Today, we bring you the latest installment of our on-going Magnetic Mix series. We take a departure from our usual 4/4 and instead head into dystopian Drum & Bass/Jungle territory, courtesy of Ded Sheppard. Airy soundscapes layered together with tough gritty drums create an eerie vision of the future even Orson Wells would be proud of. We also had a chance to catch up with him to discuss his vision of DNB, where the name came from, and his new album, which you can grab here.
Thanks for speaking with us today, Ded Sheppard. For those who may not know, can you give us a little introduction as to who you are?
I’m a Halftime/DnB Jungle producer based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My first EP under Ded Sheppard debuted in 2015, a genre-bending, sound design-heavy, liquid work. My next four EP releases were released on Onset Audio and supported by artists like Noisia and Homemade Weapons. Noisia described my sound as “evolving tribal techno”. I like to produce in the grey area between sound design and music. The fuel that drives me is discovery, searching for new sounds, tonality, melody, new forms and structures.
Where did the inspiration for the name Ded Sheppard come from?
The inspiration for Ded Sheppard came from a vision of a dystopian future, a leaderless world. Like a skeleton shepherd, shepherding the dead.
Your album, You Can’t Take It With You comes out next month… can you tell us in your own words what can listeners expect to hear from it?
“You Can’t Take It With You” as a whole is musically connected and intertwined and I think best described as a cinematic journey. It transitions from dark tonal ambient pieces to dancefloor tracks and it challenges the notion of a dancefloor album as a collection of singles.
The album highlights my tribal techno style of halftime DNB and dark jungle. It paints a picture of the future, charts a course into an unknown ambiance, decay, ruin, uncertainty, discovery, incantations, chase scenes, and escape. It then dives deep down into a doom drone piano score and then wheels out on to stage the grand piano for the finale, a somber spotlight number, ‘You Can’t Take It With You’.
The album contains some ominous-sounding voice samples in it, telling listeners that ‘You can’t take it with you when you die…’ where did these samples come from and what is the story behind them?
The voice sample is actually me singing and it is heavily processed to fit with the aesthetic and theme of the song to sound like it was coming out of a crypt. The lyrics themselves are an exploration of themes of mortality and contemplate our unfolding dystopian future and question what are we leaving behind. This Vocal haunts the catacombs of those long gone, looking for wisdom on where to go next.
Overall, the album has a sonic richness that is impressive to listen to- what is your studio setup like? Does it take a lot of gear in order to achieve a sound such as yours?
My studio setup is an acoustically treated, sonic black hole that I designed to get from idea to execution quickly without losing creative flow. I like the gear I’m using to be close to me and easily accessible without a complicated chain to use it. I think it’s most important to keep the flow going.
“Does it take a lot of gear in order to achieve a sound such as yours?”
I tend to keep my inner circle of equipment small with limitation of choice by design. I limit myself to a few key synths samplers, etc. What interests me the most is the notion of sonic invention to find new sounds and auditory experiences. I like to create new ways of working with sound within a closed system, processing and reprocessing. These “modes” as I call them, I think, contribute the most to what makes up my sound.
I also have a master bus chain that’s a big part of my sound; it includes a neve 32087 mastering eq, that was pulled out of an old vinyl transfer console.
Do you remember your set up when you first started out? What was it like?
It was super expensive when I started out and my setup was a Mac computer with a midi sequencer (Logic) that was connected to an Emu e6400 Ultra sampler and an ex CBC Soundcraft 200b mixing board that recorded into a Tascam Da 30 (DAT recorder) & Tannoy monitors.
It was a very simple setup with a lot of limitations, which I think my current methodologies come from. I had to get the track to work with 8 tracks (4 stereo) direct to the mixer and hit play and record on the DAT.
It certainly had its charm as you would focus on a very small range of elements and try to get the most out of them. Also, the Emu sampler user interface and jog wheel led to confidence with experimentation as it was so tactile. I do still use the Emu from time to time when I’m not in a hurry. I also have an Akai s950 that I love.
Did you always wish to work as a music producer or were you at one point destined for other things?
I grew up in what I would best describe as, a “grassroots” musical family where music has great importance. There were jams all the time in my house :) As a kid, I even played the violin and sang for inmates at the local prison. My hands and brain didn’t exactly perform instruments the way I heard things in my head so when I discovered electronic music it all kinda clicked, with sequencing I now could achieve what I imagined.
My professional audio career started through a mentorship program at the Guild of Canadian Screen Composers. And then from there, I started to compose for gaming most notably at Electronic Arts. I was then given an opportunity to work in-house at Electronic arts as a music editor working with interactive music, using their gaming engines. I learned a lot about interactive music, and I was a sponge. I worked on material by accomplished composers like Ramin Djwaldi (Game of Thrones)/Bryan Tyler (Fast & Furious). Currently, I contract for Source Sound with legendary sound designer and chip music pioneer Charles Deenen. I’m very grateful to have gotten to work with so many great minds in regards to sound as I’ve learned so much from these experiences that crossover into my music.
Do you have plans to release anything else in the future?
I’m working on new music now I’m really excited to see where it goes.
If you could collaborate with anyone on a release, who would it be?
Richard D. James/Aphex Twin
Can we catch you playing any gigs over the next few months?
Ded Sheppard - Lead Into Darkness
Ded Sheppard - Falling Action
Dark Grey Hart - Witchdoctor (Akinsa Remix)
Ded Sheppard - Fading Human
Skeptical - Charge
Holsten - Abscess
Noised - The Ritualist
Ded Sheppard - Automated Influence
Homemade Weapons - Lingchi feat Artilect
Noised - The Journey
Beatnok & Mark Kloud - Erie Shore
Evocation - Mecca
Artilect - Blurring The Line
AcidLab & Ahmad - Shimazu Clan
Artilect - Warlock
Ded Sheppard - Run Baby Run
Skeptical - Fibonacci Sequence
Ded Sheppard - We Disappear
Ded Sheppard - Embers
Homemade Weapons & Torn - Isolation
Ded Sheppard - Unknown Utterances
Ded Sheppard - Skizma
Kit Curse & Fuj - Ghost Train
Ded Sheppard - Assembling Silence
Stranjah & DavidLouis - Future
Original SD - Warfields
Ded Sheppard - Neither Created Nor Destroyed
Ded Sheppard - You Can’t Take It With You