Bringing out the devil in you: DiabloTraxx bare their soul ahead of HF vs the Residents 2008!
Reported by K8-e
Submitted 03-12-08 16:35
Hold on to your hats there's a new collective in town! Ajay, Above and Rob O.T.T make up the devilishly titled DiabloTraxx who've been wowing the hard dance scene this year with their new label, PA and agency. Ahead of an exclusive Dex n FX set at this years HarderFaster vs The Residents Christmas party, I got on the DiabloTraxx train to see where it was headed with Ajay and Above.
Ajay & Above
So let’s start at the beginning how did you all get involved in the scene, what drew you to hard dance?
Above: For me it was when I left school, I got fed up of going to pubs and drinking to much beer. A couple of mates were going to raves called Utopia and Transmission back in Australia I tagged along to one and saw Scot Project bash the absolute living f*ck out of it. Then met a guy and I started playin around on his decks and found out I could do it so I started getting serious about it and somehow I ended up with Ajay
Ajay: Hahaha, when Pauly says “ended up with” I’d like to firstly reassure my girlfriend that it’s not ‘like that’ although some scandalous rumours would say otherwise! I got into the whole scene via a misspent youth sneaking out to the old Exodus raves in Luton, then Rhythm Masters’ awesome High Spirit events (I was just about 18 then), and then onto Uni I met a bunch of reprobates who were involved in the mighty Hotdog and it kinda grew from there. Somewhere along the way I got decks, learnt to mix and it has never stopped since!
When did you guys first meet / when was the collective born and what’s your ethos behind Diablo Traxx?
Ajay: Paul contacted me and sent over a few tunes that him and Cooper had made. I loved them and they featured in all my sets for a good while. He then made the stupid decision to leave sunny Sydney and move to the UK as he enjoys cold weather, warm beer and high taxes. I was just in the process of setting up the label and needed someone good to work with that shared my passion – he was just the person to do this with.
The collective was born at around the same time as the label and essentially the core idea is to bring together each of my own, Rob O.T.T and Paul’s individual skillsets and make them into more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s about bringing something fresh and new to the scene and making a big mark on something we love so much.
Above: I met Ajay on Myspace. I sent him a tune from the other side of the pond and it all grew from there.
The collective was a sheer stroke of genius. I think Ajay and I were discussing how we could make things different and make people stand up and take notice of a new label, there are literally hundreds of labels out there that don’t stand out! We came up with the idea of doing a live PA to showcase the calibre and skills of our artists and tunes and to be honest I can’t believe how quickly things have developed. Our ethos is basically we all have our own thing that we are good at. There’s Rob who is the production genius, Ajay who is an absolute legend in his own right and wizard both technically and commercially and then there’s me with my own skill set and logistical background so we run like a well oiled machine. Our aim is to bring the very best the industry has to offer to you clubber! We do it for the love; our passion for the music is unbelievable.
Where did the DiabloTraxx name come from?
Above: Ajay came up with the name but I reckon it’s a cracker!
Ajay: Many of the HF massive will remember I was in a duo called The Duke & The Devil for quite some time, we enjoyed a fair amount of success, the “Devil” bit was obviously me due to my mischievous ways. DiabloTraxx was a natural extension of all that and kind of appeared in my brain one day without any prompt and it sort of stuck!
For those who haven’t heard of you (firstly where have they been hiding this year?!) and secondly how would you describe your style?
Above: I guess it comes under the broader term hard dance. Ajay’s and Rob’s UK sound kinda clashed with the German hard trance sounds which I love, but it works so well and the crowd response at our gigs is simply amazing.
Ajay: Yeah Paul has nailed it there – Hard dance in it’s broadest sense sums up the label perfectly. Myself, Paul and Rob all have different takes on it, but the DT sound kind of amalgamates all three of our sounds plus more. Essentially it has to be powerful, energetic and uplifting all at once – the kind of tunes that hurt feet and pound chests!
You’ve been pushing your live show since the start of this year and have played in some pretty impressive places – give me the run down on where’ve you been and what your highlights are?
Ajay: The live PA has certainly been amazing for us this year – gigs literally up and down the country from London to Bristol to Exeter, Birmingham, Bolton and beyond at some of the best hard dance events in the country. Highlights are so hard to define but definite favourites for me were the last ever Tasty – to be chosen by Billy ‘Daniel’ Bunter to play that main room among such legends when he had so many to choose from was a real honour and as Paul says, playing in front of thousands at the Bulldog Bash on a ridiculously powerful soundsystem at peak time and seeing it go bezerk was immense!
Above: For me there are two definite highlights.. The Bulldog Bash and Tasty for the Live PA both gigs were simply awesome. We were all very humbled to be asked to play at the last Tasty as it was tribute to the scenes legends, to be on the same line up as people like Jon Doe, Roosta, Billy Bunter and Kevin Energy was something totally unexpected. The Bulldog Bash was another amazing experience to get up and perform in front of that many people was slightly nerve racking and the copious amounts of cider did not help one bit.
What prompted you to want to start playing live and how did you go about deciding what roles to play or did this come naturally given your different backgrounds?
Above: It was one of my goals that I had set before I left Australia. As said previously Ajay and I thought it up as a way of driving the DiabloTraxx brand. We all just slotted into our own type of role - it wasn’t something we sat down said ok you do this, I'll do this and you do that - I think that’s why its worked so well.
Ajay: We’d kind of discussed it loads of times having been inspired by our good friends the Nu Energy Collective, Lab4 and so on and felt it was both a natural progression from DJing “showcase” sets of our own material and a great way to raise awareness for the brand. Plus of course it meant we get to play with lots more shiny stuff, mostly featuring blue LEDs, which everyone knows is a must have.
Talking of shiny stuff and flashing LEDs what equipment do you use in the studio and how does that differ to what you take out for the live shows?
Above: We use basically the same equipment live as in the studio, the only difference is what powers the PA, we use Ableton Live during the Live act where we use Cubase in the studio to make the tracks. I’ll occasionally use Ableton to throw a track together though. A big thank you must go out to Akai/Alesis/Numark for supplying us with the MPK49’s and the MPD32 for our live act - it really does broaden our capability in regards to playing.
Ajay: Production and live wise, we use very similar equipment to be honest. It’s all about the Akai MPD and MPK series controllers and keyboards – they are amazing production tools but also designed for “road use” and the abuse that entails. Software wise it’s Cubase for production with Ableton 7.02 for live, although we have used Ableton for production and re-edits on many occasions for its speed of use. In terms of VSTs, gems like Rob Papen’s Predator and Albino, Nexus 2, Massive and V-Station (using some of the amazing banks from K-Complex’s DMS site) are firm favourites.
What’s been the most popular release on the label this year and what do you have lined up for 2009?
Above: Well on pure sales alone the best selling track is Corkscrew by Rob.O.T.T. Also ELEMENTS have proven to be a very big seller to date. On the dance floor it all depends on where you play. For 2009 we have some absolute floor burners to release, we have been working with some amazing people.
One person to note is our newly found vocalist Leah Knowles. Keep an eye for a lot of tunes featuring Leah as we think she is the voice of hard trance! Rob and I recently completed a track called Field Of Dreams, for which Leah wrote the vocals, I’ll be playing it at the HF Xmas party - its gonna be huge. We also have debut tracks from Aussie producers D.A.W.N. and also UK new comers Endemic. Tracks from Rob, myself and Ajay will also feature in the new year. If anyone has tracks to send to us you can email them to email@example.com
Ajay: Corkscrew was a huge seller for us, as were several others. It’s great to see tracks from the early days of the label still selling too – a real mark of quality I reckon! 2009 is going to see more super high quality hard dance coming out on the label – I’ve finally caught up with the ridiculously busy workload and managed to get some more ideas of my own down, Paul’s in there too and Rob is continuing his blistering production rate. On top of that we have just signed some awesome new tracks from the likes of Endemic, A-Dee and Kye Shand and more, so watch out for even more amazing new material over the coming months!
As Rob O.T.T is flying the flag for DiabloTraxx in Finland at the mighty FiNRG on the day of the HF Christmas party I hear we will be treated to a world exclusive DiabloTraxx Dex & FX set. Tell us more about what that will involve and what sort of kit you will be using?
Ajay: The set is going to be a little bit special, consisting of live accordion, jew’s harp and a banjo solo from myself, as part of our exclusive “DiabloTraxx Live & Unplugged” album series, coming to good charity shops near you very soon.
Seriously though, we’ve been working really hard to put together something a bit special, a kind of “live meets DJ set”, using CDJs, Technics and a mixer as usual, then an Akai MPK49 keyboard/controller to run Ableton and trigger loops, samples, extra riffs and more. It’s something we are really excited about – too often you see “Dex & FX” and all it consists of is some geezer “discovering” the flange button! (Hehehehe he said flange.)
Above: We will be using the CDJ1000s, The original and best SL1200’s and Akai’s MPK49 controlling Ableton, it will be an exclusive set performed only at the HF Xmas party. I’ll be fresh from my stint in Switzerland so will have some fresh tunes from Dave Joy’s studio in the Swiss Alps. And I’d like to reiterate that Ajay just said flange!
You mentioned Akai earlier – tell me about your involvement with them?
Ajay: Basically we are really lucky to be involved with the guys at Akai/Alesis/Numark – it all came about, like the best things, by chance and a conversation with their then assistant marketing manager. As a leading manufacturer, they wanted to get their products used visibly by acts and artists who could give product feedback, find new and innovative uses and also help give some good endorsement to the products. We now are lucky enough to get lovely shiny gear way before the mere mortals (and often magazine reviewers too) see it! The smug feeling I got when I saw the MPD32 get 5 stars in almost every review, a couple of months after we’d had it, was immense! By that point, we’d had literally hundreds of emails and messages from people asking “what’s that controller?”!
Above: The Akai thing is very much Ajay’s baby and it’s something I generally leave him to look after, except for when his stumpy little arms won’t reach round the various bits of kit when it comes to setting up!
Of course the DiabloTraxx name lends itself to an agency as well as your act – who are other artists on your roster and what do they bring to the party?
Above:We have some very talented people who we have signed to the agency, primarily this year has been all about building the brand and scene awareness and having everything in place to keep moving, 2009 will be about pushing our artists forward to demonstrate the depth and calibre of their talents. Every artist was hand picked by Ajay and myself and only after seeing them not only play but what they play and how they play it. Stage presence is a huge factor with performers today hence the names on our agency. Our artists are DiabloTraxx Collective, Ajay, Above, Rob.O.T.T, Mike Avery, Helen G, Yoshi, Glyn C, Gordon Darley and our latest signing is Scorpy.
Ajay: I think Paul sums it up perfectly there to be honest – it’s all about developing new talent and making an impact on the scene. All the artists we are working with are great performers in their own right and I hope that with a bit of extra help from ourselves, they can go on to achieve all their goals, much like the support of others helped us get ahead!
As you come up to your first birthday what are your plans for next year? World domination?
Ajay: World domination is just one of my goals for 2009, I have even had the outfit designed. I just need to finalise the exact job title. Unfortunately some African dictator already beat me to “Lord of all Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, Conqueror of the British Empire and most particularly Uganda”, so I’m back to the drawing board there. Seriously though, there are a few major goals – firstly to continue doing what we do, creating and selling amazing music and playing it out to the masses, secondly to continue developing artists and to build on our international contacts to help people spread their wings further. On top of that, we are already well down the line with a couple of album and compilation projects for major brands, as well as tying in with two major UK tours too! It’s going to be a busy, busy year.
Above: Well world domination would be nice (haha) but we are planning to push our artists much further afield than just the UK. We are setting up DiabloTraxx Australia in an attempt to reduce the stepping stones for both UK artists and Australian artists between the two countries. We hope to make it easier for artists to gain bookings in each countries by raising their profiles in the reciprocating countries. We’re also about to launch www.diablotraxx.com where you can buy tracks exclusively before they go online on third party sites such as Trackitdown.
We also have some major tours coming up with some big name brands so keep your eyes peeled for the info in our group (www.iluvdt.com) or our website when it goes live.
Which have been the stand out tunes of 2008 for you – both from your own stable and from further afield?
Ajay: For me there have been a few real monsters – firstly mine and Rob’s Ring My Drill, made specially for the live PA at the Bulldog Bash. It’s an ultra exclusive bootleg of Dirt Devils “The Drill” with our own harder edged slant and has become a firm favourite in both the live show and DJ sets.
On top of that, I’ve been loving Rob’s amazing Let Yourself Go which is forthcoming on DT. I remember getting it in my inbox on the morning of playing at B2T and thinking it would go off. Dropping it as second track in my set and seeing the place absolutely erupt, not to mention three people trying to sign it on the night, is a memory I will always treasure.
Further afield, I’ve been absolutely caning Kevin Energy’s amazing Stimulants, Iridium’s rocking Give It To Me and the gorgeous Amber D’s equally gorgeous Rush On Me.
Above: Stand out tunes - gee that’s a toughy as there’s been so many bangers I’ve been sent, I think definitely Synergy by Rob.O.T.T. We had so many labels asking to sign this tune it shows Rob’s progression and really showcases his talents, the guy is, well there is no other words for him but a freak of nature, I’ve worked with him a lot in the past few months and it’s simply awesome watching him work. Stella, which is one of my own productions (Above comprises myself and Cooper who is in Australia) which has been signed to Joyride music, further afield I’m loving BK & Lisa Lashes – Has It Come To This (Dark by Design & Phil York remix) its has so much drive and is a really unpredictable track - something I love. Keep an eye out for that one which will be released soon.
Ajay you are generally know for being a bit of a rapscallion and getting into all kinds of mischief. I particularly remember an after party back at yours that involved street wrestling, stair surfing and mummified mc’ing through a set of headphones with the one and only Simon Vegas. What’s been your mischievous highlight of 2008?
Above: Can I just say Ajay is known lately for falling asleep and being drawn on, definitely my highlight is Steve Hill drawing something on the back of his neck - I cant really say what but oh my god it was so funny. Watching Ajay get dressed up in his girlfriend’s dance outfits is definitely a highlight too.
Ajay: You f*cker!! Now all my secrets are out! 2008 has seen my immense workload take it out of me on several occasions, resulting in ill-times sleeping bouts. And there is always someone with a marker pen to hand. Steve got me good and proper, as did Paul another time – I reckon it’s an Aussie thing but believe me there will be retribution. But I seem to remember a certain Australian best mate and business partner of mine deciding at some ungodly hour that he needed to go home from a rather “lively” crack on not so long ago. That’s fine if it weren’t for the fact it was at our flat and his bedroom was less than 10 feet away at the time!
Finally some quick fire questions…
Above: Jack Daniels all the way it passes the time when on the long haul flight from Sydney to Heathrow
Ajay: Everyone knows I love the Stella!
“If all else fails” tune?
Ajay: Rob O.T.T – Requiem. The tune that kick started the label and still a monster that destroys it every time.
Above: DJ Wag – The Day The Earth Caught Fire" (Evacuation mix), a timeless classic hard trancer
Above: Space night club in Sydney
Ajay: SeOne in London or Club UN in Sydney
New kid on the block to watch in 2009?
Ajay: Well obviously our entire roster of talent never fails to impress, on top of that I am definitely keeping an eye on A-Dee and the Endemic boys as future stars, as well as the excellent Jennarate.
Above: From the DiabloTraxx Stables – Scorpy this guy has the passion. He’s in it for the music just like the rest of us and is a phenomenally fast learner. Expect big things in 2009 from him track and performance wise. Also keep your eyes peeled for Leah Knowles with her vocals she will be featuring in one of our LIVE PA’s very soon!!
Heinz or Daddys?
Above: I have no idea what Daddy’s is? So I will say Heinz
Ajay: You uncultured piece of sh*t Paul! It’s all about the Daddy’s for Brown sauce!
Catch Ajay and Above from DiabloTraxx with thier exclusive dex n Fx set at the Harderfaster vs The Residents Christmas Party on 6th December @ the Square Pig, Holborn.
All photos copyright Pat-Men At Work, not to be reproduced without permission.
HarderFaster vs The Residents 2008
Saturday 6th December
The Square Pig [map]
14:00 - 23:00
£5 suggested charity donation on the door supporting the Dom Pardey Trust, more appreciated.
Charity donation on the door supporting the Dom Pardey Trust (http://www.dompardeytrust.org.uk)
A soiree for very special HF people.
Last year HF members raised a total of £2500 for the Kent Air Ambulance in memory of Zimma. This year we decided to continue the charity concept and we were overwhelmed by nominations to support the Dom Pardey trust.
For those who don’t know, Dom is an HF member who at the age of 28 suffered a severe stroke on Christmas Eve, 2005 - one that nearly killed him. Since then he has made great strides going forward in his rehabilitation but due to the ever cash-strapped nature of the NHS he desperately needs more funds to keep his rehabilitation and life moving forward. All money raised will be donated to the Dom Pardey Trust.
You can read more about Dom's physical and mental fight on his witty and sometimes poignant blog.
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The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.