Self-Portrait: Darling

Since opening, Giant Steps has welcomed some of the finest selectors and live acts to play in their beautiful space in Hackney Wick. On the 2nd March Young Marco curated an event, inviting both Suzanne Kraft and Darling to play live sets alongside him. The latter debuted his live show; an introduction into his dreamy world and a love of vintage hardware.

Initially put on our radar through his releases on Safe Trip and Voyage Direct, Darling’s entry point into music came at a very young age. He grew up in a musical family; his parents both sound engineers and his grandfather a producer, making dreamy new age musings. At the age of 15 his grandfather passed some of his synthesizers on to him, and from then on he was hooked. His live show at Giant Steps floats through exotica soundscapes and otherworldly electronica, but he’s just as comfortable diving into more dynamic productions influenced by electro, synth-driven house and deep spaced-out techno.

Ahead of him taking his live set on the road, we chat about how he approaches a Darling production, alongside the live recording from Giant Steps, comprised of 100% original unreleased material.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

The first thing that pops up is Michael Jackson’s album BAD. I got it for my birthday when I was very young. I don’t listen very often to this album anymore, but Thriller is still one of my favourite albums.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Well, I was born in a studio. I come from a family of sound engineers and music was around me all the time since I was a baby. My father recorded many jazz bands, so jazz music was always playing in the background when I was a kid.

What led you into music production?

My grandfather made electronic music in the 80s and 90s, but I was never really interested in these synths because I played guitar in hardcore and metal bands. After a while I wanted to try and make some electronic music myself, so he gave me a drum computer and some of his old synths. From the moment I started I’ve been making music every day.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Of course. I could say AFX, Carl Craig and Drexciya but the ones that really need to be mentioned here are my dear friends Kid Sublime, Radial and Tracey. They all have very different styles and powers but all three are extremely gifted.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio? Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

I always like to go to the studio early in the morning, so the only ritual I have is drinking a cup of coffee. Sometimes I have an idea of what sort of track or mood I wanna go for, but nine out of 10 times I just press some buttons and see what happens.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

Definitely the second one, I’m also not a huge fan of tracks that are overproduced. Of course some tracks need a bit more production and details than others, but I like it when it’s still a bit raw.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track? How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

When I start a new project I first choose a drum computer, two or three synths and some fx. Then I make some sketches and realise it’s going nowhere, and start over again. I haven’t used samples for a really long time now, but I just bought a MPC sampler for my live set and maybe this is a good time to start sampling as well. I also like the idea of digging through old weird records just for samples.

What’s the most important bits of kit that makes an DARLING track?

I couldn’t live without my Jupiter 6. I also use the DX7 and the DX200 a lot. The SH-101 is very important for me and I have a soft spot for these bright digital synths like the M1 and D50. Also the warm pads I use are always coming from the Polysix.

You recently debuted your live show at Giant Steps. How did the show come together? What were the main difficulties in taking your productions from studio to live?

Young Marco was curating a party at Giant Steps. When he asked me to play live there I only had three weeks to prepare. I grabbed two samplers and a groovebox/synth and filled them up with old recordings, sounds, loops and sequences and started working from there. It all came together quite naturally and I’m pretty happy with the result.

Safe Trip has been a home for the majority of your previous releases, how did that relationship come about? Why did it feel like the right home for the releases?

Christiaan Macdonald hooked me up with Marco. The first time Marco and I were listening to some of my tracks together I was blown away about how open minded he was about the music. By far the most open minded label owner I’ve met so far. Also he is pretty funny and he gave me some records.

This mix is comprised of 100% original DARLING material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

For this set I was going for a more deeper “listening session” kind of vibe, so no dance floor party beats. Some of the songs are special to me because the synths are played by my daughter, Lexi. We went to the studio and made some tracks together. She is the best random note generator in the world 🙂 I used some of her recordings in this set.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any bookings or releases we should know about?

The record I made with Lexi is going to be released on Jordan GCZ’s Off Minor Recordings on the 27th of May.


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