Derek Anthony Williams is the lead singer and performer with Jan Doyle Band and also the hard working and energetic man behind Doncaster Electronic Foundation (D.E.F.) who put on a whole range of gigs and also a weekly podcast. An expert in retro synths and emerging electronic music, I decided to catch up with him about his fascinating background and also extensive plans for 2018.
What were your first experiences of electronic music?
Electronic music has been there all my life, having grown up in the 80s it’s formed some of my earliest musical memories. I’ve had the Four from Toyah 7″ pretty much since it came out and in effect it’s been on constant rotation (ahem) all my life. It might not be what you would instantly call electronic but Adrian Lee’s synths play a huge role in creating the other worldly sounds that have always fuelled my imagination. So it’s not really a case of first experiences as such, it’s been there all the time just like the air we breathe. You don’t think about it you just take it in and it keeps you alive.
So when did you first start playing electronic music?
If you count home keyboards then around the release of the Yamaha PSS-680 which was 1988 – I count it as it had a basic FM synthesiser built in. I started composing music on that first, in a simple way. Then in the 90s I learned music programming on the Sinclair spectrum via the soundtracker program which taught me a lot about both sound synthesis and being minimal in composition. You were limited to three channels of notes but each one could also produce white noise to combine melody with percussion.
I moved on to the Amiga and started composing with samples on Octamed. We had loads of sample discs where the samples were from who knows where and putting them together was fun, but then so was taking samples of Siouxsie, The Sisters and the Human League and arranging new songs that way.
Rit-C came along shortly after with a few analogue synths and a drum machine that happened to be bought cheaply and we started recording stuff live onto cassette tape. It sounded dreadful and not really like music but I still have a certain fondness for those odd 10 minute experiments.
Jan Doyle Band started recording ‘live’ the next year with Duncan Timiney and his brother Alex Timiney. We didn’t use synths but we did use a casio home keyboard for drums and melody. That was really simple stuff too; typically drums, bass guitar and vocals. The album got called ‘The Axis Syndrome’ it’s barely listenable lo fi but is online if you look for it. Synthesisers crept in more and more later into the sessions and became pretty much a constant part ever since.
Tell me about your current projects?
My insurrectionary neo futurist Jan Doyle Band still exists and has quite a lot of gigs lined up for this year. This is my excuse to brush my hair up all big and put make up on my face like my idols Siouxsie and Toyah. The sound generally tends toward the darker side of things and I like to feel we always put on a spectacular show. We’re playing The Beehive in London on the 24th Feb with Dicepeople, Ditsea Yella and Legpuppy, then The Mulberry in Sheffield on the 10th of March with Cynthia’s Periscope, Amerekat and The Webb, but there’s a lot more to come including one in collaboration with AnalogueTrash at the end of June. Details can be found on the JDB Facebook page.
These gigs are also promoted by my electro promotion D.E.F. under which banner I also do a weekly podcast/radio show on Mondays at 8pm. I mostly play the newest and most interesting electronic based music from around the world. I also perform improvised music with all my synthesisers under the Voltage Controlled Music name with Mat Handley of Pulselovers. And I record under the name DEFILE with Julie Thielen which is a more goth experimental project. There are other incarnations too which can be found in various places. I like to keep myself busy.
This year also represents 5 years of D.E.F. live shows and we’re celebrating with a special hugely diverse line up of electronic bands on the Sunday of Tramlines at Mulberry in Sheffield. Kicking off around 1pm Sunday 22nd of July. Due to the nature of the Tramlines, the gig is free entry but we’ll be running a voluntary donation system to try and support the artists kindly donating their time to make a really special event. Also I’ll exclusively reveal that we’ll have a special headline set from the spectacular Vieon on this day. But truly there will be a huge number of astonishing artists playing this event, I’m ridiculous excited about it.
I’m also interested in your insights into modern music technology. What do you see as exciting developments for electronic musicians at this time?
The way in which modern synthesisers are available at ridiculously cheap prices for what you get is wonderful. It’s more accessible and affordable than ever before to get some cool and portable equipment. These instruments would have been over a thousand pounds (equivalent at least) when synths and drum machines first came onto market. Things like the Behringer Model D. We’re seeing it a lot at your electronic music open mic nights both laptops with digital studios and also these miniaturised synths and sequencers are proving very popular. I think one of the things I’ve seen most commonly that is revolutionising music now are is the launchpads and equivalent matrix based devices. I’ve never used one myself but it seems clear they are allowing artists a new exciting freedom of expression without them having to spend their life savings. Ultimately it’s the affordability of the technology is making it more accessible than ever.
You work really hard on these endeavours so I think the last question, and it’s a question I often ask myself, is why do you do it? You know, what’s it about in the end?
Well the thing is I can’t seem to stop getting hugely excited about new music all the time. I absolutely believe, as I’m sure you do, that there’s huge amounts of talent out there and I want to try and make other people aware of them. I want to get other people as excited about current music as I am. I like to think I’m a good ally to have as if your music excites me, then I will almost certainly plug it to several of the other radio DJs that I know.
So this is a cause I believe is worth fighting for in at least that we need to stop the pubs being full of landfill indie, aggressive blokey punk bands, shouty metal bands and covers acts. There’s NEW and exciting music out there and it needs our support and I’ll try my hardest [added a little]to both put on gigs and go to ones organised by others [end of addition] to get it successful. Admittedly, it’s hard to do sometimes and I have lost a fair bit of money on some of my risk taking on occasions. But the thing is I can’t seem to help being drawn back in by yet another crazy idea of an event or being excited by someone new. It’s a mission and it’s not quite accomplished yet… come on everyone and surf THE NEW WAVE OF WAVEFORM. Or something.
Thanks Derek! For up to date information on Derek’s music and music news follow these links: