Introduced to us by the Lucky Me family who share an immediate geographical closeness, Dema, proved himself over the course of our discourse to be an affable chap content to let his mixing and impeccable selection do the talking. With a sublime reworking of Aaliyah's 'One In a Million' doing the rounds earlier this year, his remix for Nadsroic and an EP in the works for the Glasgow based label, he goes a little bit deeper than just an upcoming artist starting to find his feet; as he explains somewhat stirringly...
Sonic Router: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?
Dema: I’m Dema, I have been DJing and making music since about 1997 maybe even 1996, it all becomes a blur after a while.. I have run a fair few club nights most notorious was Freakmoves, which I ran with my DJ partner Mr Nice. We were known as the Freakmenoovers and gained a fair bit of respect and kudos for our DJing abilities. We did start out pretty much as underground hip hop scratch DJ’s but evolved a lot over the years into more dance based club DJ’s.
Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?
At the moment I’m actually a student in my first year of an interior design degree, but I work as a sideline as a Youth Arts Worker teaching scratch DJing, music production and graffiti.
How did you first get into making music and similarly DJing? What was it that infected you to do so?
I started DJing before making music, and I kind of fell into it as I was with my friend who Is actually now my DJ partner and has been since this happened, but he was DJing a local hip hop night and fell ill with food poisoning, but he knew I could mix and stuff because I basically learned at his house so he dropped me right in the deep end and went home leaving me to DJ. I totally loved it, getting the chance to play all my favorite records as loud as I wanted … From there I started getting more and more gigs as I had good tunes, like I brought back rare tunes from NYC and Tokyo and stuff whenever I visited there, and with a little bit of scheming I bought my own turntables and spent hours upon hours each day learning to cut and juggle records.
I got into the battle scene, but more as a spectator as I just never had the nerve to enter a battle, even though after watching some heats I would be like “why did I not enter this year…?” but felt what I really wanted to do was make the music I was playing. I enrolled at the School of Audio Engineering in Glasgow and did the sound engineering course which basically allowed me to use amazing studios and stuff to learn how to make music and record it properly, master it, mix it etc. I decided I needed to get my own equipment so I could do it at home so I found an old Atari and got a crack of cubase and saw an Emu ESI32 in cash converters for £300, I talked a bunch of shit at them and managed to get it for £135, total result, so I just practiced making hip hop beats for years, not letting anyone hear them until I figured they were good enough. I even got a bit of interest from Go Beat records but I decided it just wasn’t musically good enough yet so I kept at it until I was truly happy with my music.
What’s your production set up like? What’s your favorite bit of kit in the studio?
These days I mainly just use Reason 4 and IU have a few synths like a Korg Prophecy and an Akai SG01, but I rarely use them, I just use Reason. I am starting to feel a bit limited with it now though and want to get more into Ableton, also to start doing live sets. But I always think the first sampler I got the ESI32 was my favorite bit of kit, it had such good warm filters on it, made the best hip hop beats. Maybe the quantize was a bit too clean on it, but at the time I was loving it.
Where do you take inspiration from when making music?
I take inspirations from many things ranging from other music, to feeling anxious or watching a film. Even the weather affects the mood of my music, I think a lot of it can be quite dark due to the weather up here, but weirdly I try and make more warm music when it’s the depths of mid winter…ha…
How would you describe your sound?
Initially I would describe it as club hip hop, but I make a few different styles of music, and I have changed musically a lot over the last 5 years, I was very stuck in that all so common mid 90’s hip hop sound, but I’m just boring myself with a genre already done perfectly back then. I still love a lot of the sounds used from early music like the 808’s, 909’s for drums etc, I listen to so much old west coast gangsta music that I search out the sounds they used and try and create the same vibe but with other styles of music, adding moogs and grimy bass synths, keeping it twerked… simple even.
I dropped your mix previously on our Hivemind.fm show and there was a ripple of patter in the chatroom about when people have seen you play before. You have a bit of a rep as a dope DJ…?
I used to really practice all the time, with the turntablist stuff, but I think DJing clubs for so long has given me the ability to rock a party every time I play. When I do any cutting or doubling up records it’s just to amuse me, keep me focused, I even try to do it so people don’t know it, as I don’t want to ruin the dancefloor. If I see just one person really getting into it, then I kind of use them as a controller for other people and build the place into a house party no matter where I am. I have probably been very lucky growing up in Glasgow and DJing here, as our club crowds are nutters, like they properly go for it. I have never had that same vibe anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong people properly love it everywhere else, but not like in Glasgow… you need to come up to experience it, come to Numbers or Ballers, even the big clubs like the Arches, it’s just nutters going for it, I love playing to those dudes. Even Chuck D Says it every time Public Enemy play here.
Your affiliated with the Lucky Me family. How did you come about working with those guys?
Well I first met Hudson Mohawke when he was like 12 or 13, he was really young and he emailed me on my radio show on Sub City Radio (we used to do a turntablist show on a student run radio station) asking if he could come on the show and join in, so we were like yeah cool. He killed it… We were totally blown away by his skills, and over the next few years we would see him at various battles entering them and placing way better than a lot of people who were entering with a rep. Fast forward a few years and I met Dom Sum I think probably at our club Freakmoves at the Art School where Dom was a student and also Mike Slott in fact used to come by with random Irish hip hop records that we would buy and chat away to him. Well they with Hudson and another dude called Reveal started a small night called Lucky Me, and in all honesty it was the only night outside my own I went to as it was actually properly good. They had the best DJs and local MC’s who were killing it at the time, and they asked me to play one night with Hudson, so we had a total jam. By this point Hudson could destroy pretty much anybody at cutting, I was actually nervous and had a good practice session, as I knew I would be put through my paces. In payment I took a free rap from Dom, and kept in touch with them and they asked me if I wanted to be part of the family.
You ran parties at Glasgow School Of Art for a reported 7 years. What music were you pushing? What made you halt the night?
When we started it we were pretty much doing block party hip hop jams on a weekly basis, bringing guests from Rahzel, DJPremier, DJ Rectangle, Dexter, Cash Money etc and it was funny we pissed off a few other hip hop clubs due to the fact we would only charge £3 to a maximum of £5 entry as we wanted everyone just to come and have fun, and they were charging £12 etc for the same gigs, but for us the point was to bring these dudes to our town so people no matter how skint could get to see them. We would have pretty huge guest lists of folk who came all the time, and they loved it, and it made it a hugely successful night, but over time we changed a lot musically, by playing more electro and Bmore that we felt we couldn’t really do that night under that name anymore. It was too different, we weren’t those DJ’s, I mean we still kept it like a block party but the venue were more suited for the older style we did so we decided to end it while it was still big. We had such a good time doing it though.
How are you finding Glasgow now that it’s become some kind of fruitful place for music? More inspiring etc etc?
Glasgow is amazing musically now, it was almost known and an offshoot of Detroit for the techno side of things. Soma had that whole scene sewn up, every week and in fact quite a lot of Detroit dudes were living here and in Edinburgh, I used to play Basketball with Funk D’void and Gene Farris and stuff, there would be crazy techno gods turning up each week. I never even liked techno but I reckon I have been influenced by it in some way as some of the music I make is like techno hip hop, and in fact a lot of the people producing music in Glasgow have similar influences. I think it has really developed well, and I would go as far to say as we kill it!
Your SR mix track list basically mixes up the cream of the current crop of producers. Who are you feeling at the moment (in and out of the scene)? What are you looking for in a tune when you’re making mix tapes?
At the moment my favorite people are Lazer Sword, Eprom, Hov and Lunice, Dam Funk, Krystal clear, Mweslee’s new EP is so musical, Machinedrum is sick… the Night Slugs guys make such good club music, Roska, Kazey still gets heavy plays form me, there is far to many to mention. As for using them on mix tapes, I love mix tapes as it’s a whole different vibe from DJing a club, you can almost turn it into an audio story, chopping between tempo’s and trying to turn it into its own entity. Gawd I sound like a pretentious dick here but that’s just how it is for me, I take it pretty seriously, I need it to sound good 1000 times on repeat, and to make sense musically.
What other projects have you got in the pipeline? What’s happening with you in the rest of 2010?
I am finishing off my own EP for Lucky Me. I was meant to have finished it by Easter but I had a huge college project which demanded I dropped everything else in life for a few months… so I will get that finished, and I have a couple of remixes I need to do, which will be available soon, just keep checking the Lucky Me website for news on those!
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Do what you do if you love it, don’t if you don’t.
DOWNLOAD: Dema – Sonic Router Mix
1. The Blessings – Lungebob
2. Becoming Real – Lapland
3. Terror Danjah – Acid M
4. Dema – Izzle (Gucci mayne Acca)
5. Eprom – Hendt
6. Taz Buckfaster – Wetter is better
7. Kanye West ft Twista – Slow Jamz
8. 8-Bitch – G41 (Rustie Remix)
9. De De Mouse (Hudson Mohawke Remix)
10. Missy Elliot ft Vybes Cartel – Bad Man
11. Dema – 1’000’000
12. Hovatron – Gold Star Radiation (Lando Kal remix)
13. Lazersword – Shot in the night
14. Peter Digital Orchestra – Jeux de Langues
15. Mweslee – Variations pour cx pallas
16. Busta Rhymes – Break ya neck
17. Shlomo – Antigravity (Fulgeance remix)
18. Supa Nova Slom ft Jay ELectronica – True and Living
19. Tiago – Babelfish (Dema’s work it out mix)