Bitrok: Taking the Brisbane breaks sound to the world
Bitrok may not be a household name yet, but if you’re tuned into the breaks scene then it’s a sure thing you would have encountered a ball-tearing tune or two from the Brisbane duo of Ryan Dickinson and Ollie Bowler. Building a following in their hometown with residencies at clubs like Family and Empire, as well as their current residency at Breaks & Enter at GPO, they’ve supported some of the biggest names in breaks including Krafty Kuts, Plump DJs, Koma & Bones, A Skillz, Rennie Pilgrem, Elite Force and more. They’ve also toured their ‘Dex n FX’ set through Sydney and Perth, as well as a special ‘live’ incarnation that sees them throwing down their own productions using synths, laptops, FX units and samplers.
As well as their track Digital Rhythm appearing on General Midi’s epic Y4K CD from last year, and an appearance on Ministry of Sound’s Clubbers Guide To 2008, they kicked off 2008 with another big hit – a tour of the UK during the Breakspoll Awards, where they played the Breakspoll Afterparty among other gigs. ITM chats to the Bitrok boys.
Recently you were seen spinning the decks at the Breakspoll after party in the UK? How was that experience? Did you get up to any crazy shenanigans?
Ollie: The awards and afterparty came at the end of a couple of weeks traveling through Scotland, Holland and England – it was an awesome trip! We ended up going to Breakspoll on the last Thursday night, played the afterparty on Friday night then kicked on with our friends until our flight early Saturday morning. We were both struggling a bit by the end still but couldn’t turn down the free ‘taste testing’ of various liquors at Heathrow. I’m surprised we made the flight! Checking out General Midi’s studio was really cool – it’s in a converted bank vault in the middle of Bristol!
08 has already been a very busy year for you, constantly producing music, residing at your usual clubs and a UK tour. Do you get much time to chill at all?
Ryan: It seems like chillout time is becoming a very rare thing these days, I work full time and Ollie studies full time, during the weekends we’re usually either playing or going to gigs and working in the studio whenever we can. Can’t complain though, there’s a lot worse things we could be doing with our time and it never feels like work when doing the Bitrok thing, I think that’s the key to being able to give up so much of our free time to it.
You’ve worked very hard to get to where you are, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt?
Ollie: If you love making music then it’s never ‘hard work’ like any other job might be, but like most things you get out as much as you put into it! Learning to produce can be a hard road as it takes a while to get across all of the basics before you start to make music that inspires you, but putting in the hours makes you progress a lot faster and your music a lot better in the long run.
What would you attribute you success to?
Ryan: I would say an equal mix of 3 things: working hard, I’ve lost track of the amount of mix CDs I’ve sent out to people for free since I started DJing and the amount of emails I’ve sent off to DJ’s and labels with our tunes in the hope that they would even respond back with a positive comment. The second thing is learning the craft of production, both Ollie & I have pretty much had our lives consumed by the obsession to get better at making music and we still have so much more to learn. The last thing would be luck, this you can’t really control but you can however create more chances, for instance Ollie and I met out of chance at the Summafieldayze festival but the only reason we met was because we were both flinging CDs at DJs playing at the same time. If that hadn’t of happened id probably still be trying to figure out how to use a synthesizer today.
Rumour has it that there is a Bitrok album coming up in 2009. Can you give us a sneak peak as to what to expect?
Ryan: Probably the best description would be to expect the unexpected, we have been known for a certain sound up until now which is quite limiting as far as song writing goes, and we really want to break that mould with our album. We’re both into so many different genres of music and want to make sure that comes through while still retaining our own flavour and having an end product that gels well stylistically. Expect a lot of singers and instrumentalists, songs you can sing along to as well as songs that make you nod your head with a dirty look on your face.
Is there anything about the Australian dance music scene that you believe could do with some improvement?
Ryan: It seems to be a very clicky industry, this could be the case all over the world but you really have to do so much to get a look in at some gigs, a lot of people are booked more on the fact that they’re a friend of the promoter or a regular face at the events than their musical achievements. I understand the need for a DJ to get out and help support nights by showing up and saying hello, but I think the emphasis is placed too much on that these days and not enough on simply listening to the CDs that guys are sending in to hear what talents they have to offer.
How do you choose the songs you remix?
Ryan: We basically look for a song that has a solid idea to begin with, a good vocal or instrumental hook. Otherwise it could just be that we really like the label or artist that has approached us, unfortunately we have had to turn a lot down recently due to needing all of our time to work on the album and our own originals so you probably won’t see another Bitrok remix for quite some time. Having said that though our remix of Introspective’s track Submit has just come out on Sinister Recordings, so be sure to check that out (nice plug there hey!)
Being resident DJs in a number of clubs, is there anything that you see on a regular basis that enrages or disgusts you?
Ollie: Haha apart from seeing the odd case of fleuro overkill, I can’t say that I get too disgusted on a regular basis! Maybe if I’m out and I hear that bootleg of The Prodigy mashed up with Enya – both enraging AND disgusting.
Is there any place, event or club that is your dream place to DJ at?
Ryan: Locally, we have both dreamt of rocking the boiler room at Big Day Out for years, so hopefully we can crack that one year soon. Internationally there are so many huge festivals that we would love to play at but I think we would both be grinning ear to ear with a set at Fabric Nightclub in London.
Are there any other genres of music that you take fancy to or draw inspiration from?
Ryan: Yea heaps, we both have our main roots in rock/metal, I personally had a huge influence from Nirvana, Tool and Deftones, but we seriously draw inspiration from and enjoy listening to anything except country music, I still haven’t clicked with that and am not sure I ever will. I believe you are influenced by everything you hear, for instance I’m not a big pop/RnB fan but hearing Timbaland’s beats and production really inspires me to push outside of the regular box & try making simple but effective music.
Keep an eye out for Bitrok’s production work in 2008, and catch them at the following shows…
16th May: Breaks & Enter Residents Party, GPO – Brisbane, Queensland
17th May: Moonbar, Empire Hotel – Brisbane, Queensland
24th May: Halo – Hobart, Tasmania