Artful Dodger’s Dave Low talks about broadening his horizons, leaving UK garage behind and building a robot empire
We’ve lost count of the number of times that UK dance crew Artful Dodger have been over here. In fact, December 31 was the first time in more than four years that they hadn’t been booked to play a New Year’s Eve party in the UAE. Probably a good job, considering the cancellations that happened this time around, but it does make us wonder whether they should give up fighting it and just move here permanently. ‘Do you know,’ laughs DJ and long-time Dodger Dave Low, ‘that’s what I always say! That’s where I’m going to end up. Me and [Artful Dodger MC] Alistair both love it out there. It’s one of our favourite places in the world.’
Really? Despite the traffic, the rubbish customer service, the mad taxi drivers and all that? Apparently so. ‘The atmosphere in the clubs is second to none. In England everyone’s a bit spoiled by all the DJs, but in Dubai you probably don’t get as many, so the crowd response is always good.’
Unsurprisingly, Artful Dodger’s Dubai show will see them playing not only the UK garage sounds that made their name, but also R&B, electro and funky house. It’s a shift to more varied music that, Dave explains, is pretty representative of their latest (and currently untitled) album-in-progress. ‘There’s a spectrum of styles,’ says Dave of their new LP. ‘There’s down-tempo, R&B, broken beat, funky house, bassline – it’s a jumble of genres. Now the UK garage scene isn’t as big or as easy to make money from any more, you’ve got to move along. There just aren’t enough sales to warrant doing it.’
Which is a bit sad, really – to be forced to give up your formative sound because of economic forces. But Dave has no illusions. ‘Everyone’s in the business to make money. I mean, you do it for the love of the music as well, but where there’s a feeling that you’re not going to make…’ he stops suddenly and changes tack. ‘The sales in the UK garage scene are not very good. We love UK garage, but it’s had its place and its time and you’ve got to change with the times and be up to date.’
Which is fair enough. It also gives Dave licence to pursue his other projects, including electro production and ‘Streetbotix’, an animated music project based around the four elements of hip hop. ‘It’s an animated group like Gorillaz, but it’s a group of robots: one’s a beatboxer, one scratches, one does graffiti and one’s a breakdancer,’ explains Dave. ‘It’s a full package: there’s mobile phone content, merchandise, T-shirts… it’s a really intricate, exciting project and I’ve enjoyed working on it.’
It sounds a bit mercenary, all this talk of merchandise and mobile phone content, but Dave’s enthusiasm convinces us that it’s not all clever marketing. That and the fact that he’s spent three years on the album. But his cartoon alter-egos won’t put a dent in Artful Dodger’s schedule, especially since the Dodger gives him a chance to do what he enjoys the most. ‘I love the live stuff, the buzz you get, and Alistair is the perfect party host. Me and him gel so well together – we love the live performances.’
What the Dickens?
Artful Dodger aren’t the only ones looking to Charles Dickens for inspiration… Great Expectations This tale of orphans, convicts and class strife was improved in the South Park episode ‘Pip’ with the addition of mad science and killer robot monkeys. Barnaby Rudge Dickens isn’t just an inspiration to modern writers; this fairly obscure work inspired bulbous-headed oddball Edgar Allen Poe to write his famous gothic poem ‘The Raven’. The Mystery Of Edwin Drood Dickens’s unfinished murder-mystery inspired ‘The Unquiet Dead’, a 2005 episode of sci-fi show Doctor Who. In this, Dickens helped time-traveller The Doctor to stop an army of zombies. Probably not based on fact. Oliver Twist In 2001, Britpop founder and arch curmudgeon Luke Haines released The Oliver Twist Manifesto, a bile-flecked invective against, well, just about everything.
David Copperfield ‘I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield,’ wrote Dickens of his titular runaway. But we’re not such a fan of his namesake, the stage magician who’s had nasty brushes with the law.