A legendary producer responsible for several of the greatest tracks ever made, including his collaborative remix with Axwell, ‘Sweet Disposition’, and 2013’s festival favourite, ‘City of Dreams’ with Alesso, Dirty South is one of the most influential figures in modern dance music. The producer, famed for huge anthems such as ‘How Soon Is Now’ with David Guetta and Sebastian Ingrosso, was born in Serbia under the name Dragan Roganovic, and now spends much of his time in Melbourne, having grown up in Australia.
With 2018 highlighting a shift in emphasis sonically for the personable star, Dragan sat down with We Rave You at a London hotel less than 24 hours after his performance at the UK capital’s Gigalum venue, and spoke about his brand new XV album, as well as why music has made him feel like a superhero, and how it was originally a DJ making love to his equipment who made him fall in love with the genre all those years ago!
Dirty South! Talk to us about XV, the new album, which is out now. How did it come about?
“Well XV began a few years ago actually. I guess 4 or 5 years ago I was at a point in my career where I felt like a super hero! I was doing all the big stages and festivals and I felt bored, I wasn’t happy internally, because I got bored, musically, with what I was doing. Everybody goes through life transitions, and as an escape I got into film. I didn’t really want to make music anymore. I said to my wife, “What do you think if I stop music?” – She looked at me like I was mad, so I ended up making my second album, which was a score to a short film, but it wasn’t a dance music album because I wasn’t there mentally at that time.”
So how did you rediscover that love again? To make music, and get creative?
“I guess I started listening to a lot more techno music, and melodic sounds, things that are a little more obscure than EDM radio type ‘pop music’ and somehow, this gave me inspiration to come full circle back to what inspired me originally. It gave me the spark which I needed! So I realised I had to return to dance music, I had these feelings of being a little kid again, being excited about making music once more. But it was hard to be open minded after making ‘City of Dreams’ with Alesso because people always expected me to make City of Dreams Version 2.0 and I didn’t want to make that. I wanted to find this new spark, and decided to make whatever music I wanted from now on!”
So was that change one that came about through the industry itself changing, too, do you think?
“I think the industry has changed now compared to back then, certainly, and that ‘City of Dreams’ sound back then. It was great to achieve what I did, but I knew I had to rethink things. Tech-house, or whatever you want to call it, it inspired me to change my sound and make XV. I played in Dubai, Liverpool, and now London, in these recent weeks, and I played out half the album at the shows, it’s club music. But my favourite thing is to walk the ‘middle line’ – this gap where the sound is friendly enough. But it’s the hardest thing to make this type of music that can merge between the two worlds of underground and commercial.”
You tweeted recently to say that the We Rave You review of your album was like we had entered your mind, what did you mean by that?
“Yeah totally! The descriptions of the music… you went into my head and I felt like you were in the studio with me! And it was so so great, because I was worried about how people would perceive the music, I was curious if people would embrace it and understand. And you did! And not just you. But Pete Tong, CamelPhat, Kryder, so many people instantly picked it up and knew what I meant to do with the sound of it, and it was so great to get that reaction!”
So, tough question. But of all the tracks on XV, which is your favourite?
“Well it changes daily but for me, Sonar, is one that has the energy of the old Dirty South sound. I didn’t want to make 10 Sonars, because the album needs to be diverse and have that full musical journey but when I made Sonar, I knew, wow – this is quite cool. People have already been singing the riff back to me, and that is so cool to see! And I’m a big fan of ‘Love Story’ too because it is so groovy and has this quirky vibe to it, it works so well in the club. Overall, with the album I wanted to push myself sonically and when you play it in a club with a huge sound-system, it has that real difference to it.”
Who were your early inspirations, the ones who made you want to get into dance music originally?
“I worked with Ax obviously, with Seb too, but I was really into German trance actually. That later evolved into house music when I heard Stardust track, ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ but Erick Morillo, when I saw him for the first time, he was the big inspiration for me! His energy! It was like he was having sex with the turntables!”
So what is to come for Dirty South in the rest of 2018?
“I’m working on the next album actually! I’ll be touring too, I’m going to be in Miami for Miami Music Week. But first of all, I know it isn’t common, but I’m actually going to release another album this year! That’s my aim. I feel like, if you’re going to make a difference, do it all at once. So, 2018, two Dirty South albums, let’s do this!”
To say that Dirty South’s XV album is a masterpiece would not cover the superlatives that this production can be rewarded with, and having taken a few year to rediscover his sound, and passion for music, the clarity which with Dragan speaks about his plans for 2018 are both refreshing, and highly welcome for his fans worldwide. The album, which has already received almost 2 million streams since release, can be heard below, so check it out now and buckle up, because 2018, is the year of Dirty South!