Drums of Death makes electronic music for bodily movement. The Oban native gifts us a 50-minute mix to get those muscles working and talks creative growth, dropping the face paint and working with Yasmin.
There’s remote, and then there’s the sleepy fishing village of Oban in North West Scotland, not exactly the first place that springs to mind when you think of rich, textured house. One man working single-handedly to change that however is Argyll local Colin Bailey, better known by his slightly spooky moniker Drums of Death. Releasing his first full length album in 2010 – as well as a string of top notch EPs on Greco-Roman and Civil Music – Bailey has worked with the likes of Azealia Banks, Peaches and Yasmin to produce a hefty catalogue of lush electronic tracks. We caught up with the man himself to find out more about how it all began, why voodoo face-paint is no longer his thing, and who we should be keeping an eye on over the coming months.
How did it all begin?
I first started buying Jockey Slut about 10 years ago and even though I was living somewhere so remote I kept hearing about all of these amazing things that were going on in Glasgow. After a while I decided to take the plunge, up sticks and move there.
I began singing and playing bass guitar for a myriad of pretty terrible bands, and then I got involved with film working as a video editor for a while, but eventually I realised that if I was going to make something happen, I’d need to specialise rather than having a go at a bit of everything.
Something about electronic music really hit me and that’s what eventually led me to London in early 2007. I sort of developed Drums of Death as an expression of everything I learned in Glasgow mixed with all of the new music I was being introduced to in London.
How do you think your music has changed over the years?
I first began producing mixes for the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Offshore and Tricky but I’d forget to add in proper intros and outros. Pretty quickly you learn that you can’t really make music in isolation like that, it has to come hand in hand with DJing, otherwise you end up forgetting that some poor bastard has to work your crazy track into his or her set.
Once I’d mastered the basics I was free to concentrate on honing my style and ended up producing quite a lot of melodic stuff working with a lot of really talented vocalists. From there it was a pretty natural step towards thinking more about collaborations and who I could and would want to work with to produce something as a pair.
My first album definitely taught me what not to do, and now I feel like this new release is giving me a chance to dig down and find out what it is I want my sound to be. House music is great, but you need to make sure it feels alive, you can’t just have a bunch of loops and leave it at that. I want my tracks to feel like warm and multi-layered.
Do you think you’ve learnt a lot from the rest of the creative community?
I don’t really feel like being around creative people does much, I think it’s much more important to surround yourself with friends and family, because everyone has an opinion on music so it’s just as productive to get their feedback as it is to get comments from other artists. Sure you make some great, immensely talented friends along the way, but you don’t need to surround yourself with music people if you care about the music itself.
What’s with the face paint? Where has it gone?
I supposed I used to use the face paint as a way of standing out from the crowd – to make myself feel different. I wanted to define myself as separate from the dance scene then, but now there’s so much good dance, house and techno out there I feel a lot more comfortable blending in. I don’t need to take a stance against anything anymore, because there is so much great stuff being produced at the moment. It’s a personal evolution, I feel more at home in this modern sound, and I feel it’s helped me evolve as an artist.
How did you start working with Yasmin?
I actually met her at my signing at EMI and we clicked immediately. Yasmin’s great, she’s like my little sister, she’ll come round to my house and we’ll sit listening to music for a while before cracking on with new material. We’ll write a vocal line and she just makes it beautiful. I used to work on my own, so it’s great to spend time working with such a talented artist.
Who should we be watching closely?
Ha, there are so many! Ok so, you’ve got Tanka from Winchester with his take on Dirtybird-esque house, he’s only 21 but is making music which has the maturity of someone twice his age. Scntst from Munich, makes fucking awesome techno, it’s really funky and there are some solid old school hip-hop and Detroit house influences in there. Ryan Ashley is a great vocalist who I’ve been working with a fair bit recently, he’s very young but a promising new artist on PMR, the same label as Disclosure, Jessie Ware etc. Auntie Flo & Esa are african house artists from Glasgow and Capetown who’ve newly moved to London. Martyn who’s originally from Eindhoven, but now lives in D.C., makes magically unique blends of house, techno and DnB. Really quite something. Finally, there’s Kink from Bulgaria who’s live set is one of the best dance music shows at the moment. Stripped-back, machine-made, taut grooves – anything those guys release I’ll buy straight away, no question.
I’ve got some more stuff in the pipeline with Yasmin, and I’ve started writing a few bits for her upcoming album. I’ll keep releasing singles with Black Butter, but I’m also hoping to get a bit more involved with the video side of things, I’d like to put together a few storyboards and have a go at editing it once it’s been shot.
Drums Of Death – True
Detroit Swindle – The Break Up
Yousef – Beg (Hot Since 82 Future Mix)
House Rules – Hyena (Original Mix)
Bob Sinclar – Sea Lion Woman (Original Mix)
D-Unity – Sax Me Up (D-Unity’s Crazy Sax Mix)
Taras Van De Voorde – 1998 (Deetron Mix)
Robert Owens – I’ll Be Your Friend (Inxec & Matt Tolfrey’s Falling Down Mix)
Kink & Catz ‘n Dogz – Bad Love
Tori Amos – Professional Widow (Armand’s Star Trunk Funkin’)
Francis Preve & Wolfgang Gartner – Yin (Original Club Mix)
Maya Jane Coles – No Sympathy
Words: Thomas Curry