Interview: Five Minutes with Altered Natives

London born Danny Yorke is known for his excellent DJ mixes and has been producing music for over 20 years. He has chosen to work under another alias: Dr Cockbloctopus as well as his main stage name, ‘Altered Natives’. Yorke and friends also came together to create their own label, ‘Eye4Eye’. 

Originally starting out in Hip Hop, Yorke went by ‘Da Altered Natives’ choosing to drop ‘Da’ following his first release. He chose to enter into the dance floor remix side of things after hearing samples of Hip Hop mixed with Drum and Bass, leading more into House music than he had originally anticipated. The result is a unique sound that leaves the listeners yearning for more.

Earlier this month, Altered Natives released his latest album, ‘Daddy’s Gone’. Following this, we got a chance to sit down and chat with the mind behind the music.

Hi Danny, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How’s your year been going so far?

Not so great to be honest with you, I found out earlier this year I had suffered a massive heart attack which I was completely unaware of whilst suffering another health complication and as of now, I’m living with a clock over my head. Facing your mortality through an unforeseen health complications and being told constantly you should be dead is pretty scary, it’s the first time I’ve faced my mortality via my health but it’s put my life into perspective and forced me to reassess how I look at life, which is ironic given I’ve faced my mortality more than once throughout my time here.  

Technically I’m healthier than I’ve ever been yet I’m at risk of my heart failing me which seems like a cruel joke given that the year before all this happened I had made major health and lifestyle changes before any of this happened. Right now all I’m focused on is completing my 9th album and enjoying every day the best I possibly can.

You’ve just released your latest EP, ‘Daddy’s Gone’. How did the album launch go? Are you happy with how it has been received so far?

The launch party was great fun, I really enjoyed playing my set there as it was the first time this year I’ve had to play to an audience, I more so enjoyed using them unknowingly as guinea pigs testing out material from my forthcoming 9th album project it was good to use them as a gauge, I’m happy the test results were positive. 

As for how the EP’s been received, I think it’s opened a few peoples eyes and ears to who I am, those that know me well enough know I’m capable of producing more than one genre which is what I’m keen to show on this next album because I’m not following my past formula of just releasing consistent banger for banger, this next album will showcase every style and genre I hold dear. I hope it’s as well-received as the past albums but I just want to release every element that essentially makes what Altered Natives itself.

The EP sets quite a dark mood. Considering the very complicated and heavy global political and social climate, do you feel that music should be a reflection of this, or an escape from this?

Music should and can be both I feel, music made as a political or social statement is a statement that lives forever in my opinion. I used my last album, the Black Album to make a statement about whitewashing in dance music for example, on the album was a track I had named ‘Weißer Junge Schwarzer Muzikclub’ which translates to ‘White Boy Black Music Club’,  as a message it wasn’t received well which to me was a success, a lot of people distanced themselves because they took it as a personal attack by my statement of how Techno, for example, is purely white as fuck, this is a genre dominated by white faces yet was born in Detroit. And to me, it’s like the awareness is there among white producers and DJs but there’s no acceptance of the newer non white faces, just the recognition of the pioneers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, etc and the rest of us are ignored, treated like gimmicks. People often take how I feel it as an angry stance but it’s an ‘I don’t give a fuck stance’, it’s my reality, not yours. On the flip side, I get the Techno scene was Mecca’ised in Germany but for fuck sake, give some of us a chance.

Your sound has developed considerably over the years and each of your albums have been completely unique. What has been your inspiration throughout?

Inspiration wise, I take a lot from my personal life and experiences good and bad, I’ve always believed in energy conversion, converting the negatives in my life into positives musically. I also take a lot from the influences I have seen throughout my time on this planet. I’m lucky enough to have lived through the birth of a multitude of scenes and cultures that I am passionate about. As a child growing up in London I got to witness the birth of Hip-Hop and the age of B-Boyism, in my early teens I saw the birth of Acid House and pirate radio, Hardcore, Jungle, UK Garage and Drum & Bass and all the sub-genres in between them through to niche genres like Broken Beat, which is where I first cut my teeth as Altered Natives. In a way, my sound draws from the energy and my passion for all of these sounds because they all had such a profound effect in my life.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies you through your creative process.

For the past 15/16 years, I’ve been using Logic Pro to write the majority of my releases, I find it suits how I work better than using hardware despite occasionally missing the hands-on feel of hardware. These days I work off of a Mac, using a controller keyboard and MPC pads, I started my days as a fledgeling producer on an MPC60 and have loved using drum pads to trigger drum samples ever since. One piece of tech I really love is the Subpac, which I’m sure everyone has heard of, which I highly recommend. It’s a great tool for physically EQ’ing your basses and any low-end artefacts you were never aware of. Software wise, one of my favourite plug-ins to play with is Xfer Records Serum and most recently a free plug-in by Wavosaur called Rave Generator 2 which has all the bass sounds, stabs and synth samples from all the classic Hardcore rave tracks like T99 Anasthasia to Bizarre Inc’s Playing with Knives. I tend to write lines with it then go ‘nahhhhh’ and find a non-ravey sound but I love it for the nostalgia it brings, definitely a good plug-in for all you younger producers tapping into that old ravey hardcore Jungle vibe. 

We really enjoyed your ‘Doom Hill’ remix. Can we expect to hear anything more from your alias, ‘Dr Cockbloctopus’?

The ‘Doom Hill’ was an unofficial remix, I’m a massive MF DOOM fan and I started my production career in Hip-Hop and I’m a fan of his mastery of the English language as well as his clever use of samples, so sticking him on the Grange Hill theme tune just seemed like a natural progression whist in Dr Cockbloctopus mode. Dr Cockbloctopus was an alias I created about 4 or 5 years to run more non 4/4 type tracks under, I was lucky enough to get DJ Mag to host the first mixtape but I later personally felt it wasn’t as appreciated as my work as Altered Natives, it was supposed to be semi-humorous but I felt people overly focussed on the name and never got past that, the name was deliberately supposed to be amusing but the music was still as deadly and serious as anyone operating a backstreet surgery offering body modifications using kitchen appliances.

How did you originally get into the industry? What would you say are some of the biggest challenges artists face today in the music industry? 

As I mentioned earlier about cutting my teeth as Altered Natives in Broken Beat, my first experience of working in the music industry was through Goya Distribution/People Records. Goya Distribution basically was the West London hub for the Broken Beat scene 20 years ago, I started out there running a joint training scheme with People Records and Westminster council as a mentor teaching kids from the local area basic studio technique, it was fun while it lasted and during my time there I picked up a taste for the growing scene known as Broken Beat and started to dabble in that sound which led to my first release as Altered Natives in 2001 on People Records.

I would say the biggest challenge artists face today is this horrible forced trend of creating social media content over the importance of actually making music, this visible trend of posting on social media, selfies and how many followers we have are now how we define and book talent and I can’t imagine the pressure that must carry on a younger producers shoulders who genuinely want to just write good music. Shit, it bothered me enough to mass unfollow everyone on Twitter and retreat to Instagram where I now just post memes that amuse me. But I’m old school as you’ve probably guessed, I was raised believing you earn your stripes through your talent and respect wasn’t just given it was earned but now it’s all based on social media popularity and not necessarily how good your music is anymore.

Tell us about your involvement with EYE4EYE Recordings.

EYE4EYE Recordings was a label I started in 2007 to release material digitally and when I can afford it occasionally, physically release my music and music from my friends. It’s pretty much been the home for my past 8 albums and my sound. It’s main claim to fame is it’s the only digital label to have an album awarded a straight 10 from DJ magazine which is still a big achievement given I have kept myself relatively independent in the industry.

Famous last words?

Knock Knock…

Upcoming events

Friday 2nd August:

Set It Out with Semtek B2B Altered Natives 

Friday 9th August:

A Fousand Slaps

King’s Head Members Club

257 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AS, United Kingdom

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