Electronic / Rock group "Djime" talk Music, Production, & Collaborations in an Exclusive Interview w/ Mistah Wilson

Seattle, WA based Electronic / Rock group "Djime" talk Music, Production, & Collaborations in an Exclusive Interview w/ Mistah Wilson

Mistah Wilson: Yo, Djime! Thanks for coming through for this Exclusive Interview with ThaWilsonBlock Magazine! How ya' been?
Djime: Yo! I’m doing great, thanks for having me

Mistah WilsonFor our audience reading this, would you mind giving us a quick background on yourself?
DjimeYeah, certainly. My name is James, I’m a producer, sound engineer, & multi-instrumentalist originally from Buffalo, NY. In the past I’ve been apart of a few different experimental music projects, the most notable is Armageddon Party, but my current work with Djime is the first where I’ve decided to put down my guitar and focus entirely on live production & sampling. Apart from personal projects I went to college for a bachelor of science in music industry, so that experience helped to round out my understanding of how the music business works for different people.

Mistah WilsonSo, tell us about Djime and the type of music you guys produce?
DjimeDjime started as a solo studio project I began after moving here to Seattle a few years ago. I met Ian during a Tuesday night open mic. At first we collaborated doing sample work with him on coronet for a song called Samyaksam By & By that was recorded for our first EP called “Get Weird”. We did recordings in my apartment building one afternoon, I’m fairly certain the neighbors did not appreciate it. We started getting together in his U-District studio space, and we’ve been working together since. Djime music is usually something faster in tempo with lots of energy and explosiveness, sometimes post-rock style in the way songs build up. Ian has a jazzy feel to the way he plays drums so that has contributed to our sound with a lot of dynamics and expressiveness as well.

Mistah WilsonWhat is your favorite instrument(s) to play and why?
DjimeI’m not really sure I have a favorite honestly, I’ve been playing guitar longer than anything else but have had a chance to focus on a whole bunch of different instruments. During college they had me working with a few different instruments at once so I studied vocals and piano. More casually as a person who loves to experiment with interesting noises I collect lots of small instruments & toy devices. One of the best parts about working with samples is that it allows me use basically any sound imaginable, this perspective lets me appreciate unique
sounds and frequencies on the same level as guitars, drums, and bass. It can be equally as awesome jamming out with buddies at practice on guitar, or just chillin by myself playing the kalimba.

Mistah WilsonWhat are some current & upcoming projects you have in the works?
DjimeWe have our next gig on July 29th at The High Dive in Fremont with support from two other local experimental artists USER and Flesh Produce. We have projection visuals planned and will have awesome merch and giveaways. More generally though, we have been working on promoting our first full length album Octopus Dreams, and have casually started to talk about the next round of recordings for this fall. I had previously made it a project goal to finish at least 3 hours of live performance material and honestly wound up with even more than that, so since completing the first album we’ve worked out enough material for a second. We’re stoked about our newest songs. They’re really starting to push beyond anything we’ve been able to do previously in terms of genre bending and creating unique atmospheres and textures.

Mistah WilsonOk, now! Let's talk "Octopus Dreams". Where did you find such a title and what was the process like putting it together?
DjimeWhen we planned on recording the album I wanted it to ultimately listen sort of like an old progressive rock album, sort of like each song was arranged to lead into the next like a soundtrack. The album needed to end with some kind of crowning piece that really set Djime apart from other music, and also nail the vibe we want to leave with people -fast & weird- and so Octopus Dreams was born. The track & album name is a dedication to the computer workstation it was created with called C’thulhu after the old H.P. Lovecraft horror stories. Our recording process was during the fall of 2017. To keep the recordings as authentic to real performances as possible we self-engineered the entire album as live takes with no overdubs or punch-ins. This approach made it kind of rough on Ian because he was learning some of the songs as we were recording, which made it particularly difficult to finish songs like Octopus Dreams and Untitled @190. Once we managed to reach our goal of 11 tracks I completed the final mixes and self-released on all kinds of popular music sites likes itunes, amazon, google play, spotify, and others through cdbaby.com

Mistah WilsonHas Djime performed at any venues or events lately? If so, when and where?
DjimeWe have had a couple shows over the past few months to support the new album. This past spring on April 26th @ Skylark Cafe in West Seattle we got support from local Seattle MC Cam Paign, and touring experimental electronic artists Tayne from London, UK. We also just recently played a gig at Substation near the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle with local rock group Humble Urchin for the final show of electronic trio Shades-Triangle.

Mistah WilsonQuiet as kept, I listen to more instrumental music than actual songs. I really liked "Life's a Bird" because it reminds me of a Reggae vibe. What are some of your personal favorites on the compilation?
DjimeLife’s A Bird is a special ode to one of my favorite reggae-dub artists Augustus Pablo. I owe a lot of credit to that generation of electronic music for tone & effects, the way sounds can be layered on top of one another, and also some inspiration about how my live workflow happens. My favorites on the album start with (wandering) Hotel Residence, it’s an older track that we’ve worked through a lot of changes, so to hear it turn into what it became has been a lot of fun for me. At one point that particular song was actually a number of songs at various
speeds manipulated into super fast final composition. Another favorite for me is Untitled @190 v2.1, it’s one of the first where we took a step back from relying on drum machines and let Ian carry the beat behind his kit, and also because I began working with an emulation of a ARP2600. I feel like the combination of those two things give this song an especially organic feeling, and I am very excited/grateful to have video editor Michael Zak collaborate on this song with us to create our first music video (youtube channel link below).

Mistah WilsonWho are some artists that work with/as Djime?
DjimeIan Dexter Crawford is the live drummer and sometimes songwriter collaborator with Djime, he is a multi-instrumentalist, and performs in a whole bunch of different projects and genres, most notably as part of a punk rock project called The Aromatics. Michael Zak as mentioned above is a video editor based out of Chicago. He has worked with Djime to help create visuals for our first demo materials and is helping to plan our live visual projections. Tonya Dean is the artistic creator and primary visual artist behind the Octopus Dreams album artwork, the artwork on our facebook, soundcloud, instagram, etc, and helps design and make our merch available. We also use Tonya’s artwork in our live visual projections.

Mistah WilsonWhat is your creative process when producing new instrumentals? For example, what instruments do you start with...
DjimeI’m a very in-the-moment style of song writer, I like to write however/whatever strikes me that day. My studio is focused around a Focusrite Pro40, so having 8 simultaneous inputs/outputs is super useful when I want to get drums machines and long pedal effect chains as individual recordings, but if i just want to go direct in from a guitar and play to a click track that can work just as well. In the past I’ve gotten frustrated with myself as a songwriter because sometimes you can get into a funk where it feels like you’re writing the same song over and over again, so one thing I really enjoy about working with samples is that you don’t have to keep the same process for each song. Working this way let’s me keep reinventing the wheel in a fresh way, but at the same time I can still refine my overall process into a developed technique.

Mistah WilsonWhere do you draw inspiration from when applying new ideas and concepts to music?
DjimeEverywhere & everything! It’s probably easier to define what I won’t focus on; for me, I’d like the people listening to decide what the songs mean, but I can tell you that I don’t write any weepy love songs. There is no direction that I feel like is off limits to where Djime music can go, personally I enjoy and respect music of what Jack Kerouac would call “the fellaheen”, the common they, beat music, folk music, honest music, real music. I love things with a lot of energy that make you feel like moving, like subway trains, or flowing river water, or super busy anarchy on downtown city streets, so I think outside of music itself you can take inspiration for music from a lot of things. Sin música no hay revolución.

Mistah WilsonWho are some of your musical influences and why?
DjimeAs I mentioned before, have to mention again Reggae/Dub producers like Augustus Pablo, King Tubby, Lee Perry (recently had the opportunity to see him perform!!), some more contemporary influences though are artists/producers like Daedelus, Venetian Snares, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Plaid, Moderat, Flying Lotus, Blockhead, and many others. These types of electronic music are what inspire the tempos and textures that I try to create, and are the artists and help set the bar for what level I try to take my production. On the other hand I should also mention influences from a less electronic direction in bands and artists like Animal Collective, Battles, Modest Mouse, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Tom Waits, The Cursed, Converge, or jazz like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, or Medeski Martin & Wood. I’ve always valued and enjoyed hearing new music that I’ve never heard before, I think it helps my music to listen to other people who are truly good at expressing theirs.

Mistah WilsonAre you using any audio engineering software (pro tools/logic/reason,etc) to produce your music? If so, which one and why?
DjimeI use Ableton Live as my workhorse DAW. Inside Live I use a guitar amp emulator called Amplitube 3, I don’t generally plug software but this program is super decent & affordable (especially when they have a sale) so I would totally recommend it to any guitar players who want a variety of Fender, Orange, and other amps and cabs to mix and match but don’t have a magically expanding budget. Aside from that I’ve used an entire army of VST programs and experimented with a bunch of different DAWs. In the past Logic and Pro Tools have worked well for me, and I also have a little experience with ones like Reason and Fruity Loops, but for live performance Ableton is easily the best option in my opinion. I mostly use Ableton as a recording platform now because I’m relying on it live and it makes it much simpler to just use one program for the entire process. One of the nice perks about Ableton is that WAV files created in another program can be easily imported, this feature was very useful for me at first while I was still learning to use it or when I am using samples recorded with a field recorder. My first experience with this was using Live with an APC40 controller, but eventually upgraded to a Push(v1.0). I feel like although it is possible to perform live sessions in Ableton without a controller, it’s probably easier to learn and ultimately way more versatile to use a USB style controller.

Mistah WilsonWhat are some challenges you face when trying to collaborate with other artists?
DjimeFinding a good work space to collaborate in! From the conversations I’ve had with other musicians in this city it seems like that I’m experiencing a common challenge though, rent in Seattle is pretty expensive and I don’t feel like practice spaces are especially affordable either... so that is certainly a thing. For now I’ll keep working out of my home studio in my apartment building, I’ve got a great pair of headphones! Another challenge that I had when I started working with drum machines and samples was keeping a super consistent tempo to play along with the BPM. Many times when a performer or band is playing a song they will naturally speed up or slow down (a little or a lot) to the natural movement of a song, but with BPM the consistency can be difficult to perform with and yet also keep the emotion and creativity of a live performance. Recording samples has to been done to a click track and
played as perfectly as possible for loops to sound like continuous parts and not a choppy recording where you can hear where it starts and repeats. Collaborating with someone who isn’t comfortable working this way can limit the potential to how we can produce and/or perform.

Mistah WilsonWhat are some rewarding experiences you have when working on music?
DjimeWorking on this project has been super rewarding for me in general because it’s a lot of fun and the more I work with it the more potential I can see for what might come next. As the production process developed for me working in Ableton my tracks got more complicated and I became more flexible to develop more versatile and interesting songs, so as I got more comfortable I could see how tracks were improving. Working with Ian especially though has been great experience, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with someone who was quite so open to other people’s ideas or willing to try and see someone else’s point of view for a song. His influence on the music helped me get into some tones and themes outside my typical norm in songs on the album like 3 Piece & Robot Daycare Syndicate.

Mistah WilsonWhat do you plan to accomplish through your music?
DjimeMusic is a lot of things to everyone, what I’m trying to do is make something new that can mean anything to anyone. My goal is to make music that moves people, that makes them feel inspired to dance or be motivated to do whatever they do, or just to take a trip. Part of the reason we don’t use very many vocals in our music is to leave this openness to interpretation or intention. The plan is to play shows and keep sharing our music so we can keep playing shows to share more of our music. 

Mistah WilsonDo you plan on signing with a Record Label or Management team or will you stay independent?
DjimeWe would certainly consider working with a label or manager. In the past we have talked about how a lot of our tracks would work well with any sort abstract of visual presentations or maybe for a movie soundtrack, so new connections that could potentially lead to licensing are super welcome! At the same time we wouldn’t be disappointed to talk with someone who wants to professionally consider the PR and distribution side of our music in a more general way. We welcome any opportunity to share our music with new people who might like it!

Mistah WilsonWhat positive, encouraging words do you have for aspiring instrumental musicians?
DjimeKeep practicing, keep working, keep thinking outside the box. There is no one special way, there is no one particular DAW program or one best piece of gear, there is no perfect tone guitar or microphone; the thing that makes your tracks good is how much work you put in to them and also having willingness to make sure the next one is at least a little bit better.

Mistah WilsonWhere can people find & follow you online?
DjimeCheck out our next gig! https://www.facebook.com/events/219869115442319/

Mistah WilsonYo, Djime! Thanks for coming through for this exclusive interview with ThaWilsonBlock Magazine. If you wanna drop any shout outs, let's hear it …
DjimeFirst of all, thank you Mistah Wilson for hosting! We appreciate your questions and support!! Check out all our friends and collaborators mentioned above here;

Tonya Dean “Shesmaybe”; https://www.instagram.com/shesmaybe/, http://shesmaybe.wixsite.com/here

Armageddon Party; https://facebook.com/Join.Armageddon.Party

The Aromatics; https://soundcloud.com/inhalearomatics, https://www.facebook.com/inhalearomatics/

USER; https://yoozertopia.bandcamp.com/

Flesh Produce; https://soundcloud.com/flesh-produce

Humble Urchin; https://soundcloud.com/humbleurchin, https://www.facebook.com/HumbleUrchin/

Shades-Triangle; https://soundcloud.com/shades-triangle, https://www.facebook.com/ShadesTriangle/

Cam Paign; https://soundcloud.com/campaign711

Tayne; https://tayneband.bandcamp.com/

Thanks for checking us out!

If you read this entire article and are still reading this email me djimebooking@gmail.com for a free download of our album Octopus Dreams - just mention this article or ThaWilsonBlock Magazine and I will send you download links for free!!


-James Dean

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