DNB Dojo is a virtual hall for immersive 170bpm learning. The honorary DJ Hex 先生 displaying the prowess of a 1-hour sonic exhibition.
DJ Hex runs the blog DNB Dojo. It features reviews, premieres, guest mixes, and a monthly podcast mixed by himself. For the last five years, DNB Dojo established itself as one of the prominent sources of underground 170BPM.
His production output has found widespread support in the underground scene, with releases on Detached Audio, Black Tuna, Celsius and Free Love Digi, and so on.
The Englishman has called the last 15 years in Glasgow, Scotland, home. His thoroughness of many styles and facets is unquestionable. The passionate Drum & Bass scholar residency is at Symbiosis, Glasgow. Hex has also graced the decks at License to Jungle, Central Beatz, Electrikal, Jungle Nation, Rarewave, and Liquid Funktion, as well as appearances at locations around Scotland’s busy summer festival season.
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Kata is structured practice for consistent improvement. I have played the mix you performed ad nauseam. I can say that I heard blood and sweat from years of toil. For those who want to DJ and learn production, can you explain the commitment level you must-have? Or is it more layered than that?
It’s interesting that you mention Kata – this is something that I practise in my day job as a software programmer, but I’ve never really considered it in the context of DJing. In many ways though I do engage in structured practise as a DJ – recording the monthly podcast for DNB Dojo keeps my selection and mixing skills sharp, and if you can hear “blood, sweat and years of toil” then that’s a result of over a decade practising on the decks, recording mixes and playing out in clubs.
When it comes to production it’s the same – you learn a new technique while making a track, and if it’s successful then you will practise and hone that technique on future tracks, training your ear to pick up subtle differences in sound and training your brain to be able to work faster. A great example of this is drum mixing – I picked up some absolutely game-changing techniques in 1-1 tuition sessions with Philth (big up Phil!) and to start with it took hours to get the drums sounding right, but now that I’ve practised and used those techniques across a dozen or so tracks they’re better integrated into my workflow. Mixdowns is still time consuming, but not as bad as they were!
As for commitment, I think that answer varies depending on what you want to achieve. As a DJ, the basic skills of beat matching are not difficult to learn, especially with modern digital equipment – the true skill is knowledge of the music you want to play, and what tracks will blend well, how to switch the energy either gradually or more intensely, and how to craft a selection that takes the listener on a journey. The best DJs have a deep and intimate knowledge of their style of music fostered by a passion for listening to and seeking out new music, so I guess there’s a commitment in that, but it’s not something I’ve ever found hard to do!
On the production front, I think the commitment level is higher, particularly within the D&B scene where the standard of engineering is so high. I first started dabbling in production around 8 years ago and it’s really only in the last few years that I feel my productions have started to approach the quality I really want them to have, both in terms of composition and engineering/production quality. The learning curve is pretty steep around production, but it is immensely gratifying at all stages, whether it’s nodding along to a beat in the studio with a smile on your face or getting to play a creation of your own to a packed room and watching the crowd move.
My advice to aspiring DJs and producers is to be patient – these skills take time to learn and perfect, but if you’re willing to invest that time it can be really rewarding.
Let us assume you were to write a letter to your future self about your Drum & Bass aspirations. What advice would you give?
Keep the faith! There have definitely been times when I’ve compared my own work to that of others and felt dispirited, but time and practise and perseverance have allowed me to create music I feel happier with. Otherwise, something I’ve learned over the years is that while you can’t force creativity, the biggest hurdle to get over sometimes is to stop making excuses and sit down in front of the laptop – sometimes even if you feel tired and uncreative the ideas will flow.
In my opinion, I believe the Drum & Bass blogosphere subject matter is thin and unimaginative. DNB Dojo is an exhaustive compilation of content for the Drum & Bass novice and expert alike. Are you planning to expand into other areas (e.g. production tutorials, documentaries)?
I don’t have any plans to expand into production tutorials – to be quite honest I think other platforms exist that already cover this well. Documentaries would be an interesting thing to embark on, but they’re beyond my skill set to achieve and probably very time consuming to produce! I’m happy with the niche that DNB Dojo occupies, particularly in terms of trying to give a platform and exposure to some of the lesser-known artists and labels in the scene while also holding true to my principle of highlighting music that I feel is special, not just music that comes from “hot” artists or conforms to trends in the scene.
A key factor here is that while it’s an immense privilege to be sent so much music via the blog, it is nonetheless quite time consuming to listen to it all and then to put together the content each month. I have to balance this against time to write music of my own, my day job, and social life/downtime, so I’m not looking to take on anything more on the DNB Dojo front.
Scotland is known internationally for its scenery. What blew my mind was James Bond’s “Skyfall” location in Glencoe. That was breathtaking. I have a special request (in a Rufige Kru voice). Would you consider doing a DJ set (for YouTube) on that location? What do you think?
Oh man, I would love to do that – either as a Youtube thing or as a live performance to a crowd. It would take some work though; it’s a relatively remote part of the country and we’d have to drive up there with all the necessary equipment. I know some people who run sound systems in the Scottish scene so maybe I’ll hit them up for a Glencoe project when the Covid pandemic is over…
What Equipment was used for this mix?
The mix was recorded live in my home studio using 2 x Pioneer XDJ1000MK2 and an Allen & Heath Xone:43 mixer, plus my trusty Sennheiser HD-25 headphones.
What are your future goals?
Really just to keep writing music and keep releasing it, building my audience as a producer and a DJ. There are a number of labels I’d love to release music with, and it’s always been a personal dream to have a release pressed to vinyl – I learned to DJ on vinyl and I still collect records so the black wax has a special place in my heart.
In the more immediate term, the goal is to get some music finished. I have an EP coming out at the end of February with a label I’m a big fan of in the US – more news on that very soon, and listen out for one of those tracks included in this mix! I’m working to finish an EP of liquid D&B which I started working on about 4 years ago, and then I have at least a dozen ideas in my notebook to start.
Thanks very much for inviting me to do a guest mix for Phuturistic Bluez! I really enjoyed putting this one together, so I hope the listeners enjoy it too. Big up!