From quirky stripped-back techno injected with soul, to deep dub-inflected excursions, Deepchild has earned himself a reputation as groundbreaking producer, respected DJ, and electrifying live-performer. Based in Berlin, the Australian artist has performed at many of the world’s most respected electronic music institutions: legendary gatherings like Detroit’s own Movement Festival and EXIT in Serbia; the cream of European and American nightclubs, including numerous appearances at Berlin’s legendary Berghain and Tresor, and amongst hundreds of others. Well loved and highly acclaimed for his dynamically personal take on techno and house, Deepchild’s passion for exploration of the form precedes him – reflected by an irrepressible fanbase and glowing critical praise. Ahead of his appearance at CDR Sydney next Friday, Deepchild spoke to CDR about changing musical landscapes, the influence of physical climate on music, and mindfulness.
Who are you, and what do you do (in your own words)
Rick Bull – aka Deepchild (and a couple of ‘secret’ aliases). I dj, produce electronic music, make beats and samples for various libraries (etc Sounds to Same, Sample Magic), and occasionally produce online tutorial material for companies like MacPro Video. My work is generally dance-floor focused, but under various guises encompasses sound-design for film/radio, and forays into drone, processed-piano and more experimental music.
What got you into writing music?
Initially, the deep need to survive my teenage years at school, and a desire to explore a ‘language’ which no one seemed encoded, unfathomable, unholy, alien. I’m a big fan of rock and pop music these days, but as a teenager I felt berated and alienated by much of it, and what it seemed to stand for. The sexual ambiguity and ‘otherness’ of electronic music created a space I felt I could better pour ‘meaning’ and imagination into as a listener. I felt giddy and liberated by the notion that ‘music’ could come from machines, generating it independently from a human ‘touch’. I fell in love with the notion of the ‘ghosts in the machine’, and felt these ghosts spoke to my soul. Making electronic music in the early 90s felt like a grand, exciting experiment. It was my safe space, my space to dream. My space to forget everything I though I was.
When did you first hear about CDR?
I believe I heard about it in Berlin, 5 or 6 years ago. A buddy of mine was running the CDR nights there when they first began.
What topics will you touch upon during your interview at CDR this month?
Sex, death, winter, yoga, silence, poverty, rebirth, humor.
You have an upcoming release with a Noah Pred named “Concubine” is there anything you can share with us about it at this point?
We’re revealing details slowly at this stage, but I can confirm its been the only collaborative project I’ve undertaken in recent memory. I often feel quite anxious collaborating, so this has been something of a leap of faith for me. Noah is one of my best friends – a fellow dharma traveller, and incredible inspiration and yin to my yang. Concubine is an experiment (for both of us) letting go of expectations, and a way ‘out’ for both of us from some of the stifling overly self-conscious elements of the Berlin techno scene. It’s a hardware-focused, jam-based electronic project, composed, thus far, entirely in my studio in Berlin. We’re giving away the first album (and probably all of our work) for free – in essence, once more, to break some personal assumptions about the way the ‘industry’ works, or ‘should’ work. The project is also a live PA – jaunty, muscular and heavily improvised. We hope there’s some quiet humour in the work, and perhaps even some quiet celebration.
What are your top 5 tracks in your bag at the moment?
My bag has been usurped by USB sticks. I guess, if we’re talking strictly techno, it might look a little like this….
DVS1 – “Black Russian”
LFO – “Loop”
Yaleesa Hall – “Second Leyland”
Fjaak – “The Wind”
Wax – “5005A”
The musical landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years, how would you compare dance culture now to when you began?
Essentially the ‘middle class’ has dropped out of the scene. There’s been a rise in ‘aspirational dj culture’, where djing and production are viewed as tickets to easy wealth. Conversely, I feel there’s been a loss of diversity in the scene in general – people are adamant about branding themselves ‘techno’ or ‘deep house’ djs, and there’s a general attraction to this kind of ‘branding’, rather than an ongoing musical conversation which might transcend genres. I find that (at least at gigs in North America and Asia) I’m often faced with club-goers who want to hear a specific (chart) track, rather than those seeking to be surprised…this seems to be a marked shift in culture from 20 years ago. The life-cycle of musical works now seems radically reduced, as a fascination with ‘newness’ seems to have usurped many of the notions of musical selections part of an ongoing ‘cannon’ of work. I’m still quite old-school in this respect, inasmuch as I feel a little uncomfortable playing music until I have developed some kind of deeper ‘relationship’ with it. Which often means I’ll increase my collection of dance-music quite slowly, rather than building sets around too much radically new material. I think to be a successful dj/producer (or rather, the kind i’d like to be) it’s helpful to have a conversation between memory and imagination – the past and the future. I still feel quite vulnerable sometimes telling ‘my’ musical story, but it’s the best story ive got!
You are an avid buddhist and might be described as a bit of a philosopher, how would you say this factors into your music, if at all?
Yoga and meditation offer me a space to cultivate silence, and release some of my ideas about who I ‘am’, and what I ‘should’ be…. At its best, I think the process of creating and experiencing music can offer the same tools to individuals – a relief from the pressure to ‘be’ anything, to ‘do’ anything. I think that the Buddhist path offers some incredible (and often confronting) tools for dealing with the realities of old-age, sickness and death, and hopefully laughing a little along the way. I think it can soften us, help us hold our demons tenderly. Music offers me much of the same sense of silence… it’s an opportunity to witness that a moment, a focus, an intention (the dance, the hearing, the ending of a song) are actually sometimes where we feel most alive and vital – because music, like meditation, isnt so much a ‘thing’ as a witnessing. Music offers me a safe space to also explore my own taboos and brokeness, without becoming caught too much in right-brain over-analysis and critique. There’s certainly a dovetail between both things – but I think that ANY practice (drinking, eating, gardening, walking) can be great tools for mindfulness and dharma-practice. Music is a big part of mine, because its so immediately engaging to me – and, perhaps most of all, its taught me so much about the importance of community.
You are based in Berlin – Sydney has been in an interesting place lately with regards to Lock-out Laws etc – could any comparisons be drawn between Sydney and Berlin; not only the music culture but how it is perceived and accepted?
The electronic music-scene in Sydney appears to be on a good keel at the moment….there’s so much passion here, and such support for some fairly sophisticated music! I think Australians are passionate and engaged about music – and what is so surprising to me, is that some very ‘serious’ techno can be embraced in a physical climate like this! I guess that in Europe, a lot of clubbing/music-making springs from a deep need to ‘survive’ the cold, and some fairly dire economic realities (Sydney is so incredibly wealthy compared to Berlin). I guess that Berlin is far less of a ‘drinking’ culture than Australia – and seeing how largely alcohol factors into the clubbing experience here is always initially disconcerting. Berlin is saturated with producers and djs from across the world, all trying to find a ‘place’ to belong – but the calibre of producers and djs in Sydney is astoundingly high to me. I think if you devote any substantial time to your craft here in Australia, you have to really love it – because so much of the political and clubbing climate in Aus tend to work against supporting long-term careers and ventures. Berlin’s scene continues to amaze me, but it can take itself a little too seriously sometimes. Ive found the lackadaisical Australian attitude can actually be an asset.
As a touring musician, what is your one go to piece of advice for people just starting out?
Oh god. There is no start to the path, nor any end – in a sense, I feel cursed/blessed in equal measure because I’ve generally never seen any ‘arrival’ point for myself. I just want to hold the music gentle, in awe and celebration. Which is probably why my ‘career’ is more just one year, strung into another, into another. Moments of wonder and re-appraisal. Just surround yourself with good people. Form communities. Celebrate each other’s work. Realise that everything changes and will change, and that we’re just fortunate to have any and every gig offered. Be professional. Don’t get wasted. Remember you are holding the hearts of many in your grasp – and you can offer such wonderful gifts. There’s good healin’ to be had. Tread gently, and realise that most people who book us for tours are really pouring their own cash and hearts into small, important dreams. Oh, and for god’s sake, treat service-staff with respect.
Have you any advice or words of warning for musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?
Don’t fear missing the mark. You will your entire life. That’s one of the gifts that music offers – a space where its ok to make mistakes. I’m adamant that just having other people in a room when you play a work can radically change the way the author will hear the music. It’s terrifying sharing new work…and anyone who does, is doing a worthy, beautiful thing, imo.
Any last words?
Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this. I’m a little nervous, but deeply honoured!
Make sure you catch Deepchild at CDR Sydney this Friday 23rd January 2015 – 107 Projects Redfern, NSW.
Interview by: Nick Forrest & Jemma Cole