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A futuristic take on retro is what D-Code describes of Driving Lolita, an emerging band that caught our attention on the digital universe and from various festivals. We spoke to D-Code about what makes the bands music so vibrant, engaging and how the band got together?

Driving Lolita was conceived because I got bored of the music I was making and, in fact, the way I was making it. Being a Drum & Bass producer and a Radio 1 DJ I wanted to explore areas that were new to me so I traded in my records and headphones for a mic and instruments! I'd always had a passion about live music and I just new whatever this project turned out to be it would have to be performed live.

I was listening to a lot of Rhythm & Blues and Rock n Roll: Velvet Underground, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Dylan, The Clash, Ella Fitzgerald - and through all of that I felt something so natural and organic. I knew that was the vibe I wanted to create - using those lessons of the past and applying them to now.

The first thing I needed to do was to find a guitarist to work with, one who understood guitar music from it's beginnings to now. Through mutual friends I knew Abrar Hafiz of Sonar Fariq, a punk band from the late 90s. He instantly got the idea when I played him the album demos and explained what was going on in my head.  We went to work.

It came to the point where the music needed a voice. We tried a few hundred vocalist friends of mine, but nothing really stuck fast except for the first person I worked with Arrows Down and the last (obviously) Graziella Affinita! She's from a Hip Hop and Soul background but her voice really came alive on the more Punk side of things I was working on. 

It was in the vocal booth one day that the name "Driving Lolita" was born. It came out of Graziella's lyrics for a then untitled song. It's narrative hit the nail on the head. It encapsulated everything the music is about - sex, lust, rush, the excitement and danger of loosing your innocence.

What to you, personally differs when working in a live band and when beavering away in a studio?

Driving Lolita is a studio based project with me at the producers helm, but incorporates all of the elements of working in a live band.  I wouldn't say I've come across differences, it's been more a case of working with the best of both worlds.  I formulated a fine balance between the use of sound technology and live artistry where one never superseded the other.  In an age where technology rules, the aim was to make sure the human imprint remained prevalent as the voice of the music, not the computer.

Your work as been described as "Electro, Doors-ey 60's rock n roll, Stooges Punk and Soulwax beats" and you all bring different styles to the tracks, How would you describe your music as a whole?

The music's core attitude is Punk but has drawn influences from various genres - Blues, Rock n Roll, Punk, Big Beat, Motown, Drum & Bass, Indie Rock.  I definitely hear a futuristic take on retro in there. If that makes any sense!

Where do you get inspiration from?

One of my aims was to explore the roots of rock n roll, so a lot of my inspiration and influences came from the old skool pioneers of the movement - The Doors, The Stooges, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Cream, Jefferson Airplane.  They were artists who created something new for their time.  They instigated a revolution which was a source of inspiration for me. 

The heritage of rock n roll was also very inspiring.  The movement wasn't just about playing music, it was theatre.  Musicians became actors on stage telling their song's story, becoming characters, living out the music on stage.  There was this culturally stimulating aspect to the movement which was new and exciting for its time.  It's something which really liberated my imagination. Saying that, I've never forgotten my own musical heritage.  I grew up on a healthy diet of Hardcore, Jungle and Drum & Bass and have always fed off of the music's unique energy.  There isn't any other genre which can deliver a sonic punch like Drum & Bass can.  It's a cutting edge art form which I always look to for inspiration and education.

What instruments can you each play?

Whatever I need to in order to get the sound in my head coming out of my speakers!  So far that's included drums, keyboard, a microphone and a computer (whether I'm using them correctly is another question) and getting on the mic as a vocalist.  Abrar plays guitars and bass, Graziella sings/song writes and Arrows Down is classically trained pianist, plays guitar and is a singer/songwriter.

Who are your favourite artists personally?

Tough question, good thing I have a list!

As a Dance music lover:

The Boogie Times Tribe
Criminal Minds
Alex Reece
Wax Doctor
Doc Scott
Roni Size
Omni Trio
Origin Unknown
Ram Trilogy
Moving Fusion
LTJ Bukem
Chemical Brothers
The Prodigy

As a Rock n Roll lover:

Primal Scream
The Doors
The Clash
Jimi Hendrix
Jefferson Airplane
Janis Joplin
Dead Weather
The Stooges

As a Soul lover:

Curtis Mayfield
Ray Charles
Ella Fitzgerald

How do you go about laying tracks?

I don't have a set way of starting a track, I find it too restrictive and clinical.  Whatever creates a spark, I run with.  Starting points have ranged from drum rolls I've found on old records to guitar out-takes I've stumbled across in recordings.

If I'm into an idea, I'll usually get the drums, bass and melody written and arranged.  I then get Abrar involved who runs with my melody ideas and provides the gritty guitar layers for that organic sound.  Once I've completed the instrumental we'll do a few vocal versions with either Graziella, Arrows Down or me on vocals depending on who the vibe of the track fits with. 

The way I see it, one of music's primary functions is to elicit a good emotion.  That's what I expect to feel when I listen to a finished track. If the music doesn't perform that function, it will never see the light of day.

Having worked for the BBC, what do you think of the current music industry and representation of Asian talent in mainstream media?

The current music industry is a reflection of our times. We're living in an age where technology and consumerism rules and it's those factors which heavily influence what we make and the way we make it. Whether the music's good or not is down to personal preference, the key thing is that music is an industry, and industries do whatever they need to in order to achieve their primary objectives - support what is popular in order to capitalise on it.  If that ideology doesn't work for you, there's always the underground.

As for being Asian, I think the main point is that mainstream media is there to showcase talent which is universal and not based around ethnicity.  Every Asian artist has a choice to either build their reputation based on their skin tone or their craft. Your heritage will come through in the art you make anyway, if it's honest. If you have a talent you will inevitably be recognised for it regardless of your ethnic background.

As an artist, how has the way you have interacted with fans changed over the last ten years or so?

Artists have to interact with their fans in order to earn their loyalty.  With the explosion of social media, music alone isn't enough of an offering.  It's become more of a commodity rather than an artifact. There's a certain level of expectation from fans to be given an insight into the artist's world as it's the done thing now.  It's tricky for an artist to retain an element of mystery to them if they want to be popular. They have to play the 'open book' card to a degree if they want to keep their fans attention. It's all becoming one big happy family.

What plans do you have over the coming months, festivals, gigs, tracks?

Touring has been the priority this year as we've wanted to perform our material as much as possible.  We've been privileged enough to play some amazing gigs so far including Radio 1's Hackney Weekend and the main stage at Bingley Festival.  We're  going to be touring up until the end of the year with gig dates around London and a five date tour across India!. There are plans to put out more music next year to add to the stuff that's already up to grab on our website.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT (page 73 image)

D-Code - Producer/DJ from Essex.  Grew up on rave music and DJ'd lots on pirate radio and at raves. Met Nerm in 2004 and became a member of Shiva Soundsystem, through which several records were released on Shiva Soundsystem Recordings and Ram Records subsidiary Terrafunk Records. D-Code has toured nationally and internationally, won a Brit Asia Award for 'Best Alternative Act', had a show on Radio 1 alongside Nerm, and has covered shows for Mary Anne Hobbs and Bobby Friction.  He has co-presented alongside Zane Lowe, Annie Mac, Huw Stephens and Nihal
and was Senior Remixer for video game DJ Hero. Founder of Driving Lolita.

Graziella - Singer/Songwriter from Tottenham.  Brought up on a diet of Soul and Blues music and has featured on the Foreign Beggars acclaimed albums ‘Asylum Speakers’, 'Stray Point Agenda' and 'United Colours of Beggatron'. Competed in 2009's X-Factor as part of Miss Frank who got through to the finals. In 2011 toured with DJ Vadim (Ninja Tunes) and his new group The Electric.

Arrows Down - Singer/Songwriter from London. Classically trained pianist and guitarist who has collaborated and performed with artists from the Disturbing London camp, home to Tine Tempah. In addition, works with indie rock band Magna Saga, now known as Crystal Head. 

Abrar - Guitarist and Bassist from East London.  Co-founded punk band Sona Fariq. Signed to Warners (WEA) 1999 and was nominated for Best New British Band at the Kerrang Awards 2000.

Interview by Nardip Singh

Photos courtesy of:
Will Reid Visuals

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 10
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