Dieselboy
by Sterling McGarvey
photos by Aurelie Gaudry

Dieselboy press photo "Are you going to let me take a look at your questions, or are you going to hit me with 'Shock and Awe?'"

Yeah, right. Even if he's one of the most well-known drum n' bass personalities in America, if not the world, I'll be damned if Dieselboy is getting a glance at my verbal curveballs. I don't care if he needs time to think about and evaluate some of my questions. It's just not going to happen. It'd be more fun to get the look on his face in regard to some of the questions I planned to bounce off his head.

Born Damian Higgins in 1972, he has managed to go from radio-DJing college student to a stratospheric rise as one of America's best and brightest drum n' bass DJs in the span of a decade. With legendary mixed CDs such as System Upgrade and The 6ixth Session as well as anthems like "Invid," Dieselboy has an arsenal of tracks and mixes that rival the most prolific UK drum n' bass acts. On the side, his reputation as a hardcore gamer is well-known among drum n' bass circles; he apparently can crush fools at "Dead or Alive 3" with reckless abandon. Lunar got a chance to catch up with him during a hectic Friday afternoon at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, but unfortunately, there was no XBox in the hotel room.


Lunar: What did you study in college when you were working at the radio station? Did you graduate, and is what you studied applicable to what you are doing now?

Dieselboy: Well, I majored in Information Science, which is database management and systems analysis; I minored in Anthropology, I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, but I played at Carnegie-Mellon University's station which was right up the street; I used to hang out at a friend's radio show. I was, like, the guest DJ every week for a couple of years. I graduated in '95; it took me 5 and a half years to complete a 4 year curriculum because I went part-time a bit, a lot of people I know in the scene back then dropped out of school. You get caught up going to parties and you start not concentrating on your schoolwork and stuff, and I know a lot of people who did that. I did graduate, though, but nothing I did in school is really applicable to what I'm doing now, besides, you know, the logic and thinking skills; I mean, I obviously still think, but I don't really do anything in terms of computer systems or networking, (shrugs), I mean, I have two computers set up on a LAN at home, that's pretty cool.

Lunar: That's a step in the right direction.

Dieselboy: I got a little bit out of it.

Lunar: What is the number one question that you hate that journalists ask you?

Dieselboy & J-Messinian photo courtesy of Aurelie Gaudry Dieselboy: Number one question... I don't hate any one particular question; but the one question I normally get asked that I really can't answer is: "So, where do you see drum n' bass going in the next five years? Or the next three years? Where is drum n' bass going?" Sorry, I can't accurately answer that question. Besides the fact that drum n' bass has so many styles and sounds and whatnot, from the mellow stuff to the hard stuff and everything in between, it doesn't really go in any one direction, ya know? It's really hard to say where it's going; I can't predict what the next big thing is, because trust me, if I could, I'd be in the studio making that one tune that everyone's trying to emulate six months later! I get asked that question a lot, and, I don't hate it, but, a lot of people ask me where I get my name from, and honestly, a lot of the basic info about me coming up as a DJ is in my bio, and most people can get it out of there rather than having me say it all for them and jot it down, I mean, you can ad lib it straight out of my bio and pretend that I said it, because it's all right there.

Unless, of course, you have a bunch of questions there lined up straight out of my bio... which is fine, you can ask me.

Lunar: You've played consistently year after year to packed crowds in Atlanta. What, if any, evolutions have you seen in ATL crowds?

Dieselboy: Evolutions... well, it's hard to see evolutions in Atlanta, exactly.

Lunar: Well, I guess it could be more indicative of the rest of America.

Dieselboy: When I play Atlanta, it's like a lot of places. I get to town, go to the hotel, maybe grab something to eat, I might go to the show, I'll see a crowd outside or a line outside maybe, and I'll walk in, it's dark, there's music playing, I'll go in the booth, play, talk to some people, and I leave, so I really don't interact with people as much as someone who's say, in the middle of the party, or hanging out in the crowd as much, so it's hard to say. There were some times early on when I played Atlanta, and I had some pretty bad shows, so I didn't necessarily have a very good view of it, and once I started playing for Liquid Groove all the time, I found that the shows got pretty consistent.

I haven't had any complaints, with the exception of the New Year's Eve show, which I couldn't play at because of the stairs collapsing at the Masquerade, which sucked; that was a big letdown for everybody, but the last time I played there was with Bad Company, and I had a really great time; there were a lot of people there, and they were having a great time. I think Atlanta, consistently for me, at least, is a great show. I know, for the rest of the Planet of the Drums guys, that it's one city where we all know we're going to have a good time when we play there on tour, and I know I'm going to have a good time when I play there on my own.

But, also, I'm not there every week, so my viewpoint on the scene there is pretty skewed, so it's hard to say. I was actually saying this to someone the other day, that I can be in a city, and it can be packed, but after that there might be stuff going on and not many people really show up, so my view of the scene is something like, "Whoa, man, Atlanta is so slammin'," but other DJs might come and say, "every show really sucks with the exception of the occasional good party." But my take on it is what I see, and when I see Atlanta, and when AK and Dara see Atlanta, is that it's pretty consistently a good show with a good turnout and good energy.

Lunar: I see you're coming back to Atlanta in a week with Bad Boy Bill (Liquified's PS2 Dual Play Tour on March 28).

Dieselboy: Yeah, to the same club my MC got beat down at.

Lunar: I wasn't there that night, but what was the deal? This is off the record, by the way... br>
Dieselboy: Print it, man; I don't care; the kids love this kind of shit, anyway. My understanding is this: I was chillin' there, talking to some kids, and this guy comes out of nowhere and is like, 'James [J-Messinian] just got beat up and he's outside.' I went outside and I see James, he's got a cut on his face; his lip's bleeding, and he's got blood on his teeth, talking to some security guard and he's all emotional, and 'Yo, I didn't do nothin'; I didn't do nothin'.'

Basically, I think what happened was: James is in the bathroom taking a leak, some kids come in on him, and they're trying to give him props for a good show, etc, and some security guard comes in and tells everyone to get out of the bathroom for whatever reason. So James is like trying to- the worst part is that James is such a nice guy- James is trying to talk him out of it, saying 'Yo man, these kids are cool, it's not a problem,' and the guard starts getting all hostile and starts saying, "Everybody get the fuck out of the bathroom," and James puts his hands up like, "Okay, dude; no problem," and all of a sudden, the guy takes James putting his hands up as James is going to swing on him- even though I saw the guard. He was a big dude; he must have been at least 6 foot 4, gigantic guy. Security grabs James and this guy punches him twice in the face and hauls him outside. So I go outside and I'm trying to explain to them that James is one of the nicest, most non-violent guys I know, and would never swing on that guy, that they've got it all wrong, and the security's standing right there and one guy asked the guard, 'Did he hit you,' and the guard's like, 'No, I gotta protect myself; of course I didn't get hit." I went up to the guard and was like, "You just hit one of the headliners at your club; how could you do that? That's fucked up."

Dieselboy and J-Messinian photo courtesy of Aurelie Gaudry So, that was fucked up, James is... cool about it now- I'm sure he would love to fuckin' shank that dude if he had the opportunity- but now, we're playing the club again; we were booked to play it again; we didn't know about it. James is being cool about it; he's agreed to do it; I guess the guard has agreed to come and apologize to James, but I've already told Liquid Groove not to have that guy anywhere near the club that night, because that's when James is going to become violent. James wants to kill that guy, because the way it happened; it was really cheap. It's uncalled for; you don't need to swing on a kid at a show anyway, unless he's becoming violent. It was fucked up; I think that dude is wack, and we're going to try to make the most of it when we come back for the show. I think the club's alright; it's just that the security is kind of dicks.

Lunar: Is Sony giving you free shit for doing the PS2 tour?

Dieselboy: No, it's funny; when I did the Area: Two tour last year, I kind of got to be friends with the Sony rep who was working on it. He got me on this promo list, so every time Sony puts out a game, I get it. I got like, "SOCOM," the Broadband Adapter, the new soccer game, "War of the Monsters," the thing was that they approached my agency with the idea, since they'd done the tour last year with a variety of DJs- Tall Paul, Christopher Lawrence, Bill, DJ Dan, etc.

For me, I'm not getting free stuff or anything, I'm doing it because a lot of the venues across the country are going to be at House of Blues; I think the shows will be good, well promoted, and honestly, I want to step up to the challenge of playing for Bill's crowd. I want to be able to get a crowd that would come out for him to be a little more into drum n' bass and vice versa. Also, I think Bill's a really nice guy in real life, outside of DJing, he's a good person. So, I like touring with people I get along with; it always makes it kind of an adventure.

Lunar: Of all of your mixed CDs, which one do you feel the fondest for, and is there one you wish you could take back?

Dieselboy: I mean, the one I like best is usually the newest one. I'd say a toss-up between Project: HUMAN and The 6ixth Session. 6ixth Session really did well, and I was really happy with how it turned out. Soundwise, Project: HUMAN was a lot more involved; I'm not gonna bore you with the details, but so much more went actually into getting that thing created and getting the tracks done and remixed, and all the work that went into getting it finished was above and beyond what I was used to doing. I mean, mixed CDs in general; if you ever do a real (commercial) mixed CD and have to license tracks, it is a fucking headache. And ask any DJ who's ever put out a mixed CD, it can be a huge pain in the ass. Project: HUMAN was such a labor of love, to actually have it even come out was exciting for me. Just looking at it, and to think about all the stuff that went into it, from the intro and all the remixes that I had my hand working on, I was really happy with how it turned out. So it's really a toss-up between the two.

As far as a CD I'd take back, there are CDs that I don't feel are so slamming; I'm not going to name them, but there are kids who come up to me; I've had different kids come up to me and tell me that each different CD is their favorite. If it got someone into drum n' bass, or their friend into drum n' bass, then there isn't any CD that I would want to take back. Personally, I feel that some of them, like- I'm not really feeling them, but if someone else enjoys them, then that's what's most important.

Lunar: Other than copious amounts of UFO-clad 18-24 year old girls who would do anything you command at a snap of your fingers, and the artery-clogging joys of Waffle House, what keeps you coming back to Atlanta?

Dieselboy: What keeps me coming back to Atlanta... actually... I don't do Waffle House in Atlanta. Never done a Waffle House in Atlanta.

Lunar: I noticed that you and the POTD guys went to Fogo de Chao (pronounced "chow").

Dieselboy  photo courtesy of Aurelie Gaudry Dieselboy: Yeah, we went to Fogo de Chao (pronounced "show"); I found out it was Fogo de ("show"); I went to the one in Atlanta once, I do like that place. What keeps me coming back to Atlanta? Like I said, the people, everyone has fun, every time I play there, I usually play for Liquid Groove. I really like Damien and Devin; outside of scene politics that people might have with them in Atlanta on a personal level, I think they're good guys, they've got their shit together, and I like working with them. We show up, we get paid before the show, the hotel's cool, there's never a problem, barring the show at the Masquerade or James getting beat up by security; whatever they can control, it's never a problem. Very professional to work with them. The kids are fun to play for. It's always good to play for people who get excited to hear what you've got for them. There's energy there. It's always good to play for them.

As for the girls in UFOs thing, that's a misconception. It's not like that!! (laughing) On this side of the fence, it might look like it's all easy and everything, but it's not like that. Most people are pretty shy around me, and I'm a pretty shy guy as well. I don't really get much of that. Occasionally (laughing) I'll get something, but nah. It's pretty tame.

Lunar: Pat's or Geno's? (For the uninitiated, Pat's and Geno's are two take-out spots that rival for best cheesesteak in Philadelphia).

Dieselboy: Pat's is definitely better; I've had both. We've done taste tests and Pat's definitely came out better. Geno's is just bright anyway. You go in and there's just this super-bright light. Pat's has a yellow fluorescent lighting that's just not as harsh on your eyes at 4 in the morning.

Lunar: Desert Island Five

Dieselboy: My Bloody Valentine - "Loveless," Doves - "Lost Souls," Conan the Barbarian Soundtrack, Slow Dive - "Souvlaki," New Order - "Substance."

Lunar: Planet of the Drums has inarguably been a great success. It has pushed you, Dave, and Dara to the forefront of American drum n' bass. There are those who still feel, however, that in spite of your proclamation that dnb would finally go from being stigmatized and stuck in the side room, that the tour has been good for the Dieselboys, the AKs and the Daras, but not everyone else. Comments?

Dieselboy: Funny you should say that, it's been something that I've thought about. And I did think about it and it's like this: Originally, the initial reason for Planet of the Drums was that none of us really ever got booked at the same time at a party. So initially, we thought, 'let's all get together and tour so that all of our different fans can see us together at the same time and be like "wow, this is really cool.'' For instance, on a side note, we just did the 5th anniversary of my club night, Platinum, and we had AK, Fresh (of Bad Company), me, free of charge with a laser show and champagne; I mean, we fucking blew it out. To be a part of something like that, I want to be a part of something that's bigger than what I'm usually doing. For me, for doing the Planet of the Drums, and them, for us to be doing a tour, that's really phat. Like, if I were to go on tour with Andy C or something; that would be something really new for the kids; I know there are some people who would really want to see that. So, like, whenever I (get the chance to) do something bigger than what I would do normally, I like to take advantage of that.

So that was the initial reason we did Planet of the Drums. Then as we were on the road, we were like, "let's fuckin' be like, 'you're not gonna put us in the side room; we want to put on a show in the main room for the kids who paid $25 to get a show the way the house kids pay $25 to get a full-on experience.'' What's interesting is that so many people would pay $25 to get into a party and they weren't interested in what was on the main stage, where all of the production value is going; they're getting the $5 side room experience with drum n' bass. So we were thinking at the very least that for an hour and a half to 3 hours, you'd get to hear drum n' bass on the Big System at the show; you're going to get more of your money's worth, and hopefully, as a side effect of that, other DJs would get better opportunities to get better slots on the Big Stage, but there's no guarantee. I can't tell all the promoters once we leave, "Look, book all your local DJs on the main stage," but the hope was that it would be the fallout effect from doing that.

(flustered) I can see how a cynical fucking jungle guy would be like, "Man, these fuckin' guys are doing this to big themselves up." That is such a cynical way of looking at it. I mean, we hoped that we would A: get people to hear drum n' bass on the main system so they'd get their money's worth and then hopefully other people would do the same as well, and hopefully it would elevate the other talent. If a promoter books us and we sold out, maybe he'd say, 'Wow, there's a bigger drum n' bass scene here than I thought. Let's start doing more drum n' bass shows," because that did happen in some cities. It has happened. There's no guarantee that it would get more DJs booked on the main stage, but it was something that we hoped would happen.

As far as elevating us to the forefront of drum n' bass, I don't want to sound arrogant, but at the time, there were no bigger drum n' bass DJs in the US than us. It's like, we didn't join together in order to push ourselves in front of everyone; we were already the three most booked drum n' bass DJs in the States, so why not just join forces? We've tried to use Planet of the Drums to help draw more attention to drum n' bass in America.

It's funny; I was doing an interview the other day, and I was telling a friend of mine, "I bet you someone out there's probably saying, 'These fuckin' guys; they didn't get me a slot on the main stage; I'm not playing the main stage, no one else in my town is playing the main stage; this is a ploy for these guys to big themselves up.'" That's not why we did it.

Lunar: Aurelie (Atlanta's own DJ Duda) says you should cut your hair. How much shit is everyone giving you regarding your Kentucky Waterfall?

Dieselboy photo courtesy of Aurelie Gaudry Dieselboy: Besides hair color, I have had the Caesar haircut since '91 or '92. Last summer, I was looking at a British magazine, The Face, and I was looking through it, and there was this kid, this male model, and he had the haircut that I have now. And I thought, 'I could do that with my hair.' I liked this guy's hair; it's not a normal redneck mullet. I got shit going on with it, it's different, and I'm gonna work with it. I didn't think it would take as long as it did. I told people I was going to do it, and they were like, "No, you're not; no, you're not; ha, ha, ha" and I thought, "Cool, I got this haircut." And I guess it's different. Not a lot of people in drum n' bass have this haircut. Well, I did see John B last night and he had a mullet, so I guess it's changing a little bit. Everyone's growing their hair long. Guys who used to have shaved heads are growing hair; guys with short hair are growing it long. Change is good.

I'm surprised how much shit I've seen; I've seen discussions on message boards about my fucking hair, man. I mean, who gives a shit? I don't think about my hair that much. I'm not gonna cut my hair; I'm here right now and I'm having fun with it. I feel like, I'm just having fun with my look now. I get off now on the fact that, like, hanging out with James. He used to be a total hip-hop kid. And now he looks a lot more punk rock. I think it's fun because I'm embracing the whole idea of people looking at me and not immediately knowing I'm a "drum n' bass guy". Like, James did a show when he still had a mohawk, and we were going out into the crowd with all these ravers, like, "Wow, we look like rock guys at a rave!" (laughing). For me it's fun not to look like everyone else in the field who's doing what I'm doing. And as far as Aurelie goes; she's just joking; I know she likes my hair.

Lunar: Are there any rumors that you want to dispel for the record? Since the (April 2002) URB article, we know you're not gay; you haven't died from a coke overdose, or God knows what. Is there anything else that you want to dispel for the record?

Dieselboy: Rumor-wise, besides the "gay rumor," I don't hear very many rumors anymore. People always complain about why I don't smile when I'm playing. Trust me, it does not mean that I'm on my own dick, or that I hate everyone, or that I'm not enjoying what I'm doing. I try to explain that to people. People come up to me and they say, "I thought you were such an asshole; you never smile when you play," or "How come you never smile when you play?" The way I look at it is, if you're competing in a sport, like a wrestling match or something, you're not smiling. You're so locked on your opponent and trying to take him down that you're concentrating; or say you're painting, or doing anything that requires concentration, you're not smiling. I'm someone who likes to do as best I can. When I'm DJing, I'm laser focused on what I'm doing. I mean, I pay attention to the crowd, don't get me wrong; but I'm not like, a Donald Glaude; I can't showboat for the crowd. Back in high school I was never comfortable giving reports in front of the class. When I DJ I'm just in my own zone trying just to fuckin' rock it as hard as I can by focusing on what I'm doing. So, if I don't smile, it doesn't mean I'm a dick, it means I'm trying to give you a good show. I try to spend less time smiling and more time playing good music and really working the EQs and thinking about the next record and cutting in or whatever I'm doing.

The only other rumor is that I live in a 6 million-dollar house. Really, I live quite modestly in an apartment in Philadelphia. When I'm not performing or DJing, my life's kind of boring. I sit at home and hang out and watch movies or play video games, and I don't really listen to electronic music at home. I live like a very normal person at home. I don't live a "Rockstar DJ" lifestyle; I love drum n' bass and I love performing, but when I'm not doing that, I'm just a normal person.

Lunar: Are you finally Dieselman?

Dieselboy: I'll never be Dieselman. I could never be Dieselman. That would be so... gay. I mean, "Dieselman?" How gay is that? (laughing)

To find out about upcoming tour dates and more information, check out Dieselboy's official website at www.djdieselboy.com. A very special thanks goes to Maya Duani of System Recordings for her help in arranging the interview.

At Amazon.com

Project Human from Amazon.com Project Human - Dieselboy
CD 1:

  1. Genesis
  2. Shapecharge
  3. Subculture [Dieselboy + Kaos VIP] - Styles of Beyond
  4. Something for the Dancefloor [Underfire Remix] - The Funk Parlor
  5. You Must Follow [Dieselboy + Kaos VIP] - Stratus
  6. Altitude [Fierce + Rymetyme VIP]
  7. California Curse [Technical Itch Remix]
  8. Carjacker [Ram Trilogy Remix]
  9. Harder and Faster [Weapon vs E-Sassin Remix] - Robbie Rivera
  10. Hostile
  11. Stalker [Danny C Remix]
  12. Shadow [Hive VIP]
  13. Soundwall [Dom & Roland VIP] - Dom & Roland
  14. Quadrant 6 [E-Sassin VIP]
  15. Terminal Velocity
  16. Reborn [Weapon Remix] - Technical Itch
  17. Mindgames
  18. Revelations
CD 2:
  1. You Must Follow - Stratus
  2. Subculture [Dylan + Ink Remix] - Styles of Beyond
  3. Tension [Usual Suspects Remix] - Decoder
  4. Surreal Uncut [Tee Bee Remix]
  5. Pistolwhip [Stratus Remix]
  6. Bear [Universal Project Remix]



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