Dax J: „We are in the final years of human-produced music” [interview]

Dax J / fot. KeyiStudio
dax j

On June 30th, the leading artist of the techno scene, Dax Heddon, famously known to all electronic music enthusiasts under the alias Dax J, returns to Poland. Just a few weeks before his performance at the event organized by Warsaw collective DUEL at Praga Centrum Club, I had a conversation with one of the most popular British DJs and producers. We discussed inspirations, the state of the techno scene, and the future.

Dax J – From Pirate Radio to Magazine Covers

Dax Heddon grew up in the United Kingdom, where he was initially a huge fan of jungle, drum and bass, and garage music. He was heavily inspired by the works of Goldie, Andy C, and Bad Company, and his love for the underground scene led him to start his career as a DJ on pirate radio. However, he wasn’t entirely satisfied with just playing music by other artists, so he began producing his own tracks using… a PlayStation console, which served as an early manifestation of his sound.

At the age of 19, Dax J entered the London drum and bass scene, initially playing for legendary promoters such as United Dance, One Nation, and Movement. He made his first appearance in the catalog of the classic jungle record label Aphrodite & Mickey Finn – Urban Takeover. He also released his bass-heavy tracks on his own label, Xplicit Sound.


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Dax J & Trillium – Doomstay

A breakthrough moment occurred in 2007. While backpacking through Asia towards the end of that year, Dax found himself in central Vietnam. While waiting for a bus, he was reminded of his previous trip to San Antonio de Portmany in Ibiza. It was then that he took out his laptop and started producing his first techno track. Two years later, when he visited his friend in Berlin, he went to Berghain for the first time… and the rest is history.

The British DJ and producer immediately developed his newfound passion for modern, pulsating 4/4 rhythms that gave a new direction to his music, blending the energetic sounds of European techno with an uncompromising, raw approach. This had a fundamental impact on the uniqueness of his sound, which became a combination of both brutal and elegant, ideal for hedonistic music perfectly suited for post-industrial spaces. His technical skills, impeccable selection, and commitment to high-quality production propelled him to the pinnacle of the global techno scene. An especially important milestone in Dax J’s discography is the album „Shades of Black.”

Dax J – Shades of Black LP

Dax J has been repeatedly recognized by major electronic music publications such as Resident Advisor, DJ Mag, Mixmag, and Groove Magazine. Despite his immense fame, he has remained true to the values of the underground scene. His memorable performances have made history, including his 10-hour sets at the world’s most renowned techno clubs such as Berghain in Berlin and Bassiani in Georgia, as well as his fantastic shows at the Serbian EXIT Festival.

Dax J / fot. KeyiStudio

Dax J – interview

Adam „Attaché” Dąbrowski: Before the pandemic, you could often be heard in Polish clubs and at festivals. What memories do you have of Poland?

Dax J: In my experience, Poland has always had very enthusiastic crowds that really understand intelligent forms of electronic music. Polish crowds are always very passionate and knowledgeable about Techno in particular.
As an artist, do you see any differences between the time before the pandemic and the present?
Yes, it changed a lot. Everyone seems to be playing a lot faster and harder is the main difference I see. Also, the normalization of “techno” DJs playing EDM techno and pop vocals Britney Spears tracks, etc I find this trend very embarrassing and I hope it ends soon. The crowd also got a lot younger, I think the pandemic retired a lot of the older ravers.

EXIT 2019 | Dax J Live @ mts Dance Arena FULL SHOW

I have the impression that in the current decade, techno, electronic, and even pop music are becoming increasingly eclectic – artists are more willing to step outside the boundaries. What do you think the coming years will bring to music?

In terms of production, I think we are in the final years of human-produced music. By the end of the decade, I would think that 99% of all music will be AI-generated. This will increase the amount of music made by 1000 times. 1000x more music is released every day of all styles. I think we may actually enter a new golden period of music, one that will rival the golden years of the 90s. There will be so much new music generated that its inevitable that we’ll see a boom in amazing future classic tracks being created. As the AI keeps improving, the tracks will constantly get better, and more great music will be made than ever before.

Generally, I’m quite optimistic about the future of Techno. I feel the techno scene has hit a rock bottom in the last year, in terms of the music that people are playing and making, and it can only get better from here. I think the new generation who have just discovered techno will start to dig deeper and discover more underground and intelligent styles of Techno by the end of this year, causing the underground to recover and grow again.

Dax J / fot. KeyiStudio

There is currently a discussion about the growing possibilities offered by music production software – improved VSTs, DAWs, and the popularisation of AI. As a producer, do you think greater accessibility helps or limits the creative process?

What I have learned is that it’s very important to limit yourself when creating music. Be it with time and tools. Less is more!

You also draw inspiration for your music from books, such as „Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, which depicts the transition into a new dystopian era and had an impact on the album „Utopian Surrealism.” Have you read anything equally interesting lately?

I read Sapiens during lockdown when I had lots of spare time. Now I don’t read as much as I’ve not got too much time as I’m constantly on tour. I was on holiday in January and started reading The Hunger Games series, it’s kind of dark, but I like it <laught> I’m on the last book, I still need to finish it. Also for non-fiction, I read a book by Richard Feynman six easy pieces essentials of Physics. It is Incredible. It makes me wish I could re-do my school years and actually pay attention in class. I spent most of my science lessons asleep or listening to my Walkman. Great book for understanding the world, I highly recommend it!

Dax J – Utopian Surrealism

Which films have inspired you the most? Does the dystopian film „Threads” happen to be among them?

I haven’t watched that one, but I will check it out at some point. I don’t really watch films anymore, it’s very rare, just 1 or 2 a year. I just find the quality levels have dropped so badly over the years, I got to the point where I couldn’t finish a film on a plane as they were always so bad, I end up turning them off halfway through because I’m bored. When I’m on long-haul flights I actually prefer to just watch the moving map Haha. I did just watch the film “The Menu” as it was recommended, and that was actually quite good, weird, and original.

The Menu – teaser

In one of the interviews, you mentioned that your musical taste was shaped by the soundtrack of the game „Wipeout” on PS1. Were there any other games that inspired you musically? Have you played „Ghost in the Shell”?

The Wipeout 1 soundtrack was so good. Still, listen to it now and again. More nostalgic than anything. Some of the tracks and ideas are so futuristic. At the time I didn’t know it was shaping me, I just used to play the game and listen to the music. But it was full of UK hardcore, breakbeat, techno, acid, jungle, and was way ahead of its time, all produced around 1994 as well. Incredible.

Wipeout Soundtrack (PAL PlayStation 1 Version)

Never played Ghost in the Shell, but I remember some people telling me it had a good soundtrack. I first made music on the game Music 2000 on PlayStation, so that probably had some influence on me too.

Break The Line – Music 2000 Playstation

We know that drum and bass and pirate radio stations have had a significant influence on you. Coming from London – a vast and diverse city – where you come into contact with almost every genre of music that exists, do you have a favourite non-electronic band or artist?

I guess the majority of music I listen to is electronic but for non-electronic music, I have all sorts saved on my personal Spotify, lots of easy listening stuff, lots of old Mowtown stuff Marvin Gaye, Dub, King Tubby, acid jazz, Yusssef Kamaal, a lot of 90’s hip hop and new uk hip hop, drill, grime, I listen to a very wide range of music, Spotify is great for that! I don’t really have a favorite non-electronic band though.

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing

In one of the interviews, you mentioned that you lean more towards synthesizers than modular and that you love Roland synths and of course drum machines, particularly the Jupiter. Have you purchased anything recently from that company for your studio?

Yeah I got a real 909 the other month, always wanted one. Apart form that I have put myself on a synth-buying ban, because I spent too much in recent years. I am actually quite interested to build up my modular more again, it’s been sitting on the side not getting used much, but I feel inspired to get back into it again!

Considering the abundance of vintage equipment, do you use any VST plugins?

No none. I would like to find out which ones are good because I’m starting to make music on my laptop again whilst on the road. At the moment I record a lot from my machines in the studio and then put them in my sampler to play around with when traveling.

Your music incorporates a lot of industrial sounds and noise. In today’s techno, which is dominated by fast, powerful sounds, is there still space for nature?

Yes definitely, the right balance of soul is always important. I started trying to incorporate more recorded sounds with microphones recently. Like hits and ambiance, it can really bring the tracks to life and out of the sterile digital realm.

Boiler Room Berlin – Intrepid Skin – Trauma Bar und Kino – 6 Oct 2022 © Camille Blake / materiały prasowe artysty

What is your definition of new music?

New music for me is music I haven’t heard before regardless of when it was made. If I discover a techno track that was made in say 2018 and I like it, I will still play it as if it’s a new track, as it’s new to me.

Any new releases soon?

Yes, a new Various Artists release on Monnom Black is coming this year for the 10ys anniversary, “The World of Monnom Black III”. It has a lot of great music. I also have a remix for the late Japanese legend Susumu Yakota coming soon too!

V.A. – The World Of Monnom Black I

And finally, I would like to ask you to tell us why Sunday is your favorite day of the week?

Sundays are great as it’s no work! and they are always a fun day to go day partying!

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