D-Unity’s career has been a process of trial and error, but his success isn’t a haphazard result. The self-taught DJ and producer learned how to turn rejection and failures into opportunities building upon them to become one of the most recognized names in the electronic music scene. His music has been released on several prestigious labels including Universal Music, Toolroom and Yoshitoshi in addition to running his own label Unity Records. He shares why adapting your workflow and music are important for career growth while staying true to your passion.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with 6AM to dive deeper into its ArtistMap roadmap program. Many may not know this but the framework was largely inspired by you and your journey as an artist. Why a career in music? Does music run in your family?
Hey guys! I’m super honoured, and thanks for that. I actually never thought I would end up in music years ago but here we are! My journey with electronic music started when I was a teenager. I don’t really have a “musical” type of family but my grandfather actually played piano in a jazz band for quite some time years ago so maybe that is where some of my musical passion came from.
During my high school days, I would start playing around with different production software. One of the first was Fruity Loops, Reason etc…After being introduced to electronic music, I thought that it would be the greatest thing ever to make and release something that is mine. The simple process of creating and expressing yourself through any type of medium either through music or a different form of art always fascinated me.
With no experience and being thrown into this new world of music, I would stay hours upon hours locked in my room just making random sounds and loops. It was all about having fun and doing something I love. I never even thought about becoming a DJ at that time. Music production was mainly something that became an over-excessive passion and hobby. At times I would miss meals, didn’t go out, didn’t see my friends. Music made me more isolated, but I don’t think it was a bad thing. I was simply in my zone during that time and it felt just at home. My room back then almost felt like a small club with music pumping for 12-15 hours straight….Trust me my neighbors hated me!
Did your love for electronic music first start as a hobby, at what point in your life did you stop seeing music as a hobby and more of a professional career (aka not just another night out partying)?
After countless months of constantly locked up in a studio, I thought it would be a great idea to release my tracks on a label. The beginnings were a bit harder in order to get your music signed, especially on a bigger label. Since some labels rejected my tracks in the beginning, I [started] look[ing] into opening up my own label. Anyone that knows me probably is aware of the fact that I hate waiting for things to happen and that I usually always try to take things into my own hands. I guess it’s a curse and a blessing.
After launching my first label, I realized that that rejection was a normal everyday thing in this industry, and that’s okay. As long as you push and get new content out there, you will eventually “climb the ladder” and get heard by others.
Perseverance and hard work are part of growing as an artist
I launched my first label Beat Therapy records back in 2007. It was more of an experimental launch at the start. It was all a learning process; running a label, marketing, promo etc, so I had to learn everything as I go. Once the label was launched, I felt like [I had] the freedom to release what I want, when I want. After a couple of my first releases, the tracks started charting and hit the top 10! The labels I got rejected by in the beginning would then write to me and ask for releases. Four years later, I decided to launch my main stamp which is now Unity Records.
After launching my first label, I realized that that rejection was a normal everyday thing in this industry, and that’s okay. As long as you push and get new content out there, you will eventually “climb the ladder” and get heard by others. This is when I started thinking of pursuing music and running a label on a more serious note rather than just a hobby.
After that, opportunities came along, and I started traveling and DJing all over the world. This has given me the most amazing experiences of my life. I was able to bring my music to more than 65 different countries and making people dance has always been my priority. This journey opened my eyes to the world, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the opportunities I had in the past years.
The artist road is long and arduous, did you have anyone to look to for support, and if not, what mentality did you adopt to help you keep pushing through?
It is indeed! To be honest, in the beginning, I didn’t really have anyone to help me out. It was more of a trial and error thing for me both with DJing and producing. It was new and exciting. Everything from pushing my name as a DJ to running a label. I received some negativity at the start of my career, but once I started doing better on my journey as a DJ and producer, the negativity from people started to fade away.
I’ve had people telling me to quit, telling me that this path is a crazy one to take and that it is better to do something “safer” in life or get a “proper” job (whatever that meant). I’ve heard it all the time. At times I did feel like quitting, but the truth is, I always liked playing and producing music. I never thought of it as if I was forced to do it by someone. I simply loved it, and that’s the main reason I kept pushing. It simply just made me happy and provided an escape from my daily problems.
It is important to shop around as certain labels can push you more and open new doors within your career towards the next step. I personally try to spread out my releases within a year. I try to push my label (Unity Records) with most of my releases and other great artists, but I also release on other labels in order to reach a different demographic within techno that could push my name further.
Keep your options open but target labels wisely and be strategic in your approach
How have you approached investing in your career? Budgeting is an important element for career growth but when it comes down to it, sometimes artists tend to spend on equipment, software and plug-in yet fall short when it comes to supporting their releases. Do you think artists need to shop for labels?
In the very beginning, I tried doing everything myself like taking care of gigs or running a label, but of course, as a DJ/producer you get to a point where you eventually need to change things around. Having a great studio setup with a bunch of gear should technically increase your production capabilities but personally, I don’t think it is a must-have for all producers. Some of my most successful tracks were produced on airplanes on my laptop while getting to a gig. So it really depends on how you look at it. I’ve had producers sending me demos from some great looking studios with their tracks not sounding so great vs. producers that made their track on a laptop which I think sounded better. So it really depends on how skilled you are and how you are able to maximize your ability to make banging tracks. It’s more about you and discovering your environment for creating music. Stick to wherever you feel more comfortable with. I honestly couldn’t care less how and where you make the track. The ultimate result for me is the quality and style.
Of course, there are bigger labels out there, with different styles, following their own vision. It is important to shop around as certain labels can push you more and open new doors within your career towards the next step. I personally try to spread out my releases within a year. I try to push my label “Unity Records” with most of my releases and other great artists but also release on other labels in order to reach a different demographic within techno that could push my name further.
That is a good way to start. Once you are past that level, obviously you will have to think of increasing and spreading the budget into different areas both for your name and label.
When you feel “forced” to make something, you should just leave it for another day, take a break and come back when you feel like it is time.
You can’t force creativity, and sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.
You’re a respected DJ and producer in the game. What motivates your work as an artist in the dance scene and has it changed over the years?
Motivation or inspiration can come from literally anything. For example, going out and having fun with friends and hearing some new tracks being dropped. Another thing could be hearing an opening DJ playing some great bombs before you come on and start playing your set. Inspiration can come from anywhere. There are times where I wake up and feel like making deep house, other days techno, and I got days when I simply don’t feel like producing anything. When you feel “forced” to make something, you should just leave it for another day, take a break and come back when you feel like it is time.
My style is known for a more tech-tribal vibe within the techno. It went through different evolutions, but I always left the key element in all my tracks which is mostly the more big room tribal groove pattern. Your sound will change over the years. As I mentioned earlier, as a producer it is important to follow a trend within your specific genre but it is even more important to make sure you don’t lose your original sound you were known for since the beginning. Some people get lost and forget where they come from because they pay too much attention to sounding like someone else. You want your DJ name associated with a specific sound at all times. For example, when a song comes on the radio, you want the listener to know right away that it is you without even looking at the track name. “Oh this sounds like…. this guy or that guy.” Once you discover the sounds that you really like playing around with, try to use them in order to develop your own style down the road.
Stick to your true self and your own vision in regards to your productions. Sounding like everyone else is never a good idea.
Building a brand involves work and lots of it. Everyone needs help, so why have you remained a one-man team? Delegating tasks could in the long run save time allowing you to focus on bigger picture projects, right?
I’m not a one-man team at this point, but I definitely like to be in charge in regards to the label’s releases and other things. When it comes to gigs there is an agency I work with, but I still feel free in terms of certain decisions and travel schedules which is great.
I know that some things could save time. I am aware of that, but I still enjoy doing them. At the end of the day, it is important to find the right balance and make sure it doesn’t get in a way of other advancements in terms of your brand. You definitely do not want to miss out on opportunities.
You’re a self-taught DJ and producer, and you did this before tutorials were a “hot” commodity and information was only a click away (not to date you!). Who inspired you as you were progressing in your career, and what about them stood out to you?
Carl Cox was the name that really changed things up for me especially when starting back in 2007. I think for most. To this day, I think there is no bigger influence for me personally. Of course, there is a bunch of amazing names I could start listing off the top of my head, but he definitely helped me shape my style to what it became today.
It might be hard to find your specific sound and stick to it, but once you do, it is even more important to keep it over the years through adaptation.
Fine-tuning your sound takes diligence and patience and is a never-ending process
I would also listen to a lot of the Global Underground series with names like Sasha and John Digweed, Satoshi Tomiie, and Danny Tenaglia. The list goes on and on, so as you can see my style was heavily influenced by a more progressive tribal house side which was at its peak about 15 years ago. That is when my love for drums started. By perfecting my style over the years, I always tried to have a darker groovy vibe when it comes to my tracks,by applying heavier drum patterns and combining both techno and tribal/progressive sounds with my own taste.
It was about trial and error for me in regards to perfecting my sound. There were not a lot of music production tutorials to be found out there as we have nowadays. You really needed to pay attention. It might be hard to find your specific sound and stick to it, but once you do, it is even more important to keep it over the years through adaptation. Techno sounded different five years ago and sounded even more different 10 years ago. I think the right balance is half and half. Go with the trend of what is “hot” at the moment, but remember to never forget to inject your style in projects that people knew you for throughout the years. The key is to never lose what you were known for, to begin with.
When it comes to DJing. It was a natural progression for me. I was a producer before I became a DJ. After some hard work behind the studio, the gigs became more and more frequent and later became a 24hr nonstop crazy ride for me until this day.
There are plenty of bedroom producers making quality music. Music charts and online personalities, as some artists have become, can impact what plays. What would you tell an aspiring artist who’s feeling discouraged after having done all the “right” things and has sent out 200 demo emails and has yet to hear back?
Honestly, I know that this might sound a bit “cliche,” but my biggest advice is to keep pushing. You will hear negative things, get rejected by labels, or some things will not go as planned. It sucks, I get it, but it is just part of the game. The faster you understand that the faster you will get out there and push a little more. Make sure there is always progress in whatever you do, whether it comes to perfecting your tracks sound, DJ image, or live sets. In order to be successful in this industry, you have to have a passion for it because if you don’t you might as well wrap it up, and save yourself some time.
Any upcoming projects or other words you’d like to share?
Since the pandemic started, I decided to take a break and reflect on certain things both personally and as an artist. With so much time at home now with a lot of parties being canceled, I feel like it gave me a way to dive deeper within my sound and future projects from the label as well as steady releases from the Sample Pack division of Unity records “Unity Samples. This year I will be mostly focusing on my own label Unity Records with already four new tracks scheduled and ready to release. My latest release with Juli Aristy “Illegal” is already on #4 techno chart on Beatport, and we got plenty more coming!
Another big thing I will be focusing on will be of course the “Unity Samples” Sample Packs in collaboration with my friend Dino Maggiorana upcoming on Loopmasters. Since there are a lot of DJs sitting at home without the ability to travel, they tend to focus on production a lot more which also increases the demand for a lot of good quality sample packs. And that’s where we come in. With our award-winning Sample Packs, we will try to include even more variety of techno samples as well as extra MIDI and Synth presets additions for the volumes to come. If you want the best samples in techno, look no further–trust me.
I am more than ready to get back on the dancefloor. I hope the normality we had before the pandemic will come back sooner than later. I value more things now than before the pandemic. It made me realize how many things we take for granted and don’t really focus on what’s the most important in life. I hope that once it is all over, we will not only come back as better artists but also as better human beings.
For someone starting off looking forward, just be sure to surround yourself with like-minded people in the industry, this will help you keep your goals in check.
Continue grinding; great things are coming!