In the U.S., Dysphemic is a name that seems to pop up haphazardly every year or couple of years, usually around releases, and when it does it’s always with awe and respect. The Aussie producer gained near world fame between 2011 and 2014 in his projects with classical violinist Miss Eliza, with their debut album Synthetic Symphony in 2013 launching a U.S. tour and their dubstep remix for the classical “Hungarian Dance” turning heads and dropping jaws. Indeed their live show back then was something to behold, with U.S. fans and producers talking about the possibilities of merging classical and bass music.
Truth be told, both before and after Miss Elisa, Dysphemic has mixed his teeth-grindingly heavy beats with classical music in a way that seems to stay true to both vastly different genres, and that is likely why the artist, though quiet in recent years, is looked upon with so much respect in the EDM and dance music communities.
With his new album Zeus due out tomorrow (today Australian time) on Gravitas Recordings and with Dysphemic graciously premiering his track “The Hunted” with us, your EDM caught up with Dysphemic halfway across the world to talk about his style and how he merges two seemingly different styles so well.
So have you been releasing a lot lately?
Few remixes, but I’ve got the album dropping soon so most of my energy has gone into that. Early last year there as an EP as well, called “InterGlactic” on Gravitas as well. The most recent remix was of Aceyalone’s “Handlin’ My Bidness,” which I quite enjoyed, but I’m ready for the album to come out for sure.
So I guess you enjoy working with Gravitas?
Yeah, they cover a lot of genres not just drum and bass…they do a lot of work with dubstep and glitch, trap…it’s nice that they have that scope if I want to work with different styles.
And that’s definitely something that’s characteristic of your music is that it’s diverse almost to a cutting-edge point. What inspires you to do the work with the classical and other genres as well as all the different styles within bass music?
Well it’s like a weird fusion of them all, one hundred percent. I guess it comes back from…a lot of the first music I made was bass-heavy hip hop, and when I started doing that hip hop was very sample-based In old hip hop you sample all kinds of stuff: jazz, orchestral, Latin music…whatever you want. It’s an open palette, really. So from there when I started making electronic stuff, I thought instead of sampling why don’t I just get someone to play it, or write it myself.
So you’re saying all the sampling in hip hop influenced you to not sample?
(Laughs) well not exactly…I liked the way the sampled stuff sounded but I just thought I could make things match in electronic music if I had my own parts to it, if that makes sense.
Yeah, that makes sense. You must have a huge catalog of your own samples then. So when you put a track together now, how do you craft it?
It changes every time, but to me the tracks I like the best start with sort of a central melody or theme or a collection of sounds…I guess there’s no general rule to how I produce now that I think of it (laughs). But I’m definitely always listening for things that…when I hear songs out that spark my attention I’ll get out Shazaam and collect little pieces to listen to later for when I’m making my own stuff.
From a compositional standpoint, I definitely do like really cinematic, orchestral-driven soundscaping stuff. I guess melody is really my favorite thing to write, so everything is crafted around that.
That’s so interesting because a number of bass music producers have been coming forward and saying similar things. It seems so counterintuitive.
That’s good! I think that means we’re going in a good direction there.
But what does that mean for a bass music producer? Or for you personally, why would you choose bass music if you’re so into melodies?
Well, the melody still isn’t everything…it’s just my favorite aspect of it. At the moment at least. As a producer you want to make music that people want to dance to as well, and I definitely love dancefloor culture as well. It’s just really fun to write melodies.
Fair enough. So going beats and beat structures, how do you put your beats together? Your beats generally don’t follow typical dubstep or dnb structures and they seem to be screwed together into something completely different. How do you do that?
I suppose what happens is it’s very drum and bass-influenced dubstep, and especially on the Aceyalone track, he just gave me the vocals and I put that all together in one. So when I did that it was dubstep that was influenced by dnb but with a hip hop format, maybe (laughs)? It’s definitely like a mashup of drum and bass and dubstep. I started with drum and bass and jungle because I was a drummer, so I feel like that side will never leave me, really.
And so how does that come together on the technical end of things?
Well if it’s a remix or even if it’s my own melody, I sort of listen for the flow of whatever it is, and then I kind of write a rhythm around that flow and then I try to work with how I’m going to syncopate it. And that’s the same with the bassline, especially in “Handlin’ My Bidness” I try to look at the more rhythmical aspect.
So when you’ve got all those aspects together, how do you know when the whole track has that flow? Or is it that when you do it that way it flows on its own?
Sometimes it flows on its own…I do remember with that track in particular I tried to make sure the bassline mimicked the flow in the verse.
And on this album, since you enjoy that cinematic, big sound with the orchestral melodies, how did you incorporate trying to make it flow with those two very different genres?
Well when I was working with Miss Eliza before, it was kind of random. I saw her playing “Hungarian Dance” and then I was just sold. But again, I just see that classical mashup theme as sort of a hip hop throwback. It’s not new to put together styles. So the only difference in my mind is that sub bass and grindiness of dubstep, and that it’s for dancing rather than chilling out. It’s a different energy to it.
So other than the aspects we’ve already talked about, what can people expect on this album in terms of style and melody?
So the new direction I’m going in now is world music mixed with bass music, and specifically like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern music, so the new album is just all that stuff. It’s almost a concept album in that sense.
And how did that come about?
On the last EP, “InterGlactic,” I did a track with my brother Yiani doing a flamenco-style guitar and it got a really great response, so we were like “wow we should just do a whole release of that stuff.”
And he’s featured on this album now?
Yep, I think he’s on at least half the tracks on the album. He plays the guitar and bouzouki (traditional Greek stringed instrument) and the sitar.
Well you can definitely feel the Middle Eastern vibe on the premiere track, “The Hunted.” Do all the tracks have that emotive vibe?
I just really wanted to showcase the different styles of Dysphemic: dubstep, drum and bass and glitch hop. So some of the tracks are more emotional and some are more rough, depending on the style.
Any tours coming up?
Yeah, I’ll actually be touring the states; I’ll be playing the Eclipse festival in Oregon and then I’ll be doing a bunch of side shows, late August through September. I got a three-year visa this time so it’ll be awesome and a lot easier to tour. Next summer I plan to tour a lot longer.
Anything you want to say to the fans?
Just thanks for the support and especially for the support with the new direction I’m taking, and I’m really looking forward to touring in the U.S. again.
Zeus is out tomorrow, August 15, and can be pre-ordered here.