by Toshia Sheets
Although Dave (AK1200) had a lot to say, this interview was definitely short & sweet! It took place at about 1:30am on the drive from his hotel near the airport to the Playhouse at The Masquerade in Atlanta. One of the magazines that he mentioned writing for was none other than DJ Icey's US Rave, in the early '90s. Despite Dave's calm & laid back demeanor, he tore it up on the decks and kept the whole floor movin' & groovin' for just over 2 solid hours!
Lunar: Tell me about how you got started DJing.
AK1200: When I turned 18, I started going to this club, Oz, that Kimball Collins and Dave Cannalte DJ'd at, and I started going there every Friday and Saturday night and getting all stupid and stuff, and...I dunno, I just got into it. I've always been sort of musically inclined, ya know? And I just started buying some records. This was like 1989 when there weren't so many people doing that. So it was a little easier for me to get out initially than it is for a lot of people now.
Lunar: Who were your musical influences when you were growing up...and once you got into the scene, who influenced you the most?
AK1200: It's hard to really say. As I was growing up, I guess, I dunno...nothing really influenced me to the point to where it made me want to be in that field. I think the only thing that really influenced me was, like I said, when I turned 18 and started going to the clubs and seeing that there was a whole new world out there and people like Kimball and Icey & Dave Cannalte. And then people that I started linking up with in England like Danny Breaks and Rob Playford were tremendous influences on me.
Lunar: At what point in your DJing career did you decide that you wanted to do this professionally, as a full-time career?
AK1200: I guess you always wish you can, but I think it was about 5 1/2 years ago. I was working at Airborne Express, delivering packages, and I was DJing on weekends...and I started getting these Wednesday and Thursday gigs where I'd have to go literally straight from partying to work, and at some point I said, "Listen, I have to decide whether or not this is what I can do...and can I handle it?"
I just went for it and I quit work, and I immediately saw a difference, and it just worked out for me. Yeah, but that was about 5 1/2 years ago.
Lunar: What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't DJing and producing?
Lunar: Did you go to college?
AK1200: Actually, I dropped out of college to do the DJ thing. [laughs]
Lunar: What were you majoring in?
AK1200: Business. But I don't have any...my only skills that I've seen so far are really musically inclined. Of course, like...everyday people-person stuff, but when it comes down to it, the only thing that I think I can really really do that sort of stands above a lot of people is stuff that has to do with music. I can play a lot of different instruments, and I can hear melodies and replay them, without having to figure it out for too long, just by the tone. So it's fortunate that I found that at such an early part of my life.
Lunar: Have you always been involved in music, or was it something you got into as you started going to the clubs?
AK1200: I've always been in music in some way, shape, or form. I think everybody had the band when they were 10 and 11 years old! [laughs] I think everybody was in a band, ya know? [laughs] So I've just always been into it, and my mom is really heavy into music. She'd be playing stuff like The Spinners and Sly & The Family Stone and all this old funky stuff. And I just sort of had that knack for rhythms.
Lunar: On the liner notes of Lock and Roll, you stated that you wanted to bring acknowledgement to America and American DJ's. Care to elaborate?
AK1200: Yeah...anybody that's known me knows that I've always been a really big supporter of American DJ's and American product when it comes to Drum & Bass. For the longest time, it's been such a long fight, up until recently. Now, some of the music that's coming out from the Americans is good enough to be classified as just Universal Drum & Bass. To me, there's no more "American" Drum & Bass, "UK" Drum & Bass, "German" Drum & Bass, because everybody is at the same level. For the Americans to embrace it like they have, like we have, like I have, is what we needed to have something to offer the UK. You can see now by every single weekend, there's somebody somewhere from over there that's here now and in Florida and stuff, and they wouldn't have that opportunity if it weren't for people doing American Drum & Bass. So I think I've just always been really proud of where I came from, and it feels good to see people do stuff that's liking to the originators.
Lunar: I read that when you started in Orlando (1989), that you really pushed the jungle scene as it lost popularity and began to die out. What did you learn from spinning and promoting a genre that wasn't very popular?
AK1200: Well, ya know [laughs]...I thank God that I was there doing what I was doing when I was because nobody can ever come back and take that away from me. Because at the end of the day, I was the primal person who was writing in all of the magazines, who was doing all the interviews, even way back then when everybody hopped over to progressive house and I was I feel like I was partially responsible for helping Drum & Bass create a foundation here. Because of people like me, Dieselboy, Odi, and so many people that have since retired from Drum & Bass we were the ones that didn't care about playing the little tiny back rooms for $15 or $20 or pot or whatever. [laughs] Nowadays that everything's came up and it's so popular, it pushes me up a little farther because nobody can ever knock me down from where I am.
Lunar: Here in Atlanta, there is an ongoing debate about the attitude that the so-called "Junglists" have the hardcore thug attitude. What do you think about that?
AK1200: Oh God! [shakes head] I fucking hate all those little fucking kook-ass "true heads"! [getting worked up] These people don't know the whole attitude and vibe that Drum & Bass is about! I was in England back in 1992, when it wasn't even called "Jungle" or "Drum & Bass"... when it was called Hardcore Breakbeats. What made Jungle, what created Jungle was the representation and the true vibes and respect. And you always respect your fellow person, no matter what! If you don't like what they're doing, so what?! At least they're doing their thing and they're out there doing it. And that's what Jungle music is all about. Jungle DJ's should be respected no matter how good or bad they are, especially the ones that have been through the thick and thin, because those are the people that were out there fighting way back in the day to give these fucking kids the chance to be the "thug" that they are.
They're completely misrepresented, Drum & Bass, and anybody from any walk of life that knows Drum & Bass will tell you that.
Lunar: Do you think there is anything that can be done to change the misconception that people have about Jungle/Drum & Bass?
AK1200: I think with all things, it's just enlightenment. If people learn the history of the music and learn the code of ethics that follow, then yeah...people see it. And I think a lot of it has to do with as people mature. The people that are all thuggy now are the people that have just been into Drum & Bass for just a year or two, or maybe three or even four. Once they get five, six, seven years deep, then they start seeing all these new jacks, the kids that are even newer than them, coming out acting tough. And they see how ignorant that is and it sorta enlightens them and makes them think "God man...I wish I didn't look like that when I was ballin'."
Lunar: So, it's all about the education and history of the music?
AK1200: It is! This music is so deep and has so many different outlets and backgrounds and stories behind it that. All these people that go into Tower Records and buy whatever I don't even know who's selling at Tower. [laughs] But somebody who goes to a record store and buys an Ed Rush record and puts it on and is like "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!!!"...Well, that's not it! There's so much more to it than that!
That's why, for me as a DJ, I've played everything. I played Jump Up for a long time; I played Tech Step for a long time. I played Hard Step back in '94 and '95 when it wasn't even called that! I played the chill stuff in '96. I've played everything and I've witnessed every part of what Jungle and Drum & Bass has to offer me and my soul. Once people start opening up to that and realizing that as long as it's got a fast tempo and a loop in behind it, it's Drum & Bass.
Lunar: What do you think about the claims that American Drum & Bass can't compare to UK Drum & Bass because American DJ's have done nothing but replace ragga with speeded up hip hop?
AK1200: I can see where people say that, but I completely disagree. I think Drum & Bass comes from the ideas of what they heard last. The reason why there's a big difference between UK and American Drum & Bass is because the American Drum & Bass sounds like 6-month-old UK Drum & Bass. And that's because that's how we get it. We're not over there living it like that.
I think the UK people tried as hard as they could to feel what hip-hop was about and to make that, but they couldn't. So, they went and did a lot of ragga stuff, because at least Jamaican/West Indies...that's all UK sound. Like Sound Systems. But at the end of the day, I think the ragga thing wasn't the statement of Drum & Bass, I think it was just an additive. I think hip-hop, to the UK, is just as important as dub or ragga or RnB or any of it ever was.
Lunar: How do the scenes differ between the UK and the US?
AK1200: I think right now the US is at the highest point that it's ever been, vibe-wise. I think there's a good amount of people that are really well informed about the music, and I think, right now, I'd compare the US scene now to the UK scene in '95 and '96 when everything was really taking off and really thriving. And I think that's the biggest reason why all the UK artists are over here at the moment, because they're feeling the vibe that they yearn for. But at the end of the day when they're over there living it, every single day, it's more like a way of life.
Lunar: So, what do you think about the Atlanta scene?
AK1200: I dunno. I don't think I really play here as much anymore to make that call. I think the Atlanta scene is really good. But unfortunately, I think the promoters have tainted the people. I think all the bickering and all the politics have sort of punished the kids because of drama. They could've handled it a lot better...but they didn't.
Lunar: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing? Shout outs? Advice for up and coming DJ's?
AK1200: Just keep doing what you're doing, man...respect!
Prepare for Assault
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