The bass is fat. The bodies are squirming. The lights are blinding; like having brights reflect off the rear view during a late night drive. It’s oddly hazy in the club, made even more hazy by the array of smoke machines on the stage, but it pays homage to the dog days of summer which future bass fans revel in. On stage is Rich Lonbay – a young producer from the U.K. who began touring before he was old enough to drink in the U.S. But what Lonbay lacks in age he more than makes up for with spirit and the innate ability to work a room; despite it being 6:30 in the evening, he’s got the 9:30 Club feeling like it’s running at peak hour. He’s working the crowd like a Machiavellian mastermind underneath the safety of a nondescript baseball cap other than the fact it’s some kind of off-white color.
I’m on the balcony: out of my element, comforted by a whiskey ginger and my moleskine. I’ve been told to meet Lonbay stageside shortly.
Lonbay, who goes by the name Daktyl when he takes the stage, has been making a name for himself as one of the young producers to keep an eye on in the Mad Decent family since his energetic sets at their various Block Party events in 2015. This, combined with his humble reputation and a unique album debut mainly comprised of richly textured and contoured tracks, makes him a needle in the oversized EDM haystack. A needle that is shiny, new, and full of surprises.
Mid-way through a set by tour mate Giraffage, I see Daktyl’s silhouette. Maybe it was the haze of the club, the shadow of his baseball cap onstage, or a combination of the two, but he looks more fresh faced than I expected.
He turns to one of the security guards and charms him into letting me come backstage. The green room we go to is cozy. Here, Rich looks like he has a chance to relax which he embraces as he slips into a sofa like butter in a hot bun. After a brief introduction, we begin.
zacheser: Daktyl – what’s your name? How old are you?
Daktyl: My name’s Rich. I’m 23. I’m from Worcester in the UK. I currently live in London.
z: Do you like living in London?
D: Yeah. It’s nice.
z: I hear London is actually pretty expansive and not as small as us Americans want to believe it is.
D: It’s quite a big place. It’s not as bad as L.A.
z: I was just in California for the first time. It was insane.
D: [Laughs] Yeah. It’s kind of ridiculous.
z: So – waffles or pancakes?
z: Does choosing one over the other dictate your choice of side orders?
D: [Laughs] No.
z: So what do you normally get with your pancakes?
D: I would have bacon, sausage, two eggs sunny side up, hash browns, toast, english muffins. And if I’m in the U.K., I go for the black pudding as well.
z: The black pudding? What exactly is black pudding?
D: It’s kind of gross honestly, man, but it’s really nice. It’s actually, like, congealed blood, I believe. It’s pretty nasty, but it tastes fucking good.
z: That sounds really gnarly. That sounds like it was invented during the dark ages.
D: There’s other stuff in it as well, but it tastes amazing, honestly. But if you’re ever in the U.K., get a full English breakfast. I can tell you’re a breakfast man already.
z: I’m all about breakfast. Not an egg guy, but everything else? I’m all about it. But you’re also supposed to eat beans –?
D: You are indeed. Yes.
z: What’s the one thing you miss about home when you’re on the road?
D: My friends and family.
z: That’s a really cute answer.
D: Yeah, but it’s true.
z: I thought you were going to say a decent shower.
D: [Laughs] I would have said that, but I literally just had a shower ten minutes ago. It was amazing. I’m feeling really great right now. It’s got to be done, man. Got to stay fresh on tour. Otherwise, it gets messy.
z: Talking about staying fresh on tour, what’s the oddest thing you ask for in your rider?
D: I’ve been asking for fresh pairs of socks on this tour which is essential, but otherwise it’s pretty boring. It’s pretty standard. Beer, chips and salsa.
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z: On to some of the more harder hitting questions. What are the two tracks that you believe anyone – DJs or appreciators of music in general – should listen to with their eyes closed?
D: Off the top of my head, I’ve been listening to a track called “Recovery” by Rival Consoles. It’s on [the label] Erase Tapes. And it’s definitely an eyes closed, headphones song. It’s absolutely, incredibly produced. I really like it. The second one, I’d say, is any track off the new Sufjan Stevens album. It’s really well produced. It sounds so crisp.
z: Slow Magic said the same thing.
D: Did he say the Sufjan Stevens album?
z: Yeah. He said that as well.
D: We’re both big fans of his.
z: That must be a common thread with you guys as far as who you appreciate.
D: We have a lot of similar tastes. Definitely.
z: Especially since a lot of your [and Slow Magic’s] sounds, Giraffage’s stuff, is very lush and warm.
D: We all have a lot of crossover influences. We’ve been having a lot of fun indie rock sessions, 90’s R&B bus sessions on the bus PA system. A lot of really punky and American soft rock stuff like Jack’s Mannequin or Our Lady Peace. Having some sing-a-longs.
z: When you’re on the road, you probably shouldn’t be listening to all of the stuff you’re typically playing.
D: True. Someone did put on a Giraffage song the other day and we were all like, “What are you doing!” We love his stuff, obviously, but you hear it everyday. I could hear his set everyday and still love it. Same with Slow Magic.
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z: So, you started when you were 19. Now you’re in your early 20’s. And since you started, you put out an album with Mad Decent, you’ve been featured on Diplo and Friends, Toddla T’s show on BBC One Xtra. Considering how young you are, how do you keep yourself grounded?
D: My friends do that for me [Laughs]. I don’t think I’ve changed at all. I still do the same things I did when I started which is just make the music I enjoy making. Whether people like it or not, I don’t really care.
z: So, for you, it’s a non-issue being like, “Look at my airplane. It’s dope.”
D: I hate that stuff, man. Not a fan of having an ego. No time for it.
z: Cool. If you had to describe your sound as the plot of a movie, what would it be like?
D: It would be some kind of interstellar-esque, sci-fi thriller.
z: Like “Matthew McConaughey Interstellar“?
D: Matthew McConaughey, maybe. Will Smith as co-pilot. I think Kendrick Lamar would star in it as well for some reason. I don’t know. He’s, like, some extra space pilot dude. [Laughs] I would say anything that’s weird and spacey, I suppose, because those are the kinds of movies I’ve been watching lately and they inspire me loads.
z: What movies in particular?
D: I’m just a big fan of science fiction in particular. I just saw Interstellar now. Obviously 2001: A Space Odyssey. Such a great film. I saw The Martian recently in the cinema. I really liked the cinematography. It was interesting. Have you seen that?
D: What did you think?
z: I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t like how the last third of the movie was off Mars, for 20 minutes, and Matt Damon on Mars was the most interesting part of the movie.
D: I agree. Though, he could be a bit annoying in that film. Like, he kept cracking jokes. But you could get behind him.
z: In terms of influences, you just said you get easily influenced by spacey stuff, but in your music you can hear things that range from hip-hop style beats to dub as well as future bass and synthpop. What inspires those choices?
D: I grew up listening to a lot of acoustic music. A lot of classical music. Then got into hip-hop. Then my brother introduced me to people like Four Tet and drum and bass in the U.K., like Hospital Records, and that opened up a whole new world. And then SoundCloud came around and there’s more good music than you can listen to in a day. I take influences from everything basically.
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z: SoundCloud increasingly seems to be a modern musicians best friend. But, do you see SoundCloud ever suddenly uplifting the restrictions they’ve been forced to do? There seems to be such an abundance of music that pops up every day.
D: Restrictions in terms of…?
D: I feel like they’d be losing so much money just by serving us and they couldn’t keep up the costs of running the website just with the subscription service they were providing before. So, I feel in terms of adverts, they just had to accept it after a while. Either they advertise or they go bust. And then no SoundCloud. In terms of the copyright, I think it’s bullshit. I think no one has ever lost out from someone remixing their song. It’s so stupid that an edit can be taken down by a major label over copyright issues and it’s screwing over the younger artists. Lido recently had his account strikes which is just crazy. It’s bullshit. There’s no need for labels to do it. They’re just kind of scared, I think.
z: Do you think it’s hurting younger producers because they’re trying to get noticed?
D: Yes, but it’s not the end of the world. They can still make originals and still upload some remixes. I do think it’s a shame, though, to take away some of the creative freedom that people have who want to upload edits of some of their favorite artists which, I think, is more about paying tribute to the artist.
z: You’ve had training in piano and guitar since you were little, correct?
z: What’s your first musical memory?
D: [Laughs] Probably playing piano as a toddler. We had a piano in my house. Either that or playing one of those glockenspiel things.
z: The multi-colored ones?
D: Yeah. That. It’s kind of fuzzy, though, honestly. My mom was also one of those Beatles superfans from the U.S. She used to play all of that stuff and Bob Dylan to me. And then a lot of classical music as well. She used to scare me with Phantom of the Opera if I was ever being bad. If I was ever doing something wrong, she’d put on Phantom as punishment.
z: My mom did something similar. If me and my brother were being little shits, she’d play “Night on Bald Mountain” from Fantasia.
D: That shit’s scary.
z: It would shut us up immediately.
D: It works. I’m gonna do that if I ever have a kid.
z: If you ever have post-traumatic stress –.
D: I might break down and cry if I ever hear Phantom of the Opera again [Laughs].
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z: Your music has a dreamy quality to it. It’s cozy. I said warm earlier. What made you make that choice? What made it click?
D: Honestly, it was from experimenting. I was messing with a lot of different sounds and I settled on it. There’s no limits with what you can do right now with electronic music and I only did what really came to me. It was never a conscious choice. I just sat down and did it.
z: It was organic.
D: Completely. That’s the way I like to work. In the studio, I have a ton of world instruments which I play into microphones and resample. It’s very loose. I just like to go ing and jam.
z: Making a remix or an original, for you, is more than just using a MIDI keyboard.
z: And during your live set, I saw you play guitar and sing some vocals. What spurred your decision to invest in live instrumentation?
D: I love playing DJ sets, and I don’t want to say I was getting bored, but I wanted to push myself and have more fun playing out and just wound up having fun playing live. And not to put DJ sets down: I’ve seen amazing DJ sets. Some of the best nights of my life have been from seeing DJs. But I feel like if people want to pay and come out and see me, I want to give them a bit more. There’s also more risk involved which makes it more fun.
z: Well, if you fuck up, it’s a sign to everyone that you’re human.
D: Last night in New York, my laptop dropped off the whole table. It was a nightmare, but lucky for me the music kept going.
z: Any lessons you’ve learned the hard way?
D: Oh. That’s a good question. Can’t really think of anything off the top of my head. No.
D: I think so.
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z: If it came down to it, would you choose a lot of fame and a ton of casual fans or a tiny bit of fame, but with small amount of ravenous, obsessive fans?
D: Tiny fame. Any day. I don’t want to be famous. At all. I want to be appreciated for my music, but fame isn’t something I’ve ever chased or wanted.
z: What if we were to change ‘fame’ to ‘recognition’ or ‘notoriety’?
D: Oh. Yeah, it would still be a few people who care a lot, I would say.
z: That’s what everyone should say.
z: But that wasn’t a test. It’s not like that was a multiple choice question.
D: Great. Because I was kind of like, “Uh.”
z: So future bass is kind of on a peak right now. Do you think artists should evolve to stay in line with the current sound.
D: No. Not at all.
z: So stay true to yourself.
D: Absolutely. Never do that.
z: Having put an album out, are your focusing on another one right now or are you just trying to put out some EPs?
D: Honestly, I will be thinking about that when I am off tour. Haven’t made up my mind yet at the moment.
z: Do you have any plans for upcoming Mad Decent events?
D: I played a few of the [Mad Decent] Block Parties this summer. They were really fun. And hopefully I’ll be on them next year as well.
z: And if you had to give one nugget of wisdom to kids your age, or kids younger than us looking to get into dance music, what would you say?
D: I’d say don’t be afraid to share your music. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Always experiment. And most of all, have fun with it.
Daktyl’s album, Cyclical, is available now on digital retailers.
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