Truancy Volume 327: Command D

Australian electronic music has exploded into a different stratosphere the last decade, with a number of producers developing some of the most distinctive sonic signatures the scene currently has to offer. Among the exciting newcomers is Command D, a producer exploring all sorts of strands of deep techno minimalism and smoked out, dubby downtempo flavours. Organic textures, mysterious atmospherics and reflective piano lines are all in abundance in his music, and it’s culminated in some wonderful expansive releases on Australian labels such as Pure Space, Body Promise and more recently with his ‘Esc’ record on Kia’s Animalia. We caught up with Charley to chat about his love for the piano, hitting his producer stride during lockdown, his now famous outdoor Park Dub events, and putting out that first solo record release. His Truancy Volume, which finds a perfect balance of introspection and hypnotic catharsis is a deep, stripped-back excursion through gradually unveiling layers of rhythmic tension. It’s a perfect mid-week mix, with tracks from the likes of Head Space, Doctor DUB, and Mercy System ensuring lovers of all things dub, dusbtep, and low-slung steppers are all perfectly satisfied.

Hey Charley, thanks for your patience in me getting these questions ready for you! So just to start, how have you been the last six months? Has 2024 been kind to you so far? Any particular highlights? “Thinking back on it, the last six months have been amazing. I’ve always felt lucky but I’m particularly grateful at the moment. Playing my first two live sets at some amazing festivals, namely Freedom Time in Boorloo and Woodburnia on Gumbaynggirr land, were definite highlights so far in 2024. I’ve also started studying at university for the first time and I’m really enjoying it!”

As it’s your first interview on the site and been a little while since your last one in general, can you just tell us a little bit about growing up in Australia. Have you moved about a lot or has Sydney, Eora Country always been your base? And how did that shape your early love for music or the way you relate with it? “I was born in the city in Eora/Sydney and lived there for about five years. I moved to the Northern Beaches with my mum to see out my schooling years and when I finished high school I moved back to the city pretty quickly. I had been skateboarding competitively for many years and I felt like there was more of a scene in the city. The Northern Beaches is beautiful but I was ready for a change of scenery. My family is my main source of inspiration when it comes to music. My mum bought me the Demon Days CD by the Gorillaz for Christmas one year which I was obsessed with and the first track ID I ever asked for was when my brother Ben played Juicy by The Notorious B.I.G. at my 13th birthday party, haha. I mostly listened to rap music through my teenage years.”

You’re going to have to bear with me on learning the Indigenous names for places as I’ve been doing a bit of a small deep dive after some press releases mentioned you from the Warrang but that all your tracks on your first Clone Dialogue EP were made on Gadigal Land. Just so I’m clear, is Warrang the indigenous name for Sydney Cove and the Gadigal were the Aboriginal people that inhabited this area? “That’s okay!! It can be hard to nail sometimes as there was so many small clans around “Australia” which often overlapped. That’s correct, however I would usually say that I’m based on Gadigal Land in the Eora Nation. Eora is commonly known as the greater Sydney Region. I believe Warrang or Warrane refers specifically to Sydney Cove which would be the inner city.”

When did your introduction to more electronic based dance music begin? Was it more overseas producers you were listening to or were there enough local producers around you that it was easy enough to be inspired from where you were? Or a mixture of both even? “I started listening to house music towards the back end of high school. My friend showed me this Carl Cox mix in Ibiza which I loved (which still goes super hard imo but then that whole group of friends got into Romanian Minimal which I didn’t like at the time. It wasn’t until I moved to the city and started going to my brothers “Heavenly” parties more that I started to really love underground dance music. Ben (Fester) definitely would have been playing lots of local stuff but I had no idea. I was just attending parties for fun and was by myself a lot of the time. I started becoming more interested in collecting dance music when I met a new group of friends that would DJ at kick-ons or afterparties, DJing started to seem more approachable.”

I was reading an interview where you mentioned that producing came as a kind of lockdown project for yourself in wanting a new creative outlet? Was it a proper deep-dive in learning? You must have caught the bug for it a bit having been able to put an EP out of it quite quickly. Can you tell us a bit about that period and do you feel you’ve always had an innate need to create? “Yeah it was definitely a deep dive! I suddenly found myself with all the time in the world to sit at home and tinker away. I was starting to love DJing just before COVID hit and I was getting some gigs. I was pretty bummed to be taken out of that world just as things were starting to happen but I figured I could channel that love into music production. I was just hacking away at it in my own way, watching lots of Youtube tutorials and experimenting a lot. I had never learned to play an instrument so absolutely everything was new to me. I think I have a kind of obsessive personality in the way that when I’m passionate about something I just can’t stop thinking about it. I would listen to music and think “what is that drum sound called” or “what kind of audio effect is being used there”. I’ve always had a creative mind but have never channeled it into something as expressive as music production. It was a challenging undertaking (and still is), but I feel like I’ve unlocked this ability to express myself in way I couldn’t before which brings me lots of joy. The world of music production is truly incredible.”

In a press release for your first Clone Dialogue EP, there’s a line where you thank Russell for providing the pathway to your love for the piano. Russell also did artwork for that first release. Can you tell us a little bit about this love for piano and when and how that exactly came in? Was this before lockdown? “When I opened Ableton for the first time, I saw the piano roll in the MIDI clip and figured “Ahhh, music, the piano, makes sense. I should probably figure that out”. I thought I should learn the basics of music theory at the very least so I wasn’t completely lost when I started working on tunes. I saw Russel say that he was available to teach in a comment thread in this music production group I was in online. I didn’t know him personally but his named looked familiar and I was pretty sure we had mutual friends. I started learning various aspects of music theory at his house. He had a nice upright piano. My new ability to voice jazzy chords combined with the sound of the strings resonating in front of me had me absolutely hooked. Russ convinced me that I could most-likely find a decent upright piano on Facebook Marketplace for free as they last an incredibly long time and are fucking heavy so people need you to remove them from their house eventually. I found a good one which I still have and is special to me. I’m still a complete rookie on the keys but the freedom of improvisation is like meditation to me.”

We hear these piano skills first hand on ‘Align’ right, a track you made with gi, and self-released in 2022. Can you tell us about this track too? Did the track feel like a culmination of this aforementioned piano love? “gi saw me post a video of myself playing piano to my socials and was curious if I wanted to work on a track with her. She had some recording skills, having played in a band for a while. We recorded my upright in a 30 minute live take of improvised chord changes. gi took the recording and chopped out the best part (probably 4 minutes or so of one particular progression) and roughly organised it, preserving most of the natural timing. She sent me the recording along with some pads and textural elements she had whipped up on Ableton. I threw the audio into a new project on my computer and added drums by ear because the piano timing is completely off the grid. Some synth work added some more interest the track and we wrapped it up in about 2 weeks. I’m really into how raw the emotion in that tune feels. Align was a special track for a few people I know and hopefully for a few people I don’t know too. I really enjoy listening back to it, it was a beautiful collaboration and the reason why Jackie (gi) and I made another track together the following year.”

You recently did a series of Ableton Live Workshop classes, how did that go? I wonder if you also learn a lot about yourself thinking and speaking about your process whilst talking to the students. “I loved it! I definitely learnt more about myself through the process too. One funny thing about music production for me is that sometimes I feel like a super genius when I think or talk about it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got all the answers, like I know how to achieve any goal you may have, I just often don’t put it into practice myself. When I sit at the computer to write a track, all of this information seems to escape me, I get lazy and I go back to old habits. When I teach about production, I remind myself of more efficient or professional approaches, recalling all of the information I’ve absorbed over the last five years of being so consumed by it. I think this is beneficial for both my students and myself. I’ve still got a very long way to go with music production but I know how to enjoy myself which I think is important. I have never been confident in my abilities and only started teaching because people were interested in learning from me. I’m really glad that so many people seem to enjoy getting lessons, because I really enjoy teaching. Taking this opportunity to shamelessly promote my classes – if you’re reading this and you’re interested in more info, please hit me up on my Instagram.”

What can you tell us about your Park Dub series? One of the events described it as a ‘free Sunday sound bath on the grass’ and you’re now onto your 7th event after throwing your first one back in August 2022. What’s been the ethos behind these events? “When the lockdown restrictions started to lift in Sydney, my friends that run Translate Sound threw a small house party. I was desperate to get a dance in and remember standing on the dancefloor in their kitchen thinking “wow, this kitchen sounds better than most of the clubs in the city”. They had two top cabinets they had made paired with a pretty large sub and the sound was punchy and crystal clear. The next night at work, I was pondering the idea that maybe one day I could own some speakers that I could share with the community, some that offered the same kind of sound. I hit up Sam and Jackson from Translate with the idea and after a bunch of conversations I basically ended up with some oversized studio monitors (3 way monitors with 10″ low cones, 4″ mid and 1″ tweeter) that came with a 12″ sub. We painted them my favourite colour, a dark olive green and after indulging in them myself for a few months I came up with the idea of Park Dub. These speakers really opened up a new musical world for me. With so much detail to offer, I started to get super into dub and minimal styles of music. I wanted to share the experience of listening to these styles through my speakers so Park Dub became the facilitator of that. It’s a nomadic event, Sydney has so many beautiful parks and I’ve managed to get away with six successful events at six different locations. I’ve also been able to host some epic artists like DE-TU, Versa, Sophie Mcalister and Moktar, as well as a bunch of good friends. The event has become a celebration of dub music and the influence it has had on so many genres. It’s a Sunday wind-down that’s centred around music but offers a sense of connection that’s different to raves. There are people laughing and kicking balls around, picnic rugs with dips and wine, kids and dogs running around on the grass, it’s free and everyone is welcome. The feedback I receive after each one is heartwarming the reason why I continue to do it again and again, it’s very rewarding.”

The Australian music community seems so strong at the moment. Do you think events like this have been a major contributing factor? Are there other reasons why it feels like there’s so much great music coming from Australia at the moment? “There aren’t many events like Park Dub as far as I’m aware. People often tell me “Sydney needed something like this” or “Melbourne needs something like this” haha. I constantly tip my hat to promoters around Australia. It’s such hard work that is so tough on people financially as our government absolutely stitches up the arts and music industries with ridiculous laws and costs associated with running events, particularly larger music festivals. We’ve recently seen the cancellation of a couple large music festivals that were under the pump of the authorities. I think smaller events and festivals are really the backbone of the scene here right now. Open air events AKA doofs often offer the best experiences but warehouse parties and club nights are super important too. Events bring people from our scene together but through the week there are so many brilliant minds making tracks in the studio, piecing together DJ mixes, working on art/visuals, building soundsystems or studio gear etc. I think it’s the passion of these people that really contributes to the thriving scene we have here. We all inspire and support each other. With the internet, we’re also able to be inspired by artists around the globe and share tracks from abroad. Sometimes it feels like a very small scene here but I was amazed to hear from so many people about their love for “the Australian sound” when I was in Europe last year. It might be the small scenes that really foster this unique sound.”

I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone with a better ear for curation than Kia in 2024. Can you tell us what went into producing and releasing your first solo vinyl outing ‘Esc’ with Animalia? The artwork by downstairs J is also absolutely incredible too. “Yeah Kia is a total boss and it was a dream come true when she offered to work on a release for the label. The early Animalia stuff had a massive impact on my development as a producer and although I was shocked when she wanted to do a record with me, it was probably my admiration of the label’s sound that she heard and enjoyed in the music I was making. I worked on that record in 2022 after releasing my first EP with Body Promise and although I still felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I really cared about the music and was passionate about the artistic vision I had for it. I’ve always liked the tracks and it’s cool to have a track with my brother (AKA Cousin) out in the world. Josh nailed the design, it’s definitely one of the reasons it has sold so well. Thanks to anyone that bought a copy : )”

Noticed you have a live set coming up this month as part of the Reasons event in Melbourne. I think this will be your second live performance after your first at Freedom Time Festival back in January. How was the preparation and performance for that, and what have you learnt for the upcoming second one? “This will be the third live set I’ve done. I had four months to write ten tracks as I began working on it when I got home from my Europe trip last year. I had never tried to write that much music in that amount of time but the fact that it was a live set gave me a sense of freedom around the ideas. I let go of the idea of making more defined sections like intros and outros and focused mainly on the drum grooves and key elements that you’d hear out of a big soundsystem. I didn’t waste time with intricate details, stuff like quiet synth effects or drum layers that you would hear in headphones but not at the club. I became more familiar with the hardware that I own and my workflow has changed since making the live set. I’m a little bit more hands on now, which is much more fun for me. I think you learn a lot from doing a live set. Being focussed on the arrangement as you’re performing gives you a better sense of how tracks can or should progress to be functional on a dancefloor. You can take feedback on how the set sounds through different sized soundsystems. Modulating different sounds throughout the tracks and using live effects like dub style delay feedback gives you a better understanding of flexibility while performing or writing music. I got learnt from all these things.”

Your Mode Festival 2023 set is one of my fave DJ set recordings of recent times. Super groovy and rolling and really setting the vibe as a perfect warm up. Did that feel like a special gig? Space looked like such a vibe too. How much digging went into that set and what sort of factors attract you to a record? “Thank you! It was lots of fun. I think because I was given a longer time slot and I was playing first, I wanted to ease everyone into the festival with approachable house and techno grooves. I knew I’d be one of the only artists at the festival that wasn’t sending it above 135bpm. I have a massive collection of house and techno compared to most other dance music genres so I thought it’d be fun to go in and freestyle a little bit. I planned for the start to be deep and dubby but still kind of funky, then I wanted to throw in some local producers. Besides that, I just played some tunes I’d loved for a while or some newer tunes I was into. I didn’t do very much digging at all for that gig because I wanted the mixing to feel natural, more like a long mix with friends. When I am digging for dance music, the absolute most important thing for me is the drums. If the drums are good, it’s a combination of a bunch other things that I love that draw me towards a record. Some of these things are the virtual space or atmosphere that’s created, certain melodic tones or phrases, and the quality of the overall mixdown. It was a great day, I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

What are some of your most memorable nightlife experiences as a dancer in the crowd? “There was a rave in a concrete bunker on a headland called Umami where Ivy, Fabrics and Andy Garvey played. It was raining pretty hard at one stage, I remember everyone huddled in under the low concrete ceiling. The music was dark and energising, I was watching the rain come down on the waves below the headland as a tarp flailed around in the wind behind the DJ’s. I met so many people that night/morning who are still my really good friends, I’ll never forget that night. Hashman Deejay and PLO Man at a warehouse in Sydney was also a really special one for me where I danced until the sun came up.”

How does music fit into your daily routine? Do you regularly listen to music or search for new records? How do you focus your intentions and craft, and how distinct are your roles as a producer, DJ, and music enthusiast? “I listen to music every day but I usually focus on one of these roles at a time. For example, when I’m working on a release, I don’t dig for music very much, and when I have a DJ gig coming up, I’ll dig for music frequently and wont open Ableton very much. I scroll through my Soundcloud feed every day to make sure I’m not missing out on anything and will often listen to mixes or radio shows when I’m exercising or on the train/bus. I’ll always try to find a song that I hear if I like it, especially if I’d use it in a DJ set. I have a couple folders which I constantly listen add and listen to, mostly these are “Dub Electronica” and “Dub Ambient” right now. I’ve recently been listening to heaps of classic Dub Techno too. Besides that, I listen to lots of jazz, I’m listening to jazz right now, haha.”

Can you tell us about three albums that a) define you getting into electronic music in general, b) maybe a midway album when you were fully invested in DJing and and c) a recent album that you’ve especially enjoyed? And what made these albums so special at the time.

Flume – Flume (2012)

Many people will find this funny but Flume’s self titled debut album was probably the catalyst for me when it comes to getting into electronic music. I was sixteen when that came out and already loved hip-hop so the combination of those kinds of beats with stimulating and edgy synth sounds was really appealing to me. He’s from the Northern Beaches too so it was a huge thing in that area during school. I couldn’t grasp any of the production techniques at the time but the modern tools he was using made the sounds stick out so clearly and gave the rhythms a certain drive that brought on a sensation that I hadn’t experienced before.

b) Priori – On a Nimbus (2020)

I think I’ve mentioned this is an interview already but I absolutely cannot go past this one! I remember listening to the snippets on Soundcloud a hundred times over before the actual record came out. This record for me was an artistic display of skill and intention. There is such clarity behind the tracks yet there is so much variation too. I listened to the whole thing in headphones one night when I couldn’t sleep and was blown away by the intricacies. I was starting to wrap my head around synthesisers and mixdown techniques around this time and I think On a Nimbus opened up a world of possibilities.

c) Purelink – Signs (2023)

Pure class from Purelink. This one came at a great time for me. I had been listening to lots of dance music and needed a break for a second. Drifting on soft pads while subtle rhythms carry you forward is a great way to keep any anxieties at bay.

What sort of other hobbies or interests do you have outside of electronic music? Are there any books, films, shows or other things you’ve seen or been reading/watching that you might want to share? “I’ve been pretty consumed by electronic music since I got into it but I love getting outside and doing exercise. Going skateboarding, kicking a ball around, cycling, these are all A+ activities to me. I’m a bit of a simpleton when it comes to books and TV but I just saw Dune 2 which was pretty fresh (the soundtrack is awesome) and I like watching the wilderness survival series Alone. My partner and I just bought a PS5 and have been playing Hogwarts Legacy which is a must do for any Harry Potter fans.”

Could you describe the process of creating this mix? Was there a specific message or feeling you wanted to convey? “Rhythms and sound give me feelings that are very hard to put into words. Just like the way sound moves through there air, there’s a push and pull that gives me energy through tension and release. This mix is mysterious, empowering, hypnotic, playful, powerful, stimulating, cathartic and reflective all at the same time. It’s a bit of a journey and I don’t know what to call it, but I hope to convey that sort of feeling in the mix.”

Last, usual question from us, what was the last thing to put a big smile on your face and when was the last time you had a proper dance? “Probably watching Abbey’s (my partner) focussed face from the kitchen while she was duelling some enemies in Hogwarts Legacy, hahaha. I went to see Jackson’s (AKA Cousin) new live set at a warehouse near my place last weekend! I was in and out but the vibe in there was great and I had a good dance.”

Command D: Soundcloud, Instagram, Bandcamp, Resident Advisor

You can download Truancy Volume 327: Command D in 320 kbps and view the full tracklist on Patreon here. Your support helps cover all our costs and allows Truants to continue running as a non-profit and ad-free platform. Members will receive exclusive access to mixes, tracklists, and discounts off future merchandise. If money is tight however and you’re desperately after any ID, please leave us a comment over on the Soundcloud link and either us or Command D will get back to you :)


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