Dweller – A lot of music loses it edge when it becomes commercial, which is a shame in one sense but good in the other. It’s kinda like entry level music, and people can go on to discover the underground stuff and embrace it if they like it.

Our competition was always to be different. An antithesis of the whole “you like mine and I’ll like yours (but then don’t)” mentality. Our scene was never about exclusivity, but more, inclusivity. We are a band of brothers (and sisters) who share a love of beats and songs and togetherness. Since we started the Mix of the Month competition, we’ve seen and hopefully helped, a wide selection of DJs to aspire to push on with their dream, and fight that little bit harder for what they want.

Dance music is an unpredictable beast, and more often than not, we find DJs like this months winner, Joey Crane aka Dweller, have been patiently working away in the underground, learning, practicing, and supporting. Now is his moment, and we know he’ll grab it with both hands. Head of Radio Operations, Daz Pearson went to meet the man himself and find out his unique story.

Hi Joe, thanks for taking the time out to chat to us at Decoded Magazine today. How’s your day been?

It’s been nice actually. Went into London with the missus for a day out. Tried to go ice skating but it was fully booked so we went to the pub instead. Probably a better option anyway!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Outside of music what do you do?

Well, I have the obligatory 9 – 5, and I also have a family; a wife and two sons, so any spare time is spent on music. Most of my friends are DJs or producers or somehow involved so even socially most of the talk is about music. That sounds really geeky doesn’t it?!

So, you started to lean to DJ when you got your first DJ set-up as a birthday present at the age of 13. What got you into dance music and prompted you lean learn to mix at an early age?

I got into the music really young. I kinda found it on the radio when I was about 10. I was blown away! My parents listened to Motown and Country & Western and I wasn’t much of a fan so they bought me my own radio/cassette player. I was scrolling through the dial one day and I found a pirate station playing Hardcore or Jungle.

I can’t remember the song or the station, but all I can remember is the mad drums & scatty vocals. I was hooked instantly. I started listening to a few stations like Kool FM and Force FM (which I had a show on a few years later) and I really got into it. My older cousin found out I was listening to Jungle and told me he was a DJ and explained it all. I’d never really thought about how it was played before, and it was a bit of a revelation.

I saw a scratch DJ one morning on Going Live or something and it just amazed me. After that I was begging my parents for a set of decks. My mum and dad had a record player so I started going into record shops. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I must’ve been 11 or 12, spending my pocket money on tunes. Then I got a set of 1200s and a mixer for my 13th birthday but I didn’t really know what to do with them. I watched a guy in the record shop for absolutely ages one day and I clocked onto a few things. Then it was just practice, practice, practice. Obviously it was the days before YouTube tutorials and sync buttons.

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When you were eventually old enough, what were some of the nights you used to regularly attend?

The first club night I went to was Peach at Camden Palace (now Koko). It was the weirdest place. They had trance in the main room but garage in the smaller room upstairs. Those two scenes should never meet again, they’re polar opposites. A few of my pals were into trance but I went for the garage.

I used to go to a lot of the big Drum n Bass and Old Skool parties, but it was the venues I went to more than the parties. Bageleys, Camden Palace, Fabric, The Rex, Area, Brixton Academy, those sort of places. But I always went to Raindance & Slammin’ Vinyl. They were such a wicked parties!

You’ve worked your way through a number of genres before ending up at house music. How has this developed your overall mixing styles?

Each genre has certain techniques that are common to that. I try to utilise these techniques in my sets so every mix is different. So I might try to ‘double drop’ a vocal or baseline from a new track after a break of the current track or do a straight ‘break to break’ mix. Timing and structure is essential when trying to create peaks and troughs within a set. I also think DJing and producing have helped each other by understanding the structures and arrangements in songs.

How has your home set up changed since your first set of decks? I image it’s a different league now?

Its changed considerably. At the start I used Technics, as that was the only option. I never really took to CDJs when they became popular but was forced to go digital when record shops started closing and the whole internet thing blew up. Now my set up is tiny compared to what I used to use. I have a Native Instruments controller and Traktor set up which is mainly due to the lack of space I have in the family home. I only use it at home and when I do radio shows, it’s easier because all my music is on my laptop. I like to use the clubs equipment at a gig, I hate to see laptops in DJ booths and I enjoy mixing in front of a crowd. I’d feel like I was cheating otherwise.

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Can you tell us a bit about the digital music production degree at Thames Valley University? Other than learning did it put you in contact with key industry people helping you get your name out there?

I learnt a lot about mix-downs at uni, but most of the production stuff was based around ProTools in a massive studio setting which was frankly out of my reach. Most of the other students were rock musicians too, so there wasn’t really a lot in common with them. But, you make your own luck don’t you. I talk to anyone and I’m not afraid to to ask for something. As my mum always says “you don’t get if you don’t ask”.

What is it about DnB and Garage you think has become stagnant? Do you think most genres of dance music reaches this point at some stage?

I just got bored. It was when Jump Up Drum n Bass came around. Every rave I went to was the same DJs playing the same songs. You’d even hear the same songs a few times in a night which is ridiculous. I think the beginning of the end of garage for me was when my 6 year old niece was singing Craig David’s “Rewind”. Stuff I was getting a few months before on promos was all over commercial radio, and that took the fun out of it. It wasn’t an underground movement anymore. I liked the fact you had to be into it to know about it.

Then the whole grime thing evolved from it, which was probably to counteract the commercialness. It just didn’t pull me in and I didn’t want to keep playing the same old tunes so I needed to move on, and that’s when I was introduced to warehouse and fidget. It was so fresh and had so much energy, I started playing it straight away. From there I found all the other sub genres of house and started to take a lot more notice of them. A lot of music loses it edge when it becomes commercial, which is a shame in one sense but good in the other. It’s kinda like entry level music, and people can go on to discover the underground stuff and embrace it if they like it.

Moving onto your releases, I notice your first was with EJ Underground which is part of Krafted Music Group. How did it all happen?

It was all by chance really. I had a couple of tracks I felt were finally ready for release so I sent them out to some labels and Paul from EJ Underground got back to me. I was made up to be honest. It was a really nice feeling that somebody liked my music enough to take a chance and sign it. I don’t think it did exceptionally well but it was the kick up the arse I needed to carry on. I’ve considered quitting a few times because I become frustrated with it. But then something happens and you decide to continue. If you love something don’t stop doing it. I’ve met some really cool people through Krafted (including yourselves ) and its helped with networking.

Could you name 5 tracks which have shaped you musically, and why they impacted you the way they did?

Wow! That’s quite a question. If I’m honest 5 is difficult but I’ll try. One track that will never get old is Zed Bias’ remix of ES Dubs – Standard Hoodlum. I still play it even though it’s 16 years old. It’s guaranteed to go off when you play that. I love Zed Bias anyway but that track was one of the first bass line tunes with a broken beat and it was quite groundbreaking at the time. Another track that’s always stuck in my head is Dem2 – Baby (You’re So Sexy). Dem2’s drums are iconic, you can tell their music within the first 2 bars. The vocal on this track gives me goosebumps.

My last garage track is the Industry Standard remix of Somore – What You Want. Everything about this track screams classic. The vocal, the riff, those chunky drums. It’s great. The next two tracks are from my early days: Remarc – R.I.P and the other is DJ SS – Rollers Convention. The ragga style vocals on R.I.P make me wanna swing from the chandeliers and the into on Rollers Convention is jaw dropping. You can’t beat a bit of Beethoven. Last but by no means least is something a little bit more modern. It’s Marc Spence- Keeper Of The Flame. The first time I heard this track I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The use of the sample is unbelievable and that bass line makes you screw up for face like you’ve just smelt a fart. It’s brilliant !!

What has been your favourite gig you have played to date? 

My favourite club to play is Egg at Kings Cross and I recently played there for a party called Eat My Beat’s 2nd birthday. I get on really well with the guys who run the party and I was really happy when they asked me to headline there birthday. I wanted to do something a bit special so I made a track especially for that night to open with and dug out my finest acapellas. It went down really well. I think there’s a recording of it on my mixcloud page.

Let’s talk about your mix for a moment. Was it planned out or did you just go with the flow? What was the general mood and direction you were aiming for?

I never plan sets as such, I will go through my music and select a few songs (probably 50-100) that I like and that suit the general mood I want to portray. I usually choose an intro track but after that it’s anything goes. You don’t get the same spontaneity when you playlist a set, they’re normally tracks you know go together, you’ve probably done the mixes a hundred times before and it’s all a bit boring for me. A lot of the time I don’t even know how it’s going to sound so that’s where the energy comes from.

I get hyped when things fall into place, and I think that comes across in my sets. Again, for you guys, I wanted to do something a little different because you said there was no specific genre. That’s why I played that Dancehall track “Syvah” and Mood II Swing’s “Closer”. My sets are based around house in one way or another but if I can squeeze something random in I will. You gotta take chances occasionally!

Finally, are there any upcoming gigs we can catch you playing or any future releases to look for?

I’ve got quite a few remixes coming out in the coming months actually. There’s one for Bloxxbox, a remix on my friend Seizure’s next EP, a remix for Dual Life Records and I have a track on a WMC taster album for Sweep The Floor Records. Me and Seizure are currently working on an album under our Domestic Disturbance moniker too. As for gigs, I don’t have anything lined up. So, if anyone out there wants to book me, please get in touch :)

01// Jerk in the Box – Sugar (Lost Rocket remix)
02// Format B – Chunky (Robosonic mix)
03// Wally Lopez – London Trip (Alvaro Smart stripped mix)
04// A++ The Southern – Touch You (DJ Simi mix)
05// Detroit Swindle – Freaky Stuff
06// Pezzner – Thug Rock
07// Mood II Swing – Closer (Swing to Mood Dub)
08// Danny Ocean – Virgo
09// Ding Dong – Syvah
10// Adrian Moya – Pher
11// Cera Alba – Modula (Leftwing & Kody mix)
12// Todd Terry – Spinning
13// Sante Sansone & Roland Clark – House Nation (Riva Starr edit)
14// Metodi Hristov – Step Outside
15// Green Velvet – Genedfekt
16// Huxley – Shower Scene