The last two years have been instrumental in the career of young techno artist Dean Jones. Hailing from Cape Town, D_Know began etching his mark on the electronic music scene in South Africa with a string of prime releases from his Knowledge Recordings label, as well as bringing some of the world’s finest techno acts like DVS1, Anthony Parasole and Makam to the country.
Quickly becoming a mainstay in the local scene, the 26-year-old’s dedication brought him the attention of brands like Do Work, TOY TOY and most recently Berlin label Konsequent Records, as well as a plethora of features from music blogs around the world.
But in recent weeks, D_Know announced the next phase of his creative journey, starting with a rebrand of his alias to Deano, and his label to Knowledge Imprint.
We chat with Deano to find out more about this subtle yet imperative shift.
How has the last year been for yourself as a young, promising DJ and as a label owner?
It has been quite a rollercoaster. Many great things have happened but it has also been a particularly reflective period for me. I’ve had a lot of time to think about decisions I’ve made in the past and how I can use those as learning curves to build a stronger path for the future. Given that, I feel a lot clearer about the direction I want to continue moving in – so, the graft continues!
Your D_Know alias accomplished a lot in a short space of time. What prompted you to change your alias?
Personally, I see it more as a transition or shift rather than a full ‘change’ so to speak. The intention was never to disregard and totally disconnect from the work I put into the ‘D_Know’ project, but rather to build upon it and make the necessary shifts that would put my mind back on a path that I feel positive about. The first few years of my career felt like the ‘learning phase’, whereas now I feel like I am at a stage where I am more focused than ever and have a much clearer understanding of what I want to achieve. The transitioning of my alias is simply symbolic of that and also allows me to feel refreshed and re-energized.
You’ve announced a relaunch party coming up soon. What do you intend to do with rebranded Knowledge Imprint?
Similarly to the shift made with my alias, I have decided to do the same with my label. Knowledge Recordings (the first iteration of the label) taught me a great deal. I put out 11 digital-only releases within the period of a year or so, which took a lot of passion and energy. With Knowledge Imprint I basically intend to slow things down slightly and be more careful with the way I curate things. It will still be a platform for my own productions and for other young artists of personal interest, however the key thing is that I will be spending a lot more time with the A&R process rather that trying to keep to a crammed released schedule. In addition, I will be doing vinyl releases with each digital release, so this is a new terrain for me. Given the complexities of the process, it also pretty much forces me to be more careful with the music I put out, which is a limitation that I like and effectively need.
Your latest EP Alternation has enjoyed strong support from techno heads around the world. What has it been like producing under your new moniker?
Yes, I am really happy with the feedback so far! The process actually kind of happened in reverse. Whilst still operating under the D_Know moniker I was writing a ton of new music that just felt more mature and focused. The flow of ideas felt good and this essentially gave me the green light to start implementing the transition. And with the great responses from the debut EP, it makes me feel like the decision was right and that I can continue with less self-doubt, which I believe will ultimately lead to stronger music.
How did your release on long-standing Berlin label Konsequent Records come about?
Over the past few months I have been making a point of digging for a lot of 90s and old-school techno. I really love the grittiness and groove of a lot of the tracks and they generally inspire a lot of my current production. I had already heard a lot of the new stuff from the Konsequent catalogue, but when I looked at the their back catalogue I was simply blown away! The label has such a rich history and they have been a platform for many veteran artists that I look up to. I was sitting on an EP demo that I thought would suit their current direction. I have also made a point of being more selective with the labels I send demos to. Konsequent just felt right and clearly they agreed.
The legendary DVS1 has headlined two of your Knowledge parties in the space of a year. What about his sound make it imperative for you to have him in SA?
Zak is a special guy. To host him once was a treat, but twice is an honor! The thing about Zak is that despite being an absolute top-tier DJ and producer, he is also an amazing person with a wealth of knowledge (excuse the pun). I’ve learnt from experience that booking international artists for shows in South Africa is a particularly risky and costly business. So, these days when I book an international artist it is not simply about their ‘sound’, but rather about the total package. If an artist expresses a strong desire to make the booking happen and make the necessary compromises then I am more than willing to make compromises too. There is nothing more soul destroying than putting huge amounts of passion, time and money into bringing an artist only to find out that he/she doesn’t even care about being there. In Zak’s case he ticks all the correct boxes and I believe he also delivers the kind of music that I would like clubbers in my city to hear.
DVS1’s visits have also allowed you personal time with the Hush/Mistress head-honcho. What have you learnt about dance music and the industry during your time with him?
Man I could literally write an essay on this! Since the first time I hosted him I have bounced many ideas off him and asked for tons of advice. If there is any artist that has really ‘done it all’ it would be him. From throwing events, to owning club spaces, to running labels to touring on an insane schedule much of what he does is what I aim for in the future. So, when booking him for an event you are not simply booking a ‘DJ’ but you are also booking an encyclopedia (which is really great!). And for a young artist like myself (and my colleagues) this is an absolute treat and we are always left feeling inspired once all is said and done!
What is your dream venue to play at?
I think the obvious answer would be Berghain. To my knowledge there is only one South African-born artist who has done it so far, that being Brendon Moeller/Echologist. There have been a few more at Panorama Bar, but not nearly as many in Berghain. So yeah, I think that’s a big challenge for the future! Besides that, Tresor in Berlin is another one. I have had some other DJs play my music there, so it would be nice to one-day play there too. They also host really cool nights called ‘New Faces’ which give a platform to rising artists – so who knows? Maybe there will be an opportunity. Outside of Berlin there are many other phenomenal spaces like The Block in Tel Aviv, Das Werk in Austria, Club Zukunft in Zurich and Concrete in Paris, all of which I have experienced first hand and would love to play at!
What can we look forward to from Deano and Knowledge Imprint this year?
Well, the second release on Knowledge Imprint has already come out of mastering so that will be scheduled for release on vinyl and digital in October. Next month I will be hosting the (re)Launch party, and in October I will be hosting another international artist at Mødular. Thereafter, my events will occur once a month at the club until the beginning of next year. The release schedule for the label is also already full until the beginning of next year, so yeah, busy busy! I also have another 2 EPs on international labels which will be out in the course of the next month or two!
Which artists should we keep our eyes on this season?
Locally, I am a big fan of Vicmari. I think he has an amazing ear for slick, dubby house music. I really love all the stuff he’s sent me. Also on the house front there’s Deep Aztec. He’s solid guy and an even more solid producer! My homie JED of the Vault collective is also building up his production repertoire. Paz Shina is another young artist in Cape Town who has really been honing is production skills and I really like what I’ve heard so far. In Johannesburg there is Sensus, a production duo focusing on really deep, atmospheric techno. They are still young in the scene, but I feel that their passion for learning and improving is authentic. I’m still firmly keeping an eye out for local female techno producers/DJs who are pushing something unconventional. The closest I have found to my tastes is Rose Bonica who is doing some really experimental and idiosyncratic stuff worthy of mention! Internationally, I have been working closely with a young Serbian artist Rèdacs. His stuff is totally up my alley and there is some really great stuff to come from him!
Tell us something people don’t know about you.
People may not know that I actually have a degree in Fine Art from UCT/Michaelis School of Fine Art. I specialized in painting, but needless to say I haven’t had time to practice post graduation. At the moment I also work for an Educational Technology company. I do their website design and management amongst a bunch of other marketing and design related stuff. Music doesn’t quite put bread on the table yet, but at the same time it’s nice to have different things going on in life.
Knowledge Imprint (re)Launch takes place on September 21st at Modular. Details here.
Follow Deano on Facebook