“I’ve been here for two weeks and I haven’t been able to focus.” We’re driving through the upscale Larchmont Village neighborhood talking about the pull of cities like Los Angeles, New York, London and Berlin and how it never seems like anyone is working in these metropolises. Hailing from the cultural backwater of Adelaide in South Australia, Dexter Duckett is visiting Los Angeles to visit his girlfriend before heading off for a European tour. Next year, Duckett heads to Sydney to begin university, but he’s already incredibly well-read, referring to The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed throughout our conversation and espousing the virtues of spoken word artist Sunni Patteron. Duckett’s productions, edits and DJ sets are largely sample-based affairs, built on bits of ambient, shoegaze and noise, seemingly at odds with the bashment vocals and rhythms that form the back bone of much of his recent output. The conversation turns to to Tesla and Silicon Valley culture, Duckett lambasting the idea of “innovative solutions” and referring to satire page Edgy White Liberal. He wants to sing more in the future and looks up to Future and Young Thug as much as he does Kate Bush and Elliot Smith. Our conversation started an hour or so before in an upscale cafe in Larchmont and finishes at a champurrado stand in Koreatown, sprawling across topics of accelerationism, activist music and the lack of honesty in most popular music. Check out Duckett’s recent Astral Plane mix and be sure to catch him on his European tour if you’re around.
Did you grow up in Adelaide?
Yeah I grew up there.
When did you start making music as Dexter Duckett?
Did you have any projects before that?
No, not really. As most white, middle class middle teenagers are I was involved in the noise scene and the experimental scene. I was involved in that since I was maybe 14 and around 17 I got Ableton. That was a time when a lot of noise boys were changing skin and getting involved in other stuff.
Was there a moment when you decided to pick up software and start producing? Or an original intent maybe? Was there a piece of music that you heard that you were trying to emulate?
I only really started when I was 15. I never picked up music before then, it was just static until I was 14 or 15. I’ve had this complex since where I’ve just needed to develop like it’s a disease. I keep going and going and when I was about 17 I found out about this whole scene happening on Soundcloud. I was getting bored with Fade to Mind at the time. I mean, I was listening to it but I was getting mad bored with it. Because Fade to Mind is more or less just neoliberalism and imposing accelerationism. Trying to emulate capitalism so much that it doesn’t seem like capitalism anymore. But it’s just proto fascism. So I kind of became more interested in all this other music being made by people who were more interested in displaying emotion. Or displaying some sort of heart.
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Do you feel like you’ve found likeminded people in Adelaide/Australia?
No. Not at all. I always read interviews with artists from some hick ass town and they ask questions about the town when it’s obvious that the artist is from the internet. They don’t even get out of their room, they just stay inside.
What environments, physical or virtual, do you draw inspiration from? In general, and when you’re making art in particular?
Can you be more specific?
What sort of music do you listen to?
I guess I’m really influenced by the flextune scene in Brooklyn, my friends, my friend Sean. I really like shoegaze. I really like ambient. I really like bashment. I read a lot of news and I read a lot of texts on the idea of liberation. I read a lot about pedagogy. I read a lot about post-colonialism. I read a lot about propaganda models and a lot about neoliberalism. I guess what I’m mostly trying to do in my music is destroy the narrative of accelerationism, which I feel like is finally fucking dying. It’s been so persistent. This idea that a producer has to have some veil of mystery. The whole idea of irony that’s been such a persistent part of the Soundcloud producer for so long. It’s finally dead. People are becoming emotional, people are becoming political, people are becoming themselves again.
Do you think of your music as being inherently political?
Yes. It’s definitely political. 100% percent activist. My music has always had a political tilt and lately it’s been much more activist. Probably since my November mix. Before that, it was much more emotional. Going through personal issues, typical shit like breakup issues.
In your mix, you started out with a spoken word piece by Sunni Patterson, which is amazing.
She’s fantastic! Earlier I saw an ad she did for Beats, but it’s not even really an ad. It’s basically a poem about Serena Williams and it’s just talking about the strength about African American women. I didn’t know her story and that she was from Compton, it’s totally amazing. It seems like people are finally picking up on the cult of black women. I mean, Obama made a big speech this week about black women, it’s fantastic and people are catching on.
About the speech in particular, there are a lot of issues with the idea of globalization. The idea of globalization has really desensitized people from suffering. I’ll be on my phone and I get updates from Al Jazeera on there. I’ll be in the club, I’ll be turnt up off coke and get a mobile update that 100 people just got killed because a crane fell down in Mecca. The craziest headline I’ve ever read while turnt up in the club was that 1000 migrants just got killed after a boat capsized in the Mediterranean. I just think people have gotten so desensitized because of neoliberal globalization that they don’t really understand the magnitude of certain events.
We are in the most peaceful time ever. You can look through history and there’s always some kind of conflict, but this is the most peaceful period ever. There’s still so much to be done obviously though.
People are mad materialistic… Everyone here looks like they’re in a Hillary Clinton ad.
Is most of your music sample-based?
It didn’t use to be, but I read this book called Pedagogy Of The Opressed by Paulo Freire and it’s basically the idea of creating and wanting to inform people in ways that aren’t didactic. I’m not trying to be Holly Herndon, you know? I’m not trying to say I’m making music that isn’t white, liberal and then go forward and make music that is white, liberal and male. Sample sources are very important, because what it basically does is do the talking for you. You don’t necessarily have to make your own MIDIs or completely transform a VST. Especially in a club setting. Like, what’s really important is to try and get some sort of message across that isn’t condescending and that means you don’t have to use all sorts of crazy MIDIs and software. I feel like samples bring out life. It’s very difficult unless you use live instrumentation to bring out the life in electronic music and a lot of it sounds like it was made in a dungeon or an office. I’m trying to avoid that and make something more human.
It seems like your music is inline with some artists out of London. How do you see your music fitting in with that crowd?
I’ve been friends with them for a long time despite never meeting them. I will meet them in London though on my European tour. Henry (Endgame), hit me up and asked if I wanted to make a mix for NTS and I made two for him. I kind of just jumped into those without really knowing what I was doing and I like the second a lot more than the first.
London is cool. It’s definitely showing signs of becoming another New York or Los Angeles. Kind of repeating the same patterns of those cities. I’m not really influenced by them anymore, but I definitely was. I’ve deleted some of my old stuff, my reggaeton copycat stuff since then though because that music is racist. Music that is inspired by that stuff should really stop. Because there are people dying over that music in the DR, in Brazil of Baile funk… It’s just music for people to browse briefly.
There’s definitely a sense that someone who was into footwork is into reggaeton one day, dancehall the next and kuduro the day after.
Footwork might have been the earliest example of that! That was definitely some European packaging. It’s all about how it’s packaged now. That’s how people are ignoring the original music. Everything is becoming anglicized and made to look like cookie cutters.`
Remember when reggaeton was really blowing up in the Soundcloud crowd? All these bait producers were like “this isn’t the typical 4/4”, but it is 4/4! Just because it doesn’t have the snare hit on the second note or something makes it exotic. Just because it’s not The Strokes or The Rapture makes it crazy.
Are their any artists you feel are providing worthwhile solutions? With regards to rhetoric or music.
No. I think there needs to be more rhetoric attacking capitalism. And I’m not trying to be reductive. I’ve read bell hooks, I understand the idea of intersectionality, but a very important part of that is class. You can’t just replace one system of repression with another. People are pretty much saying, “treat us with respect, but keep the system in place.”
I take far more influence, on a sociological or political level, from people like Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Rudolf Rocker the anarchist. I actually think the idea of social anarchism where ecologies are considered is definitely the most progressive form. What’s more important is that their needs to be a focus on the intersection of issues. I don’t think you can have a system that’s class reductionist and I don’t think you can have a system that ignores that. Capitalism is insane; we literally have a system where people think that movements like Black Lives Matter is going to get rid of all repression. But I also believe that they have been unfairly treated by class reductionists too. Bernie Sanders is not a progressive. No matter what people say, he’s not close to what they’re doing in Spain in Greece.
Are you touring right now?
Well I’m in LA right now because I’m in love, staying with my girlfriend. I played the afterparty for a Worldwide 69 show with Sean (Teams) but the BPM settings on the decks were fucked. I’m playing in Zurich on October 15th, then in London a few times from late October to late November. Then I’m playing in Berlin for Creamcake on December 3rd before I fly back home. I’m also playing in Stockholm too but I’m not a-one on the date for that.
Do you have any future projects in the works?
Imma start incorporating my vocals into my music soon. I need a more hype performance aspect to my music that isn’t this static DJ shit. i was producing and ghostwriting for this Soundcloud rapper for a while, sending him reference vocal tracks n stuff. He was pretty incompetent so I’ve decided to start using my own vocals. I constantly freestyle flows and melodies into my iPhone. Kind of like Future, Thugga and Fetty, but also like Morrisey, Elliott Smith and Kate Bush.