Dollars to Pounds: Deadboy

Photographer Steve Braiden
May 20, 2010

After a volcano-extended holiday, Dollars to Pounds is back to obsess over the burgeoning British bass scene that's slowly taking over these pages. Deadboy, the man behind one of this year's biggest 12"s, "If U Want Me" on Numbers, marries skipping, off-kilter, bass-heavy riddims and the sci-fi sadness of US R&B. His songs—"U Cheated," "Heartbreaker," "If U Want Me"—are bummed-out bangers, dejection selections, which manage to be both agonized and ecstatic. I spoke to Deadboy about his new EP of R&B remixes, the recent UK election and his growing psychic abilities.

Stream: Deadboy, “If U Want Me”

Stream: Deadboy, “U Cheated”

I see from Twitter that you have started to make glasses explode with the power of your mind. Have you always been telekinetic?
Later that day I made a light come on just by touching it. I think it’s a more recent thing. I'm going to start trying to focus my powers so I can start to move objects around, and eventually I'll be able to DJ without touching anything, just hovering with my arms folded behind the decks like Dhalsim out of Street Fighter.

I guess a Deadboy is a ghost, which makes sense because there's something haunted about your music.
Well the whole Deadboy name came about because I got really into budget '70s zombie movies and hammer horrors and stuff like that, and the first tunes I made were kind of crappy grime tunes made out of samples from zombie films so I kind of created this undead persona. I'm influenced by all kinds of music, literally everything, aesthetically I guess garage and house and funky are the main influences, and dancehall, bassline, rave/hardcore, techno all have their part, but my record collection goes a lot deeper than that.

When I interviewed The XX last year, Romy told me her favourite kind of music is "upbeat songs with sad lyrics" and your music reminded me of that quote. It's that classic garage/jungle/pretty much all dance music trick. What are favourite tracks like that?
Pretty much anything by Burgaboy, that’s kind of an extreme example because his music is so aimed at pure dancefloor hype, and then these kind of disembodied ghost vocals of heartbroken girls come over the top of it and it just adds so much soul.

Stream: Burger Boy, “I Lied”

Another would be "Dubbing You" by Foul Play, or a million other early '90s rave/hardcore tunes. To be honest it’s probably got a lot to do with ecstasy.

Stream: Foul Play, “Dubbing You”

I heard you live in Southeast London. Have you been on the new East London line yet?
No it’s not running at evenings and weekends yet, but I can’t wait, it’s going to make getting out east a lot easier, and hopefully get more people to come south, it’s lovely here in the summer, there's something tropical about it, probably the amount of trees and the parakeets.

You've just released some amazing R&B refixes and I hear you sometimes DJ R&B as DJ Tearjerker. Tell us a bit about that.
Yeah I love good R&B, which there is quite a lot of. I've got a thing for Cassie, she is so ice cold and so many of her tunes are fire. I have been waiting for her to release a second album forever, there is so much leaked material floating around the internet and some of it is so good. As far as producers, The-Dream, Danja and Bangladesh I suppose are the big guns who are pretty much consistently good right now and showing the odd flash of weird genius. I did the remix of "Long Way 2 Go" by Cassie years ago, it wasn't ever going to see the light of day but Ashley who runs Well Rounded was really into it and wanted to put it out, then he heard my remix of "Official Girl," which I only really did so I could play it in my sets because I love the tune, so I just made it workable into my sets as a kind of 2 step thing, didn’t change it much. Then I heard "The Way That I Love You" in my sisters car and thought I could definitely do something with it, that wasn’t going to see light either, but Jackmaster heard it and put it in one of his mixes and a few people liked it so I finished it and the EP came together. I've done a Lil Kim one and a Three Six Mafia one as well but I'm not sure they'll ever come out.

Stream: Cassie, “Long Way 2 Go (Deadboy Remix)”

I spent last week stuck in Portugal because of that volcano. After the election I wasn't sure if I should come back. What do you think of the new government?
I'm just glad I voted Labour after Lib-Dem did the dirty and jumped in with Cameron. What a sod. This was the first election I actually got interested in, I was watching the results come in and everything, the massive turnout and the fact people couldn’t vote because of the queues was mad, I've never seen anything like it.

The label you're signed to, Numbers, is a bit like the new government, in that it's a coalition. This may be the first and only time that comparison is made. Is Jackmaster more David Cameron or Nick Clegg?
Yeah I think it will be. Jack is totally David Cameron. Nah just joking. Jack heard a bunch of my tunes when Ashley Well Rounded sent him some that he was proposing to release when he was looking for a distributor, He liked them and asked me to send him any tunes, one of which was "If U Want Me," which I made and kind of disregarded as a kind of simple rave tune, a bit silly, but that tune has done more than I could have imagined.

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Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Deadboy