Dawn Richard aka D∆WN is one of the most electrifying phenomena in the independent music scene. Hailing from New Orleans, currently living in Los Angeles, the queen of pop new wave has been releasing some of the most forward-thinking music of our times. When Dawn is not busy breaking pop star narratives, she loves to play around with Pacemaker and drop some kick-ass mixtapes. Read our interview with the fabulous and super inspiring Dawn while you’re listening to her latest selection.
You’ve recently finished your North American Redemption Tour, how did it go?
Everything went well. We curated a stadium show in small venues, it worked out amazing. Each city brought its own flavour!
‘Redemption’ was the final chapter in The Heart Trilogy. How did it feel to close this circle
It felt like taking a large exhale. I did what I said I would do and with no major machinery. I’m proud of that.
What are you working on currently?
I already have a new album on the way as well as some creative and tech business endeavours.
You came a really long way from working with P. Diddy in Danity Kane to collaborating with Machinedrum in your latest releases. How is your audience keeping up with you?
I have an amazing movement that is open to evolution and transformation. It’s who I am as an artist and I’m grateful they rock with me!
Going independent after topping the Billboard is definitely a ballsy move. What do you think, after trying out both sides, are the biggest challenges and benefits of having control over all the aspects of your work?
I like both sides, I appreciate being my own boss though. I like to have creative freedom to not only perform but work in design, animation, tech and film.
Do you have a dream collaboration you would like to make it happen?
Hans Zimmer would be a dream. I’d like to collab on scoring an independent film.
We will also soon be able to see you on the silver screen as the main lead in Jean-Claude La Marre’s ‘Kinky’. How did you end up in this role and how did you enjoy yourself in this new challenge?
I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone. This was an opportunity to do that.
How do you relax when you’re not doing anything music-related?
I’m always working. Always!
You were born in New Orleans and you’re currently living in Los Angeles. Is there anything you miss from home sometimes?
I miss everything about New Orleans. LA and NOLA are two completely different waves. LA is my work home, NOLA is my soul home.
What are your favourite spots in LA?
Love The Broad, The Last Bookstore and Real Food Daily.
How does a regular day of yours look like when you’re not touring?
Designing set designs, animating for my series, djing for my NTS radio show and yoga if I have the time.
How do you discover new music nowadays? Do you buy records or you prefer digital formats and streaming?
I still buy records, I’m in love with the vinyl sound.
Name 3 artists whose sound you really like at the moment.
Afefe Iku, Kaytranada, Sampha.
Tell us a bit about the selection in your latest Pacemaker mixtape ‘NewSchool’.
I wanted to show love to the different females killing the game. Some indie, some major, all needed.
You’ve been playing around quite a bit with Pacemaker. What do you like the most about the app, what are your favourite features and what would you like to improve?
I love the mixing options! I love that it gives you references on what compliments your picks. I’d love to be able to speed and slow tracks down in the app, really hoping that can be added! 🙂
Three fabulous mixtapes for the perfect love triangle: deep, house and chill!
To quote @proudspark’s description of his own mixtape: “WOW. Just #wow.” This is a spot on summary of just how nifty this mixed bag of goodies turned out. He mixed his own Discover Weekly recommendations from Spotify and let himself be surprised by the results. Push play and let yourself marvel at how easy it can be to have a top notch selection for your mixtape! 😍
Featuring: Borrowed Identity, John Talabot, Yuksek
“May cause an unsafe rise in blood pressure” – warns us @capturingphi. We turned ourselves into lab rats in order to find out the truth and we’re proud to share the results: this mix does what it says on the can! A gourmet selection of the finest deep house delicacies, ready to take you deep down the rabbit hole. 🐰
@ntropy is a producer, DJ and evil doer residing in Melbourne, Australia. He started his mix series when he joined Pacemaker and been blessing us with new episodes ever since! The journey continues with his latest selection, perfectionist as always – deep house and progressive house flawlessly mixed into an hour-long fervent voyage.
Featuring: Hot Since 82, Leon Vynehall, Detroit Swindle, Purple Disco Machine
We have it all covered for you: one mixtape for soothing your spirits, one for lifting them up and one for treating your booty!
Serein is an independent record label based in Wales, the UK. It was founded by Huw Roberts in 2005, focusing predominantly on crossover ambient styles and delicate sounds. Fun fact: the name Serein was taken from a meteorological dictionary, it is used to describe ‘fine rain falling from a clear sky after sunset’. This is exactly how the music sounds too, this mixtape will soothe you immensely.
To find out more about Serein,check out our interview with Huw about running a label, the perks of Spotify and exciting new releases!
How much awesomeness can you fit in 47 minutes? Apparently a lot. @tefoden dedicated a whole mixtape to the legendary Warp Records who’s been serving as the home of some of the best electronic musicians for the last three decades. Fun fact: he even included some other electronic giants (Hyperdub, Tri Angle). Go crazy with this selection that contains everything from Autechre through Burial to M.I.A.
Confession is a music label run by French future house pioneer Tchami. @willvernon created a perfectly mixed selection of the finest tracks released on the label. The perfect introduction! Fun fact: Tchami started using the term ‘future house’ as a tag on his SoundCloud posts which later became recognized in the electronic music industry. Tag your mixtapes, shape the future!
Serein is an independent record label based in Wales, the UK. It was founded by Huw Roberts in 2005, focusing predominantly on crossover ambient styles and delicate sounds. We spoke to Huw about running a label, the perks of Spotify, exciting new releases and of course you can listen to a mixtape as well, exclusively containing Serein releases.
Please tell us a little bit about the birth of the Serein label. One would imagine there are not too many labels specialised in ambient electronica in the Wales region.
Serein was born during a time when I was involved in the free music scene surrounding so-called ‘net-labels’. These were imprints that released music online for free, there was an extremely creative community of musicians, artists and designers involved and I loved being a part of it. You’re right that there aren’t many similar labels here in Wales, and that made the online scene I was a part of even more special – in the early 90s I was making global connections with like minded people all thanks to my PC and modem. I was a member of a group called Miasmah which still runs to this day (although, like us, they now release on CD and vinyl) and later I decided to start my own venture, Serein.
Serein was founded in 2005 and you produce physical releases (CD and vinyl) since 2010. How do you think the need for owning an actual product have been shifting since then, if it has shifted at all?
Well, I don’t think anyone really needs to own physical items beyond practical day-to-day items. CDs and records are luxuries which is why we put a lot of thought into the artwork and packaging of releases. Many people are now happy to enjoy music digitally, either by downloading music or, as is more often the case, via a streaming service like Spotify. Sometimes people are surprised to hear that I’m a fan of digital streaming – for me, the convenience is a major plus point, not to mention the extremely small footprint it has in terms of its impact on the planet. I do believe there’s a balance to be struck though, I don’t want my music collection to exist solely in the digital domain. Sometimes, a piece of music makes such an impact that I want to have a physical copy to keep and to cherish. Something that occupies physical space, that you can hand to someone and say, ‘look at this – isn’t it beautiful?’. The way I run Serein is a reflection of what I look for and enjoy as a consumer.
What do you think are the biggest challenges when running a small, independent label like Serein these days?
In some respects, a record label is a business like any other and comes with the same challenges: continued growth, turning a profit and so on. These are always present and we have to be mindful of them. Other times we might face challenges related to specific releases, for example, dealing with material that’s very difficult to cut to vinyl, printing issues, technical problems with our site and so on. We are always trying to improve every facet of what we do. Identifying problems and finding elegant solutions is a continuous process, one that ultimately benefits everyone.
One big challenge we have right now is integrating a new shop with our website, it’s taking a lot of time but it’s coming together and we’re really excited about it!
You put a lot of focus on the physical releases, both the audio and visual quality of the product. At the same time the label is present on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify and now you have posted a mixtape on Pacemaker too – how much of the original idea of the products gets lost when you’re only looking at them through a(n often) mobile screen?
As I mentioned before I really like streaming services. When I’m in the office, I almost always have Spotify open. I’m really organised with my playlists and I have a pretty big collection of music in my account. I just love discovering new music through it, and of course, when I find something I really connect with I will often track down a physical copy. To be honest, I don’t think listening to music via Pacemaker, Spotify or any other app dilutes the experience. In fact, I really like the idea that someone could be on a train journey somewhere, thousands of miles away from me, discovering the music of Serein as they gaze out of the window. I mean, how utterly futuristic and wonderful is that? That the music we so carefully curate can be discovered in this way is a dream come true in many ways – the idea of that person, sat on that journey hearing our music for the first time and it making an impression – that’s really special. I love the technology that’s available to us now, it’s like magic.
Let’s say someone would love to release their music on Serein. What would it take for you to get interested in a project and eventually release it? What sounds are you looking for nowadays?
I’m not looking for anything too specific, but what gets me interested is music that has its own identity and personality. It doesn’t have to be totally unique or wildly original (I’m not looking for material that totally reinvents the language of music), but it must have something to set it apart. Like other forms of art, creating music is an opportunity to tell a story – work out what you want to say and translate your personal experience into sound. Weave life into your music and people will respond.
You make music yourself under different aliases (Hidden Rivers, Nest – you can hear them both in the mixtape), but you’re lucky enough to release your music on your own label. Making music is not a privilege anymore, so there’s a ton of music going unnoticed out there… what would your advice be to young artists, how can you make yourself heard?
If your motives are pure and you create for the right reasons, the rest will fall into place. Those who are truly creative find ways to be heard – they don’t need my advice, it will happen given time.
This year is going to be an intense one for Serein. What are you working on currently and what could you tell us about the upcoming releases?
Yes, we have quite a few releases in the pipeline and it’s a lot of work organising each one – the best kind of work though! Up next we an album by a Latvian guy who produces under the name Selffish. He’s made a beautiful, delicate album of minimal electronic music combined with acoustic instruments like grand piano and double bass. It’s a bit like some of the music that came out in the early 2000s on labels like Mille Plateaux, City Centre Offices and April Records, but with a sheen and polish that sounds really modern, I think the classical instrumentation helps with that too. It’s called He She Them Us and will be out on April 21st.
There’s more to come after that but we’re keeping those releases under wraps for now. If you’re interested then like us on Facebook and join our newsletter so you can stay up to date with what we’re doing.
You’ve just shared your first mixtape on Pacemaker, containing exclusively tracks released on Serein. What could you tell us about this selection, what should the listeners expect once they push play?
The only way to get to know us is to listen. Expect a slow pace, romance, some pretty melodies…
We have selected three mixtapes that are rather different from each other but have two things in common: they are all awesome and they cannot wait to be played!
Drowned in Sound is a UK-based music website/community/label founded by Sean Adams in 2000. They are focusing on a variety of quality sounds from electronic music to pop and rock (and oh, so much more!), and they have published interviews with everyone from Björk to Paul McCartney. If someone knows what’s the hottest music out there, @seaninsound is your man. He created a special mixtape for you to dig in – highly eclectic and full of surprises. Let yourself swoon over this excellent selection!
Featuring: Banks, Janet Jackson, Four Tet, Nine Inch Nails, Nicolas Jaar
We have to admit: @the_evangelist has converted us to faithful followers by preaching excellent stories with his mixtapes. He blends tracks we would’ve never dreamt of being mixed together (Ennio Morricone and Starboy? Wow!) and he does it in the most captivating way. He also brings the most out of Pacemaker, chopping up and repeating tracks has never been more fun.
Featuring: The Weeknd, ZAYN, Kiiara, M.I.A., Major Lazer
Cheers to @billionbeatz for creating this epic sonic journey through the realms of techno and tech house! It’s delicate and candid, raw and melodic at the same time with dream transitions that teleport you straight to a dark, underground club where no one can guarantee what comes next.
Featuring: Dave DK, Kölsch, Audiofly, Dominik Eulberg