No stranger to showcase festivals, Callum Wright’s D/R/U/G/S went some way to making their name with a set at 2010’s In The City festival in his hometown of Manchester, while their appearance at this year’s inaugural Camden Crawl Dublin follows their set at last year’s actually-in-Camden version. Wright is a relatively recent convert to electronic music: having being in a number of punk bands, the young producer was inspired to change direction by the likes of Superpitcher, James Holden (in particular his remix of Nathan Fake’s ‘The Sky Was Pink’) and The Field. So far he’s released two single-cum-EPs (Love/Lust and Connected) and a slew of remixes for acts such as David’s Lyre, Lykke Li and (sure why not?) Lana Del Rey. Consistently varied and frequently excellent, his productions range from ambient house strains to propulsively upbeat grooves to more glitchy and hard-to-pin-down fare.
In the live setting, the emphasis is very much on live performance as opposed to the laptop-reliant fare you’d usually expect from such an act. Wright has referred to the approach before as a form of ‘remixing yourself’, but by his own account the live set is constantly changing. With new track ‘The Source Of Light’ recently premiered by Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1, it’s going to be interesting to see where Wright takes things in 2012.
State spoke to him ahead of his Dublin visit….
D/R/U/G/S tend to perform in a spontaneous, improvisatory manner in a live setting, compared to many other electronic artists. Do you enjoy the energy of risking mistakes and creating as you go along?
Absolutely, that’s what makes it a ‘live’ show – I don’t have a sequencer or Ableton to fall back on, and I have made some serious mistakes! It’s that pressure that keeps me focused nowadays though, especially if the show’s going well and people are really into it, its a great feeling.
Has the live set being refined or adapted in any sense since you started, or is it still pretty much the same approach?
Most definitely. When I started in late 2010 all I had was a Roland SP-404. I’ve learnt so much in terms of structure and the flow of a live set now, its just a totally different thing. The visual aspect is something we’ve recently been working hard on. Wilson, who does live visuals for us, is a bit of a genius really. I don’t understand what he does but it looks incredible. I want every aspect of the show to be as live and creative as possible, hence why there’s guitars and keyboards all over the shop now.
D/R/U/G/S seem to operate outside of the UK underground dance spectrum, and in your own space or niche. How do you find the reaction when playing Fabric, or other club-oriented sets, as opposed to festival sets? Would you tailor the vibe accordingly?
I definitely used to really engineer my sets dependent on what or where I was playing, but I think I’m a bit more confident in my own sound and where I sit in the world now to have to do that so much. I’d like to think that the sets have become more cohesive and more their own sort of thing now. On the last record I think it’s pretty clear that I was struggling to position myself and really questioning where I was, especially in relation to the dance and DJ worlds. I really feel like I’ve come through that now and I’ve kind of got back to the original idea which was to just do my own thing and not worry about where I sat. Just write good music.
Have there been any live shows that have particularly stood out in the last year or so?
The second Fabric show last year was amazing, I was proper nervous about how I’d be received doing a live set in the middle of DJ land and it went brilliantly. Obviously Leeds and Reading were massive, Reading in particular: we had a tent full of kids, it was crazy – I was on first so expected it to be empty! On a more personal level, the Warehouse Project show back home was very special. It was sold out, main room at the warehouse, everyone I know was there – great memories.
Do you find yourself road-testing material on the basis of how live crowds respond to it?
That’s one of the benefits of how I perform live, it’s very easy to slot new material in to try out. Although in saying that I tend to write with how a track sounds as a stand-alone piece in mind, rather than tailoring it to a live or DJ setting. It’s usually more a case of adapting a finished track into a live version.
What can we expect in terms of releases in 2012? How have you found your sound or your approach progressing since your first release?
I’m still finding my way in terms of my own sound, definitely. I’d love to do some more focused house tracks simply with a view to fitting them into my own DJ set, hopefully before the end of the year. There’s a couple of releases in the pipeline, due to be confirmed very soon.
You got into electronic music fairly late on. As a result, do you think you’re less bound by expectations and conventions than maybe other producers making electronic music?
I think that’s pretty clear to hear in the tracks – I come from a live band background, playing live is something I’ve always done and is really the main focus of D/R/U/G/S. Everything I write is focused around the live show because it’s written in the same way it’s performed. It means my tracks are difficult to DJ with and don’t really fit in with the current dance music trends but that’s the whole point. I’ve seen so many electronic acts’ ‘live’ shows recently and they’ve been a joke. I can spot a fake live show a mile away, and it’s frightening how many are kicking about.
You’ve done some great remixes for other acts. Any particular favourites?
The Lykke Li remix is still probably my favourite. It never really got used at all, but every time I play it it gets a great reaction and people are familiar with it, which is nice as it only really exists on my Soundcloud.
D/R/U/G/S plays the Camden Crawl Dublin on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May, venues to be announced on the day. Tickets are on sale now priced €40 for the weekend, €25 per day.