Feedback aka Dean Fuel from Labyrinth – Exclusive Interview
Dean FUEL was born with music in his blood. Following the footsteps of his parents, who were heavily involved in the music industry, Dean took up piano and guitar in school, but added DJing to his arsenal after being introduced to the booming 90’s rave culture. It is no doubt moving to Cape Town has an effect on one’s night life, just like in Dean’s case. From Deep House to Psychedelic Trance, the passion for all forms of electronic music was born, and instead of picking one genre, Dean FUEL wanted to play them all.
Although Dean’s busy with Labyrinth, his 8 year old indoor event, and Feedback, his newly launched psy alias, we managed to squeeze a couple of words from the man coupled with an exclusive mix!
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Psymedia : So you’ve got a new alias now, Feedback. How did you decide on the name?
Feedback : Feedback can have a triple meaning. Feedback from a ‘give me feedback’ perspective – used as a basis for improvement, as well as the audio meaning for when a sound loops through a system creating an ever increasing distortion, and lastly the modification of a system by its effects – in a biochemical pathway or behavioural response. I found that I could relate to all three of these meanings – so it just felt right!
Psymedia : You’ve used the alias Dean FUEL regardless of style. Now that the Feedback alias is alive, will this become your primary psy/progpsy alias?
Feedback : Well, I used to use just FUEL for Psytrance – having an original duo act of Wreck & FUEL with my first partner on Labyrinth. Unfortunately due to people recognizing me, FUEL or Dean FUEL became pretty interchangeable. It never bothered me to have one alias to perform under, and as Dean FUEL I played on every major festival from Vortex to Alien Safari, to Earthdance, Origin, alongside Infected Mushroom, and before Neelix and Perfect Stranger. With the psy scene having grown so ‘trendy’ and commercial over recent years, my brand name started to confuse the newer generation of Psy lovers, questioning ‘what sound’ I would play at an outdoor Psy event. The realization grew that I needed to focus the sound, and the identity, and that give rise to an alter ego – Feedback – to perform and create Psy and Prog music. So far it’s been incredibly successful, and will definitely remain as my new alias.
Psymedia : Are you considering putting together a live set? How would you describe your sound?
Feedback : Ideally I would always love to DJ. It’s more ‘LIVE’ than doing a live set in electronic music. But I will always look to push the boundaries of what a DJ set can be (incorporating visuals, effects, samplers, and so on). The artists and styles include mega artists such as Astrix, Sub6, Ace Ventura, Pixel, GMS, Zen Mechanics, D-Nox and so on. As well as more underground and lesser known acts like Outsiders, XSI and Berg. I like to mix old with new, full-on with prog, psychedelic with tech, and hopefully blend it all into one sonic adventure each and every set!
Psymedia : How has technology changed you as a DJ and producer?
Feedback : The technology has changed the way I go about doing those things, but not the passion and love I feel for doing them! Moving from vinyl and turntables, to CDJ’s and now to laptops and controllers has changed the physical way that I perform, but at the end of the day it’s still about the music, and the connection between the DJ and the dance floor.
As a producer, technology has certainly improved the speed and flexibility one can have! Studios can now be portable, as a laptop and headphones can get just about any track or remix on the go! Software has replaced hardware, but the gear heads will know, analog just sounds better!
Psymedia : You attended Cape Audio College. How does the classroom environment differ, as opposed to working with someone in the studio?
Feedback : Classrooms are great environments, because it’s about interaction, learning from your own and others mistakes, and sharing ideas and knowledge. Working in studio with my friends is a great experience, as again you can learn from each other and your own/different work flows and styles. Plus it’s often more fun and less lonely – as long as you can find balance and compromise. I’ve been blessed to work with guys such as Headroom, Protoculture, Broken Toy, and Danalog.
Psymedia : You’ve released a couple of Psy and Prog-Psy tracks. Do you think production is the right avenue to really get your name out there? Are there any plans to push production this year?
Feedback : Production is key! With literally everyone being a DJ these days, it’s harder to stand out! Production and music is what separates and defines an artist – and it is definitely a major goal of mine for the year ahead! I have already released with labels such as Iboga and Plastic Park internationally, but sadly my latest track – Not That Neelix Track was rejected by certain Prog-Psy labels due to the vocal samples used were slightly… lets say… controversial. I am still hoping for a release, but probably through a more underground and independent label.
Psymedia : Tell me about the formation of HYPE Media. What do you guys do, and how has the company evolved since its inception?
Feedback : HYPE Media was the company and brand I started many years ago to be the umbrella for all the work, creative and business wise – that operated around me being a DJ. It was a brand to do events, to do design work, to promote club events, etc. The company really evolved over time, and has come into its own with my partner – Sam Allenberg. We now focus on 3 main elements – Events / Marketing / and Artists. We do our own events (such as Labyrinth), as well as provide support on events for other clients (such as Utopia Festival). We market and promote using social media, PR, and traditional methods for companies and brands all over South Africa. From the Artists perspective we book artists for various events and clients. We believe in following our principle of ‘underground passion, combined with commercial sensibility’.
Psymedia : How does ‘underground passion, combined with commercial sensibility’ translate to the Psy culture, where commercialization is sometimes looked down upon?
Feedback : The slogan refers to our ability to be able to throw underground psy events, and to market for mainstream brands! We are without a doubt one of the most versatile companies and brands out there! Specifically to Labyrinth, I guess you could say the commercial sensibility comes in the fact that we treat our events and brand professionally, from top to bottom. We have careful and structured systems for how to plan, run, and promote the events… but underneath it all is the original passion and love for why we started it in the first place.
Psymedia : That’s almost the opposite meaning of the word Labyrinth!
Feedback : The name was originally created because of the venue we started at. Opium wouldn’t let us use the front / normal entrance – because they were worried about having trance at the venue – so we used a secret side door. This led you up a thin stairwell, at the top you went down a thin passage, into a small room with a open air courtyard, from there you would go through another thin passage into the main bar area, to the other side of which was the dance floor. It really felt like you were in a labyrinth!
Psymedia : Labyrinth turns 8 years old this weekend and has moved from Opium, to Bang Bang Club, to Fiction to Rhino Room and has now found home at Trinity. What does a club like Trinity offer, and why do you feel it’s a good fit for Labyrinth?
Feedback : Trinity has all the bells and whistles – incredible Funktion-One sound, multiple lighting configurations, amazing facilities like bars and toilets – and of course – lots of space! We pushed for a long time for the venue to let us do a Psy event, which they agreed to in 2011, and once we got the décor in there – we knew we had found our new home! The parties speak for themselves, having seen the biggest number of fans attend our events – the recipe has worked!
Psymedia : When Labyrinth started out, the indoor (and outdoor, for that matter) scene was very different. Do you think indoor parties have become a bit oversaturated?
Feedback : To be fair, its not only the indoor market that has become oversaturated … the outdoor scene too! Literally every week there is an outdoor happening somewhere – sometimes more than one! The summer season now lasts 9 months – it’s crazy! This leaves only 3 months for an indoor winter scene – and as we can see, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon! Back in the day Labyrinth was one of a handful of indoor events, now we are part of many … it’s up to us to keep our events innovative and to stay ahead of the pack! We take this challenge head on!
Psymedia : So you’d say competition is good, because it pushes you?
Feedback : Absolutely! Competition is essential to ensure that the parties and music keeps standards high, without it we’d all become complacent. Competition should however be fair, especially in a scene that proposes PLUR values – fairness is very important.
Psymedia : In general, do you think the quality of production is high in the Psy scene?
Feedback : The party quality in the Psy scene is excellent! Of course the music sound and style is very different and very unique – coming from Goa origins this would always be the case. The sound systems are fantastic too – it’s just important that they are well managed and run – which these days is almost always the case! The crew is essential! Decor wise – well Psy kicks ass in this regard – and other scenes are now starting to emulate the psy scene for this!
Psymedia : HYPE Media was involved with Equinox Outdoor 2010 as well as Origin Festival and Earthdance Cape Town. Are there any plans to throw an outdoor yourself?
Feedback : With Equinox we were heavily involved with the first event, helping plan and execute the event. For Origin and Earthdance Cape Town we simply helped book & host Friday night events for their weekend festivals. We are certainly keen to do our own event, our own way, but we want to make sure we fit in with the market, so finding the right date and venue is crucial … watch this space!
Psymedia : Will Labyrinth suffer any implications of the Western Cape Liquor Law?
Feedback : The law will effect everyone, so we encourage all patrons to come early to the party – the music kicks off at 9pm, and the line-up is solid from start to finish. Right now we cannot say what the effect will be specifically to us, but we do know that Trinity has applied for a 4am trading license for alcohol – and we are confident we will have it by Saturday! If we cannot sell alcohol after 2am, the party and music will continue right up until 4am! The show will go on! [Update: 4AM Liqour License approved!]
Psymedia : Labyrinth always boasts a stellar line up. Are there any plans to bring down internationals this winter?
Feedback : Our feeling is that our ‘local’ line-ups are of an international standard – with top acts that tour the world and release internationally on a regular basis! We have been looking for overseas acts to come down, but we won’t rush a lame act – just to say that we have an ‘international’ … the artist must add to what we do – and become part of the Labyrinth experience!
Psymedia : What are your thoughts on the inclusion of up and comers for Labyrinth? Do you feel like the scene (as a whole) is doing enough to showcase new talent?
Feedback : When we were a weekly event, we hosted up and coming DJs all the time. We had 2 floors, and a party every week! It is trickier now, with only 1 floor, and 3 events this entire winter season! We are open to new talent, but they are unfortunately competing with the acts at the top, and we always strive to offer only the best for our events! If someone is worthy, we are open to them being included. On the whole I feel that the scene is very open to new talent – more so than other genres or scenes … as there are now many events (both indoor and outdoor) for DJ’s to have a chance on some platform somewhere!
Psymedia : Thanks for the interview! I’ll check you on Saturday. Anything else before we end off?
Feedback : Just to remind people to join my fan page – I will update all new music, mixes, and gigs there. See y’all at the Lab!