12th Planet Talks Pop Production, DJ Craze, and Hardcore
When 12th Planet (AKA John Dadzie) talks, the world of bass music listens.
That's because, as we explain in last week's mini-feature on the DJ, producer, and label co-founder, the man has been hardcore since (electronic) hardcore was a new genre.
Though it's as a dubstep producer that he's gained the biggest traction, he's helped shepherd the scene along since before it existed, first as a drum 'n' bass MC and producer.
Later, after he discovered the emerging sound of dubstep while on tour in the UK during the mid 2000s, he was instrumental in helping it take root in the states. Dadzie, by then having taken on the new moniker of 12th Planet, was a crucial presence at the early L.A. dubstep weekly Pure Filth, one the first of its kind in the US. Soon after, he helped co-found the influential label Smog, and ever since has continued to support up-and-coming artists, most notably lately the polarizing party-kid messiah Skrillex.
So, unsurprisingly, Dadzie has plenty to say on the birth of dubstep, its current state, and its future. And the friendly. loquacious guy was even happy to nerd out about drum 'n' bass -- so, clearly, there wasn't enough room to squeeze it all in to our final word count. Luckily, we have the blog to share the rest of the chat. Here's part one of the outtakes from our recent chat. Read up before you check out 12th Planet live at Grand Central next Saturday, June 16.
Crossfade: You've been in and out of the studio a lot lately. What are you working on?
12th Planet: I'm working on an album right now, and just trying to write as much music as possible. I've had writer's block for a little bit due to all the touring. There was a four-month run where I was doing three or four shows a week, with six-hour flights day after day. Then you get home and the only thing you want to do is get on the couch.
But I just got that motivation, so I've been working on songs. The last one I finished was for a dubstep artist on a new label called Disfigured. Then Flinch and I just finished a remix for a new artist called Echo Park, of a song called "Fiberoptic."
This is going to be a full-length of all originals? When is it going to be released?
Yes! To be honest, it's going to be released when it's finished. I don't want to put a time limit on it. Tentatively, I'm thinking before the end of the year. That would be ideal. But I want to make sure I have the best songs and the best approach and best marketing towards the album as possible.
That would be out on Smog also?
That's a tough question, I might not be able to answer that as of now. Anything could happen! I've been approached by a lot of different companies for an album project. So whoever has the best deal -- not the person who gives me the most money, but the person who gives me the best outlet to work on the album -- I think i'm gonna go with that.
This is my first baby, my first album project in 12 years of producing music. I've done so many singles, so many EPs, samplers, all kinds of stuff. But I've never done a full-length artist album, so I want it to be right.
I'm not trying necessarily to make an album that sells out, or kills the pop charts, or even gets to the top 10 on Beatport. I just want to make the stuff I really, really like. It might not all be dubstep; I just want it all to be great music -- but bass-driven, definitely.
Do you think there is, however, a potential for you to get some chart action? Has dubstep crossed over enough into the mainstream in the states for that, in your opinion?
I think underground music has been in the mainstream here for the last 10 years. It's not any big revelation or big movement. All these big pop writers and producers have been going to electronic music producers -- maybe for the last 20 years! Look at people like David Guetta and Afrojack and Diplo and Skrillex and Chase and Status and Aphrodite -- all these guys have been doing major-label projects for years, and have been wisely accepted in the mainstream.
One of my favorite artists as well, Rob Swire from Pendulum, wrote Rihanna's hit record "Rude Boy" last year. And that's just another case! And he used the same concept of electronic music applied to a pop format.
Have you been approached to do any similar writing?
Some of the artists I can't speak on right now, just in case. But yes, I have been approached by some major-label artists to write for them. I've kind of just not wanted to go that route, because I wanted to establish myself as a solo artist before I started stepping into that realm. That way, I don't have to conform to what their model is. Whatever artist wants to work with me, they're going to want to work with me for the music I make.
On a different note, in Miami you have a lot of fans here from your appearances during WMC and Ultra and everything. But also obviously Craze has been a big champion of yours from the beginning. How did you first meet him?
I met him through my manager Danny when I was 20 or 21 years old. I started out more as an MC or a host of drum 'n' bass parties and festivals. My name back then was Don Dada, and I had the privilege to MC for Craze at the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2002, maybe. It was at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
He was like, "Yo, you're pretty good on the mic, I heard from your friend Danny that you make songs, too, so send me some stuff." So I sent him four songs and he ended up signing one to his label, Cartel. Actually, he didn't have the name of the label yet then. He just knew he wanted to start a label based off that and some songs he was working on with an artist called Juju.
So one thing led to another and after a year or two, the label launched. That was the beginning of our relationship, and he was one of the first people to start taking me on the road to open for him on some shows. Granted, I was going on the road on my own, but I wasn't playing these crazy gigs like DJ Craze was doing.
He was taking you on the road as an MC? Or were you already doing the 12th Planet stuff?
This was way before -- four or five years before 12th Planet. I used to write drum 'n' bass as Infiltrata.
But at that point you were still more of an MC kind of guy?
I was really more of a producer, but the area that I came up in, Los Angeles, it was a real big pool of talent for DJs and stuff. It was almost impossible to get booked as a DJ in L.A., because the cream of the crop always played, and everyone always wanted to hear these certain DJs. I figured the only way I was going to be able to get in was to make music and MC for these guys.
So instead of not playing one show as a DJ, I would do six or seven shows in two weeks as an MC, playing two shows a night Friday, then two on Saturday, but for different DJs. So I got to build with all different DJs in the community, and I think that's how my brand really spread.
From the early days of just going to parties, what appealed to you about drum 'n' bass and similar low-end-heavy genres, as opposed to the other stuff that was popular back then?
The first thing I remember about going to these big bass parties was around seventh or eighth grade, when deep house was really big in Los Angeles. It was on the radio on Power 106 for 12, 13 hours a day. When we'd have our 7th and 8th grade kick-backs, we'd be playing deep house.
By the time I got into high school I started meeting more people, I got more into gabber, hardcore, and Dutch house -- basically, it sounded like deep house to me, but more in common with metal. Because at the same time I was listening to deep house and stuff, I was playing in bands, playing guitar and bass. So I liked the harder edge.
Then a couple of friends and I, when we were about 14 or 15, we went to a "rave" or whatever you want to call it, we got to hear hardcore on a loud system. I just remember the shock value of hearing this crazy bass going through your chest, you know? It's four in the morning and you're delusional, and the bass is pounding inside!
I was seeing this whole community of people rallied around the same kind of music, and coming from all walks of life -- everybody was just one That really appealed to me, because when I was in high school, there was only a small group of people, maybe 10 or 15 people,w ho even knew what this kind of music was.
It was a match made in heaven for me. All I wanted to do from then was write music and be involved with this music in any way possible.
12th Planet with Juan Basshead and MC Jumanji, Animal Krackerz, and Mike Deuce. Saturday, July 16. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via fla.vor.us. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.