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AK1200


AK1200

Orlando, FL

Active 1989 - Present


No matter where you are at in the world, there is a select handful of artists who are regularly associated with Stateside Drum N Bass. One of the most prominent and dedicated of that group is AK1200. A legend in his own right, he has continued to progress the genre both as a DJ and a Producer.


The longest running D&B DJ in the USA and founder of Big Riddim Recordings, Dave AK1200, has been a driving force within Drum and Bass culture in America since its inception. From his legendary mix CD's to his extensive list of high profile remixes and original tunes, he has maintained a presence within the industry for more than 20 years. For lack of a better term, AK is a "classically" trained DJ. He is known for his abrupt style of live mixing and spontaneously programming groups of tunes into unforgettably raw sets.


AK’s dedication and devotion to drum and bass culture in and for the USA are unparalleled. He is a constant voice for the scene, and has spent the majority of his career helping to develop and establish new or unsigned DnB artists, particularly American. In 2000, he united with his long time friends and biggest competition, Dieselboy and DJ Dara to create Planet of the Drums with the collective goal of bringing drum and bass music to the main stage in America. Alongside Messinian on the microphone, the Planet of the Drums crew has become the most recognizable brand in the history of American drum and bass music.


AK has also closely worked with American DnB’s most decorated and prolific producer, Gridlok. In 2008, they released the highly acclaimed Autopsy double album. Immediately following that, they came with “Dub 4 Dub”, a tune described by Goldie as one that “should have come out on Metalheadz”. In 2014 DNBSTRONG was created. Originally a phrase coined by AK to describe the growing enthusiasm amongst like-minded artists and fans of homegrown DnB and the culture itself, DNBSTRONG became a statement for all to once again rise up collectively and bring attention to the music and scene they proudly represent. In 2014 and 2015, they played a series of DNBSTRONG branded shows


As we enter the post-EDM era, and newer music forms begin to take root and grow steadily into their own legacy, DnB culture continues to lead the way as a benchmark of true underground music with great confidence. With continuously standard setting tunes to the die-hard fans, this music is quickly becoming the next target for the masses that seek the one true sound they can commit to. AK1200, with his explosive sets and constant cheerleading for the DnB community, continues to encourage and inspire new and old fans, DJ’s, and artists alike. His ability to bring momentum to every market he performs, and relentless promotion of the scene itself and by delivering the message that no one person is bigger than the scene united, AK1200 truly is leading by example.


2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the AK1200 & MC Navigator – Mixed Live CD, selling nearly 100,000 units. Inquire now for April / May dates for the reunion tour. Also look for a DNBSTRONG tour in summer of 2016. This will include AK1200, Gridlok & special guests and will come with complete tour package for promoters.

 

Interview:

First of all, we are honored for the chance to interview you. Not only are you a pinnacle to stateside Drum N Bass, you have become a legend in the DNB community. You have come a long way since the Hottie Shop in Orlando. What do you attribute to your continued success?

Hi, Thanks very much! I appreciate the support and consideration. It's been a very long road and I've had many ups and downs. I think what may be perceived as continued success is not much more than perseverance with a hearty side of stubbornness. I came up the hard way. I first walked into a club in 1989, and it blew me away. From that moment on, I did everything I could to buy records, learn how to play them, learn about who was making them, how they were made, etc. I started that record store in 1991/92? so even then, it took me 3-4 years of busting my ass learning how to DJ and supporting every club and DJ I could and then was able to open the store, which only lasted a year or so before it was closed, relocated, and renamed. By that time though, I was only interested in one kind of music. I followed breakbeat music through its journey from hardcore to jungle tekno to dark side to jungle to tech step to what is now simply called drum and bass. By the time I got any sort of legitimate success as a DJ, it was 1996. So, 7 years, busting my ass, making the most of any and every opportunity, before I was even acknowledged professionally. <Ñ- (That is something for the newer generations to realize)

The ONLY reason I created a name for myself is because I stuck with the sound I was passionate about. This music to me, represented a culture, a way of life, it wasn't just what I did, it was how I lived. The thing about this particular music is it comes from so many different things all falling into place at the right time and with the right people. The majority of dance music was diving straight into the posh trendy sort of crowds who had that “hey look at me” vibe, where this music was more street than that. It truly was and will always be the UK's earliest answer to American Hip Hop. The jungle was that life, and people were hard, but they showed respect, and there was a code of conduct, and a pecking order, it was actually very organized for being such a chaotic mess on the surface. The influences came from Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Rare Groove, Reggae, Rave, and Techno. I was lucky enough to make some very good friends early on, and travelled to England for weeks and weeks at a time from 1992-2000 pretty regularly.

When these records first started coming out, they would have mobile phone numbers for contact, and I would call everyone I could to tell them how much I liked their records and most the time, they were amazed their music made it all the way to America. Many of these people were eager to send me more records directly, and lifelong friendships were created. It felt like I was part of something very special, and I felt very welcomed by these crews. This was pretty much the opposite of what I was feeling at home. There was no love for this music, it felt like people would go out of their way to exclude it, especially in Florida where I am from.

Some of us remember your sets and productions pre-2000. For the younger readers, how would you describe the drum n bass scene here in the states in the mid to late 90s?

In the beginning there was a huge divide between music styles. 1992 or so, breakbeats kept speeding up, and progressive house took over the club land. That's what ultimately shunned us, the tempos we went from 128 to 132 to 140 to 144 to 150 to 155 to 158 to 165 to 170 to 178 and then back down to 172-175 (where we currently reside). The faster it got, the more we could do with it, but the further it got from being a trend. It took a certain kind of loyalty to represent this music, we were underdogs and were always the afterthought of a lineup on a rave. We were always on the worst sound systems and in the smallest room. I personally watched my city of Orlando turn into basically a one dimensional music scene for several years. 100% Florida Breaks, championed by Icey, who is a legend, but spawned 1000 clone DJ's who made their little variations of the original sound but gradually tried to deepen the vibe until it completely died off as a novelty in the end. Like all things though, the end of one era, is the beginning of another. Drum and Bass/Jungle was making serious noise and loads of super talented DJ's all across the nation had been constantly proving themselves to crowd after crowd after crowd and promoters could not help but take notice.

We started to get our own stages at big raves, and every now and then we would get a main stage time slot and make the most of it. This music was undoubtedly the most technical and upfront dance music happening towards the late 90's, and every genre was trying to emulate the sounds or the vibes we were coming with. *side note, ANY dance music artist will tell you DnB is by far amongst the most technically difficult forms of music to successfully create*

Purchase Moonshine Music Releases

This also had very much to do with one of the largest electronic music based labels, Moonshine Music, whose founders were UK hardcore enthusiasts themselves, taking an active role in promoting the music as hard as they did. They got me, DSL, and Dara, signed us all to deals, and blasted our promo on the back cover of Urb and other monumental media outlets of the time. By 1999, we were unstoppable, and we formed Planet of the Drums. We wanted to prove fuck that we DEMANDED this music be put on the main stage on its own and we would fill whatever venue you put us in, and the fan base for this music was just as devoted to its DJ's as any other house or trance or breaks crowd. We started something here to be very proud of, and we helped make it possible for many global DnB DJ's to thrive here and develop a fan base in America.

It wasn't just us though, this was the collective work of maybe a couple hundred or so people all over North America who stuck with this one type of music long enough to make it become the force it deserved to be.

What are the biggest differences you see between now and then?

Everything is different now. Remember when I mentioned how music becomes a novelty and dies off? Well in the USA that happened around 2008, the same time the market crashed and dubstep arrived. Many people saw that as the end and jumped ship for calmer waters. Slowly, the popularity of drum and bass became nonexistent, and the term itself sent people running in the other direction. What's funny, is I vividly remember so many people saying DnB became too hard, and lost its soul, and became a staple for angry white men. The irony is the very people who were making that very hard “alpha male” styled DnB went on to slower tempos and found huge success in making basically the same thing at another tempo. There was even an endearing term for it, brostep and it was massive, still is to a degree.

This very thing however, was also the glue that would bind the next generation of DnB artists to stand tall and represent the scene. The last several years have been difficult in the sense that our music went from being every producers envy to being something so insecure, tons of artists adapted their sounds to be more aligned with what we now call EDM. This also created a mountain of (half-time) tunes, in hopes it would appeal to dubstep kids who were so quick to dismiss anything to do with drum and bass as a music form.

Lately however, there has been a huge surge in artists digging deep into the history and going back to the drawing board, reviving the basic elements of chopping up breaks and rolling out basslines. Much of this is widely displayed in Liquid and Jump Up, or more jungle friendly vibes.

As things continue to change, the technology of Deejaying has advanced greatly over the past decade. How do you feel about the performances you see now and how would you like to see the art form advance?

I think the art of DJing is more present than ever, especially with this new technology. Just because you can do something easier doesn't mean you work any less on it. If anything, it provides the ability to make much better sets with much more impact on the crowd. You cannot fake Drum and Bass, not then, not now. Maybe there are still some people who are better known for the tunes they play than the way they play them. Who cares? It sucks that these people have had to become DJ's just to pay their bills in the first place. Just as it sucks that a DJ has to make tunes to become more bookable. What happens is a great deal of mediocrity. Producers take their focus off producing to be a DJ, and DJ's take focus off their DJing to learn how to produce, and what you get is a massive grey area. That is fine in itself, as it creates change and really shows those who can champion both aspects, but, it also lowers the standard of each

If you are a DJ that plays DNB, there is definitely an AK1200 record in your crate. What first got you into production?

For me, it was a logical progression. I have been around music all my life, and played instruments enough to not suck horribly at any particular instrument. And I respect the position of an engineer. That's the way it was, you had a producer who produced music, which was mastered and mixed by an engineer so a DJ could play that music. Then you had an art person who designed logos, labels, cover art, A publicist to promote it, an agent to book you, maybe a manager to oversee your deals and endorsements. Pretty standard right? Well today, all of these roles fall on one person, and once they find success, an agent comes in and blows them up while a manager takes a chunk of everything they do for basically keeping the artist on a scheduled routine of performing, promoting, creating, supporting

What made me want to write a tune was never having the pressure to turn off and on my creativity as if it were a switch. I made music as organically as possible, and still do. I have more (half finished) tunes than probably any other producer out there, I just don't like my own music enough to release it. Even when it is released, all I hear are the mistakes in the song, or the things I wish I could go back in and change.

I was very lucky to have learned from people who many consider the best at what they do or did. I spent years, and in fact am still currently learning new things every day, but I make sure to stick to one basic method of music making no matter what equipment I happen to be using at the time.

Purchase a copy of "You Hear Me Talkin'"

I am sure the tools are way different than when you started. What did you use to produce You Hear Me Talkin?

I honestly don't recall exactly how that tune was made. I know it was on Cubase and we started the tune at Audio Playground on their massive desk, and I brought the session to a mutual friend in South Florida and he helped me write all the melodies to the 2nd half of the tune. It basically plays out like a first part and a second part, you can hear it if you listen closely, the tune just takes a much more musical form in the 2nd half. It was ultimately finished at Audio Playground if I recall correctly. I honestly cringe at that tune because as I mentioned, it is very difficult to pull off a successful DnB tune that your peers would also play. I do like the 2nd half, and I like the samples I used because it had a bit of meaning.

What software and hardware is in your studio now?

Over the years I have gone through every sequencer imaginable, I have gone from hardware to software to both and back. The way things are these days, all I need is my laptop with a few various DAW's to bounce back and forth with at my leisure. A massive sample library I have been steadily collecting for years, I have a Nord Lead 2 I am using as a controller, and I have an old pair of Mackie HR824 monitors which I rarely even use. Ironically, I have never made as much music as I've currently been making in this last year or so. I just go with the vibes, keep it simple, and if I think I have finished something, I let the engineer do their job.

Planet Of The Drums Crew

Planet of the Drums really showed promoters in the US the Drum N Bass is not only sustainable, but profitable. What brought you, Dieselboy, Dara, and Messinian together?

As mentioned earlier, it was the right time the right place, and we were all on the same label. We went on tour for Moonshine, and we realized we were rarely booked together on the same show because promoters didn't want to invest quite that much into drum and bass, fearing it wouldn't draw enough numbers to justify the expense. We proved everyone wrong, and we accomplished something positive that stemmed from a negative situation.

What advice would you give to any of the up and coming DJ’s and Producers out there pushing the DNB sound?

Please dig through the history, learn what made this so special to so many people and why it has lasted 25 years and counting. This music is an expression of your surroundings, just like music has always been. Make the music that best represents you, and stick to it. Make your name as a true artist who stands for something far bigger than yourself. If Drum and Bass is what you love, then devote yourself to it, like anything else you love. Be persistent and while you go through the struggles, understand your day will come. Just keep at it, and find yourself and create a sound that is your own, and you will outlive any cycles or novelty of popularity in the grand scheme of things.

I just want to big up each and every person out there who has supported this music in any way. The promoters, the fans, the dj's, the producers, the labels, the agents, and the media who have been helping to keep this amazing culture alive and well and continue to do so for years to come.

 

Closing Comments:

AK1200 has a wealth of knowledge on the history of DNB and the US Jungle scene in general. Having a chance to interview one of our greatest inspirations has enlightened us here at Bassline Syndicate and we hope it has had the same effect on you. Check the events tab to find out where to see AK1200 perform next and take a moment to check him out via the social media links below.


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