While his song was climbing the Beatport top 100 charts, Dragan Ragonovic — better known as Dirty South — was in bed recovering from a nasty jet ski accident that left him with several broken ribs. Aside from having to cancel two weeks of tour dates, the mishap didn’t slow the Aussie producer’s momentum. In fact, the bedridden hiatus gave him time to work on his upcoming projects, City of Dreams and Ruben Haze.
Ruben Haze is an upcoming side-project for Raganovic that allows him to stretch his creative muscle and explore, without abandoning loyal fans in the process. He says, “I have all these ideas in my head, but not everything can be done through my Dirty South project. I needed to have another outlet to create this music.” The EP is not a solo project but rather a collaborative effort between him and a group called — wait for it — Ruben Haze. Raganovic described it as “acoustic,” “electronic,” and reminiscent of a band, but these descriptors are not enough to paint a picture of the forthcoming production.
What little information we do have makes us anxiously curious, but it’s refreshing to be completely in the dark about an established artist’s upcoming work. By abandoning the formulaic model of track production, Dirty South effectively chose to color outside the lines — a risky, but ultimately artistically rewarding, decision. He can’t and won’t predict where music is heading but he did say that, for him, the new thing is “always trying and working with new sounds.” Sounds that he hopes will please both himself and the fans — a musical give and take.
“Initially [I make music] for myself and then of course you hope that when you play it out, people like it too. If I just make it for myself it’s pointless.” Although he values the opinions of his fans, he isn’t weighed down by his accomplishments. “I try not to think about it too much because that’s when you get caught up in success. I really just look forward to the future. I don’t think about the past too much, I think that’s when you lose focus.”
This emphasis on moving forward seems to be echoed in everything he does. When asked about his most memorable tour moment thus far he told me, almost without hesitation, that it was tonight. “Tonight” hadn’t even started yet but that’s where his zen-like focus was directed — on the new tracks he planned to debut and on the crowd before him — not the ones behind him.
Raganovic is as focused on moving forward as he is humble. He spoke very briefly about his nerves saying, “I think when I stop getting nervous, I’ll stop DJing.” I hope he doesn’t lose his butterflies any time soon. His performance was a necessary reminder that it is possible to please both the fans who come to hear an artist’s catalog and those who come to hear the DJ, deejay — proof that you can be a “mainstream artist” without crafting an overly mainstream set. Without further ado, here are five tracks you need to know including a Dirty South bonus bit.
1. Dirty South & Michael Brun – Rift
“Rift” is an upcoming collaboration between Dirty South and Michael Brun. You can hear a snippet of the track in his September Phazing radio mix beginning at 51:15.
2. Yves V – Mandala
The pulsing melodies and drum rhythm of “Mandala” are even more heavy-hitting when played through high quality speakers.
3. Skritzofrenix & Jeff Doubleu – Rushin’
As soon as I heard the familiar refrain of “2 pills and I was rushin'” I knew where Dirty South was heading and I was more than ready to take that ride.
4. John Dahlback – Comet
With it’s frenetic drum line and range of synth sounds this track never fails to get bodies moving and hands in the air.
5. Dirty South Bonus Bit: Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You
This is the one classic track Dirty South thinks every fan should know. Dragan told us that when the song came out it “was so simple but inspirational. You could still play that song today.”