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JM#158 – DJ Apologetic

Dickon Bonvik-Stone (DJ Apologetic) is a new arrival on the Oslo scene, although he had carved out a reputation as a DJ in places like Berlin and Barcelona before landing in Oslo. He’s been something of a fixture in Barcelona for a while where he had been Djing, hosting events, making music and still has his own radio show on Primavera Sound called The Garden of Forking Paths.

Making his debut in Oslo the UK DJ arrived at the Jaeger mix, donning his DJ Apologetic alias to lay down an exclusively vinyl mix for our Sunday evening crowd. A lively percussive mix, forging a path through some of the more obscure corners of electronic beat music,  DJ Apologetic digs deep in this very unique mix.

Stripped back arrangements, with drum machines and pitched percussive elements working in some abstract, syncopated harmony stay the course through the mix that leans towards the shuffling beats of Electro, with a futurist slant. Records that yield very little information about their identity tie a sonic thread across this mix, favouring a cold and barren electronic palette comprised of few dominant elements.

Some of the more abstract elements bear some relation to the music of  Dickon Bonvik-Stone, as squirly acid loops and detuned noise flits between stark drum machines, but beyond that, the beat-focussed tracks, share little with the immersive ambience of records like Bug Box Drum Machine. DJ Apologetic makes a bold statement on his debut in Oslo, and it’s something we hope to hear more of in the future.

Hey Dickon. Can you give us an introduction to your Jaeger mix?

This mix felt like a great opportunity to challenge myself in a few ways. Firstly, I haven’t played beyond my apartment since I left Barcelona last year. This distance from the dancefloor has brought about (what I perceive to be) an important uncoupling of music from nightlife. It’s nice to return to the club context with a fresh perspective. Secondly, using the DJ Apologetic moniker was something I did with intention. It seems to represent something sonically distinct from what I would normally do in this sort of situation. I wanted to force myself to explore different avenues of my tastes and felt I could only really do that under a separate banner. Finally, I’ve never played out exclusively on records before, which seems shocking, but for the first time ever I have a working setup at home and my collection has grown enough in recent months to facilitate doing just that. It’s still pretty shaky, but whatever, it was fun.

It’s quite a unique concept as an intentional recorded mix taking place in a live in a club context. How do you think this affected the way you approached this mix differently from just a standard club mix? 

Knowing that it was being recorded, along with the challenges I just mentioned, meant that I was thoroughly out of my comfort zone. I see that as a good thing.

You work both under your given name and as DJ Apologetic. Where do these two musical aliases converge / diverge from each other?

I’m not sure I’ve entirely figured that out yet. Normally I’d have started a mix like this at around 95bpm and then rolled through a lot of weird, squiggly disco. There’s a lot more silliness wrapped up in that approach. Perhaps DJ Apologetic is me trying to find a space for more “serious” stuff? I’m not sure. Either way, there are moments in this mix that are exactly where I’d like to see DJ Apologetic going, so it’s a good timestamp in the process of working out what’s what.

What’s your earliest memory of a piece of music?

My mum playing guitar at playgroup (barnehagen), though actually I remember the image more than the sound. After that it would have to be the time a music teacher gave each child in my primary school class the opportunity to pick from an amazing selection of percussion instruments and play them all together in fantastic chaos. I chose the vibraslap.

How did you get into making music and DJing?

I grew up playing jazz saxophone, which obviously put an emphasis on improvisation, so I was being encouraged to invent and explore on my own from quite an early age. That probably laid some of the essential infrastructure, now that I think about it. After that I got hooked on less formal sounds… tuning radios, electronic hums, that kind of thing. I didn’t start dabbling with making electronic music until my art degree, and actually it wasn’t until that was over and I had moved to Berlin that I finally finished a projectthat was based around sound.

DJing was an accident. It came out of running live music events at university. There had to be sound between the acts, so I’d be the one filling those gaps. Eventually the gaps grew and grew until they became the whole night.

The music you make tends to lean to the more experimental aspects of electronic music. How did you arrive at those sounds and what are some of your musical influences? 

Art school had a lot to do with that. Getting introduced to work by people like John Cage and Steve Reich, it makes an impression. Later it was Stockhausen and Alvin Lucier. The interface of art and music (if there’s any need for a distinction), has always been my favourite place. I guess I should head down to Notamone of these days.

And how does DJing compare to the music you make?

Until recently, my musical endeavours have been far removed from what I’ve been playing out, but thanks to DJ Apologetic that’s beginning to change.

Tell us a bit about The Garden of Forking Paths and how that relates to the Dickon/Apologetic universe.

The Garden of Forking Paths is my monthly show on Radio Primavera Sound. It centres around experimental and ambient music, found sound, early electronics, music concrete etc. and occasionally features guests from the industry for conversations/mixes/performances, though sometimes it’s just me making collages of weird noises. The first episode of the second season just aired, which involved a discussion about asynchronous loops and algorithmic composition with multi-instrumentalist and audio engineer, Joseph Branciforte. That was a trip. You can find it on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or over on the Radio Primavera Sound website.

The show, on the whole, is a place for me to delve into the more avant garde areas of my fascination for music and sound. Plus, talking to other people who have a passion for that kind of thing is a great way to get inspired.

I believe you’ve recently moved to Oslo. Have you found any new inspirations in the city, that you think might influence the way your music sounds in the future?

Yeah! It’s great. I haven’t seen a real Autumn for about 5 years. Seasons are far more subtle in Barcelona. Here though, the smell of it, and the quality of the light, the melancholia, the trees, it’s very dramatic. Oslo feels like a more natural setting for me, both within and beyond sound.

What else is happening in terms of music for you in the near future? 

I made quite a lot of music last year but, though I like some of it, I think the project is more or less shelved. There’s often an assumption that whatever is made ought to be heard in order to justify itself and the time devoted to it. Having stepped away from making music for a few months though, and now coming back to it again, I think I can be satisfied that those sketches were part of a journey towards building a meaningful practice with music. They were a means rather than an end. I’ll keep noodling away into the dark months here in Oslo, and maybe something will emerge that’s ready to be heard for the right reasons.

…Anything you’d like to add?

Palm Grease, the Barcelona party series that I’ve been running with my friends Archie, Matt and Dave for the last 5 years comes to an end on September 28th. It’s going to be a riot.