DJ Dieselboy dubbed “America’ finest” by The Risky, owner/editor of the British Drum ‘n’ Bass Arena Web site, has earned respect for fighting on the front lines of this American subcultural revolution since the early ‘90s, playing every major city and many in-between, and for his surgically precise and devastatingly dramatic mixing skills. In 1998, Dieselboy became the first American nominated for a Global DJ Mix Award. Dieselboy, aka Damian Higgins, 28, shared the award for Best Drum ’n’ Bass DJ with legendary British DJ/producer LTJ Bukem. AK1200, aka Dave Minner, the longest running jungle DJ/producer in the U.S., has called Dieselboy “an icon for American junglists. His talent and likeness have made him the most popular jungle DJ in America.”
“The 6ixth Session,” Dieselboy’ sixth commercial CD release, is his first on Palm Pictures and his first double CD-set. The first disc is a mix-CD compilation of tracks by cutting edge drum ‘n’ bass artists, and includes his original introduction and remixes of two of his own tracks, “The Descent” and “Invid.” In his words, this 15-track stream “starts off very MEGA and ends on a nice uplifting vocal note. It sorta goes EPIC HARD to ROLLERS to INTENSE to VOCAL / DEEP. Nice flow.” It was mixed live in one take at his home studio in Philadelphia in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in early August. The second disc contains all original tracks.
A Pittsburgh native, Damian played drums in his school band from 4th through 8th grades. He became a breakdancer in junior high, learning moves from watching “Soul Train” and going to clubs. “All of that added up to my having a good sense of rhythm and beats, being able to count music and hear musical time,” he says. In his senior year of high school, he DJed a few dances fading between CDs, cassettes and one turntable.
As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Damian threw and DJed two house parties where he met two local college radio DJs. They offered to teach him how to beat-match records at the Carnegie Mellon University radio station, where Damian soon was playing a weekly hour-long radio show.
Going to Internet chat rooms when he started college, he used the name “Diesel.” He discovered that a local graffiti artist also called himself Diesel, “So I made it Dieselboy. Back then I looked like a kid – I was 19, but I looked like I was 14. Also, it reflected my interest in such things as video games and animation.”
In 1994, using borrowed turntables, Damian made a mix-tape called “The Future Sound of Hardcore.” He offered the tape for $5 on rave-related Internet mail lists and sold about 100 tapes. “Through that, people heard about me and I started getting bookings on the East Coast. It was a very slow process that eventually snowballed into my getting flown various places,” which eventually grew to include the U.K., Hong Kong, Tokyo and Israel.
In 1997, Nigel Richards, DJ and owner of 611 Records in Philadelphia, was looking for a roommate, so Damian moved to Philly, became the drum ‘n’ bass buyer for the store, and designed T-shirts and logos for 611.
The following year, he started “Platinum,” a weekly Thursday night event at Philadelphia’ Fluid club, which many well-traveled hardcore junglists consider to be the Premier drum ‘n’ bass club night in the U.S.
Dieselboy’ mix-tapes have long been prized and shared by his fans. His first commercial mix-CD was “Drum and Bass Selection USA,” a compilation for the British label Suburban Base in 1996, followed in 1997 by “97 Octane.” In 1998, 611 Records released Dieselboy’ “SixEleven Mix Series Volume I.”
His 1999 album, “A Soldier’ Story” (Moonshine) was a comment on junglists’ (who often call themselves “soldiers”) second-class status in the scene, relegated to substandard rooms and sound systems, while house and trance DJs took center stage. It also marked his debut as a producer with “Atlantic State,” co-produced with Technical Itch, aka Mark Caro, of Bristol. “System_Upgrade,” released in March 2000, was for Damian the most accurate representation of his sound and style as an artist that he had produced up to that time.
Damian’ successful follow-up singles, “The Descent,” “Invid” and “Render,” on Palm Pictures, reflect the aggressive, high-energy, mind-bending, futuristic style he is renown for. But his haunting, ethereal remix of the Baby Namboos’ “Hard Times,” co-produced with Decoder, aka Darren Beale, another Bristol artist, introduced new depth to his range.
In the relentlessly innovative world of drum ‘n’ bass in which new sounds are turned over rapidly, each of Dieselboy’ albums represents more of a departure than a progression from the last. “The 6ixth Session” is a quantum leap into hyperspace. Dieselboy’ mixing skills still dazzle – he is a DJs’ DJ – but his aural vision has expanded to encompass musical sensibilities exciting not only to the dance music-educated, but also to newcomers. Dieselboy has won many new young fans who first heard him play at massive alternative rock festivals in D.C. (1999 and 2000 HFStivals) and Boston (2000). “The 6ixth Session” rocks as compellingly as film or video game soundtracks, yet solidly translates into the magical dance floor energy he is famous for generating.
Damian’ latest initiative is to unite with friends and fellow pioneers DJ Dara and AK1200 under the logo of “Planet of the Drums” to further promote solidarity in the U.S. jungle scene through various joint projects such as mix-CDs, tours, and original music.
Since the birth of jungle, the U.S. pioneers have spread the gospel of drum ‘n’ bass across the nation, winning converts to the wicked sounds of the U.K. masters. With “The 6ixth Session,” American drum ‘n’ bass boldly and confidently asserts itself on the global stage. Dieselboy and all of the American d ‘n’ b posse stand ready to show the world that the Yanks can kick ass, too.