It has become abundantly clear that the next era of music will be defined by the idea of adolescence. Not just through the teens that are crafting and communicating these notions in the online music landscape, but the music industry as a whole in how teenage-centric it is slowly coming to be. The loudest and most creatively-sound voices in this artform are coming from – or, at the very least are inspired by – this age group and all of its contemporary signature facets.
But in taking all of this in, a central question remains: what kinds of things define this adolescent archetype? Well, as far as an artist’s perspective is concerned, 17-year-old New Jersey prodigy dltzk seems to have all of the answers.
It’s a telling sense of self-awareness; it’s a high level of uncertainty; it’s a constant mental battle day in and day out; but maybe most of all, it’s impassioned creativity. These are all aspects of one’s modern teenage life that dltzk has given to us on nearly every single one of their past offerings. Vocally, lyrically, and instrumentally alike, this phenomenal talent has expertly communicated these sentiments in a wide-ranging and all-encompassing manner all by themself.
Bursting onto the ever-prominent digicore scene’s radar via a pseudo-viral snippet for their track “what’s my age again ?” on Twitter, they have come to take advantage of this once-newfound recognition in a number of manners. Whether that was through joining a highly respected collective within the scene in Graveem1nd soon after the snippet dropped, or producing one of late-2020’s most standout scene hits with fellow PlanetZero contemporary Tropes’ “Antagonists,” they solidified their rightful place within the minds of the masses with their outstanding artistry by itself, solo or otherwise.
dltzk holds a level of artistic prowess few could ever dream of living up to. They have become known for crafting together some of the most exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and downright masterful amalgamations of sounds ever heard on a track-by-track basis. One listen to a track like “woodside gardens 16 december 2012” or “52 Blue Mondays” could tell the entire story; these are nearly-indescribable pieces of modern art that take cues from genres as niche as breakcore with the appealing facets of a tried and true alternative pop track — all placed together in this roller-coaster ride of teenage emotional vulnerability and angst alike.
Both of those aforementioned singles land on their highly-anticipated album Teen Week — releasing on February 26. The album itself takes these sounds, styles, and cues and wraps them up into a package of themes that answer the central question asked before. Perhaps a better answer to that question would have been simply saying Teen Week, because there is no better experience on this planet that could illustrate those feelings better than what this album does in its 8-track runtime.
Though this is the case, there is so much to know about how dltzk was able to reach this point in their already-remarkable career as far as output is concerned. Before we reach Teen Week, there’s still an entire rise to explore.
I think my first introduction to real music was finding this Skrillex song on YouTube, and from then on I went on this dubstep binge for a while. That was like 2011… and then I downloaded this app on my phone called “iMaschine” which was just a launchpad but for your phone. It wasn’t that great of an app but I had a lot of fun using it. I eventually got into people like Porter Robinson in 2014 and I also got GarageBand, and I really tried to mimic that type of sound for a while. Once I got FL Studio in like 2018 I found people like Trippie Redd, Earl Sweatshirt, and Tyler, The Creator… that was when I really started making beats inspired by them and it kinda led me to where I am today (as a producer).
I’ve been doing vocals for about three years, but I wanted to mainly be a producer at first. Then I decided when I uploaded “listerine” that I wanted to be both.
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LL: You’ve obviously been introduced to all of these acts via the Internet as it has come to take shape. The online world still seems to be a huge inspiration in your work, so how do you explain that from your perspective?
I think it’s just because I was on the Internet so much… like as soon as I got my first iPod I was on it like all the time. The reason I relied on the Internet so much back then was because I really didn’t have that many friends in real life, so for me I was just like, “I can just use the Internet… I don’t need any real friends.”
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LL: Did that real life isolation have an effect on how you approached your musical rise?
Kinda, yeah. I really didn’t have that many people in real life that I could show my music to, so I was just always posting music online because people were more likely to hear it there.
LL: Do you feel that everyone circulating towards the Internet because of the pandemic helped open some new doors for you this year?
I definitely feel like because we’re all on the Internet way more now, it has really benefited my music. I feel like I’ve improved my production significantly, but I also feel like if we weren’t in this pandemic I would not have gotten all this recognition.
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LL: Your production is arguably your most defining feature as a creative. How do you take so many sounds, styles, and cues to combine them into such incredible experiences with your solo work?
A lot of it is just because I use the same effects on a lot of different channels in my project files. Like, sometimes I’ll just put my mixing preset on instruments. I also use a lot of limiter, too. With my samples, I really like to layer a lot of them on top of each other so it sounds like something completely new. From there it’s really just about automating them and lining them up so that they’re all on the same beat.
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LL: You do a lot of production for other people in the digicore scene, but the beats that you guest produce for are a lot more reserved than your solo work. What can you say about that difference?
I love producing for other people, but the thing is like, I never really know if anyone wants something like how my solo music sounds. Recently, a lot of people have been asking me for “Antagonists” type beats, but I love making those. So I really just make a lot of those and send them out to people.
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LL: Who has been your favorite acts to work with inside the scene?
Everybody in PlanetZero for sure. They’ve been my friends even before I entered the scene, and up until very recently actually, I only sent beats out to them. It was really just our little circle for a while where we’d send beats to each other and get on them. It was really “Antagonists” that got more people asking me for beats, so now I have all these opportunities to work with a lot more people… especially people I’ve looked up to in the past and still do. It’s very cool, I like that a lot.
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LL: How does it feel to have those people you look up to show a level of mutual respect now that you’ve shown what you’re capable of?
I find that really cool, especially because when I was first joining all of these Discord servers that are in the scene, I was joining as a fan. And now we’re all mutuals, so it is just so cool to see happen.
LL: Your name really started circulating when the “what’s my age again?” snippet started going around on Twitter. What was it like seeing that moment of virality happen to you?
That was so crazy. The feeling of going “viral” is just like… nice. Especially because I’ve been on the Internet for such a long time, I felt like I always wanted to go viral in some sort of way. The feeling that going viral is so much more of a possibility is like, surreal to think about.
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LL: Can you explain why that snippet was the one to get your name on the map at first?
I had posted that snippet of the music video along with the song itself, and it was all just very chaotic. But it was really a nice preview of the song… I think it showed what the song was about without giving too much of it away. It also had to do with who retweeted it, because osquinn had just followed me at the time and she retweeted it, and then after that ICEDOUTOMNITRIX followed me and he retweeted it too. They both had a lot of followers, so that definitely helped it out as well.
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LL: Your upcoming album Teen Week is a momentous release to say the very least. Not many people within the scene have attempted a concept album like this, and the hype for it is through the roof because of that. What was the background behind making this occasion as immense as it is?
This is the first time where I’ve made a project that I can seriously say I’ve put 100% of my effort into. Actually, this is really the first time I can say I’ve made a project I even like. It’s the first time where I’ve made something and been like, “this is me” you know? I’ve always wanted to make a concept album too, and now that I can use both vocals and production in my work, I feel like I’m ready to make a project like that.
LL: In taking in the fact that you’ve worked so hard to improve your vocal skills, how has the structure and songwriting on the new album come to take shape?
A lot of these songs I either wrote in the middle of class or in my bed at 3 in the morning. I always just have these ideas where I know I need to write them down before they go away. I usually end up having to wait until my parents aren’t home so I can record them, so I usually start my production first before the vocals. Or it’ll be vice-versa, where my parents aren’t home and I just record something and put the instrumental behind it after. And if I can’t do either of those things, I’ll just use some pre-recorded vocals. Like “52 Blue Mondays” was mostly recorded in July and a full version was even done, but the beat didn’t have that much going on. So I just got the idea one day to record overtop the vocals and create something new out of it.
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LL: What kinds of stories are you trying to tell on the new album? What’s at the root of Teen Week?
So the majority of the production of this album took place in a time period where I was applying to a lot of colleges and stuff. My grades actually dropped so much while I was making it, and I was really mad about that. To me, having a “teen week” is just a phrase that represents going down the wrong path in life and not having much control about it.
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LL: What kind of impact would you like for an album like this to make?
I hope that this is my “big break” in some sort of way. Like in the sense that, I don’t want to be astronomical or anything off of it, but I just want people to know who I am.
Special Note: dltzk gives a special shout out to PlanetZero, saying “we’re all gonna make it”
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It has become abundantly clear that the next era of music will be defined by the idea of adolescence. Not just through the teens that are crafting and communicating these notions in the online music landscape, but the music industry as a whole in how teenage-centric it is slowly coming...