Despite dreary early afternoon rain Andy Widdecomb aka DeeZ did at Elements Lakewood Music & Arts Festival what he always does - throw down. For the second straight year Andy helped lead a thorough cast of bass musicians into Lakewood, Pennsylvania or BangOn! NYC's raucous camping festival. Elements Lakewood was the first in a string of festival performances for DeeZ. It caught him fresh off his second annual tour with Mickman, which saw the the pair of producers lug a Funktion One sound rig from city to city, into and out of basements and venues, to play their unique roughneck bass music.
Andy grew up in Maine and now resides in Boston. He’s known for hard beats in the dubstep and drum and bass wheelhouse and vicious side-swiping sound design. Beyond the crisp color and sheer edge of his music, what distinguishes DeeZ is his work ethic. He’s what you would call a producer’s producer, admired by his peers for doing all the little things right. His mix-downs are meticulous, his mastering skills continue to improve, and he pays acute attention to detail. “He’s got it going on, and people are going to get hip to it soon,” says Jake Maxfield, a fellow bass producer and Bostonian. “He needs a tipping point. But its going to happen. He’s writing great music and he's working harder on it than anyone I really know. And thats what it really takes.”
DeeZ is indeed one of the hardest working dudes in bass business, and he brought brought the fruits of labors to Elements Lakewood for all to enjoy. Highlights from his set included cuts from his latest EP Strange Matter, fat remixes of Beardthug, Phers and Smigonaut, and an unreleased remix of Tsimba’s “Sendai”. He also brought a killer attitude and left with a great appreciation for the event. “I love the different vibes that are cultivated here,” he said in the cool shade of his campsite canopy as we rested before a much anticipated set from Stickybuds. “This morning going down to the Water Stage it’s drinks on the beach, people are boating around, house music, it’s early and everybody’s vibing. Then you go down a little further to the Air Stage in the woods and people have their hammocks set up. Such good vibes.”
Andy’s been at the production grindstone for years. Besides his talent with the decks and DAWs, he’s got a nascent desire to be involved in event production. “There’s talks in the future of collaborating [with Mickman, whom DeeZ grew up with] on some land, and getting a stage installed there with some Funktions and doing an intimate festival.” The Air Stage was his preferred setting at Elements Lakewood. “Just that little area alone is almost the size of an event that I would like to start off with. Something in the woods; dancefloor, treehouses, installations. That’s where I grew up, in Maine in the woods, so that’s my vibe.”
The producer's appreciation for Elements Lakewood wasn't limited to the stage designs and the diverse vibes. “All the house music at the Fire Stage is so cool. House was the first thing that I really got into. Before I know about bass music, dubstep, or anything like that it was just house music; tech house, minimal house, pretty much anything.” Elements did well to merge different audiences from the house and bass music worlds; two communities that interact less and less these days. “That was uncommon in Maine. I think the scene’s a little smaller there so it’s not big enough for those sounds to separate."
Much to our surprise, Andy floated the idea of a house music side project in the future, or at least a couple house tunes under the DeeZ project. Indeed, four on the floor music with DeeZ sound design would be formidable. But how does he achieve the vicious broken beat grooves that he’s currently rocking with? For one, he’s been utilizing a technique lately that many premier sound designers are keen on, which is to separate sound design sessions from composition. “It’s a game changer,” Andy says. “It allows you to transcend the boundaries of your own imagination. You basically make these long audio samples of bass patterns and filter movements. Then you have this random stuff and you build out the structure of your tune and start placing the chunks of that big audio file. Almost like pieces to a puzzle. Scrolling through these audio files and arranging these little bits, you find things that you would have never thought of.”
We were close to wrapping up our long conversation under Andy’s EZ-Up in the shade of evening outside the West Village at Elements Lakewood when he almost jumped off the inflatable couch to communicate some news he almost forgot. Andy’s been collaborating with Smigonaut on a set of new tunes which the producers anticipate releasing under a new project name. Smigonaut is a bass wizard in his own right whose strength lies particularly in his melodious and learned approach to composition. A fusion of Smigonaut song writing and DeeZ sound design, or vice versa of course, as these gentleman are multi-talented, is a tremendously exciting prospect. What could their combined energies sound like? Time will certainly tell.
Perhaps the simplest but most profound pleasure of Elements Lakewood for Andy was the simple fact of being there. The man works tirelessly and spends countless hours in the studio. Getting out to the music festival is as refreshing for him as for any attendee, he implied. “I always liked music festivals even before I was a producer. But now that I’m getting older and becoming more resistant to going out and partying, it’s good to be booked for something like this and sort of force myself to enjoy the weekend, relax, and see friends. We all need that.” Indeed we do. “We all want to work really hard and achieve our goals, but if you just grind yourself into the ground….” His voice tails off for a moment as a quad rumbles past on the dirt road behind him followed by the voices of happy people. “The breaks are important.”