You don’t fend off foes again and again on your way to become a 12-time beat-battle champion by faking it — and Dibia$e is definitely not faking it. Known at one time as Diabolic, the hugely respected West Coast veteran (whose current moniker is a homage to Ted Dibiase, aka the WWE’s Million Dollar Man) has been honing his craft for over two decades, beginning in his high-school days when his gear consisted of an eight-second Gemini sampler and a Sony Walkman. Along the way, he’s released music — a blend of funk, hip-hop, soul, 8-bit and whatever strikes his fancy — on a diverse array of labels that includes beat-scene ringleader Daddy Kev’s Alpha Pup, the iconic hip-hop label Fat Beats and his own 10 Thirty Records. His tunes are seemingly simple, but intricately layered and arranged, with a rhythmic template that can veer from glitchy to neck snapping to creamy, sometimes within a single track.
Dibia$e’s production technique has long been associated with MPCs and the Roland SP404. But in reality, the Green Llamas member isn’t wedded to those iconic products, nor any others. “Each piece of gear has its own identity,” Dibia$e believes. “I use different combinations of gear. Sometime during the process, I come up with new workflows. I wouldn’t say I’m attached to any certain machine. I use them all. Maschine, Push, MPC, SP12, Ableton, Reason… my arsenal is really endless. And I’ve always had the ability to learn every machine put in front of me and also incorporate into my production style.”
I always give it try” — Dibia$e
Which leads us to Novation’s latest groovebox, Circuit. As you might expect, Dibia$e knows how to rock that box with confidence and ease, switching between rhythms, sounds and modulations to create a succinct slice of sonic magic. He first came across Circuit at a beat battle that his nephew participated in. “They had some workstations with the Circuit set up at the battle. Whenever I come across new gear, I always give it try.” And it was love at first hands-on experience. “After I had a chance to mess around with it for a bit,” he says, “I thought to myself, ‘I need one of these.’ I was immediately impressed with the stock sounds, especially the synth engine. I also love the feature that allows you to put multiple chords on one pad.” It didn’t take his long to figure out now to squeeze the singular Dibia$e style out of Circuit. “After sitting with it for a little while, I was able to achieve my signature sound with a few workarounds. It’s a powerful little tool.”
Prior to the release of the Components suite (which added sample import, a patch editor, cloud-based backup and more to its tools) Circuit’s built-in limitations appealed to Dibia$e — after all, this is a guy who was able to bend an eight-second sampler and Walkman to his aural will. “I was actually able to make that work for a while. Limitations can force you to think outside the box, though there may be some extra steps involved in the process. By any means necessary, if you’re really dedicated, you can create something really big with very little.” Still, he wasn’t complaining when the updates were released. “Before the sample import feature, I felt like I needed to use Ableton in connection with Circuit to create. However, after the update, I started to see the Circuit as more of a standalone piece.”
That’s the methodology the veteran employs in this video demo: Circuit, two hands and a lot of imagination is all Dibia$e need to create a twisting, multihued, synapse-tingling composition. But he had originally planned to use other gear in unison with Circuit, before making the choice to fly solo. “Honestly, that was a last minute decision,” he admits. “After my wife saw me run through my demo, she was surprised at how good the Circuit sounded by itself. She suggested that I use the video to showcase how powerful the Circuit is as a standalone unit. Plus, I’m always up for a new challenge, and I think it’s good practice to break away from your go-to weapons, anyway. Getting outside of my comfort zone helps me stay sharp.” Even though Dibia$e is an old hand at the art of beatsmithery, he’s still picking up new tricks. “I actually discovered a lot of things while prepping for the video,” he says. “Structuring sets in the session mode is like launching clips in Ableton. I started arranging sessions in order so it was less confusing. Manipulate effects on the fly is easy. As long as you don’t press save twice, you can return to the original session by pressing the pad again.” It’s little things like that which can make life easy for an artist like Dibia$e, allowing him to concentrate on the music rather than the methodology. Chances are that Circuit can do the same for you.
Check out Novation Circuit here: www.novationmusic.com/circuit
Words: Bruce Tantum.