Eric Yo reached out across the pond to chat with fellow graphic designer and former DJ/Promoter David Droneboy. The two kindred spirits discussed musical and artistic inspirations, falling into graphic design, life changing encounters with High Contrast and Goldie as well as Droneboy’s 2 clothing labels.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your label Droneboy Laundry Co.?
Hi i’m David, I’m a freelance graphic designer from Cardiff, Wales, UK. I decided that I was going to try to do life my way at a young age and intertwine my love of music and art even though I have very little natural talent in either. I was going to take no shortcuts, learn the field from the bottom up, take very little jobs that I didn’t want to do, live and breath the culture I was to immerse myself in. I think drum and bass keeps a hold on me and never quite lets go of me. I started promoting drum and bass nights to pay me through my education, never really used my education but used a lot of my promoting skills. I have now left that life behind me (if you ever can) and now concentrate on my clothing labels ‘Concrete Junglists’ and ‘DroneBoy Laundry’ trying to sell them all over the world, slowly we are succeeding.
How did you get into design?
I fell into it. I started a night with a couple of friends Lincoln (High Contrast), Gareth and myself, even that was an accident. We all got into an altercation at our favorite club (not our fault, it never is haha) which led us to being banned. We felt hard done by, so to get back at them we decided to start our own club night. A bar a short distance away had a basement they used as storage, we knew, so we asked if we could have it off them on Friday nights. A lick of paint, some lighting gels and a rented sound system later, we had a club. The night we christened Neuropol went well really well, to the point where the next time we stepped into the club we were banned from was to DJ. My secret was I hated DJing, I would play the songs that I wanted to dance too, I love music for the mystery, its magic to me, so DJing and producing isn’t for me, I don’t want to decode music, like I do graphics, its for my downtime, my pleasure. So to take time off from behind the decks, I took the role of marketing and design, so I could have more time on the dance floor. This was the start of my graphic design career, no college no university, just finding my own way.
Who are some of your influences and inspirations in both the past and present?
One of my greatest inspirations is Shepherd Fairey, I became aware of his work around 10 years ago when he had the BLK/MRKT with Dave Kinsey, I was blown away with the application of graphic design, art and the street, It led to so many possibilities. He opened the door to putting graphics on the street for me, before that it was somewhat frowned upon by traditional graffiti artists and I guess to some extent it still, is but has formed a movement of its own. Today he is bigger than ever, I wish I had invested instead of being a fanboy all those years ago, Shepherd has not only conquered the street, but fine art and the streetwear world. I can be nothing but in awe of him and his career, you see all kinds of people rocking Obey now, my mum even has the cap.
How and when did you discover Jungle/Drum N Bass? Who are your favorite producers? What are your some of your favorite albums or tunes?
I was a punk rock kid growing up, Rancid, NOFX, Pennywise and my skateboard was everything. I used to go to my cousins house and i’d be the black sheep as they would be listening to happy hardcore. One day they played ‘Incredible’ that moment was like finding out I was gay (nothing wrong with being gay), but like i’d been in the wrong tribe, what I was hearing was incredible (excuse the pun). I tried to block it out and managed too until college. I was on the bus home and this kid got on, he walked up the aisle with a ‘No Doubt’ tee, as he came past I said “nice tee I love No Doubt” he said he didn’t know who they were, this started a debate about how you could wear and band t-shirt and not know them, he explained he didn’t like music and didn’t own any albums. This blew my mind, I made it my mission to take him out and show him music. A few days later we were in college and a friend played us J Majik ‘Arabian Nights’ both of us were hooked, i’d found drum and bass again. The kid who I met on the bus turned into High Contrast. We spent our college and university years DJing and putting on parties. I guess thats how my journey into drum and bass started.
Droneboy’s Top Five Favorite Albums:
- Goldie – Timesless
- High Contrast – High Society
- Lynx and Kemo – Raw Truth
- Shy FX – Diary of a Digital SoundBoy
- Roni Size Reprezent – New Forms
You seem to be most known for your work with Metalheadz, can you tell us about your relationship with Goldie and Metalheadz? How it came about, How long you have worked with them, Most memorable moment?
As a drum and bass promoter I had booked Goldie a couple of times, but our relationship was very much promoter and DJ, my job was just to make the logistics of his job as seamless as possible, I never thought that he took much notice. One day whilst I was at the computer designing, I had a phone call from an unknown number, i’m not sure why I answered as I never answer them, I said hello and took a swig of orange juice’ “Hello, is this Dave, its Goldie, I love your artwork”. All the orange juice, out my mouth, all over my computer. Holy Shit. Today I still feel uneasy about designing for Metalheadz, they are such a massive influence on me, from Goldie, to their logo, the ethos and of course the music, no label is like Metalheadz, no matter how much work you do in the industry you can’t be Metalheadz they have an aura about them. My favorite phone call from Goldie came whilst I was buying a Henry Hoover in Argos. “Dave, Goldie, You wanna design our collaboration with Stüssy”. Henry Hoover dropped to the floor. I didn’t even dream of that phone call, it was so unobtainable. If your a designer reading this, I got kicked out of art class as I wasn’t good enough, never give up and never let anyone tell you what you can’t do.
I did the same thing as you. I spit my coffee on my keyboard when I heard I had an opportunity to work with Shepard Fairey on a small project. I know for me coming up with designs on the regular can be difficult. Do you have a design process?
No, there is no process, just a daily fight, sometimes i’m up for the fight, sometimes i’m not, but its always a fight, nothing comes natural to me.
You have worked with the likes of, Redbull, Stussy, Metalheadz, Ram Records, David Rodigan, Digital Soundboy, Hospital Records, in addition to having your own label Droneboy Laundry Co. Is there a particular project or piece that stands out most in your mind?
All of them stand out, i’ve never taken anything for granted. I’m always amazed that some of my favorite labels are drawn to me. RedBull for the freedom they gave me, they showed me the wall and said do your thing, just don’t mention Redbull, that was the best brief ever. RAM were similar they were interested in giving you your creative freedom, but on the flip working with people like Goldie, they turn into mentors to you. You are being lead by a teacher, Goldie is someone that if he engages you, thats it your in, you get phone calls every hour of the day with ideas and tweaks, the guy doesn’t stop, no wonder he took up yoga. The piece that really stands out though is the Metalheadz x Stüssy collab, that was a marathon, the one tee turned into four tees from the different Stüssy chapters and a limited edition skateboard deck. I came away with so much more knowledge and knowing that my designs hung on the racks of Stüssy Japan is something nobody can take away.
Any projects coming up?
The project i’m working on at the moment is ‘Concrete Junglists’ When I stepped away from promoting four years ago, that was my line in the sand to start afresh, push DroneBoy Laundry as a clothing company and design agency. But like the monologue in Apocalypse Now says “When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle”. Its in my bones, they are my people, my tribe, when I work within this culture its not like its work. Everything I do has to have meaning or legitimacy and ‘Concrete Junglists’ the streetwear label, is streetwear at its most legitimate. So many labels are doing streetwear for the sake of streetwear or having Hundreds or Supreme as their entrance point, to me thats just noise, if you are not part of a street tribe and haven’t come from that place then your foundations are weak. I feel like i’ve done my time at street level in this culture and climbed up to work with the best, its now time to branch out and write my own page within this culture before its too late.