Blue Jasmine – An interview with Deft

Deft_Oct_2014_1Coming to prominence out of the dystopian landscape that was dubstep’s demise, Deft (a.k.a Yip Wong) carved out a niche sound from the ruins of that sound incorporating many influences along the way. The Croydon native found an affinity with the more energetic side of electronic music through the likes of footwork and has featured on labels like Wotnot and 2nd drop since 2011. As time developed so did his talent and today we find a distinct style behind Deft, one that was cemented with this years excellent Always Greener EP. His contemporaries include Manni Dee and Happa, who in conjunction with Deft, represent the new wave of dance music innovators coming out of the UK. His next EP, Blue Jasmine will be dropping via Mooncircle this week, and it proves to be another artistic development in Deft’s career, one that sees him focus and the more ambient aspects of music, but still inherently anchored in his approach. We got the chance to ask him some questions about this new album and much more, but we should start at the beginning, I suppose.

You’ve had quite a few releases under your belt now since 2012, but can you tell us how you got your start in music?

My first official release was in 2011 with a now defunct label called Disconnected, part of a sampler 12” with the track Paradise. Since then I’ve released on various other labels such as WotNot Music, Brownswood, Rwina, Space Hardware and Project Mooncircle. I first found a passion for music through playing the drums during a pop-punk phase in my early teens, which later led to me making drum loops on Fruityloops. Since then, I haven’t moved away from the software and here we are today.

You mention you started out as drummer, like many of your contemporaries. Do you think this aspect of your musical training gives you and advantage since percussion is so ingrained in Dance music?

Yes and no, I think. It’s definitely given me a higher platform to further explore drum patterns and different rhythmic styles away from standard and generic drum patterns that are found in dance music. But, if I base this on my personal experience, I’ve spent 100’s of hours sat in front my computer making drum patterns and fiddling around and trying new things. I think the nature of the curious mind alone is an advantage in itself, and paired with hours and hours of trial and error, great things can happen.

 I find your interesting use of rhythmical devices is synonymous with you as Deft. Do you approach your music starting with the rhythm?

It really does depend to be honest. I love making drum patterns so much, but I often find starting with drums doesn’t really help to set a mood or capture the feeling I want to get out. But sometimes it does work, so it really depends on how I’m feeling. Textures/layers and atmospheres normally are a better start for me, but it’s out of habit that I start with drums when starting something completely from scratch.

Your music also appears to draw on a variety of influences. Is this an aspect of your music that you consciously work towards?

It’s not something I consciously have in mind when I write music at all; I think it’s just a natural thing, and an inevitable thing that happens with anything creative. I think it was more apparent in my earlier tracks as my scope of interest wasn’t as broad as it is today, and I’m much more aware of what my own processes and reasons are for what I’m doing with my music now.

I assume that your intention in incorporating wider scope was to avoid categorisation.

I wouldn’t say that its my intention, I think categorisation in music makes things so much easier in the bigger scale of things. I think I just make whatever feels and sounds right to me in the moment. I’m not someone that can make a decision before executing it with music, something has to trigger my senses and my mood to start things off and I just take it from there.

Alongside the likes of Happa and Manni Dee, I have discerned you as part of the next generation of artists bearing the torch of innovation from the, Post-dubstep generation, for the lack of a better phrase. Would you agree with that assumption, and how do you think an artist like Blawan paved the way for you, if it all?

Thanks! I don’t really know if I agree with it to be honest, but that next step of boundary pushing has definitely had a great impact on my music. I guess that is just how it goes with electronic music, people are always pushing weird and wonderful ideas and it all effects people differently through reinterpretation and being within the environments that the music is being heard and consumed. Blawan is a very technically talented music producer and it’s seeing the growth of such artists that becomes an inspiration.

Blue Jasmine will be your next release. Can you tell us a bit about the ideas behind this release?

Sure. The EP was written mostly over a period of a year, with one track on there a few years older than the rest (The Night Time). I almost have to piece together what the release as a whole means and the ideas behind it once it was ready to put out, especially so with this EP as it’s the longest period of time Ive worked on something on and off. Throughout that year I’ve moved house, lived in a different environment and come to terms with a lot of things personally with my life and the lives of people very close to me. But I think the best thing to do is leave it listeners to understand the release in whatever way they want to.

I’ve been listening to it for the past week and found, although it’s quite evidently a Deft release, there are subtle differences to your previous EP, Always Greener. A clear focus towards ambience was the most obvious. Was this EP a new direction for you and what prompted it?

I think so yeah, I’m a big fan of atmospheres and soundscapes, so trying to incorporate that into my tracks even more has become one of my priorities. I’ve found that as of recent I’ve been able to connect and engage so much more with ambient music, drones and cinematic scores over anything else, and that interaction is really important to me. So that has had a great influence on my output.

I would refer to Blue Jasmine as a mini-album rather than an EP, since the songs tie in so effortlessly with each other. Was this an intention with Blue Jasmine?

When talking to Gordon at PMC over what we should do with the release, he thought this would work as a mini-LP. There were a few more tracks amongst those that are on Blue Jasmine that I sent over to Gordon, but I wasn’t sure the others fitted together so well, and also I think the word ‘album’ itself gave a whole different meaning to the release. So I cut a few tracks out and made it an EP rather than a mini album.

Is it perhaps a precursor to an album?

It’s definitely put me in the mood to get one done, for sure.

I was listening to your collaboration with Manni Dee for Future foundations again, and Blue Jasmine is very much a departure from that footwork dub-infused track. How do you compare Deft today to that Deft from two years ago?

I think I’ve narrowed my sound down a bit more and focused more on the things I love about music, rather than what I think people would expect/not expect, if that makes sense. I look back on my past releases and do cringe a little I have to say, but it’s a great stamp as to where I was personally at that time, so that’s how I look at past releases and tracks.

In what direction do you see your sound going to in the future?

I’ve got a vague idea, but I honestly don’t know where its’ going to go. I’d like there to be more cinematic elements, less dance music structures and work with vocals/vocalists. But I’ve got a lot of stuff that isn’t out yet, so things may chop and change. Who knows, that’s the most exciting part of it all, no?