What we like – An Interview with Dimensions Soundsystem

Nestled on a small peninsula in the Adriatic sea, Dimensions Festival is a retreat for the sincere electronic/club/urban music fan, a true escape from the pressures of everyday living for any discerning music head. Sun, sea, location and culture combine for one of the most exciting features on the festival calendar…  it reads like something of a travel brochure, doesn’t it? But it’s absolutely no exaggeration of what Dimensions offers for one weekend at the end of the festival season each year.

Since 2011 they’ve been bringing an eclectic array of music producers and DJs to Fort Punta Christo, Pula in Croatia to an open-minded international audience. They seem to be an effective tide mark from which to gauge the current musical milieu without falling for shallow fashionable incongruities. The artists on their roster are timeless purveyors of their craft and although a good portion are established, they make sure to include a healthy section of new artistic voices. ”People always discover new things” at Dimensions says lead booker and co-founder David Martin from a “very rainy London”, where he’s just finished putting the final touches to this year’s festival line-up. They’re still a couple of months away from Grace Jones opening the festival from a 2000 year-old amphitheatre, but it’s been “all systems go all year, all the time”, for David and the Dimensions team.

The seed for Dimensions was planted when David was invited over to Outlook festival and saw “the potential to do something unique in addition to Outlook”. Bringing Andy Lemay and Simon Scott on board, they laid a foundation for Dimensions on the the infrastructure of Outlook, expanding on the Dub, Reggae, Hip Hop and Grime genres of that festival to include House, Techno, Disco and everything in between from the less obvious corners of dance music. Since, there has been a natural flow through the musical identity of the two sister festivals, with even some cross pollination occurring between them as Dimensions book artists that didn’t quite fit the Outlook idiom. ”It just grew naturally from there” explains David over the phone, and the rest is a seven year history plotting some of the most unique festival experiences at an equally unique location.

A 19th century fort, replete with moat and beach, serves as the annual destination of some thousands of punters from abroad and as far away as Australia. There’s something incredibly exotic about the location and its enticing history. Overgrown with various fauna for most of the twentieth century, the fort and its grounds were only discovered quite recently and those first settlers maintain the fort all year round. They are a dedicated team of guardians who run a bar from the main building when they’re not playing host to the Dimensions/Outlook festival for an extensive portion of the summer. Always “well received” by the locals David and the team try to “contribute something” to the local infrastructure wherever they can, be it through promoting a local artist or even a just providing a utility. This year is the first year that the main building will run on its own power and as always it features a host of local talent from the region. “It’s really important for us to feel like we are supporting the scene”, says David. “It would feel really wrong to go over to Croatia to be an isolated thing, because there’s some incredible music out there.” This year also sees the inauguration of Dimensions recordings, a new label from the people behind the festival and with the first 12” slated for Croatian artist Cuisine Dub, there’s no doubt that David and Dimensions are true to their word.

The location and the local investment aside, Dimensions’ main draw each year as an award winning, internationally acclaimed festival is its booking strategy and that’s where David Martin and his team come in. David, an accomplished DJ and promoter from Leeds has been doing this for a “long, long time” and each year he manages to find that unique balance between established- and new artists/DJs. And what ties these artists together? “It’s just a kind of feeling you get from the artist really” explains David. “It’s not really forced and it comes quite naturally, so we manage to avoid fashion and trend.” Often bringing new voices to Dimensions, David also finds that many of them make a return to the festival’s bigger stages when they’ve become successful. Names like Ben UFO, Helena Hauff, Floating Points and Nina Kravitz are all returning superstars, not based on hype but on merit. David and his team never “rush into a booking like this is the next big thing”, but rather “look at the quality of what (each artist) is producing and performing” and at the core of their booking strategy is a beautiful simplicity: “it’s based on what we like.”

David finds what usually “connects the acts is a purity and even with the bigger names like Massive attack or Grace Jones” there’s a sense of “counterculture” running consistently through them. It’s not a conscious choice, but rather something David “observes in what (they) do”, and an ideology that’s driven by what they “love” and new discoveries. There’s no stylistic trait to any of it and their approach is eclectic, something they like to showcase when David, Andy and Simon get together behind the decks as Dimensions soundsystem.

“In terms of musical taste we’re all pretty broad between the three of us” suggests David and as Dimensions Soundsystem he Andy Lemay and Simon Scott like to really stretch their musical muscle, playing everything from Afro to Techno depending on the context. DJ’s first and foremost, the incredibly vast range of situations they’ll play “keeps you on your toes a bit as a DJ” says David. Dimensions Soundsystem “playing Rex with Floating Points is a completely different experience to playing Ampere in Belgium with Ben Klock” and they “don’t really change the way (they) do things going from a club to the festival” either. Going from the beach to the moat, playing before Dopplereffekt will be two completely different sets and reflects the extent to which their musical knowledge proffers. For their upcoming gig at Jæger for example David expects to bring a “really big bunch of records” with a broad reach, bringing a little of the eclectic spirit of Dimensions to Jæger’s crowd alongside Andy Lemay and Simon Scott

Dimensions soundsystem is an “opportunity to spread the word a little more” and alongside the newly established label Dimension recordings it’s consolidating the idea of Dimensions. “I think just having the soundsystem, gives a clearer identity for people” explains David, a distinctive identity akin to the discerning music heads behind Dimensions. For David Martin at least there’s no distinction between running the festival and his enjoyment of the music and although he covers a lot of ground each year because of his role, he admits, “that’s probably what I’ll do if I was there as a punter too”.