Lost Tribes – An Interview with Dunk

This week we were lucky enough to have a chat with one of the past year’s most prolific producers in the drum and bass scene. After building a hugely successful career with his brother as one half of Jam Thieves, he has recently moved onto solo production with some outstanding results. We found out a little bit more about João Neto and what he has in store for us in the future.

To start things off, could you give us a brief introduction on yourself and how you got into dnb?

I’m 34 years old from São Paulo, Brazil. I live in the north of São Paulo and my first contact with DnB was still in adolescence, when a neighbour listened and I didn’t even know what style it was; but since the first time I felt a bass that make me shiver I never stopped listening and today I work with it…

I think a lot of people out there can identify with that feeling! What was the dnb scene like when you were growing up in Brazil?

Apparently, I believe that something more explored was stronger than today. Dnb is a very particular sound, it gets to be specific and I remember that there are more references, in addition to a bigger scene at the time when I grew up.

Do you remember the first party or rave you went to?

I don’t know if I remember the first one exactly, but I certainly remember the one that most impressed me, which was the Skol Beats festival in São Paulo, held every year at the Interlagos race track. It was a dream to be there and hear that sound, until today I can remember all the sensations, from getting the ticket to actually entering the festival.

Most people out there will know you best as one half of Jam Thieves, but recently we’ve seen you switch back to solo production. What made you want to start making some music on your own?

Freedom. What made me want to go it alone was freedom… Once I saw a phrase that said about going it alone, where you chose whether that was loneliness or freedom and that’s it for me. Suddenly I was charging myself a lot, full of ideas and with a lot of desire to keep working, so I have to go it alone to understand better. Me and myself, freeeeee.

That’s certainly understandable.

After listening to your latest release on CIA, it seems that you still have that signature style you call “thief music” running through your solo production. However, it does feel that your recent releases lean more towards the tech-step side of dnb rather than the more jump-up sound you’ve been known for in the past. Do you intend to get more experimental with your style of production as a solo artist?

Without a doubt, this is what I talk about freedom, complementing even the previous question. I want and will explore other sides and other sound options and I feel prepared for that. I have been working hard, every day, looking for ideas and news to produce. Alone, I feel more willing and with more time to do new things. and of course I love thief sound hahahah

You’re definitely not alone there!

On the topic of different production styles, you also had a few releases as Dunk back in 2010-2011 which were more in the House/Trance spectrum. Was this something you were into back then?

Yes, but in 2010-2011 I was totally focused on Jam Thieves and I never imagined that one day I could produce alone.

Do you make much music in that sort of style nowadays?

Yes, because it is actually my essence. It is where I came from, it is where I started and it will always be my base as a reference. Even if I explore and produce with different sounds and techniques, I believe my base will be the same.

Let’s talk a little more about your solo work, starting with the name Dunk. Where did that come from? Are you a Basketball fan?

I like to watch sometimes and I especially like the style, but my intention with Dunk was something that was a good shot, you know? A basket, an arrangement that changed everything and changed the points in my favour…

Interesting! I think artist’s names can often be thought of as arbitrary, but it’s good to know the intention behind it.

You’ve been very prolific as Dunk already in 2020, with a string of releases on some big labels. Has everything that’s going on in the world been a big factor in your high volume of production?

Certainly, I stayed at home for 40 days because of the quarantine and it was 40 days of non-stop production. My wife even joked that it didn’t even seem that we were combined in the same house, it was as if I had gone out to work normally, because she didn’t even see me. I started producing in the morning and only stopped at night. This time was dedicated because of everything that happened in the world and it was still a way to practice my mind for something positive, in the face of all sadness and fear.

It’s great to find some positivity from the tough times we’re experiencing.

It certainly still seems like we’re a long way off returning to normal here in the UK. How are things out in Brazil? Is there any sign that you might be able to play some music to a crowd anytime soon?

Many things have returned to normal here in Brazil, but shows and festivals have not yet. Everything is progressing little by little, it releases one thing and the other does not. Honestly, I can’t see a prediction of when I’ll be able to play a sound for a crowded crowd. I hope that very soon… Here in Brazil and around the world.

I couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of DJ’ing, I know you and your brother started as DJ’s before you began producing. What kind of equipment were you using when you were perfecting your DJ’ing skills?

Hard question hahaha. I had a pair of CCE turntables and a mixer but I don’t remember which one it was. Things were much more collapsed and not as simplified as today, but I still worked.

Haha, DJ’ing has certainly changed a lot since then.

Did you start out playing drum & bass records, or something else?

I didn’t start with drum and bass, I had some house and tech house records and I spent years mixing the same thing to learn. Good times.

Would you say your main passion now lies in the studio, or is it still playing to crowds that gives you the most excitement?

I‘m really happy to be producing and I think that this has always been my biggest goal, you know? But seeing people enjoying my sound and shared energy is something I never forget. I remember every crowd, every party I’ve ever played, because it marks me a lot, so I think that both things are equally important.

I guess the combo of playing your own tunes to a crowd is the ultimate buzz!

On the topic of your production, I have read that some of your big influences growing up included legends like James Brown and Stevie wonder, as well as 90’s hip-hop icons like biggie and 2-pac, but what sort of music do you find inspires you now?

Well , I think my references continue, I confess. In fact, it’s hard to find something like that, you know? There is a lot of amazing stuff being done, actually today! But as incredible as it may seem, I continue to be inspired by the same roots.

I definitely know what you mean there. It’s easy to find yourself drawn back to the old school tunes.

Could you give us a few artists, dnb or otherwise, who you’re really feeling at the moment?

The scene has a lot of good guys doing an excellent job, I’ve been doing some collaborations, I’ve been scared by the ideas of these guys… I’ve been enjoying a lot in the last few months.

Sounds like you have some exciting things in store for us!

You treated us to an incredible EP on CIA that dropped a couple of weeks ago, is there anything else we should be on the lookout for from you in the near future?

Many things! In the last few months I signed with all the labels that I always wanted to work with, I will keep a surprise hahaha. I want to thank everyone who has followed my work, a shout to Smithy and Quiff. I made this EP with a lot of affection and without a doubt my best work so far. Big love guys respect.

We’ll definitely be keeping our ears to the ground! Thanks so much for chatting to us. Big up!

Head over to C.I.A’s bandcamp to grab a copy of Dunk’s latest EP.