Dubspot catches up with the New York City-based DJ / producer and Push the Fader label boss DJ Center to talk about early influences, his brand new EP Dem Say Ah, chasing creative fire, and composing undeniably infectious, globally-informed dance grooves for the 21st century.
The latest release from NYC-based producer and Push the Fader label head DJ Center is a classy, pan-global Afro House affair. The three tracks on Dem Say Ah EP combine infectious life-affirming grooves, exquisite analog instrumentation, the soulful and funky vocals from Akoya Afrobeat and Keleta to create a dance floor dream weapon. Additional contributions come from one of Brooklyn’s best kept musical secrets Victor Axelrod a.k.a. Ticklah. Dem Say Ah is the followup to Everything in Time, DJ Center’s debut album which came out in 2010. The new EP is mixed to near perfection by DJ Spinna.
Dem Say Ah is now available on limited gold colored 10″ vinyl and digital. The special vinyl edition arrives with “Dem Bonus Beats (Spinna’s Tambourine Edit)”, an exclusive by DJ Spinna! We link up with DJ Center to discuss creative process, inspiration, and much more!
5 Questions for DJ Center
Tell us about some of your early influences?
I come from a school of hip hop DJs and producers. Early on, I was influenced by giants like Pete Rock, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest) and Jam Master Jay (of Run-DMC), as well as their contemporaries, folks like Rob Swift and Kid Koala.
From hip hop, all roads lead me to dig in the endless crates of Soul, Jazz and Funk music. I started traveling throughout the world, DJing and getting exposed to other sounds from around the globe, while spinning with others. From there, Brazilian, Latin, Jamaican and African sounds all found their way into my mix.
To this day, you can hear the b-boy/hip hop aesthetic in my works, especially in the drums. Drums always had to knock heavy! That’s important to me to this day!
When did you start to write/compose songs?
I started writing and composing in 2001, mostly working in group studio settings at the time. It was good early on to have a foundation to build from, but at times it was also frustrating, as there can be too many cooks in the kitchen.
Truthfully, I came into my own around 2006, when I remixed Vieux Farka Touré for the Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako album and immediately started working on my debut album, Everything in Time after that.
Do you prefer working alone or collaborating? Please tell us about the artists/producers you worked with on the new record.
I love collaboration, especially when it’s born out of inspiration! I always approach an artist to record because I’m already a fan of their works. Often, I already hear them on a particular song before we actually link up.
On my new record, Dem Say Ah, I featured Akoya Afrobeat and Kaleta (vocals and percussion) and Victor Axelrod aka Ticklah (clavinets). I also recorded with Chris Rob (synth bass and keys), Maurice Brown (trumpets) and mixed with the legendary DJ Spinna!
All those folks mentioned have heavy resumes and I’m extremely proud of how this new record came out! We pressed up a beautiful gold colored vinyl 10” that’s available on demsayah.com and even the digital release got heavy analogue treatment for maximum warmth and bump.
How long does it usually take you to finish a song?
Too long! Haha! I’ve had to learn to exercise a good amount of patience around the creative process. Tracks can sometimes take me a year and a half to two years to finalize! Of course, that’s while I’m working on other things at the same time, but from when a beat is born to when a song is released, it’s often that kind of time frame. I’m a perfectionist in the studio and won’t release until it feels right.
Advice to up-and-coming DJs and producers?
Follow your inspiration! Sounds so simple, but it’s the truth! My best work has always been a result of me chasing the creative fire that got sparked at some point in the studio. It’s that constant chase to shape that initial source inspiration that has always yielded the best results for me.
Whenever I’ve steered away from that or thought about what others would make my production sound like, that’s when I’ve fallen off course.
Do-you and respect the value in what YOU bring to the table! That’s something no one else can copy.
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