“I don’t feel I was trying to be anyone else, I was drawing from my influences when I was younger, a bit of reggae, hip-hop … It was coming straight from the heart and I think that’s important” – Digital on his first production steps calling for individuality – Red Bull Music Academy, Rome, 2004
The next international guest of the blog’s “Jump the Q” series is Digital; one of the most prolific, influential, consistent and widely respected drum & bass artists. Two decades after his inaugural solo release, with an enviable and extensive back catalogue under his belt, as well as a plethora of classics for the genre’s most prestigious record labels, Digital celebrates the 20 years milestone of his recording career with the re-launch of his own imprint Function Records.
Jump the Q
A mini-interview with 20 short questions (some personal, some tricky) looking for equally short answers, addressed to artists, producers, promoters, djs, friends and affiliates of the blog in general.
Set 1: The man behind the mask
Q1: Favourite travel destination?
New Zealand. I’ve made a lot of friends in NZ plus I love the special vibe between fellow musicians.
Q2: Favourite dish?
Crispy Pork Belly with Caramel Sauce
Q3: Favourite drink?
Coconut Juice is tasty and good for you!
Q4: Favourite movie?
Q5: Favourite book?
“Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman
Q6: Favourite song title?
“Bitch Of A Spider” – From one of Drum Cypha’s experiences with a big one
Set 2: The man behind the console
Q7: First record you bought?
“Big Daddy Kane LP – Aint no Half Steppin” is the first record I bought with the money from my first pay packet.
Q8: Most valuable record you own (sentimental value not financial)?
“Doc Scott – Here Come The Drums” – Reinforced Records
Q9: Favourite piece of musical equipment?
Tannoy SRM 15x
Q10: Favourite music track (non genre-specific)?
“Fabian – Prophecy” (https://youtu.be/va4WsrZJRNk)
Q11: Favourite label?
Q12: Favourite dj/artist/producer?
If we’re talking DNB – Spirit
Q13: Track you wish you had written?
“Photek – Ni Ten Ichi Ryu”
Q14: Analogue or digital?
DIGITAL of course lol
Set 3: The man behind the scenes
Q15: Favourite venue worldwide you have ever attended?
Kaikoura Roots Festival NZ
Q16: Best live performance/dj set you have ever witnessed?
LTJ Bukem 1993 – Milton Keynes Sanctuary
Q17: Worst live performance/dj set you have ever witnessed?
Q18: Dream line-up for a festival (5 names)?
Fabio and Grooverider b2b 2 hour set / Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May b2b/ 4 Hero / Photek
Q19: If you had a magic eraser who would you extinguish from the music map?
I’d erase warmongers instead
Q20: Future plans?
To keep up the vibes with my music and catch some vibes from friends and new artists.
About Digital and Function Records
Digital is the primary recording alias of Steve Carr (aka Natural Mystic, D4, S.O.S. and Submissive Element). The “Ashanti Sound System” crew (Ashanti being a British misnomer of a Ghanaian ethnic group famous for the gold-encrusted stool that is the symbol of their kingship) have been credited with the “Digital” sobriquet; it’s been an explicit recognition of Steve’s unique technical abilities pertaining to sound system operations and a prophetic reference to the emergence of a new age in technology and music.
Drawn into music from an early age, as his father used to run his own sound system in his hometown of Ipswich, Steve soon developed a musical taste for dub and reggae; influences intricately encapsulated in his trademark basslines. In the dawn of the 90s, Carr had already set up his own sound system, and he used to hire it out to various promoters of raves in Ipswich and the surrounding areas. A meeting with Danny C in Colchester, while playing reggae in his father’s sound system, proved pivotal for his future quest, as it opened the gates to the world of raving and triggered his natural propensity for music production. A few years later, in 1994, the duo collaborated, under the moniker Authorised Riddim, to record for the local imprint Certificate 18; it was only the prelude of an illustrious recording career.
Rupert Parkes (aka Photek), an iconic figure of drum & bass and electronic music in general and an Ipswich resident at the time, mentored Digital during his first production steps (Rob Solomon and Gordon Mulrain have also played a big part in Steve’s early studio education). Digital has been the first artist, other than The Invisible Man, to sign with Timeless Recordings. The first official release under the Digital alias, entitled Touch Me, with Photek on production and engineering duties, attracted the attention of LTJ Bukem, Goldie and the Reinforced crew. The legend goes that one night, while LTJ Bukem was playing Touch Me, Goldie started break-dancing to the track. He readily asked Steve to send him new material for Metalheadz and the rest is history.
The follow-up and Digital’s first solo output, the stellar Spacefunk, cemented Digital’s reputation and forged his future career path. The undivided support and creative environment fostered by Timeless Recordings, culminated in a long-term affiliation. In fact, during the second incarnation of the label (after 1999), when Timeless, influenced by the wave of noir that was sweeping the scene at the time, re-started the catalogue numbering following a different musical trajectory, Digital assumed A&R and managerial duties. With long-time friend and business partner Brillo and with the financial help of investors, they established in 2002 the Timeless Music Group. The group handled all aspects of management for a wide array of independent labels including A&R, promotion, tour management and distribution. Moreover, the group’s activity has helped many up-and-coming artists from around the globe to kick-start their careers and expose their work to wider audiences.
In the meantime, alongside friend and recording partner Duncan Busto (aka Spirit) Digital had set up Phantom Audio in 1998; a platform to release mainly their own material without restrictions and musical agendas. The debut release Phantom Force has been their best-selling record so far and is considered a classic to this day. After a 10-year hiatus, the duo re-launched Phantom Audio in 2013. In 1999 Steve set up his own label Function Records, initially operating under Timeless Music’s wing, to accommodate for his own work and shape his own vision of musical pursuits.
At the 2004 Red Bull Music Academy event hosted by Nick Dwyer in Rome, Steve offers production tips, as well as an extensive walk-through his artistic development, from the early dub/reggae roots to his rise to drum & bass prominence, from his early involvement with Timeless and Metalheadz to running his own label and distribution. Watch the RBMA session here.
Despite his busy schedule with label management, djing and touring, Digital has remained extremely prolific, with a barrage of releases for a wide spectrum of d&b labels, showcasing his versatility, without neglecting his quality standards.
Fast forward to 2015, Digital has relocated to Thailand and recently re-launched Function Records (the label had been dormant since 2009). The first release of the new era entitled “Respek Da Foundation” EP, saw the light of day a few weeks ago. The title is a nod to the pillars (djs, labels, record shops, pirate stations etc.) that constitute the drum and bass foundation.
“At a time when more and more people are “Rejecting” this system created and sustained by a corrupt political elite and greedy corporatocracy and it seems we’re “Light Years” away from a solution – We say “Catch a Fire – The tables are turning” – Catch A Fire EP Press Release, Function Records, 2015
The next EP entitled “Catch A Fire” is due to be released on May. Preview, clips and order links can be found here:
Watch out for exciting new material coming soon …
Discography & Links
All things Digital and Function Records can be found following the links below:
Visit the blog’s archive for the previous installments of the Jump the Q series here.