Dave Norris aka Dizz1 is one of those producers who other artists constantly geek out about – and 2015 looks to be the year of Dizz1 – he’s just dropped debut album “In Sickness and in Health” on the Tru Thoughts label, as well as an EP “Get Em Up” earlier in the year.
We caught up with Dizz1 this week (May 2015) to ask him a few questions about the new album and the process behind it. Further down in this article you’ll also find some Q&A with Dizz1 from an interview we conducted back in 2014 when he released his “Everyday Grind EP”.
But first, what do we mean by “producer’s producer”? It might be easiest to explain it by listing what he does day-in, day-out: Dave makes beats and bed-tracks for other respected artists including Roots Manuva, works in collaborations alongside artists like Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek as Africa Hitech; he’s scratch dj partner with legendary Avalanches pioneer DJ Dexter, and he casually rounds-out his resume by being a touring session drummer and one of our crew at Liveschool, as an Ableton Certified Trainer.
So how did your debut album “In Sickness and in Health” come together?
I’ve got hundreds of tracks kicking around and friends are always saying “why don’t you put that out man?”, but for me personally there’s a level in my head that it has to get to before I want anyone to hear it, so I’ll just work painstakingly until it gets there – sometimes it’ll come together in a day or two, but more often than not it’s months later. This album for me means that I finally got this collection of songs up to that level in my head where I’m ready to share them with the world – it’s been a long time coming, I’m really happy that this album has finally come to fruition.
On the sound palette for the album, what were your sound sources?
There’s not that many samples on this album – I mean there’s a few one hit drums and samples here and there – but the majority of the sounds are things I’ve actually recorded or played myself. A lot of the time I’ll take a part I’ve played in on a synth or something, then resample it and start chopping it up – so it ends up sounding a bit like it was sampled even though I initially played/recorded it myself. I find this keeps it sounds loose and inspired but at the same not so loose that it sounds like a fusion/noodle session. I’ve found personally the way I work best is to just hit record and then just play (drums or other instruments) over a metronome for however long until I really feel I got the groove right and feels cool, then I’ll just go back through and find the best moments within that – sometimes even the accidents I made along the way will become part of the loop.
You’re heading out on tour real soon with one of your collaborators on the album – Frank Nitt – what can we expect from your live show?
For this tour I’m definitely going to do some drums over the top – just to lift the energy. I’ve done that with other bands over the years, but never with my own stuff yet. From experience when I been using triggers with samples live you have to take out the original drums and that can work, but sometimes it’s better to keep the original drums in there as they’re produced – they give the song it’s character. There’s so many ways to incorporate live drum playing, but I think for this next tour I’ll use acoustic drums on top of the produced drums from the track – totally playing the whole kit over the top, kick drum and all.
*The questions from this point on were asked and answered in March 2014.
What’s your ideal conditions or some preparation that you do to have a good writing session?
It all depends! Ive found going for a ride or doing some laps in the pool gets me singing to myself and I usually have a crazy idea in my head once I’m out of the pool. I then sing into my phone all the ideas as I’m getting them and then email myself and drag ’em all into my computer when I get home.
Other times its just mucking about with a new synth or if I’m practicing keys for example and suddenly I make a mistake and come up with a riff. Lets just say practice never lasts very long!
What advice would you give to people struggling to finish their tracks?
I think get it laid out (the structure) as quickly as possible, don’t worry about transitions, etc until the end. Once you have your basic elements in, maybe take a track that you like, warp it and then chop it into its various sections i.e. intro, first verse, hook etc… then do the same with your track. Listen to where new elements are introduced or taken out and copy that. Also using a vocal accapella can give you an idea of arrangement pretty quickly if thats the kinda track you are writing. Even if you remove it or swap it out later.
Being a drummer, scratch dj, and live performer, timing is a huge part of the feel of your tracks. In your production process, what aspects of a track do you prefer to play-in by hand – and for which aspects do you switch to a more programming / editing mode?
TBH I play everything in by hand except when there are really quick micro edits.
Ill usually jam along to a metronome for a while and then listen back to what Ive played and choose the strongest part. I then may zoom in and nudge certain notes around depending on the feel I’m after and especially if there are one or 2 that are a bit out.
I sometimes try out different grooves over those jams to see how it sounds adjusting the amount to suit so that it still keeps its feel but glues it together a bit tighter. All depends on what I’m going for though really. I’m pretty particular about feel especially between different elements and spend way too long analysing and going back and forth between all the parts so that the pocket is right. Seriously tedious and a bit OCD! hahahahaha
There’s some heavyweight collaborations in your back catalogue – Roots Manuva, Africa Hitech to name just two: on the new EP it’s Aloe Blacc, Om’mas Keith and Warrior Queen. How did each of these collaborations come about?
I met Aloe when I was living over the road from 301 studios in Sydney a few years back. My manager at the time gave him some tracks of mine and he was really into one in particular so we went into 301 and he pretty much wrote the vocal on the spot. It ended up sitting on a hard drive for years cause I didn’t have Protools and so couldn’t access it. I finally got all the separate parts and worked it into what it is now.
I met Om’Mas at the RBMA in BCN in 08 and we recorded that vocal to a completely different beat. That vocal was so sweet that I ended up using it on loads of my beats as a litmus test and to flesh out quick arrangements.
Warrior Queen I met via email through Stereotyp who had worked with her in the past. I have been tight with Stereo since the Myspace days and visit him every time I’m in Vienna. We were Skyping and I asked if he knew any sick vocalists and he was like Warrior Queen is a badgyal! The rest is history!
For all 3 of those vocals I rewrote the beat around the vocal for this EP. I was after a “clubby” vibe and so that was the angle I approached it from.
Was so inspiring to work with all 3 of them and I’m blessed to be able to have them on my record!
The mixes on the “Everyday Grind” EP sound great, and no surprise there since Danny Bonnici is on the mix credits – did he do the mastering as well?
Yeah Danny is so fun to work with! He’s got such amazing ears and took my tracks to that next level. I print all the stems separate with effects on them and then Danny goes in and does what he does best. TBH I’m usually pretty sick of how my tracks sound by the time I get them to him so its awesome to have a fresh set of ears and Danny has an amazingly well tuned room too so you can really hear the separation. Ill usually take his mix and then listen to it in my car and on a bunch of systems and then further fine tune it from there esp for getting it to translate on little systems/ headphones etc where there is no bass response.
Massive shout outs to Danny at Liquid Mixes! It was mastered in the UK by pobaudio.
What’s next for Dizz1, now that the EP is out?
A bunch of touring and then my album later in the year! Quite a few collabs on that which the hip hop heads will dig! I have been offered some programming work in LA as well so I may be doing the drums on the next “insert your favourite artist here” record in the not too distant future… You never know