It is with great honour that we share our connection with Darand Land. We’ve learned a lot about his vision and the forces driving his passion. He’s committed to produce and curate music with a purpose and a message that strikes a chord with the listener.
About the music, Darand suggested we do this a little different and has provided us with a recording of sceneries and songs that are special to him. We feel this selection captures something very special about his mindset, something that goes beyond words. Dive in and you will also find yourself in suspended animation…
Going through the little biography available on your personal website, it looks like your life in Buffalo has been quite influential on your music. The inner-city struggle as you put it is something any person can possibly relate to at one point, but it seems central in your projects. Could you elaborate on that, and on how it translates in your sound?
“Inner city” in the US is actually an old euphemism to reference a poor, black neighborhood. Those segregated areas created in the industrial cities (Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Buffalo, etc.) through “red-lining” and are known for crime, poverty, high unemployment, struggling schools and bad health. In varying degrees, listeners can relate to certain aspects of living in the inner city. In my case, as I am telling stories through the music, the inner city takes on the non-verbal foundation of the message.
The name of your recently launched record label, Urban Imagery, also refers to the aforementioned struggle. How do you, as a curator, attempt to breathe this mind-set into the label’s output?
Well, for starters, to meet the standard of music for UI, the tracks must capture this struggle. UI 01 was written during the week of my younger brother’s passing in 2014. His life was cut short by disease, but his ailment and ongoing pain was created and cultivated by the aforementioned struggles. I have heard from some that they can hear my sad emotions in this release, one that I cannot listen to today because it takes me back to that time. UI 02 has a track called “Slave Name” by DFA, where you hear the audio of a radio dispatcher sending police cars to homes to address issues. More than any other track, it communicates the ethos of the label.
Your musical career seems very closely linked to Chris Gray and Deep4Life. According to an interview he gave a while back, you played a big role in the development of the label in the early 00’s and in shaping its sound identity. In fact he stated “Darand Land is Deep4Life”. What can you tell us about the name of the label, and what it represents?
Chris Gray and I share a similar view on why we make this music. Communicating your current life experiences and sharing what is deep in your soul. Every note I play has a purpose. The sound itself was borne of our appreciation for the numerous works we loved, some well known, many unheralded. At no point, did him and I discuss fame, dance-floors, getting respect or DJ careers. It was about using our talents to affirm the stated principles.
Back in the late 90’s, to what extent has the creation of D4L been about creating a platform that sustains the essence of House Music in Chicago, a necessity so to speak?
Chris would be able to answer a question about the creation much better. We connected online right after the first release. For some perspective, the music originating from Chicago from the likes of Larry and Marshall is what initially captured me, but make no mistake, there were house tracks later from NYC and Toronto that possessed the same essence and helped to shape my ear.
It may have a pretty strong resonance today, especially when looking at the amount of music that is labeled “deep” and the huge amount of ego that is fueled in the underground dance music scene today. But sometimes the word has a very strong meaning and the music caries several levels of emotion. What differentiates a good record for you and makes you relate to the artist?
I like a good dance record just like the rest, but a track that will differentiate itself for me typically has a few qualities. Good musical harmony (uncommon today), a real funk bassline and interesting melodies that tell a story. In many instances, if this has been accomplished, I am usually in suspended animation and not following the drum rhythm.
To you, to what extent is being free from the necessity to release music to get more recognition and Djing gigs important to the sincerity and depth of the music?
It is not a necessity, but many artists having that freedom seem to make a lot of the tracks that I keep coming back to today.
Your relationship with Chris resumed musically years after the first records on D4L with Dark City Ensemble, a wonderful double album on Spanish Imprint Freebeat. We believe the quality of that release speaks to the strong bond between you two. How do you feel your sound has evolved compared to the material on D4L?
Thanks for the feedback on the DCE release. It was awesome to team up with Chris to make it a reality. As far as evolution, the only thing that has changed is the gear and learning some technical lessons along the way. Some might feel that the material seems different, but what is being heard is a new set of stories reflecting where I am in life. However, the original music-making principles have not been altered.
Can you give a little insight on the production process behind the album? What do you feel each one of you brought to the table? On a more personal note, what is your favorite set-up when you go about production?
We worked toward the goal of creating a project of new music that was rooted in our regular communication and musings. All of the tracks were individually created, meaning no actual studio collaboration. In the final imprint, we did not tie our names to the individual tracks. Some of our best friends have still had challenges identifying the author of the tracks. That tells me, we did something right.
After several years without releasing music, you came back with the Foregrounds & Backgrounds EP on Downbeat. What made you step out of the “scene” in the first place, and what prompted you to come back?
As many know, I juggle production with the demands of a full-time job, family and community activities. Understandably, I am not unique in this respect. Where I might be a little different, is that for me to create the music you hear, it requires a mental leap. I must place myself in a mental state where I lose track of space/time and go through an exercise of reflection. For me, it takes a lot of energy and a sustained period of this to complete a project. When I made a cross-country move in 2006, it was a good excuse to set aside the music and focus on my other priorities. I continued to casually tinker with gear, but never completed a single song for years. Yes, I returned in 2011. It was a concerted effort by Chris Gray and the Downbeat crew (Alfonso, Jose, Urtzi) to show me that there were those listeners that felt like it was important for me to share my current thinking.
When we interviewed Alfonso from Downbeat Records, he told us that meeting you was something very important to them. Can you tell us a little about this relationship?
I believe Alfonso was referencing how my release helped to fulfill their original intentions with Downbeat. Also, the Urban Imagery label has been a pioneering part of the makeup of IsThePlace distribution. Our business relationship is grounded in our shared philosophy of delivering uncompromised music.
Since then you have been releasing much more music, and you seem very selective regarding the labels on which you choose to put out your releases. It has mainly been Spain’s Pulp and Downbeat/Freebeat and lately Confluence Records from France. What do you look for in a label before contributing?
Because of what is necessary for me to produce, I can only deliver a small, select output. This has even meant that I have accepted projects and then backed out because the creative process just didn’t happen. I have been sincerely sorry for that. As far as label selection, I am paying attention to my legacy. I want to know that if I partner with a label, that it is with individuals that have demonstrated through their releases and even social media postings/marketing that we have a similar thought-process and motivations. Once I recognize this common thinking and if the timing works out with their release schedule and my creative juices, you see an actual release.
Going back a little to Urban Imagery, what did the past years of observing the dance music scene had thought you about running a record label?
I sure was not going to create a label just for the sake of being a label owner. Stuff like that does not appeal to me. I didn’t want to create one that sounded like others. Again, not my bag. Why get lost in the shuffle? The music I would release did not even need to be dance music. I am more motivated to hear that someone has played the record at home on a personal stereo after a stressful day of work. That is the void I wanted to fill with Urban Imagery.
For the second release you reached out to Deterministic Finite Automata. Prior to this, from what we know, he/she released only one record back in 2001 (the wonderful Microstructural Characterization). How did you connect with them and what can you tell us about this artist?
The person known as Deterministic Finite Automata is a friend of almost 30 years. He is far-removed from clubs, social media and the music culture as a whole. Not an ounce of ego. At the same time, he is one of the most fascinating humans I have met in my life. He is as unique as his music. I enjoy every opportunity I get to converse with this dude and hopefully we have not heard the last from him.
For the latest 12”, you have travelled far reaching out to South Africa’s Fred Buddah from the RootsGoDeep label. Those guys seem to have very clear ideas and strong opinions about the way they like to do things. Tell us a little about this encounter and your trip in South Africa.
When I toured South Africa in 2014, Fred opened for me at one of the venues. A reserved fella that was prodded by someone else to share that he had some material. I asked him to send me something to listen to for a potential VA project. A few months later, I was able to listen and all of the tracks were beautiful and in-line with the UI philosophy. I was very happy get his material out for release and in a small way, give back to the country that has supported me since the start.
What can you tell us about future plans for the label? Also, is Djing going to take a bigger place in your projects?
UI 04 will be another Dark City Ensemble project. This time you will hear archived tracks from the Deep4Life/SoundPrinciple era. Chris Gray’s tracks in particular are from a collection I heard 15+ years ago and never got them out of my mind. Deep4Life fans will be very pleased. DJing for me is about sharing. I will take a handful of opportunities over the next year or so to play, but not at the expense of production.
Thank you for the opportunity….