Deadboy on how the dramatic changes of the past year influenced his debut album

“It’s hard to make a record this year that doesn’t have some aspect of what’s going on in the world embedded in it.”

6 months agoText by


  • SHARE

Eight years into his critically-revered career and Deadboy has just released his debut album, Earth Body. The new album isn’t just the first full-length release from the artist, it’s also the first release to feature the quasi-mysterious producer singing. Up until now, Deadboy has been known for his ability to select the perfect vocal sample, but on Earth Body, he challenges himself to create those catchy melodies and infectious hooks from scratch. In many ways, Earth Body presents us with Deadboy 2.0.

Despite the popularity of his music and the extensive media coverage he’s had, no one is totally sure of his real name. You could find his picture online in a heartbeat, but I challenge you to even get a first name. These sorts of dualities – seen and yet unseen – are reflected in his music. Light, fragile melodies often sit atop gloomy atmospherics and dark, minimalist club beats. As we talked, Deadboy explained that – at least on Earth Body – there weren’t so much contrasts as transitions. The album was recorded during periods of flux for both the producer and the world: Britain was reeling from Brexit, America was reeling from Trump, and Deadboy had just uprooted himself from London and relocated all the way over in Montreal.

To try and probe a bit deeper, we sat down with Deadboy to discuss the new album and this period of transition we’re all facing together.

You’ve been releasing music as Deadboy for about eight years now. Why did you decide now was the right time to release your debut album?
It just kind of happened. I didn’t sit down to write an album, it just happened. To begin with, this was going to be a different project. I wasn’t going to release this as Deadboy. This was just stuff I’d made and didn’t know what to do with. People heard and said I should release it as Deadboy. Initially, I was against it and didn’t want to do that, but eventually enough people said I should do it. So I started to think maybe they’re right and I’m wrong.

How does it feel now that you’ve completed your first album? Was there a period of decompression once it was finished?
Not really. I guess because it all fell together, it still feels like it’s in the process. There is a kind of let-down afterwards though because you’re looking forward to the date and then nothing happens. There’s no confetti falling from the sky. That’s it. It’s out.

Have you started work on the next project or are you taking some time away from the studio?
I’ve kind of started on something. I’m working on a follow-up to this and another record which is in a different vein. That’ll be an instrumental release and I’m hoping to put that out this year as well. That’s a long way off, though!

How come you decide to sing on this record?
I think I just wanted to make some tracks where I was singing, without any intention of ever releasing any of it, at least as Deadboy. I certainly never intended to make that big a deal of it. I’ve always wanted to do more pop stuff and more singing. I like singing and I think more people should sing, even if they’re not good at it. It’s a human thing.

Where has this change come from? Have you been looking for influences in different places?
Not really, I don’t think. It just started as an outlet for stuff that I’ve always been into but hasn’t really been a part of the more dancefloor stuff that I make. I’ve always been into all kinds of music and I’ve always tried to make all different kinds of music, it’s just that the only stuff I’ve put out is the more dancefloor stuff. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I just finally managed to get the time to actually sit down and make it.

Have you got any plans to write or song for other people? 
I’d like to write stuff for other people. With this record, I was making a pop album that I wanted to hear, not necessarily for me to sing. But then when you’ve made it you have to think about who’s going to sing on it and in the end I figured it might as well be me. So I just got the autotune out and got on with it [laughs]. But I’d definitely like to write stuff for other people.

You’ve talked about binary club music and including contrasting elements in your music. What kind of themes and ideas did you put into this album?
Well, not consciously, but sub-consciously, it has a lot to do with what was going on at the time. I made it over the winter when I’d uprooted from London, moved to Montreal where I didn’t know anyone to begin with. I guess it’s processing that. I guess thematically it’s about change on both the macro and micro levels. It’s hard to make a record this year that doesn’t have some aspect of what’s going on in the world embedded in it. So I’d say it’s an album about changes in both my life and in the world.

One thing people went crazy for was your collab with Murlo, the DBM project. Are there any plans for more collabs with him?
Yeah, we’ve actually made some more stuff. The problem is we were both living in London at the time. Now I live here and he lives in Manchester so we don’t get to hook up as much. Also he’s been working on his record and I’ve been working on mine. We’ve got a couple of things we never released so when I come back to the UK which will be soon, we’ll probably hook up and see if we’re going to do anymore bits.

Are you still living in Montreal? I assume you’re a bit more settled now…
Yeah, it wasn’t that I found it hard to settle in. I met a group of friends pretty much straight away, through other people. Everyone’s been really cool here. It was just having lived my entire life in one country and then uprooting like that. It was necessarily a negative change, there’s a lot that’s positive about it.

What’s the scene like there?
It’s great. It’s very a close-knit vibe and there’s lots of cool parties going on. From here you can only really get to Toronto and New York, it’s hard to go across the border a lot to DJ. Because of that  people who are from here play here a lot. So there’s a good, fertile scene going on. You can’t just go to the other provinces – it’s more expensive to go to Vancouver than it is to Europe – so people don’t do it that often. It’s very close-knit, but in a good way, not a cliquey way.

What have you got coming up beyond the album? Any live dates?
Nothing at the moment but I’m probably going to be in the UK in June for some shows but nothing’s properly confirmed. There probably will be some touring and stuff but we haven’t even worked out how we’re going to do this live yet. Once we’ve done that we’ll start trying to work out when and where to do it.

Does that mean a live band maybe?
Nothing too spectacular, but I would like to have some people playing the parts. Nothing crazy, but I want to do it well. I find watching somebody on stage doing their songs kind of boring most of the time. I’d rather not do it at all than for it to be boring!

Deadboy’s debut album Earth Body is out now via Local Action.
Follow Deadboy on Twitter
Words by James Keith

  • SHARE

Mineo helped pioneer British house music and now he’s back to reclaim its glory

Painting, Britain’s rave past and an exclusive mix from the mighty Mineo

More

jehnny-beth-beats1-notionmagazine

Jehnny Beth
The AAA Pass

The Savages frontwoman is on a mission to get musicians talking

More

mike-d-beats1-notion-magazine

Mike D
The Music Insider

From Beastie Boy to Beats 1 Broadcaster, Mike D on giving music lovers a real conversation

More

joe-kay-beats1-notion

Joe Kay
The Artist’s Artist

Soulection mastermind and Beats 1 presenter Joe Kay discusses how he became such a prolific tastemaker

More

Zane-lowe-beats-1-notion

Zane Lowe
Radio’s Original Hype Man

We meet the mind behind Beats 1, Zane Lowe

More

Julie-adenuga-Beats1-notion

Julie Adenuga
Beats 1’s UK Connoissuer

Julie Adenuga is at the heart of British music

More

ebro-beats1-notion

Ebro Darden
The Radio Veteran

Ebro Darden is the king of New York radio and now part of the core team at Beats 1

More