Devastate started as a DJ in the late nineties and has already released records with legends like Kutmasta Kurt and Masta Ace. Inspired by classic boom-bap hip hop, funk and jazz, he launched his label Counterweight last year in order to showcase fresh music with the emphasis on soulful sounds to promote young and skilled newcomers. For Carhartt WIP Radio he has prepared a show that features unreleased and upcoming Counterweight tracks including exclusive tracks from producers like Max I Million, Suff Daddy and DJ Large, back catalogue releases from himself as well as some remixes from back in the day. His mix showcases many different genres, from smooth instrumentals and jazz, to more classic hip hop, giving the listener a slice of the Counterweight sound and what to expect in the future. To look behind the scenes we talked to DJ Devastate about his past, his aims for Counterweight and more.
(DJ Devastate photo: Fredrik Segerfalk)
Hi Per, can you introduce your work as a producer and tell us a bit about your past and in which projects you have been involved in?
DJ Devastate: Sure, I first got heavy into music during the late 90s. I started out as many others DJing, collecting hip hop records looking for breaks and samples. Some years later I took the music a step further and got busy making beats. Initially I was very inspired by classic boom-bap hip hop, funk and jazz and my first contact with real hip hop culture was through live shows in Copenhagen, Denmark. A city that also hosted many dope record stores for quality music at that time. It’s located close to where I live in South Sweden so we used to go there a lot.
As far as releases, my very first real record (12 inch vinyl) was released in 2006 in collaboration with DJ Create, Masta Ace & Stricklin. It was released by Kutmasta Kurt’s label Threshold Recordings. That record made me take music seriously. One more project that was real monumental to me was my instrumental full length album Movement/Silence, released with BBE Records in 2010. As far as music and creativity, I try to keep myself as busy as I can with producing beats, doing wordplay-scratches and releasing mixtapes. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to work with many of my favorite rappers since I started. I have my ups and downs like everyone else. But right now I feel like I’m in a good creative place at the moment so I hope my best stuff is yet to come out.
What was the impetus behind the start-up of Counterweight?
DJ Devastate: The label Counterweight is a creative outlet that aspires to put out quality independent releases. Our ambition is to create balance through our music. Personally I see the focus going from talent, passion and timeless music to emphasis on hype, celebrity and wack trends. Our goal is to showcase ageless sounds focusing on music with a lot of soul. And hopefully we can work with great artists that make us evolve. We have set out to do everything from physical releases on tapes and vinyl to digital mixtapes and free tracks. We just got the label going summer 2014, with the release of our first 7" vinyl single and we have a bunch of new projects coming out in 2015. We just getting started..
But how did it start? … I actually came up with the name one night, while taking out the trash. Among all the garbage was a turntable. I guess someone had enough and decided to trash it. This turntable looked crashed and busted but something caught my eye. It was the Counterweight on the back of it. The metallic counterweight had a really dope look to it. I unscrewed it and kept it as a souvenir. A couple of days later I started thinking. The counterweight is the main thing keeping the needle steadily in the groove. It’s creating balance so the needle doesn’t skip and the music comes out the speakers without any distortion. So I came up with Counterweight Records - Creating Balance. The label really came together through the collaboration with designer Jonas Hilmersson, who is also a co-founder of Counterweight. He really tied it all together with the artwork and various designs and musical ideas. Also Swedish producer Max I Million from Stockholm that has been very involved and instrumental in the label and our ideas.
If you could describe the Counterweight sound in one sentence, what would you say?
DJ Devastate: Soulful music, creating balance.
What was your musical intake when you were younger?
DJ Devastate: I have never studied any type of music whatsoever and I wouldn’t call my family musical at all. But I do remember my parents playing all kinds of records when I was a kid, everything from Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Lead Belly to horrible Swedish schlager and Vaya Con Dios. But it wasn’t until I was a bit older and I started sneaking into my brothers room to play Beastie Boys, Ice-T and House of Pain records that I really got hooked on hip hop. Like many other producers I inherited (stole) my brothers, mothers and fathers record collections once they got tired of vinyl and moved on to CDs. I still find some records that really move me in those old crates. Some of those old tunes resonate memories from the past and it’s always some very unexpected record doing it.
What process do you follow for getting new artists?
DJ Devastate: The Carhartt WIP Radio show is a great example, all the music for this mixtape is exclusive. Meaning the artists are people I have worked with, know personally or plan to work with in the future providing me with tracks. It was a real blessing to see artists like: Max I Million, Context, DJ Large, Segerfalk, E. Classical, ADL, Suff Daddy and many others come through. I think my process is quite simple, I try to work with people that make music that inspires me and that I vibe with. It’s much easier to work with artists on the same page, the music usually proves it to.
Do you have a "wish list" of musicians you'd like to see on Counterweight?
DJ Devastate: It’s really sad to see so many of the truly great jazz and funk musicians pass away. In only a few years Idris Muhammad, George Duke, Gil Scott-Heron, Donald Byrd and many others have passed. I would love to make music with musicians from that generation and musical vibe before it’s too late. That would be truly inspiring and a dream come true. Other than that, I really look forward to working with many of the artists featured in the Carhartt WIP Counterweight show on new projects. Black Milk, Darryl Reeves, Robert Glasper and Karim Riggins would be dope.
What exciting stuff do you have in the pipeline currently?
DJ Devastate: I work a lot with Fredrik Segerfalk from Analog Sweden, a studio completely focused on vintage studio gear and analog equipment. Hopefully we will have some amazing instrumental projects coming out of there in the future. In the pipeline at the moment is a remix EP from producer Max I Million with me on the cuts. We are also planning another 7" inch vinyl single and a new mixtape. I can guarantee some fresh releases for the future, no doubt..
Which of your own tracks/productions are you most proud of and why?
DJ Devastate: I’m real proud of the track Medicine that features Swedish rapper ADL on the mic. It was our first release on Counterweight so I guess that plays into it... ADL called me, he already had the idea and vision for the track so I made the beat that same night and we recorded that day after. We recorded on a beat with only a bassline and some scratches of a vocal sample. It was later when I went to Analog Sweden studios to record some rhodes and Mini Moog on it with Segerfalk that the track really took of. I’m real proud of the sound of the track. The process was quick, it was our first release and I think it came out pretty dope, so I would say Medicine...
What do you want to accomplish with the music you produce and release?
DJ Devastate: Well, I always loved the craft of producing music. Hip hop might be repetitive at times and seem simplistic but there been some true visionaries who developed the craft of beatmaking. People like Pete Rock and Dilla really took music to a new level. I also love how great timeless music from the 60s and 70s is completely integrated with hip hop culture and can easily be played in the same context at the club or on a mixtape. My goal is to evolve to a place where I can make timeless music, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
What kind of music would you make in a world without electricity?
DJ Devastate: Probably some brutal percussion stuff. All rhythm. Or some soft stuff with a piano. Who knows.
What advice would you give to producers, DJs who are just starting out?
DJ Devastate: Be yourself and search for inspiration in really weird places. Equipment is not as important as sound and ideas.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt WIP Radio show?
DJ Devastate: I wanted a cohesive organic sound for the mix, so I made my choices regarding artists from that. I tried to work with people that I knew and could match together (sound-wise). Like I mentioned earlier, I like working with people I know personally, without managers or people like that involved in the process. The mixtape includes unreleased/upcoming Counterweight releases, exclusive tracks from producers, back catalogue releases from me and remixes I have previously released. I tried to showcase many different vibes, from smooth instrumentals, jazz to more classic hip hop tracks. Since our label is newly formed, the idea of this mix is to give the listener a slice of the Counterweight sound and what to expect from the future to come as far as music and the artists we are connected to. Some might call our sound (instrumental) producer-based music. I give the listener the chance to judge for themselves. I'm very happy about the music and grateful to all the artists that contributed with music.
Can you remember where you first started DJing and the kind of music you were playing?
DJ Devastate: Yes I actually can! I opened up for a Swedish group called Latin Kings in South Sweden. I think I was about 17 and I remember practicing for a full week, skipping school in the process. I remember playing a lot of Rawkus, ABB and Fondle 'Em records. At the venue I was so nervous that I could almost not drop the needle on the record when I was about to start the set.
Can you name three records to start a party?
Idris Muhammad: Hard To Face The Music (Kudu)
Masta Ace: Born To Roll (Delicious Vinyl)
Ernie Hines: Our Generation (Hot Plate Records)
If you would do a forecast of what is the sound of tomorrow how would it look like?
DJ Devastate: New, hopefully interesting and creative without any clouds or rain.
What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?
DJ Devastate: Trust your intuition, usually the first feeling is the correct one.
What old albums you rediscovered lately and what makes them special?
DJ Devastate: I listen to music depending on my vibe and if I’m cooling out I listen to Lonnie Liston Smith. His catalog of music is just amazing stuff. For some reason I just never get tired of that thick organic, cosmic sound. It just gets better and better.
What was the last track that sent shivers up your spine?
DJ Devastate: It was actually a soul joint from Jordan Rakei called Imagine.
Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
DJ Devastate: Swedish producer Freddie Cruger aka Red Astaire and Freddie Joachim inspired me a lot as a producer.
What can music which all other art forms can not?
DJ Devastate: Make you really listen.
Finally: can you tell us some secrets about the south of Sweden that you can’t find in usual travel guides?
DJ Devastate: No polarbears and we tend to drink a lot I guess. I also want to thank all the artist and friends that made this mix possible, providing dope ideas and music. Peace to: Jonas Hilmersson, The whole Elite Fleet crew, Koolade, Suff Daddy, Erik L, K Eliasson, KnoIota, Matt Diamond and Coalmine. Julien at LDBK Radio, Kind, and the ones I have forgot.
Discography DJ Devastate/Counterweight