For those that have frequented the Croatian summer haunts of Dimensions and Outlook festival, you may be familiar with Dimensions Soundsystem. Made up of the team behind the festivals, the DJ collective have been showcasing their diverse record collections each year and now will be educating dancefloors worldwide with their selections. Comprising of Simon Scott, Andy Lemay, Noah Ball and David Martin, Dimensions Soundsystem will be hitting up and range of clubs between now and the festival season before returning to the breathtaking Croatian landscapes which their festivals are now synonymous with. To learn more about the life of Dimensions Soundsystem, we caught up with David and Andy to help provide us with an insight.
Let’s start at the beginning… For those who aren’t yet acquainted with your work, What exactly is Dimensions Soundsystem?
David: It’s the collective name we go out under and DJ under, either all together or in various combinations depending on the show.
Each of the Dimensions Soundsystem DJs has been working the scene for a long time. How did you guys come to be a collective?
Andy: We all work together and spend most of our time together talking about music and the most recent records we have bought or are going to by so decided to do a gig together. It went really well so we decided to carry it on and we are really enjoying it!
David: We’ve all been Leeds based at some point or other and as you say, we’ve all worked on various projects over the years, whether that’s been promoting, running record labels or running venues. We had been involved on various projects together in the past and of course, we’ve all been DJing during this time too. So when we came together to work on Dimensions Festival, it just felt like a natural progression to put that experience together and take to the road in the form of Dimensions Soundsystem – it’s kind of an extension of what we try to do musically with the festival. We all play differently and have different tastes but it works well in terms of how we gel, the breadth of what we can play and sometimes the juxtaposition between styles. We don’t all play all of the shows but there’s normally at least two of us and the project gives us the ability and freedom to cover a broad range of music. That interplay keeps it really fresh for us. We have a great deal of respect for each other’s tastes so we’re always excited to hear what the others are going to play – it adds a very different dimension compared with a solo DJ performance.
Dimensions has a strong link with Leeds, and Simon Scott is well known for his part in the foundation of Sub Dub, an important part of Leeds culture for the best part of two decades. How influential has the city proved to be in the formation of the successful Dimensions brand?
Andy: Leeds is in many ways is all of our second home, Simon is still up there running parties and heading up the Festivals’ Leeds office, we have a residency at Wire club so are up there visiting quite a bit. Noah and I met there while I was at Uni and Dave lived and ran parties there for many years (Asylum & Technique, Modern Amusement, Leeds Garden Party). The city as a whole has had an unbelievable impact on the UK club culture. From Back To Basics to SubDub, mono_cult, Ketaloco, Asylum and Technique, New Bohemia, Drum Major and the people still doing things up there like Cosmic Slop and Butter Side Up. The city is a hot bed for nights and has a strong nightlife scene that may fluctuate in its vibrancy but is always there. There is a DIY culture in the city where promoters can all co exist and are on the whole friends!
Outlook is of course another Croatian festival which Dimensions Soundsystem are involved in. What is it that makes Croatia so ideal for this kind of event?
Andy: We are lucky to have a brilliant location in Fort Punta Christo as our Venue. There are not many places in the world you would be allowed to use this structure as a venue. We work closely with the Fort Guardians who live in the Fort all year round and they have seen we are dedicated to restoring and protecting the site and have been incredibly hospitable. As well as that the people are some of the most loyal and kind you are likely to meet. They allow us to do what we do in their home country and that means a lot. The weather is fantastic and the local seafood is amazing too. I think when you get to Fort Punta Christo you enter a bubble for a week that is very different from a lot of people’s home towns and cities adds to the atmosphere and celebratory happy vibes that the Festival is famous for.
The signature image of Dimensions Festival is the 19th century Fort Punta Christo, which is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive venues going. How special is it to play out in such a historic and unique location?
Andy: It is quite amazing really, when playing in the Moat, Stables or Ball Room you could confidently say the is no other venue in the world quite like it. I think the Moat has become a firm favourite with many of the customers, but DJ’s and Artists as well. It is so awe inspiring in there and the atmosphere so intense and special we have seen numerous DJ’s come and tell us that was there favourite set and artists tend to pull off really incredible sets in there. It must be noted about the the crowd we get at Dimensions, they are incredible and easily as important as the venue. They are so clued up musically, more-so that any Festival I have been and it allows the DJ’s to really take risks and pull for the special records they may not normally get to play.
We also have an opening concert in in Pula Arena, a 2000-year-old roman amphitheater a stones throw from the sea. It must be one of the worlds great music venues and to see the sun set through those arches with Massive Attack, Kamasi Washington and Moodymann on stage this year will be a guaranteed highlight of our year.
David: Clearly, there are very few locations that you get the chance to play that are like Fort Punta Christo, or even our beach stage, so it’s really a huge honour for us to play there. We’re incredibly lucky that we get the chance to perform at the festival as it really is one of the most atmospheric events in the world in our experience. The venue, the location, the people and the music create something really magical. The experience of playing in front of the Dimensions crowd in that space is really impossible to describe in words…if you’ve been, you know!
When DJing under the DSS banner you’re known for covering a wide spectrum of underground dance music, but to what extent do your tastes differ?
Andy: I think all of our tastes vary quite differently in range but there is a core of deep soulful music that connects us all. Simon and Dave are the techno experts but that is by no means exclusively what they play. Noah comes from a more world music and Hip Hop background but is a big Moodymann and The Parrish fan. I cover the more soulful side of the spectrum of dance music heavily influenced by Detroit’s music scene through the ages.
You get a day to yourselves foraging through the record collection of any DJ from past or present; who do you choose?
Andy: Theo Parrish: My favourite DJ, I actually bought some records off him a few years back and each came with post it note telling you a little about the record and artists playing!! it wound be an education as well. Besides that, maybe Ron Hardy or the Magnificent Mojo!
David: For me, I think it would have to be John Peel – just the sheer range of music that he must have had access to and the total lack of respected for genre boundaries is incredible.
Dimensions Soundsystem returns to Leeds on the 19th of March with a night at HiFi, featuring Dan Shake and Leeds boy Eliphino. What else is in store for the year ahead?
David: We have lots of exciting things coming up, we have a couple of podcasts coming in the next few months…this has been an interesting process given the breadth of what we do and how we can try to translate this into an hour mix. Also, we have some really great shows upcoming like our gig with one of our heroes, Matthew Herbert at the intimate and brilliant Dance Tunnel, we’re out at Horizon’s Festival in Bulgaria and we’re looking forward to the first ever Sunfall festival in London this summer. We also have a lot of exciting things coming up across Europe in the next few months that we can’t say too much about at the moment but keep an eye on our gig page for more on this.
You can catch Dimensions Soundsystem at their home from home at Dimensions Festival from the 26th - 28th of August. The collective will also be taking over the airwaves of KMAH Radio Friday 18th March from 8pm-10pm.
Interview by Andrew Kemp
Photos courtesy of Dimensions & One House Artists