One of the most recognizable figures in bass music, Darin McFadyen – aka FreQ Nasty – has been out of the spotlight in Europe and the UK for a while now.
It transpires that the nomadic DJ/producer – born in Fiji, brought up in New Zealand, moved to the UK in the early ‘90s but would always, sensibly, spend winters Down Under – moved to Los Angeles a few years ago and has recently taken some time out to study. He carried on DJing during this time to pay the bills, he tells DJmag.com, but now he’s back in a big way with a wicked new drumstep/crunk-step EP, a new website and even more of a positive mental attitude than ever.
Darin started out in a beats outfit called Native Bass in the early ‘90s, releasing early material on the fledgling Botchit & Scarper label. After playing drum & bass in the mid-‘90s he reinvented himself as breakbeat DJ/producer FreQ Nasty to release envelope-pushing cuts on Botchit such as ‘Freqazoid’ and ‘Boomin Back Atcha’. He then signed to Skint, the home of Fatboy Slim, for the ‘Bring Me The Head Of FreQ Nasty’ album, expanding his musical palette and moving Stateside in the mid-noughties.
DJmag.com caught up with the FreQ to hear about his latest excursions in bass…
We haven't heard from you in the UK for quite a while - where have you been?
“Six years ago I looked out of the steamed-up panes of my lounge room windows, the central heating cranking like a vintage motorbike wheezing up Shooters Hill, cross-eyed with cold and fast disappearing into the post-New Year’s Eve realization that I wouldn’t be wearing anything lighter than a trench coat for another five months. And outdoors it would be even worse.
“Driven by desperation and acute Vitamin D deficiency, I dialed up Craigslist and struck a deal with a stranger to sleep in their house, and woke up to palm trees over Venice Beach [in California] for the next two weeks. I came back to London town, packed up my laptop and got a flat in Venice Beach where I continued to do exactly what I had been doing in London, but watched the sun set over the sea through the palm trees instead of dogs shitting on broken syringes on Brixton High Street.”
Is it true you’ve taken some time out recently to study? What was that all about?
“Touring constantly is the best and worst thing about eeking out a crust as a producer and DJ. It’s a wicked way of seeing places I had seen only in dad’s National Geographic magazines. But the better I did, the more my life went from being a fascinating journey from obscurity to some vague (and probably childish idea) of success, and transformed into a series of journeys that eventually became one long jetlagged date with ‘the next show’ and very little time to spend any time in amongst the photo spreads of the red and gold and Canadian Autumn.
“As a workaholic with a desire to avoid forming normal and healthy relationships it was perfect for me, and my preference for the impersonal company of those that would make a living from pimping my insecurities was a great way to advance my career, but as is generally the case with us all, at some point life steps in and showed me the limitations of my myopic view of what life could be, and I had the choice to either expand my mental repertoire or sink further into the seductive myth and bullshit of the music industry.”
You must’ve turned a lot of Americans onto dubstep and bass music in the last few years – is that fair comment?
“In some ways. I think I was playing Skream, Benga’s and Rusko’s records around the world before they had gotten any kind of wider exposure internationally, mainly thanks to Matt from Civil Music who would send me all the bangers on the London underground before many of the DJs in the UK had them.
“Throughout 2005 to 2007 I mostly got blank stares and confused looks playing early dubstep in the US… the sound was deeper and more subby then. As is usual with me and my perverse ways, as more people starting playing it in 2007/8, I played less of it. Now I play very little of it but still love the production and vibes. Times change as always, and Doctor P and Flux’s jump-up revolution means it’s huuuge in the US and only getting bigger as suburban kids discover dubstep’s hip-hop-meets-rave vibes with the ‘brostep’ metal edge. Doh!”
Is there a healthy California bass music scene at the moment, then?
“Bass music of all types is HUGE in Cali. The general vibe here reminds me of being at Fabric in London in the early 2000s, but right across the state. The sound systems are now generally beyond sci-fi and the bass fam who come to the gigs have an incredibly broad and sophisticated knowledge of the music and technology that makes bass music sound good live. And they dress up in crazy shit and party hard too!
“Announcing the fact that you have a Funktion 1 sound system on the flyer for your party is not uncommon as kids here know what they want to hear and won’t put up with shit sound systems, even at illegal raves in the forest in Northern Cali. UK bass music can still be heard here a lot, but in many places the Cali glitchhop, and more melodic strains that are developing as a backlash to the unavoidable rise of brostep, are more popular and the musical inflections of bass music here are what distinguishes it from the UK gear.”
What about the explosion of dance music in general in America recently - what's your take on it?
“Right now America is experiencing the second summer of rave and if you wondered what the acid house days of old might have been like, well maybe it was something like this? Except the music is more varied, the sound systems are better and there’s a huge international scene that participates in the vibes.
“Dance music in the form of what they used to call ‘electronica’ here in the US never took off after people expected there to be another 20 Prodigys following hot on the heels of Liam and co, which of course there wasn’t. The Prodigy’s unique mix of rock and rave that opened up the doors the first time around in the late ‘90s has now matured into a multi-faceted international scene that houses a huge variety of goodness - everything from mega festivals that have 200,000 people coming through in a weekend to renegade outdoor raves amongst the giant Redwoods of Northern California entertaining 400 friends and family.”
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