DLZMKSBTS’ shit is comfy.
It’s the first thing I think as the Denver beat maker and ushers me onto his couch, offering up a small menu of weed to enjoy and commiserate over. The couch is plush and inviting, presiding over a serene apartment lush with greens, browns and blues. Seinfeld plays on low, his mini studio setup lays on a sleek desk in front of the window, overlooking a misty January day. A palace to clarity and intrigue.
Getting a small glimpse of where the magic happens, it’s easy to see how the apartment’s vibes are a part of the relaxed wizardry that DLZMKSBTS possesses. A purveyor of the beat tape, DLZ’s music is a collection of luxuriant little odes to the passing inspirations, tediums and thoughts that wisp through the layers of his consciousness. In person DLZ converses in a smooth cascade of ideas, cultural references and musical show-and-tell, fitting for a man who deals in a medium that manages to fit so much creativity into such a small amount of bars.
“There’s ideas in loops. People’s time is valuable, so how can you fit into somebody’s life? I’m not going to be there for three minutes in a music video. I’m gonna try and fit in with a 1:20,” says DLZ.
His newest album Layered AF is all in the name. It’s dense, creamy and alluring, swirling passages of comatose funk, rainy day R&B, and mindless psychedelia into a lo-fi loop of jubilant melancholy. Little flourishes of sound and texture give the album a meditative ambiance that cannot be appreciated in a couple sittings, it takes time. Recorded during the pandemic, it is full of nuances and nods to friends and fans who’ve kept a keen ear to DLZ’s increasingly complex sound.
“Artists are in a bubble already — creative people in general — and the pandemic forced everyone into a bubble. So I was thinking about what things can I pull from samples and sounds that are Easter eggs and inside jokes for my friends and people who know me, it’s that kind of detail. Like you noticed I used this snare from LL CooL J or this dude Jaco Pastorius or Weather Station. I want you to relate to this shit,” says DLZ.
It was DLZ’s album FUTUR. BALLA that introduced me to the kinetic art of Giacomo Balla. The Italian painter’s use of light and color is an inspiration to the Denver producer, who has an affinity for people with progressive flair, among other things. “The reason I fuck with that is because it’s forward-thinking stuff … and he signs his name “FUTUR BALLA,” laughs DLZ.
His evolution as a producer has always been about trying to be forward-thinking and looking ahead to where he can score his next beat just as he’s finishing his current one. As an artist he is constantly consuming ideas, mining sounds and exploring new tools of expression. “I do love moving from idea to idea and using an idea for only as long as necessary. I used to sample records all the time and there’s endless resources there, but you have to adapt to that shit. It would be more of a necessity of movement,” says DLZ.
That kind of deliberate drive is why DLZ was able to churn out seven tapes in 2020, half of them done entirely on the Koala sampler that can be downloaded onto your phone. Digitally off grid, the beat maker got a phone just so he could explore the capabilities of the Koala and its creative limitations. “With Koala it’s kind of like you are limited, with Ableton I have all these plug-ins and tracks and compressors. My brain starts thinking a lot about sounds without getting out an idea. Koala is just quick, it’s just my idea and getting it out there. It’s in my pocket,” says DLZ.
As the interview winds down, DLZ welcomes a couple friends, including HoTT, a.k.a. Cam Margera, from his duo project Cap or Crown. DLZ starts playing beats in the making, they start riffing, slices of footage are taken, they are looping beats and ideas in real time. Just as he’s signing off on our time together DLZ is signing up for the next thing, keeping the tape rolling. He’s fluid, moving through the creative layers in his life with ease, always onto the next one.
“I’m not trying to make something super dope, but I am trying to make something doper than the day before. The first stage is impressing yourself, the second stage is wanting your peers to like you and the third stage is you wanting to be popular and get money. But all of that doesn’t matter unless you think about how much doper you can be. You’re only as funky as your last cut.”