» News and Features » Interview: DJ Fresh on his return to music with single 'Dancing in the Dark'
Interview: DJ Fresh on his return to music with single 'Dancing in the Dark'
We caught up with the legendary chart-topping producer, ahead of the release of his brand new single, 'Dancing in the Dark', to talk about his long-awaited return to music and what the fans can look forward to this year
Date published: 28th Jan 2022
Synonymous with drum n bass, the name DJ Fresh should be a familiar one whether you're a fan of uptempo broken beats and filthy rolling basslines or not.
The esteemed electronic producer and seasoned selector, real name Dan Stein, was an artist you simply couldn't escape from back at the beginning of the last decade. His breakout pearler of a track, 'Goldust' was a small and yet significant taste of what was to come when it hit the airwaves back in 2010, perfectly paving the way for two of his biggest tracks to date, chart-topping anthems 'Louder', in 2011, and 'Hot Right Now' featuring Rita Ora, in 2012. From BBC adverts and Lucozade campaigns to worldwide tours and radio play - DJ Fresh was quite literally everywhere.
Continuing to produce, co-produce and release a score of huge hits through the twenty-tens, collaborating with the likes of Diplo on 'Earthquake', Jay Fay and R&B Queen, Ms Dynamite on 'Dibby Dibby Sound' and Sigala on 'Say You Do', DJ Fresh was quickly becoming one of the most prolific producers in the business, gaining respect from both his peers and music fans. Jet setting across the globe, receiving nods for awards and all the whilst selling records into the millions, things were looking pretty rosy. Right up until 2016, when his luck almost ran out.
In mid-May of that year, Stein reached out to the three-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-plus fans on his Facebook page, breaking the distressing news that he'd been diagnosed with thyroid cancer whilst also calling out the brutal, relentless and corporate music industry that had negatively impacted both his physical and mental health.
Following a thankfully successful operation and after receiving the all-clear from his doctors, DJ Fresh disappeared from the fore of the electronic music scene, seeking to evade the pressures of being a top-selling artist. Instead, he burrowed himself into the studio, "retreating into the background", as he puts it, turning his attention instead to producing and songwriting for other promising artists.
Fast forward to the present and we're excited to announce that yes, DJ Fresh is indeed back again and armed with some hefty new music. Releasing his first single in more than two years, following his only single of 2020, 'Drive', 'Dancing in the Dark' showcases a much naughtier side of Fresh that we can't ever recall witnessing before. Featuring the talents of drum n bass newcomer, Dutch producer Buunshin, the track also marks the first release on Stein's label, Breakbeat Kaos this year.
What does this all mean? Will we see more music from DJ Fresh this year? Is he back for good? Will he be performing live? Can we expect an album? Continue reading to find answers to all of these questions...
After what seems like a lifetime, you’re finally back on the scene with some new music to share. According to Spotify, your last release dropped just before the pandemic took hold here in Britain, back in February 2020. How have you spent your time and energy since then?
"I’ve built an app (Golddust, it’s available on the iOS and Android store) and I've been working in the AI space picking up ever new and exciting ways to try and cram drum and bass into the mainstream streaming space."
We've heard that, through lockdown, you became involved in gene sequencing and ended up working with a team of data scientists on AI technology? Is that true? And how does one make that leap from music production into data science and tech?
"I’ve always loved code, it’s another medium, just like paper or music, but in code, you can explore visual and audio whilst interacting with people. It’s the medium of the future. I’ve been involved in startups in the past including my own forum, Dogsonacid, of which I'm no longer affiliated. Then there was the anti-peer-to-peer file-sharing startup with Chris Parry (Founder of Xfm), Darkstar. But after my illness, I decided to focus back on tech.
"I had a lot to catch up on, so I joined an intensive three-month live-on-site boot camp (which the other people in the cohort found pretty surprising) and embedded myself in at the beginning. I’ve been working my way up the ranks ever since, and now I'm trying to figure out how to balance the two... Fuck it, you only live once."
"I hope people out there that haven’t tried it will keep an open mind to code. There's never been so much need for developers in so many fields and it really is an exciting time with a lot of support for new coders that want to learn."
Back to the music… The new single - ‘Dancing in the Dark’ featuring Buunshin - has a real old school and fiery drum n bass/jungle feel about it. It’s heavy and it’s dark and we are here for it. Where did the inspiration for this track come from?
"Thank you! When I tweeted that I was making music again, quite a lot of artists hit me up about collaborating and one of them was Buunshin. I knew nothing about him at that point, apart from having heard a couple of tracks that sounded sick. He's a genius and it’s been awesome working with him and getting a chance to be a part of the beginning of his story.
"I really want to go back to my roots now and I've got a new (actually old) team of people around me who share that vision. 'Dancing in the Dark' fits that sentiment perfectly."
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‘Dancing in the Dark’ also sees the reignition of Breakbeat Kaos, the record label of which you are head honcho and chief decision-maker.
We’ve seen some pretty huge names launch from this platform over the years - from Pendulum to Sigma, Nero and Brookes Brothers. Are there any plans to introduce us to some new faces via Breakbeat Kaos in the coming months? And are there any artists currently on your radar you think everyone should be sitting up and taking notice of?
"100%. We have a team of people who have gone on to become independent music industry legends and we’re always looking for new artists that have the scope and vision to be a BBK artist."
(Hmmm, keeping your cards close to your chest are we, Mr Fresh?)
2021 saw the ten year anniversary of the release of ‘Louder’ featuring singer Sian Evans, the first-ever dubstep inspired record to top the UK charts. How do you look back on this record now and does it still have an impact on how you create music today?
"I still struggle with finding a way to play 'Louder' in most of my sets to this day (lolz). It's crazy because with 'Hot Right Now' and especially 'Golddust', I’m always amazed by how many people actually know and have heard them. I went into a hairdresser’s the other day for a long-overdue trim and I was chatting to the hairdresser when he asked if I could play some of my music. I told him to ask Alexa to play 'Golddust' and asked him if he knew it and he just smiled and said ‘of course’. It’s amazing to see the relevance those tracks still have today. Maybe I’ll make some more songs at some point but I'm determined for it to be an organic process, kicking off sets with instrumentals. Not in the singer-songwriter demo vaults of a major label.
"I’ve always been really proud of writing my own hooks. The same applies to writing my own riffs and basslines. When you hear the Louder chorus, you’re hearing DJ Fresh in a room with Sian Evans truly collaborating. There's a video somewhere of me singing the hook to Tarantula with Pendulum and MC $SPYDA. That period was exciting for me, realizing that songs are just sick riffs made of words."
Looking forward to a year of unrestrained live music, we have high hopes that we’ll be seeing you in the fields at festivals, at warehouse raves and in venues across the world in 2022. Can you give our readers any assurance that we will in fact get to see ‘Dancing in the Dark’ live and in the flesh this year?
"I can guarantee you that you will not find Boris Johnson at any of our shows. But unfortunately, that is pretty much all I can guarantee at this point.
"Seriously though, we’re beginning to do a few shows here and there. We want them to be special and if you come, you can be sure you’ll hear 'Dancing in the Dark'. I really want my shows to be the place you have to come if you want to hear the new music I'm making and releasing. When people pay to come out and see you I think they deserve to get something they can’t get anywhere else."
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Following on from that, if you could return to any one stage or event in 2022, where would it be and why? And do you have a particular festival favourite that you still attend as a punter?
"Well, we’ve only done one show this year so far, which turned out to be a sold-out show at Motion Bristol for Dazed. It was the same club we last played nearly five years ago so that felt really special. There are a couple of videos up on my Instagram page @djfreshuk. Check them out!"
Finally, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask, will there be a new DJ Fresh album for us to listen to at some point this year? And if so, what can the fans expect from it?
"I’d love to make an album, but I want to wait until I've got a style and concept that fits together as an album. Right now, I'm just experimenting and finding the new Fresh. Watch this space."
Head to the iconic drum n bass producer's artist profile - HERE - and click or tap on 'track artist' to be notified if and when tickets become available for upcoming DJ Fresh dates this year.
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.