stay and it’s only going to get bigger but I would say that for any country. There are scenes in every country. You go to Fiji and you’ll find a drum & bass scene.
Totally! K A G E sang your praises in a recent interview and said you’re at the very forefront of the South African drum & bass scene. Also the beat scene and the Button Bashers night was a big catalyst for what’s happening now.
Oh for sure, I’ve known the Button Bashers guys for a long time. For me I go back even further to the Counterstrike boys. They ran a show in Cape Town called Homegrown. Back then drum & bass was huge. It was bigger than any other genre. Insanely big. We’re talking late 90s/early 2000s. I was still a kid but wow. I went to see them at a club called See You Next Wednesday and that was my first real taste of drum & bass and I never looked back. So if we’re talking about the real trigger for this movement we go back to those guys.
And, like I say, I’m always learning. New guys who have been around a much shorter time than me have taught me all kinds of things about the modern game; getting on Spotify playlists, setting up premieres and the type of things. Before that I was happy making tunes and putting them on Soundcloud. But this is all part of the progression of the scene here. We’re doing label nights here now which is really cool.
How are they going?
I used to do them in a bar in town, a lovely rooftop place, that would be around 50 to 100 people but now I’ve joined up with a new guy called Craig who runs a party called Liminal an we’ve partnered up. We did our first one two months back and it was an overwhelming success. We had about 250 people in the venue which was close to capacity and a really sick soundsystem. It was a proper rig, proper set-up, proper crowd. It was a very different drum & bass experience and something we’d love to see more of. It’s nothing in comparison to psytrance here, though.
Is that the most prominent sound?
Where I stay? Yes. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually quite enjoy it! It’s the vibe and culture with festivals and outdoor raves. The smallest will be like 5000 people. But South Africa is a big old country and it’s interesting how the sound changes the further inland and further north you go. Even with drum & bass, when you’re on the coast it’s all about the deeper sounds and vibes. But further north it’s a lot more industrial and techno and neuro. You don’t get much psytrance in Johannesburg that’s for sure.
That’s fascinating. I’m a firm believer in shouting about your own country’s music. I do it with Welsh music. Do you have a spokesperson doing the same in SA?
We do. We have a guy called Das Kapital who hosts a weekly show that features nothing but national electronic music across the genres and he interviews artists a bit like yourself. It’s a really important platform for people get their music out there. We have some weird genres out here. Have you heard of gqom?
Very tribal. Lots of 808s and percussion. That’s a really big sound here for example, so yeah we do have a platform for our own music here and it is really important. I’ll never forget being asked to go on his show, which is on a big flagship station 5FM. He was asking all the right questions and knows the landscape out here and that can really help legitimise an artist and we need to support each other. And that extends into what I do with the label and what I do on Patreon; helping people out, sharing information.
Giving people opportunities
And it’s interesting see people like Scartip on the label lately – you’re now selling UK music back to the UK!
It’s what I say when I speak to UK artists about signing music to Rubricate; you’ve been on all these other labels but have you planted any seeds on African soil?
Running a label is an artform isn’t it? The whole juggling act and keeping everything spinning
Totally. I always knew I would be involved in music in this way. Be it engineering or recording. I’ll record anything, I’ve worked with all kinds of bands and choirs and gospel acts.
Have you recorded lots of Foley sounds?
Yes actually. I was a travelling engineer for a guy called Alex Cavan for a few years. He won a big singing competition over here and was endorsed by a major broadcasting company and we spent two months recording in a forest. So I’ll record anything. Choirs, hip-hop, I was involved in South African hip-hop for years and that’s what really moved me towards producing drum & bass and it’s why my music sounds the way it does. Something for everyone; liquid stuff, jump up stuff, rolly stuff. I’ve found myself making a lot of liquid actually which will be coming out next year.
It feels a lot more personal and timeless. I know those words have been said so many times before but it’s true isn’t it… As time goes by it does get more personal as you get into your sound, right? At first I wanted to impress the Noisia fanclub but now I’m feeling the Bcee and Monrroe vibes.
You’re maturing with age!
Sonny said the same thing!
Great minds! So you mentioned releases next year… You’re already stacking up for the future?
The music just comes! I haven’t got a specific plan, I just make it and see where it fits naturally and plan from there. You mentioned K A G E, me and Ayden have done some collabs which have had some interest from a very cool UK label which could be cool.
K A G E is the man!
He is. I’ve known him for two years. I came back to Cape Town to live and linked up with all the guys doing events – like the Button Basher guys who are phenomenally good. So yeah Ayden and I connected through that and started writing together. It’s been really inspiring.
What comes next? I know the album has only just dropped so that’s a hard question to answer!
I actually wanted to say about that. When you do a big release like that it highlights how disposable music is treated in a way. You set up all the premiers and you do the promo and everything and it’s really exciting. With the album I had two UKF premiers, which was amazing, but once they come it’s like ‘wow cool’ but after a few weeks it feels like old news already. So my focus is to work on things that have more lifespan and maybe people can sing along to.
Yeah! Easier said than done, right?
Totally. And on the subject of the disposability and the lifespan of music, release day is the worst day ever isn’t it? All that energy reaches one moment. It’s impossible not to feel a bit of an anti-climax. No one else can be as excited about your release as you or hopefully the label…
Yeah you expect everything to happen at once, right? Like where’s my Grammy? Where’s the party?
A friend of mine said ‘if you put a seed in the ground you don’t go back every two minutes to check if it’s growing.’ I quite liked that.
Perfect analogy! Especially if you’re in this for the long game which you clearly are. And as much as you’ve been in this for years, you still feel like an emerging new artist!
Yes! I hope that new tag always stays! But to follow what you were asking earlier, for the rest of the year I want to give myself a gap after the album and let that breathe a little. I’ve got collaborations with Natty D, KOAX, Nemy, Madrush, Volatile Cycle and K A G E all happening and there’s talk with a very special heritage UK label too, but it’s just a little too soon to confirm that.
And of course more shows… I recently did a show for It Came From The Jungle where Camo & Krooked and Maduk headlined and I closed for them. That was a real moment for me. It’s so good to see that level of DJs come over here and for them to love it and the crowd to love it. That’s what we’ve all been working for, you know?
100%!! I know it’s tricky with Visas but are you planning on touring over here any time soon?
Yeah it really is very tricky. I was actually invited to play in Croatia and lined a few things up but it was all too short notice and not planned enough. But next year? I’m 99% certain it’ll be in Europe. See you soon!