Dubspot contributor Mike Styels speaks with music producer Debukas about his love for analog music machines, his early beginnings as a musician, and his workflow evolution that now includes computers and DAWs.
When Debukas commands the sound system, he wants to take you to his special place–a beautiful spot on the beach where analog synths blow like tropical breezes and steady beats crash like waves. “My goal is to make music that makes people feel warm inside,” he says, “and also to raise their hands and dance.”
His deep house style is rooted in the traditions of Chicago and Detroit, inspired by his love of analog gear, and informed by a parallel interest in rock and pop. It’s summery and cosmopolitan–traditional in its sound palette and compositional development, but meticulously sculpted with rich sounds that build and progress constantly through each song.
Being a successful pop artist as a teen made his entry into electronic music notable–reaching high in the Japanese charts and being signed to the the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal label would set a firm trajectory for most. But Debukas had nourished a love for electronic music since youth, thanks to his family.
“My mum is a piano teacher and there were instruments everywhere. Our mum bought a Casio MT-100 keyboard when I was about 7. We started writing songs then, and I got a guitar when I was about 10. We used to go Tower rehearsal studios in Glasgow and plug the Casio in to the PA. The life changing moment came when the studio engineer sold us a Roland Juno-6 for £50!” In his eyes, there was never a clear separation between electronic music and the music he first became known for.
His interest in Detroit techno and Chicago house stems from those genres’ embrace of other styles. As the Glasgow-raised artist points out, “They use powerful chords, melodies, basslines and vocals that have drawn inspiration from previous generations of soul and disco.”
And since Debukas prefers to play with analog tools rather than stare at a screen, he relates to the methods used to produce those older tunes as well: “Not only does analog sound better to my ears, but it’s having that physical connection with real circuitry, valves and transistors. I can get into what I’m doing so much more than with computer equivalents. It’s not even that it’s ‘analog’. I love the DX7 and the Kawai XD-5 because they’re weird looking and just make you want to play with them.”
“A lot of my ideas come from jamming around with old Roland gear like the 909, 707, SH-101 and MC-202, all synced up without MIDI or the computer,” he continues. “I love taking those things out of the equation for as long as I can. Eventually though, I have to get the computer involved to achieve what I’m trying to do. I record everything into either Logic or Ableton, and send as much as I can through the outboard gear like the API 500 series modules and 2500 bus compressor.”
Most of the synths you hear in his music are analog, but sometimes he’ll use the Korg Legacy plug-ins as well. The drums are a different story, since analog offers a more limited selection. Generally the beats are made with samples, Logic’s Ultrabeat, or Waldorf Attack. But he still manages to bring it back around to hardware: “If stuff isn’t sounding dirty enough, I’ll whack it back through the Drawmer 1960 or TL Audio valve EQ!”
Debukas’ tracks stand out from much of what you’ll find in the deep house bins, due to their full song structure, and the use of his own effected vocals. This sound will be explored further on his upcoming album on 2020Vision: “It feels like a good time to round off the theme that’s been going through the releases so far. More song type structures and production, which lends itself to the album format.” The LP, which features new tracks paired with a few selections from his EPs, is expected to drop this fall.
After that, however, things may change for him. “My tracks could easily have stayed more bare bones and been three times more DJ friendly, but I wanted to explore a bit more than that. After my album comes out I may have to cleanse myself with a couple of absolute bangers.”
The breadth of his background is apparent in his live shows as well. He’ll often bring along a mic for his DJ sets to add vocals on the fly. Sometimes his live performances feature live synths: “I’d be lost without a keyboard to jazz out on, as that seems to come the most naturally to me. Playing live is a totally natural thing for me.”
For a closer look at Debukas’ workspace, head over to Attack Magazine where they’ve featured a nice photo spread of his studio. For a closer listen to Debukas’ sound, check out his latest EP on 20:20 Vision or download his free remix of Drums of Death from Mixmag.