Dax J – Utopian Surrealism [Monnom Black]

London-born, British DJ and producer Dax J is widely regarded as one of the most formidable techno artists in the game having played all the way from backroom parties to headlining raves at every major techno institution across the globe – all whilst staying true to the underground with his own unique individual style. His unique technical skill, pure selection as a DJ and impeccable attention to high-end sound production has placed him at the very forefront of a global scene – establishing Dax as a singular presence within modern dance music.

Following a slew of acclaimed releases, the Londoner recently dropped his third studio album entitled Utopian Surrealism. Observing society’s transition into a new dystopian era, the ten-track LP reflects the strain in distinguishing truth and reality from the ever-growing radicalised networks of global manipulation whilst extreme polarised realities, AI, deception and mass poverty stay hidden as we accelerate into the next stage of evolution.

Inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s book ‘Sapiens’, Dax J navigates the listener through a series of immaculately produced soundtracks created during lockdown. We caught up with the techno maestro about life and his latest release which can be purchased and listened to here.

First of all how are you? And what have you been getting up to recently?

Hi! Yeah i’m ok, been back on tour recently and things are gradually returning back to normal again it seems. It’s been much needed for everyone involved in the music scene and events industry. It feels like we got the short end of the stick during this whole ordeal but we’re almost back now so it seems all good for now!

During lockdown, did you learn anything new or pick up any interesting hobbies in particular?

I learnt how to watch YouTube for way too many hours! They got me hooked. Yeah I also got really into coffee when everything was shut and I’m still trying to perfect the pour and my coffee art! Other than that I got to delve a lot deeper in the studio, refining and experimenting.

Having released End Of Opulence in the middle of the pandemic, how has the last year impacted your motivation and creativity levels as a producer?

I started out really motivated, having lots of uninterrupted time in the studio was a welcome blessing and something I could only dream of before, but as it dragged on I lost motivation and urgency to finish projects. Creativity levels tapered off the longer lockdown went on. But since gigs started again it’s given me a fresh boost and a new motivation to make music, testing new tracks on the road has been fun and it helped me remember why I love the music and the job… and that i’m still as passionate for the music today as i was when i first discovered it.

Over lockdown you released isolation live streams, what are your views on  live streaming and how important have they been in keeping the electronic music scene connected over the last year and a half?

Yeah they served a purpose, I think generally people started to get bored of them recently as a result from the constant bombardment, but they were definitely fun at the start. I’d like to think they were a help to people who were struggling mentally with the whole lockdown situation, feeling lonely missing the events and their favourite DJ’s. So in that sense you could say they have been important, if they helped just one person feel better then it can only be a positive thing. Also I guess a lot of people discover new DJ’s through this too.

The return of events has been welcomed with open arms by many. As a touring DJ, has it been easy to get back into the swing of things?

The first few gigs were a bit ropey, I missed a flight, forgetting my headphones, covid airport rules were chaotic, fights in the airports, usual stuff, but as of recently everything has been running smoother again. Things are a bit longer, a couple of extra forms to fill, sometimes a flow test, but its not so bad. What’s worse for me is the Brexit thing. Often I’m standing in the queue for passport checks for way longer than before, whilst my fellow Europeans whiz past me in seconds, and there’s many more things I could rant on about to do with that subject. I’m not going to get into politics here, but yeah Brexit was a dumb idea!

You have a brand new album entitled Utopian Surrealism out on your Monnom Black imprint. You have mentioned it’s inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s book ‘Sapiens’ – can you tell us more about this?

I was reading the book during peak lockdown and it made everything that was going on just make sense – reading it at a time that was more confusing than ever, not knowing what to believe as there were so many contrasting and conflicting stories going around on social media and in the mainstream media. It allowed me to take a step back and see it all for what it was and it gave me clarity on the bigger picture, making me feel more confident about the whole situation. It’s a fascinating book, not the easiest to read, but incredible if you manage to get through it all. It changed my outlook on the whole world!

What do you want listeners to take away from your new album? And are there any important/ specific messages you seek to convey?

In a world of influence, it’s hard to know what’s real, what’s fake and what’s manipulation these days. Everybody projects the world they want you to see online, to make you think a certain way about them, to manipulate you, we all do it to an extent and that’s the current era we are living in. A surreal projection of perfection that’s far from reality (Utopian Surrealism). It’s not just on social media but it’s in the news, advertising, the whole internet, it’s everywhere. I see these aspects becoming more and more extreme in the years to come. It’s not particularly healthy mentally especially for the next generation who are born into this, but it’s also fascinating at the same time to see where technology is going to take us in the future. It looks like the Metaverse and Web3 is upon us now, and I’m excited for this, it will change everything again, the next big cultural shift is here already and technology keeps accelerating. All of this together is such a wide deep subject that splinters off into many subtopics, you could talk about it and analyse it for many hours upon end.

The second track on the LP “East London back Alleys (Jungle Techno Mix)” is super interesting. Can you explain the creative and production process behind this particular song and how it differs from general 4×4 techno soundtracks?

I wanted to capture that vibe of very early 90’s jungle breakbeat and early dub techno, kind of like those times when there were no genres, there was a lot of soul and it was all just classed as electronic music, or everyone had their own name for it. I’ve always loved dub and jungle, so an album was the perfect opportunity to try fusing the genres together.

Early in your career you surrounded yourself with jungle and drum and bass. How influential have these genres been in your current production process and can you tell us of any particular tracks that have shaped your sound?

Yeah I guess it has always had an influence, the sounds I’m subconsciously drawn to and create. I don’t think the influence is as much as before, but on this album i did a few jungle tracks which I hadn’t done for a while and lockdown gave me time to just have fun and mess about in the studio again not writing stuff focused for a dance floor was refreshing.

If you had to choose a favourite track from the album, which would it be and why?

I like the more chilled idm influenced ones like “Opioiding” and “Utopian Surrealism”. Since gigs started up again I’ve been playing “Industrial Cyber Technologies” and “Universal Future Sound” – they’ve been smashing the dance floors so I’ve been enjoying that aspect of it too.

The album is dropping on your very own Monnom Black imprint. Can you tell us about the philosophy behind the label and where you hope to take it over the next few years?

I’m always looking to release great music, that’s the sole mission. Always quality over quantity, and will never water it down. The next few years I want to continue to grow it organically, for me the music is the most important and that’s all I can concentrate on.

Finally, you can save ONE record from your collection. Which will it be and why?!

Basic Channel – Phyllis Trak, Goldie Timeless and Selected Ambient Works. Yeah it’s three but I would grab them all somehow, you wouldn’t be able to stop me! One to spin at the clubs and the other two for the long plays to listen to. All are timeless records.

‘Utopian Surrealism’ is out now on Monnom Black and is available to purchase on Bandcamp.

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Kameliia