The British DJ talks to us about his innovative approach to writing progressive beats
Rising EDM star DOD: 'Futurejack is really all about pushing things forward'
Unite with Tomorrowland was a fun and lively affair for the crowd at Abu Dhabi’s du Forum on Saturday, and backstage there were smiles too, which were all down to career satisfaction.
After his strong set, rising British EDM star DOD – real name Dan O’Donnell – already had his bag packed as he spoke to The National, awaiting a car to whisk him to the airport after only a 24 hour stay in the capital.
His next stop? The United Kingdom for a short rest, before he embarks on another hectic tour of the European summer club circuit. He explains that extensive travel and minimal sleep is par for the course when making your mark in such a competitive industry. “That is the way it is, particularly at the early stages of your career,” he says.
“When you are playing a gig like Tomorrowland, particularly the original event in Belgium where I was last week, they record your set and put it on YouTube. Promoters see that and they book you for events the following year. This is how it works mostly. You perform, and at the same time, you’re laying the groundwork for the next year, which you hope becomes bigger and better.”
When it comes to his burgeoning career, it is all down to steady progress. Hailing from the university town of Lancaster in the UK, DOD’s production skills caught the ear of industry veteran Laidback Luke, who supported his early singles, including the sterling 2009 track Bananas. Under his mentorship, DOD went on to release his debut EP More Cowbell, which topped the influential Beatport charts in 2013.
It also introduced to the masses his energetic brand of electronic music – a high-octane affair of dense drums, thumping basslines and stalking keyboards that his fans went on to coin as “futurejack”.
DOD says the term has now become a philosophy in addition to a style of music. “It kind of happened naturally in that I was making a lot of records in the last three or four years, and the fans picked up on that style and gave it that name,” he says.
“When you give something a name, it becomes a thing that people can get involved in. Futurejack is really all about pushing things forward and it can be whatever you want as long as it has the core elements of big jacking drums, groovy basslines and a futuristic sound design. I find you can combine that with a lot of various styles to keep the songs fresh.”
A solid example of that is DOD’s latest single Started, which is a collaboration with Dutch star producer Afrojack and fellow national Tim-ber. The song’s storming electro-house was created with large festivals in mind, with its soaring synths and thick bass.DOD explains the song-writing partnership was all done online with all three artists building the track together by sending sections of the song over emails.
“A lot of collaborations now happen without people being in the same room and instead are done online,” he says. “You can work on parts such as the vocals, for example, and just pop it on Dropbox and send it over. I think it’s a better work flow.”
And ironically perhaps, it’s a creatively safe working environment with no one’s nose bending out of shape. “If you are in the studio together there can sometimes be a bit of a clash and that’s because you are working hard to please each other. But if you work on your own part and email it over, if they are not feeling it then they can do something else,” he says.
“If you can do your own thing and they do their own thing, then the final result is often a good combination of all styles.”