It takes a while to form the mental image of where you are going, muses drummer, beat-maker, producer, DJ and visual artist Julien Dyne.With a performance history that includes Opensouls, FFD, James Duncan, Wild Bill Ricketts, She’s So Rad and Ladi6, it’s a tempting trap to picture Julien Dyne as an accomplished and versatile, but maybe shiftless drummer. He is, but he’s also developing himself as an edgy music producer, a pastiche artist blending sound images in an idiosyncratic manner. Indeed he consciously seeks to avoid the trappings of both the old guard and the new school in order to keep his influences and music open, as he tells Martyn Pepperell.
“One thing latches to another and the cohesion becomes more apparent as you get a few more supporting elements coinciding with everything, then you start to see the bigger picture. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t have the picture. You have the pieces, but you don’t have the final picture as reference. So you stumble around for a while until you begin to form a side of the ship, or a pastoral landscape. After that, you can figure out what the sky is, and so forth.”
Speaking from his Auckland home, Dyne has been giving me the rundown on the last metaphorical jigsaw puzzle he put together, ‘December’, his third internationally released studio album in four or so years. Sitting somewhere between the stilted hip hop rhythms and brass stabs of his 2009 debut album, ‘Pins & Digits’, and the foggy memory mists and nostalgic melodies of ‘Glimpse’ (his second), with ‘December’ he folds in motifs and mental attitudes drawn from contemporary RnB-inflected beat music, psychedelic rock and krautrock, while also sliding around the scale in terms of tempo.
“I was conscious of stuff to play out in my DJ sets, as well as stuff to listen to at home,” he explains, as a preamble to a deeper analysis of his musical praxis.
“Making music like I do is a different process because of the methodology. A lot of the time, you’re dealing with abstract information, found sound and samples. You’re at the mercy of your collage materials a lot of the time. So unless you have a lot of the same source material, or you have a range of sonic ideas, it takes quite a while to hone in and finally write stuff – as opposed to if you are singer/songwriter with a guitar and a voice. In that scenario, it’s more about a cohesion in lyrical themes or song structures. What I do is challenging in that way, but also fun, because you’ve got all these pre-existing things to play with, and they are all ready humming and resonating, so you just play off them as well.”
Mostly written, arranged, recorded and mixed in and around Auckland between January and the end of July, ‘December’ sees Dyne juxtaposing instrumental beat compositions with voice-rooted numbers created in collaboration with singers Mara TK (of Electric Wire Hustle), Parks (of Ladi6 fame), Jeremy Toy (She’s So Rad) and Dalziel, known best for the frosty and literate music she creates as Dear Times Waste. While he has high praise for all of his vocal collaborators, Dyne’s particularly enthused about what Parks brought to the table this time around.
“Parks has been on all three of my albums and features heavily on ‘December’. He’s grown in leaps and bounds in the time we’ve been working together. His confidence has grown so much as well. In terms of what he does with his lead singing, backing vocals and choral type arrangements, he’s really in an area no one else in the country is. He’s really honed what he does, and developed it well.”
Alongside these collaborators, Dyne is also enthusiastic about a new addition to his recording and performance circle, a spectacular young keyboardist and beatmaker by the name of Brandon Haru. Both Dyne and Haru play with Parks in local hip-hop/soul scene leader Ladi6’s live band. From those stage performances, Haru worked his way into Dyne’s new album studio sessions.
“Brandon is great, because he is young, unencumbered and enthusiastic. He comes from a soul and hip hop background, which while it isn’t necessarily what I was going for, brought a certain lushness and warmth to the playing. That makes it different to what I would get when I ask people like Jeremy Toy or Lewis McCallum to play keyboard parts for me. Brandon sees the world with open eyes. He’s one of those guys, you know? He’s optimistic and operates on his own terms, which is quite a rare thing these days.”
Also a member of Auckland hip hop super-group @Peace (of the Young, Gifted & Broke) collective, for Haru, the experience has been equally enjoyable, as he eloquently relates.
“Working with Julien on ‘December’ was a fortunate opportunity for me… We have definitely developed a musical relationship that will only prosper over time and provide positive repercussions for our careers, a unique quality that can sometimes be difficult for many artists to achieve now, or in their lifetime.”
Released both locally and internationally, through his associations with Wonderful Noise Records (who represent his music in Japan and provide his NZ stock) and BBE Records in Europe (who represent his music across the rest of the world), Dyne is able to take a niche sound and present it on a global scale, along the way building a small yet loyal following which suggests a sustainable future. With this structure in place, his overarching goal is to stay creatively open minded and continue to progress.
“I want to avoid the trappings of the old guard and the new school and stay open, he enthuses. “I don’t ever want to be saying, ‘…[things were better] back in the day.’ Music is more universal than that.”