Crossing the boundaries of soul, jazz, jungle, drum and bass, breakbeat, techno, hip hop, brazilian and broken beat, Dego has made an immeasurable (yet somewhat understated) influence on the UK dance and electronica music scene spanning the 90s and early noughties. It is little wonder that words like ‘pioneer’, ‘visionary’ and ‘tastemaker’ are often used to describe Dennis ‘Dego’ Macfarlane - and deservedly so.
Dego’s illustrious music career has indeed been as prolific as his use of monikers. As one half of 4hero with Marc Mac, releasing under their Reinforced label, and producing under a number of other aliases and collaborations such as Pavel Kostiuk, Tek 9, Mr Good Good, DKD, 2000 Black, Cousin Cockroach and Silhouette Brown, Dego has lent his immutable talent to an impressive number of unforgettable classics including the 4hero remix of ‘Black Gold of the Sun’, DKD’s ‘Future Rage’ and Goldie’s ‘Timeless’ to name just a few.
Today Dego continues to transmit his jazz and funk-inflected beats under various imprints across the globe - Eglo Records, Neroli and Wildheart, as well as his own 2000 Black label.
In the run up to his highly anticipated appearance at CDR Berlin on June 5, Dego gives us a quick glimpse into his music sphere.
When and where did you first attend or hear about CDR? And what role do you think CDR plays in the current music scene.
I have never been to CDR before, but I’m very familiar with its existence and the great concept as Tony told me about it before it had started.
CDR is probably the best form of 'crowd participation' EVER. I think this attitude of inclusion is a great thing for young or inexperienced artists finding their way in the wide, wide world of music.
What’s your current set up at your studio and please talk us through the track you last you saved that you’ve been working on.
I work from home or at MLM Studios which is owned by the one Lordamercy. I use Logic audio and own a vast array of analogue keyboards, efx pedals,bass guitar and percussion. Matt made me a custom Neve pre amp that I use when recording to the computer via an Apogee device. It’s a rather simple plug-in, play and record attitude really.
The last track I saved is called ‘dego plastic’. Kaidi gave it that working title as I was spinning there at Plastic People that night. It’s a basic rocksteady groove that we only used the Prophet 5 on. It’s a kind of dance track you don’t need to be in a club to hear. I think it works on headphones travelling the city.
You recently DJed in Berlin at Panorma Bar. How was that gig for you?
This gig was LEGENDARY for me personally. I had my London peoples and my Italian peoples there at the same time.
The audience was very open-minded and got with the styles of music I dropped, which I don’t think they’re accustomed to there. All in all a great mixture of people in one place for music.
As someone who has been releasing tracks and running record labels for at least 20 years, how would you compare the current music scene today to the days when you were releasing jungle, drum‘n’bass or even broken beat? What stark differences do you observe have affected the way you do things now - whether in releasing music, producing, DJing, etc.
Many things have changed nowadays. I think there are pros and cons in the comparing eras.
I used to love the ability for a 12-inch to rise and make a mark with no marketing, making its way into people’s collections based purely on the sound of the wax alone. Nowadays it seems you have to sell it alongside a lifestyle or have it co-signed by the current 'it' personality. Having said that, the potential to reach a wider audience and to control your output is far greater than anytime before the download music age.
I still believe in the LP format but I know it’s not fashionable. Now it’s all about that instant hit, but hopefully younger people will realise you can’t listen solely to bangers all your life.
One of your recent projects is a remix with Theo Parrish and Akwesi of Race of Angels. How did that project come about and can you briefly describe the production process for that remix?
Theo told me he was releasing the Race of Angels song and wanted to do a remix of it and asked for some help. Akwasi and I gladly obliged. He steered the ship and we kept the engine running.
Have you any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?
Industry rule number 4080: record company people are shady!