Aiming the lens at Dolenz
He visualises a film to uphold cohesiveness in an album, and creates artwork with a custom camera that takes a picture every eight minutes, strengthening the initial concept of the album; Dolenz thinks about what he delivers.
Jeffrey Dolenz takes us on a sonic expedition in his recent album 'Lingua Franca' released on Exit Records. His unique palette elevates him above the subsistant noise. Drawing inspiration across a spectrum of genres, Dolenz combines aggressive analogue synthesis with vintage hip-hop and disco sampling, effortlessly coupling jarring emotions together whilst keeping the continuity of the record intact.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the man to talk about his story up until this point, his creative process, and what he has in store for the future.
For the few who may be unaware, can you tell us your journey up to this point, and how your debut on Exit records came to be?
I started off djing/producing as part of a hip hop crew, but had my first release as Dolenz with the EP ‘Hysteresis’ that came out on Sonic Router in 2015. I had completed my follow up EP, and around that time played a few beats in front of Tim Parker - I didn’t realise he was working with Exit - the ended up sharing them with dBridge and the ball started rolling from there.
Tell us a bit about the album title; Lingua Franca?
I was struggling to finish an EP (which later became the album) and so came up with the idea to imagine a film for which I would write the soundtrack to - I figured it would give it a cohesiveness as I could repeat themes and sounds in the various songs, do versions etc.
The film is a dystopian sci-fi movie set on the planet ‘Geminus’ which is Earth’s sister planet in another dimension. Geminus suffers from many of the man-made environmental issues that Earth does, except it’s more advanced. Without going into the entire story, at the end of the film the main protagonist ‘Mada’ realises that all the creatures on the planet, bar the ‘humans’ are actually singing to the planet’s core, and those sonic vibrations keep it turning. ‘Lingua Franca’ means ‘native language’ and so in short it’s a comment on how humans are the only beings not speaking our planet’s language, or living in harmony with it.
Do you often have a concept in mind prior to starting?
Yes, ever since coming up with the Dolenz moniker I’ve tried to approach my projects with a concept in mind as to me it ends up with a more cohesive release, rather than a collection of tracks. ‘Hysteresis’ for example means ‘the dependence of the state of a system on its history’. I used that EP to combine all of the influences that had led me to where I was at that point in my life, and then channel them into an EP to define my sound.
The artwork is tight! Who put that together?
That was our friend Erlam Robinson with direction from my partner Simone. He built a custom camera that scans you from top to bottom, and each photo takes up to eight minutes - so they’re all photographs, no photoshopping, except minor post production - allowing you to move around and capture glitches. Apart from the fact that the process was all analogue, similar to how I make and collect sounds, we liked incorporating the concept of time into the images, as the album is set in another dimension.
I know you’re an avid record collector. Are there any artists, that have had a particular influence in your production?
There's too many, but here are a select few: Axelrod, Prefuse 73, Stevie Wonder, Hype Williams, Edan, Bomb Squad, Quincy Jones, Larry Smith, Marley Marl, Computer Jay, Hermeto Pascoal, Lanark Artefax …
I've noticed you use dissonant chords as a tool while telling stories through music. Is there a certain approach to your writing process or does it vary from piece to piece?
I purposely do that as I think it brings a melancholic emotion into the music. Quite often I’ll be using monophonic synths to create harmonies, and I’ll de-tune each note a little to come up with something that has beautiful ugliness when layered up. I’ll approach an entire release with a concept in mind, and do a lot of research leading up to it, gathering sonic ingredients, but when writing music I approach individual pieces quite freely and just see where they fit. When I go in and record, I’m trying to capture the live element that hip hop is built around, which is why I choose broken equipment that runs a bit out of sync, or has weird glitches - it’s those imperfections that I look for in order to capture a moment in time.
There's an increase in the amount of live sets you've been doing as of late. Is this something you are looking to venture into further? Anything you can reveal about what the future holds?
I have been thinking and working towards, and I potentially might be collaborating with another musician and visual artist, but I also love doing dj-sets as I enjoy playing eclectic sets, not just my own music.
Finally are there any artists on your watch list that we should know about?
I’ve been so embedded in production that I’m a bit out of touch with upcoming artists. There's this guy though: Julian Mayorga from Colombia. Also if you don’t know my homie Muqata’a he’s doing some interesting things.
We really appreciate you taking the time out to answer some questions, do you have anything extra you want to plug?
I’ve got upcoming festival gigs at Gottwood and Dimensions, apart from that please check my album ‘Lingua Franca’ and monthly radio show ‘Infinite Friends’, on Balamii radio.
Stream/Download/Buy Lingua Franca: