A brand new single on Bingo out now, tracks pending on Born On Road and Souped Up, a forthcoming EP for Low Down Deep plus a special dub pack AND an album – busy times. Do you feel it’s now your time to blow up properly in the scene and be recognised by a more diverse audience?
Let me just say that I’m really grateful for life and to have been lucky enough to be able to live in a free society where I can chase my dreams. It’s important to be grateful I feel.
Saying that, I have been grafting for over 20 years and have had some great runs over the years. I would love to get more recognition though, especially for the Live band, as I truly believe there isn’t anyone out there that does it better than us. We’ve been up and down the country for years and we just started to really get to the top of the game, headlining Boomtown and Glastonbury stages etc and BOOM!! “Hello Covid!”
I’d love to see some more promoters put on live drum and bass events and stages and have us headlining them. We bring the Fire!
I’m really pleased with how the releases are going. I started last year with a number 1 on V Recordings and this year with a number 2 with Jungle Cakes. Lots more releases to come and I can’t wait to get back out there DJ’ing and with the band.
Must be a good feeling signing music to Zinc’s Bingo Bass, especially if you’re a fan of his work! Do you celebrate these milestones in any way? Probably more than just a status update on LinkedIn..!
Yeah man Zinc is defo had an influence back in the day, especially ‘Ready or Not’ Bootleg, ‘Casino Royale’, ‘138 Trek’ and his ‘Faster’ Album. When I hit a milestone I feel an inner satisfaction of achievement and I also sometimes celebrate with friends that have been around for a long time and know how much each milestone means. It’s a great feeling to be working with people who were my idols when I was a kid. There’s been lots of that in the last few years and it never gets boring.
You’re certainly no newcomer to drum and bass although some new fans may not know your history. Talk us through the early Dr Meaker times in respect of releasing music and how it all originally happened.
For me it all started when I was about 13, building sound systems and putting on free parties in the fields around the Glastonbury area. I was doing live sets from really young with some drum machines and synths. I saw the Prodigy play at Glastonbury ’95 and that changed my life forever. In around 1999 I was part of a trio called ‘Chemical Frequency’. We got an early play on the BBC Radio 1 in the Jungle show and a top 5 in J Magik’s DJ mag chart.
We quickly signed to MC GQ’s label Emcee Recordings but we sadly got slept on by the manager, as the other artists on the label took priority. Even though we worked hard and had some great tunes, I think we only actually put out a couple white labels with them and don’t think we ever got a full release. It was very demoralising as a motivated 21 year old and took a few years for us to get out the contract.
Soon after, the other two band members had other priorities so I started my own project as Dr Meaker. This was in 2003. I formed the live band straight away and began playing live across Bristol in the clubs and also festivals wherever I could. We won the Glastonbury Festival best live dance act Award in 2006 and things really took off from there.
My debut album ‘A Lesson from the Speaker’, released on my own label Flightcase Recordings, came out in 2008 and then I started signing records to V Recordings in 2011. We had great success with ‘Fighter’ ft. Lorna King and then ‘Right Back’ ft. Sian Evans.
We have done so much since then that I actually lose track.. A couple of pinnacle points being recording a proper String Orchestra and Gospel Choir for my 2nd album ‘Dirt & Soul’, playing a BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge Session for Mistajam and Trevor Nelson (which went to UK number 1 in Album Charts) and playing across the world with the Live band, including a gig on top of a mountain in Switzerland as well as a DJ set in a jungle in Ghana. And loads more in between.
I still feel like the actual music release side of things are still building and building, as is the Live Act. We have signed records to V Recordings, Circus, Souped Up, Born On Road, Jungle Cakes, Low Down Deep, Bingo Bass, Ram Records and a steady stream of new music to come, including the next album.
On top of all this I do mixdown work and mastering work for other producers and I’m one half of the RIDDIM PUNKS. Our debut album ‘London’s Burning’ has just come out and that’s been going really well and seems to be picking up a lot of pace in the scene. We have some really exciting new music coming soon too.
Over time, technology in respect of how musicians promote their work has changed significantly. Which platform have you really embraced? Some talk about their struggles with Facebook whether others love it. What’s your take on it all?
Facebook has become useless for me. Literally no one sees my posts anymore so I give it little priority. I find Twitter and Instagram to be the place that I get the most traction. The whole process is a tiresome but necessary process. I think it was much more creative when artists could just be artists and do the odd magazine interview. I reckon Charlie Break has got it about right.
Over the last year, some producers have taken the approach of ‘less is more’ in respect of their set up, removing a computer, adding pedals and suchlike. As a veteran of the hardware scene, has this always been something of importance to you?
I started making music on a little Yamaha SU10 sampler. Then a Tascam 4 track with a drum machine and keyboard. It was a really simple start but it was fun and forced creativity. I can see why people might want to strip back to find that essence again. Sometimes you can have too many options. I always like to have a hybrid set up, taking the best of analogue and digital technologies and methods. It’s ALL good in my opinion. Everything has its own sound.
If you could only have 3 bits of hardware in your production set up (not including a computer), what would these be and why?
One of my analogue keyboards (difficult to choose one but probably the original MS20, Monopoly or Minimoog), the Thermionic Rooster (my main weapon for tone) and my Amek Mixing Desk. But ideally I could also keep my Smart C2 compressor and my Neve pre and API 2500 compressor. That question is too hard!
Flipping this over to software, is their one plugin you can’t live without?
Guess what.. There’s a few.. I’ll go really boring though… Standard Logic EQ. Actually no let’s say the EMT 140 reverb as it’s my favourite reverb.
With years of knowledge stored away in your brain, have you ever thought about running production classes or even tuition relating to live PAs etc? If so, would you ever consider classroom style set ups or is Zoom the way forward forever?
I have done some tutorials and lectures for Uni’s but never in the Live PA domain. I guess either platform would be fine as it’s really just talking. But if we needed demonstrations then I guess in person would be better for PA tutorials.
Talking of Zoom, has this predominantly been the way of making music with others for you or have you found any other form of technology helpful for collaborations?
I tried doing a collaboration last year with Gray and I didn’t like it. I prefer being in the same room with the collaborator. Or to just send stems back and forth.
Let’s chat about the band. What’s the plan for the rest of the year now we are seeing some positivity in respect of live acts and events returning.
Very few drum and bass events actually put on live shows and so we find ourselves playing more general music festivals. We have four of those booked for this summer, although one has just pulled out yesterday and cancelled the festival due to them not being able to arrange Covid insurance. I see this being a continuing problem for promoters at the moment. Everything is up in the air. We’ve gone from around 30 live shows a year to next to nothing and it’s difficult to be honest.
We are looking at a Live band show at the Brixton Hootananny in September which will hopefully, definitely happen! Would love to see the Brixton crew!
When you’re performing as a group, do you switch roles or is it always quite a rigid structure? Do you play any instruments or sing?
It’s a rigid structure although every show and the way we perform it is different. Everyone has their own roles to play. I think the Tambourine gets passed around a bit sometimes but that’s it lol. We love to vibe off the crowd and flow with the vibe. The energy is mad in our band.
Collaborations are easy when making music, however, do you also link up with other live acts for a proper sound clash? If not, would you ever consider it and if so, who would be the one to go against?
Music is a mission, not a competition. But – Yes I’d do something like this. I would go up against anyone put in front of us. Would be fun I bet!
Anything DJ wise on the cards for this year?
Just bits and pieces around Bristol at the moment. Nothing confirmed until we get the clubs back open. I was supposed to tour America and New Zealand 2020 so hopefully a bit of that as soon as it’s safe.
Shout out to my Live Band: Tom, Dan, Cele, Teni, Laurent, Ben, Sam, Simon, Gina, Romaine. And also shout out to all the labels supporting our music: V, Ram, Jungle Cakes, Born On Road, Souped Up & Bingo. Shout to all our supporters and fans too. It’s all appreciated.