By Max Foley
Love it or hate it, drum and bass is one of the most historically significant parts of electronic music. Consistently overshadowed by more approachable and popular genres, the veritable ecosystem that is 174 b.p.m. nevertheless continues to strive, taking identity-shifting curveballs in stride and enduring through decade after decade. Darren White, a.k.a. dBridge, has been there since the very beginning.
“I’m really proud to call myself a part of the D’N’B scene, and I’m really glad that it’s sticking around — as much as some people wish it wasn’t,” White says, chuckling.
In 1996, White joined forces with [Jason] Maldini to create grassroots jungle project Future Forces, Inc., releasing on guerilla imprint Renegade Hardware. From there, Future Forces connected with Vegas and influential modern-day hit-maker DJ Fresh to birth one of the genre’s séminal collectives — Bad Company UK.
White then set about establishing a label named EXIT Records, which exists today as a bastion of tastemakers influencing drum and bass and its various far-reaching tendrils.
Notoriously versatile and prolific, dBridge has operated under so many different solo and collaborative monikers that it’s liable to make even the most hardcore fans’ heads spin. Even in the last five years, White has released under aliases like Heart Drive and Velvit as well as the ever-increasingly nebulous dBridge title — the latter of which will likely be commanding the bulk of his attention this year.
“I’m planning on having a selfish year. I want to write and finish an album this year. It’s about time — it’s been 10 years since my last,” White explains, referencing the future-facing The Gemini Principle LP released in 2008. It sounds like a long time, but White is modest to a fault, failing to clarify that he’s released a borderline unreasonable amount of material in those last ten years. The bulk of this material consists of literally dozens of solo and collaborative releases.
Patched in from his home in Antwerp via Skype, White’s meditations on almost 25 years of activity are humbling and understated, yet disproportionately inspiring.
“When you say that, a quarter of a century plus, I mean… fuck me! It’s something to be proud of, to be able to stick around this long and (hopefully) stay relevant in some way,” White says wistfully.
“I recognize that I’m getting to that point in my life where I want to take a step back and change things slightly.”
“People used to tell me like, “Oh, [jungle anthems] “Dead By Dawn, “The Nine,” “True Romance” was the reason I got into music. And that gives me pause because they’re not really citing me anymore, they’re citing people like fucking [redacted], or bloody [redacted]. So, yeah. Now I’m feeling old.”
“But I wanna be careful not to come across as a grumpy old junglist,” White clarifies. A little bit of jadedness is acceptable when you wrote a good portion of the drum and bass textbook. And he comes across as anything but when he talks about his own body of work.
Believe it or not, after 25 years, the anxiety of releasing creative work hasn’t gone away. Darren White, then, is the quintessential creative.
“When I DJ, I’m really bad at playing my own music. I struggle to play it. I’d almost prefer if I wasn’t in a position where I had to. I’d prefer having other people play it.” You’d think that after all these years, I’d just have the balls to get on with it.”
“Even though I’ve been involved with DnB for so long, there are times where I hate it, and I have to explore other avenues.” White continues, citing his growing passion for photography. “But I have this weird sort of self-doubt. And that probably has to do with the fact that when you put something out that’s really personal to you, you don’t really want to hear what other people think. I don’t really want people to pass judgment because that’s not why I’ve made it.”
Over time, however, White clearly started to settle down and own his shit, going through a minor but palpable transformation. Existential angst and creative second-guessing aside –- traps every artist ever has fallen into — White’s contemplative enthusiasm was contagious.
“After 25 years, I think I still know how to rock a party.” he finishes.
Those of us eager to put that latent but rock-solid confidence to the test will have ample opportunities to this summer. Never change, dBridge.
Catch dBridge at the HiFi Club in Calgary alongside the Librarian on April 15th, and this summer at Bass Coast Electronic Music and Art Festival.Bass Coast Electronic Music and Art Festival, dBridge, HIFI Club, Librarian