What else can EDM artistes come up these days? Deadmau5 has his bright red mousehead, Skrillex his floppy hair, Daft Punk with their shiny helmets and then there’s Drums of Death.
One look at this London-based Scottish electronic music producer and you’d think that Halloween has come early. His face decked out in Baron Samedi-like voodoo face-paint, Colin Bailey is like an electronic occult leader, conjuring dark bass-heavy beats laden with hints of dubstep, techno, rave, jungle and house from his altar in the DJ booth.
“I just want to stand out,” Bailey says about his extreme make-up. He will dropping by Zouk on 10 August Heineken’s Green Room 10th Anniversary party, performing alongside hip hop act Spank Rock and techno legends Octave One.
The past couple of years have been pretty eventful for Bailey. Under his Drums of Death, guise, the producer has toured extensively through the US and Canada with Hot Chip and Peaches, co-writing and producing the title track for her latest album ‘I Feel Cream’, released an album 'Generation Hexed in 2010 and most recently produced hip hop upstart Azealia Banks’ single ‘Nathan’ which appeared on her ‘Fantasea’ mixtape.
We caught up with the heavily made-up artistes to talk music.
Born in Scotland and based in London –the city that houses Civil Music. It looks like the perfect label for you with its stable of experimental artists including Starkey, OM Unit and Kotchy. Do you feel right at home?
It's a good place; we're all misfits. The label started with a more beats-based, dubstep focus but now there's more techno and house too. Its strength is in its diversity and the fact that what each artist does is pretty dope.
Did you watch the Olympics opening ceremony? If you did, which segment would you have included your music in?
I did and I thought it was wonderful. I'm a huge Underworld fan and I thought they sound-tracked it well. I'd have liked ‘Waves City’ in the hospital bed section, the piano starting it off then going into the main beat for the dance section.
You said in an interview that the colours on the sleeve reflected the changes to your sound. There are nuances of reinvention, but was this for the sake of it or did you organically evolved?
Each EP's colour reflects my mood at the time. ‘Black Waves’ was, well, it was a rather dense and intense record. I felt in a rut and I needed to make a change. The act of breaking out and doing something new made me feel much better, more open and evolving. ‘Red Waves’ followed this. There were some personal issues during ‘Blue Waves’ and that's why it starts quite dark.
‘Blue Waves EP’ had plenty drops of old school acid-house and 80s flavoured electro. I know you’ve mentioned that your production depends on your mood. What was your mood like what your produced this EP?
I was going through a weird but positive time. I broke up with my girlfriend so I locked myself away and just worked. I made this record with more hardware than I've used before. It took me out of a set way of working and opened up some new possibilities. The time spent producing it went from being quite dark to a happier place. I wanted to show that I can make more contemplative and warmer music. I love techno, love the sound palettes of house and UK garage, so I wanted to take these, warp them and try to make them my own.
All the tracks on your EPs sound so diverse, but the only constant pattern seems to be the use of rare sounding samples, easily picked out on Azealia Banks’ ‘Nathan’ – a track you produced for her ‘Fantasea’ mixtape. How did that track come about?
Azelia Banks –‘Nathan’ (produced by Drums of Death)
I made the beat for 'Nathan' a few years ago and when I was in the studio with Azealia last year working on an album track I played this to her. She loved it, took it away and just did the vocals in New York. It was that simple, really.
How do you relate to being musically diverse?
I keep all my tracks simple now; let them music breathe and each idea have its own space. Being diverse is a good thing but the key is stripping ideas back. If a track has too many ideas then maybe the initial idea is not good enough. I've learned it should be just one strong vision.
One thing that doesn’t change is your voodoo-zombie face paint, apparently drawing inspirations from the Mexican Day of Dead celebration and even B-grade horror music composer, Fabio Frizzi. You’ve said a lot about how it distinguishes you on stage, but how do you think visualization create a richer experience for the revellers who come to your show?
I just want to stand out. There's no character per say, the energy on stage is how I feel when I get to play these live shows, I love doing them. For my imagery I wanted to have a bold look and something that when I walk out you know it's me. You'll see this in the new audio/visual show. It's heavily influence by the 1960's optical art movement and is pretty intense.
You recently played at Rob Da Bank’s Maida Vale session for the BBC that was recorded “live.” Some vocal sweat you’ve dished out there. Is this something we can expect at the Heineken Green Room session at Zouk, Singapore?
Yeah, I played tracks live from ‘Blue’ and ‘Red Waves’. It was so good. I brought synths and a little mixing desk, the desk is what I used for all my reverbs on record so now live I can do them real-time and those synths are the pieces of kit I made patches on for my last EP, Blue Waves. At Maida Vale they filmed the visuals too; they will broadcast it in a month or so. Yes, I will be bringing my AV show to Zouk and I am so very excited to play in Singapore.
Is your “Kaput!” nights at Glasgow’s club, The Hold still on? You once said that the intent for that night is “a move against Belle & Sebastian and Scottish repression.” Have you outgrown that, or is it still very much a part of you?
We closed up shop on that club around four years ago. It had an amazing run but I had moved to London and Drums Of Death was taking over my life.
We like how you described a good gig as one where your face paint gets ruined halfway through. That goes for the rest of us doesn’t it?
Absolutely. You have to come dressed to sweat!
Drums of Death play the Heineken Green Room 10th Anniversary party at Zouk on 10 Aug with Spank Rock and Octave One. For invites log on to www.heineken.com/sg