GET FAMILIAR: Dokowala aka Dok Sterling


Back at the beginning of September, we covered Dokowala’s beat tape, Cold Waves. Even in the middle of a strong year for instrumental hip hop in the 802, it’s a standout slice of laid-back boom bap, more jazz than funk. Here, the humble beatsmith talks shop about his process and the journey it’s brought him on.

VTHH: Really enjoyed Cold Waves, man. I'm curious if you were curating beats that nailed that particular vibe, or was that just the space you've been in lately with all your production work?

Dokowala: I'm very humbled by how well it is being perceived by people so far. Cold Waves was definitely a project that had the tracklisting switched out, rearranged - songs added or subtracted, all the way up until the release. While I want each loop to tell a story - I wanted it to be a cohesive project. Something that conveys emotion front-to-back. I only came up with the title after the majority of tracks were chosen. At least for me - every beat I make is a reflection of my current headspace as a human being. I guess the right answer would be a little bit of both.

VTHH: A lot of the producers I talk to in the 802 say they exist on the internet more than they exist in Vermont, thanks to the larger network social media provides. Is that the case for you?

Dokowala: My online presence is nothing to write home about. I really gotta give it up to my friends & family because without them it wouldn't feel like I exist at all, man. The biggest support always comes from my friends & family in Saint Albans. They've all been listening & buying music from me since I was in high school doing this on Fruity Loops. That is the big "keep going" motivation when things get tough. Anytime you get somebody who genuinely listens to your work, then approaches you in person to tell you what they enjoyed about it - that's existing to me.

VTHH: What is the scene like in Saint Albans these days?

Dokowala: I moved to Burlington because Saint Albans doesn't really have a music scene. Don't get me wrong when I say that because there are a number of dope artists in their own right that come from there. There's just not an audience to play for - much less a venue to play at. I got my people there who support but that's it. There's a small venue called The Burrow, I see them constantly trying to hold shows of all genres in their basement space. That's a start.

VTHH: What are you using for equipment these days? Do you still create in FL sometimes?

Dokowala: I haven't used FL in at least 5 years or more. The Master file always comes out of Ableton nowadays. I've used FL, Reason, Maschine & the 404. My favorite, by far, is my Ableton + APC40 setup. Everything works a little different for production so it really came down to what gave me the most sandbox approach to the work. Ableton provides that freedom.

VTHH: What do you have in the works next?

Dokowala: Actually, a cassette with my long-time friend Instinct, we just finished it & we’re waiting for it to be duplicated. It's a split beat tape of 10-tracks each. We have dubbed it "Loops 4 The Soul". This will be available for purchase soon. Instinct is a beast in his own right & has a unique sound of his own - look him up! Other than that - I'm stacking audio for another release!

Justin Boland