Roughly halfway between the infamous Los Angeles neighbourhoods of Inglewood and Compton lies Athens Park, an inner city suburb where 12th Planet aka John Dadzie grew up. Born in 1982, Dadzie was 9 years old when Ice T released the seminal album OG (Original Ganster) and just 10 when Dr Dre’s The Chronic brought gansta rap to the masses. Surrounded by the pioneers of this controversial new genre – Death Row Record’s boss, Marion ‘Suge’ Knight is from the same area – Dadzie’s youth was engulfed by hip-hop.
Willingly forced fed the unescapable soundtrack of his natural environment, he would spend hours memorizing the lyrics of his favourite albums by Ice Cube, NWA and A Tribe Called Quest. A born musician, Dadzie worked his way through numerous instruments, moving from the bass to the guitar, then piano, then drums, playing in bands and expanding his musical horizons to encompass ska, punk rock and reggae, Guns and Roses and Motley Crew. Somewhere along the line, Dadzie progressed from the organic to the electronic and started to experiment with the samplers and sequencers that would evolve into the tools he uses today as 12th Planet; a name that reveals more about the DJ/producer than you may think.
Ask Dadzie about what influences him as a musician and you will get a strange yet intriguing answer – “I am constantly feeding off the universe, so any interpretation of life manifests itself through my music.” – a somewhat cryptic response from a guy who holds some interesting theories and philosophies that, while seemingly have little to do with his music, help us to position him as an artist, most notably in the name he choose for himself. The 12th Planet was actually book by Zecharia Sitchin, an Azerbijani author who believed that the explanations of human origins involved ancient astronauts who visited earth hundreds of thousands of years ago. The extent to which Dadzie’s personal beliefs follow those fantastical theories promoted by the book from which he takes his name is unclear. Perhaps a more grounded explanation is that he uses the mysticism and supernaturalism that the association creates, as a kind of pre-cursor for his art. It’s certainly a more engaging story than most when it comes to names.
Controversy aside, there is no doubt that Dadzie is a major driver of dubstep in the US; a country that seems to have embraced the still fledgling genre with mucho gusto; somewhat surprising given that Americans are considered to have eschewed much of the dance music that captivated Europe and much of the world with such force. As well as wholeheartedly embracing the scene’s UK originators, the US can now rightly claim to have its own squad of talent with Baltimore’s Joe Nice still doing all he can and more for the sound on the east coast, Starkey representing Philidelphia and 6BLOCC and Noah D both consistently delivering some highly regarded production output.
Add Dadzie to that list and you can see just how healthy things are over there. UK dubstep producer Rusko even moved across the pond and is now based in LA where – despite working with Britney Spears – things seem to be going well, the Englishman apparently claiming that the current dubstep scene in LA is reminiscent of those halcyon days in London where ground breaking dubstep clubs including FWD and DMZ brought this fresh new sound to club land in the early noughties. However, according to Dadzie, LA has always had a strong affiliation with dance music, regardless of what genre was being played in the clubs. “The scene is pretty much the same,” he says of his home city. “The clothes are a bit different and the sounds have progressed, but the overall culture is a lot more popular these days. It’s basically the same players and same game, just pushing boundaries with newer musical ideas.”
Pushing boundaries was something that Dadzie looks to have attempted at numerous points throughout his career. Even though hip hop was his first love, it wasn’t long before he began to explore other genres, embracing the vibrant underground dance/rave scene, which was spawned from LA’s restrictive U21 licensing legislations. “My first introduction to dance music came when I was in middle school”, says the softly spoken west coaster. “Although I had been exposed to loads of dance music subconsciously through video games and advertisement, my first memories were from the DJ Enry & Richard Humpty Vission mixes on [iconic US radio station] Power 106, back in the mid 90′s. When I was old enough to go out to shows, I think one of the first styles of the culture I was exposed to was Hardcore-Gabber and Dutch Hard-House.”
Inspired by the energy of this new and exciting world of dance music, Dadzie turned his attentions from playing music to writing it. “I first started making dance music in like 1998. I had [primitive yet popular production software] Fruity Loops, Fast tracker, and a couple other things I used to try out. I don’t really have a process for writing tunes.” he admits. “I kinda just emulate what I think sounds fresh from years of listening to dance music. I usually look for shock value in tunes, things that can make a crowd get excited and I’m also looking for sounds that are original to a certain extent. When I say original, I think I mean new gimmicks that haven’t been tried before.’
Visiting Australia for the first time, Dadzie is keen to expose new audiences to his biting, electro fused form of dubstep and, in yet another insight into his mindset, he’s typically reflective when it comes to what he might play. “Music is universal,” he says. “My crate is pretty good right now and I’m looking forward to making a big impression on the OZ crew.”