If you’ve been around electronic dance music for more than a decade, there’s no doubt you will begin to notice a certain pattern of people, labels, genres and DJ’s who come and go. And if you look a little closer, you’ll find another pattern… a path taken by artists who aren’t bound by tempo or sound. This juggernaut-persona embodies all-things-good at any given point in music history. Enter the artist who goes by the name of Sonic D, aka Darren Beckford. Sonic D has managed to successfully navigate through the Los Angeles underground bass music scene to emerge as one of the leading tastemakers in the world of footwork, juke and jungle. We reached out to Darren with a few questions about his role as co-founder of Juke Bounce Werk, his upcoming releases, music production, and life.
Let’s start off with an easy question… How did you get into making music? Was there a tipping point where you took “the plunge”? Was there a certain song or artist that motivated you? Or… has it been something you have just instinctually done since childhood?
I got interested in making music when I was in college after hearing jungle/drum & bass music and the .mod file scene was blowing up. The one song that turned shit upside-down for me was “This is Los Angeles” by Lemon D. The Tom Brokaw sample I remembered from Ice Cube’s Kill At Will EP some years back put together with that drum programming was killer! Also, during the .mod scene, there was this dude, Junglizt, who made jungle tunes on a tracker and I loved his stuff. I just thought it was amazing. So I downloaded a copy of Impulse Tracker and tried my hand at making some music. But school and work was a priority at the time, so I didn’t produce much. It wasn’t until my good friend Eric put me onto Fruity Loops in 2002. He gave me two CDs, one with the install files for the program and one with a bunch of beats he made. I was shocked that he made all these beats. He convinced me that it was easy since he did it and he was right! The learning curve on that program wasn’t hard at all. I would spend my weekends holed up in the house working on that program trying to figure things out while making beats. He and I would IM back and forth any little tips and tricks we’d figure out to help with the production process. There was no YouTube back then and we didn’t know any other producers who used the program so we just figured things out.
How did working at KUCR help you along your musical journey?
Oh wow! Yeah, KUCR was a great time in my life. I was able to discover so much music during my time there. Being music director over there was dope because everyday was like Christmas. We’d get music in the mail twice a day. If it wasn’t for that position, I wouldn’t know about half the artists/bands that I’m a fan of. When I started my doing my radio show, it was heavily influenced by drum & bass music throughout as I was a big fan of the music even though I discovered it after hearing guys like Orbital, Aphex, Autechre, Luke Vibert, Underworld, etc. As the show went on, I was able to find a balance and showcase many different styles of electronic music that I’m a fan of.
Is there an artist or someone who has a profound influence on you and your sound?
That’s a tough one. There’s so many artists that I admire and feel have had a big influence on me. Autechre is a big one for me in how forward thinking they are, even when they’re being “abstract.” Aphex Twin/AFX is always on this list. His output is brilliant. Then there’s hip-hop producers like Pete Rock and Madlib. Dillinja is a badman for what he could do with bass. Digital for the vibes he brings to drum & bass music. I could go on, but let’s leave it at that.
How did Juke Bounce Werk come together?
Uhhh, a bunch of junglists who love footwork? Hehehe… that could be the story broken down in the simplest explanation. But, I’ve known DJ Noir for almost 20 years now going to jungle/drum & bass clubs/parties. Over three years ago, I saw her and J Drago at Respect (LA’s longest running drum & bass weekly) and we started talking about footwork music and they had love for it like I did. I had already started trying to make footwork music beforehand. One Sunday in April 2013, we got together and really started vibing out playing music together and we felt we should do something to bring the sound to LA since no one else was. It’s been a pretty positive journey since then and we’re forever thankful for all that has happened since its inception.
What’s your favorite, non-dance music tune right now?
The Fear Ratio – “Blackboard Jungle” That shit is SO tough. Two techno legends making dope hip-hop beats.
What are you using in the studio? Do you have a favorite plug-in, synth or production technique you can share?
My setup is pretty basic. My Macbook running Abelton, an Akai MPK Mini, Truth B2031A monitors, and a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 sound interface. I don’t use VSTs too much when I’m making footwork, but I do like playing around with Absynth. I’m just starting to toy around and understand it. There are infinite sounds you can get out of that VST. A production technique I can share is – Less is More. Especially if you’re trying to make footwork. When I started trying to make footwork music, I could tell there was a big difference in sound when I would compare it to anyone from Chicago. I wasn’t trying to sound exactly like those guys, but the effectiveness of the music wasn’t there. My tracks sounded so complex like I was throwing everything into it. I could tell there was a simpler approach and I finally realized it the first time I sat with DJ Earl to collab on a song. It started to make sense to me.
Do you have a secret to balancing career / music / nightlife / family?
Know your limits, stay organized, and have a strong support system. With my job, I know that’s my bread and butter. That’s what pays the bills every month so I don’t do anything to jeopardize that. I gotta give a big shout to my fiancée Sonia for her support. She understands that music is a big part of my life and supports what I do even when she can’t be there to see it.
Being organized is a must. It’s a big help when planning things between family, friends, and the nighttime activities. You can’t be in every place at once…
What’s next for JBW / SonicD?
We just put out a mix and two releases from our newest members of the crew, Scatta, Los, & DJ Compton. I’m really hoping to have some collaborative joints with them in the future. The next JB Dubz release is on the horizon as well as planning things out for SXSW 2016. J Drago & DJ Noir will be in Japan at the end of the month and will be playing at Battle Train Tokyo.
I’m currently working on a release for PDBY’s label, We Are TAR, as well as wrapping up my first album to be released on Ground Mass Music. That’s been a process I didn’t know would take so long. I’m also working on some music for another label, Bonding Tapes. I’m hoping to put out an ambient release through them. Outside of that, just staying productive and having fun while doing it.
Do you have any final thoughts or advice for the youth coming up?
In general, I’d say have some background of the music you’re listening to, especially if you’re making music. I’m not saying that you need to know the whole history of a genre, but having some kind of understanding of what brought the music that you like to where it is now does help. In the end, have fun when making music. The process shouldn’t be long and arduous. If you’re thinking too much about a song you’re working on, stop and start a new project. Come back to it later with fresh mind and I bet the ideas will flow better.
Thanks for taking the time to do this, we really appreciate it!
Thank you for the opportunity!
Shouts out to Regal D for the Photos