‘I just lock myself away and write music’
Arguably the hottest producer in the world right now, Duke Dumont, is coming to Boston for Together next Friday, May 17. Even if you think you haven’t heard of him, you have. Try listening to “The Giver,” “Need U,” or his remix of HAIM’s “Falling,” and when the bassline comes in at 1:21, if you want to still argue that electronic dance music isn’t beautiful—that it’s not art—come at me, bro.
I heard that you produce all of your tracks in a studio inside your house in the countryside. Is that to alleviate stress in order to make music?
Pretty much, yeah. Making music is very a solitary thing for me. I like to have no distractions from what’s in my head. I grew up in the middle of London, in the big city, and unlike most people who move to a big city, I like the country because it’s kind of an escape. Things are so chaotic on the weekends because I do a lot of DJing in the city.
I’m very much a hermit when it comes to making music. I just lock myself away and write.
What does it look like in your home studio?
It’s kind of messy, honestly. I’m not the best organized person. But there’s a method to the madness—I know where everything is, but I think anybody who was to see it would be quite shocked (laughs). Although my desktop is actually a nice space.
We’ve been looking for press photos, but all we have is this really blurry picture of you. Why is that?
I actually quite like that picture. Every single publication hates it—they always ask for higher res (laughs). Don’t worry, I’m not taking it personally, I’m not offended. (laughs) I like it because I’m not into this stereotypical DJ impression, although I’m trying in part to work on it … a little. I’ll keep on trying. Maybe I’ll come up with something better.
What was the first record that got you into electronic dance music?
I was always a fan of Prince. I remember, when I was about 12-13 years old, I saw him in concert, and that was kind of like my Baptism into music, or dance music. The first person I saw in concert was kind of the best person I could’ve seen. I think with most people in the world, their first records are pop music, and with Prince, there’s a lot of electronic elements in it. As far as electronic records. I got into UK garage first, and the more I got into that, the more I got into US house music, from Chicago and Detroit. But my favorite of all time isn’t necessarily from the UK, or UK garage—it’s Roy Davis Jr’s Gabrielle, and I think he’s from Chicago.
I’m really into a lot of music out of Chicago, like the Dance Mania founded by Jesse Saunders. I’m a big fan of Paul Johnson, he had a popular chart track that got to #1, “Get Get Down.” It wasn’t very good, but it got to #1. I listened to all of all kinds of music when I first got into dance music, trance-y tracks, Masters at Work…
How have you seen advancements of technology and Internet culture change the way electronic music is made, how it’s evolved?
Obviously, there’s two sides to any story. Let’s start with the positive: anybody with a laptop can make music. It’s more of a case of money. Now, if you really want to do it, you don’t even have to pay for software. For me personally, I think that’s an amazing thing. For someone like me, I didn’t have any money to buy equipment when I started.
It’s this kind of generational gap, and now I really appreciate that if you want to do something, even if you’ve got no money, nothing’s going to stop you.
It’s very Libertarian. Even if you had to steal software or something. And I’m definitely part of a generation that took advantage of it.
Now here’s the bad side: anybody can make music. But not ‘anybody’ can make good music. The volume of music now is incredible.
I heard this saying the other day, “There’s more people living in the world now than in the history of the world.” The same applies with music. “There’s more music being made now than there ever was before.” Same philosophy (laughs).
When you first started, did you ever have to work a shitty job to pay for your equipment to DJ?
Yeah definitely. I actually started off as a DJ and got into making music a few years later. I remember when I was about 15, I had to work a summer job to buy turntables. It was a really awkward job with movers. I had to move stuff from people’s houses. It was really hard, but I certainly did it because I just wanted a pair of turntables to start DJing. Then, up until the age of 21,
I had a job where I used to make ringtones. At the time, I thought it was awful. But the positive from that is, I was still kind of learning how music was made, I think subconsciously.
Because I had to create ringtones for all the pop songs. But as much as I didn’t like it, I think subconsciously it registered in the back of my head and helped me learn how to make the music I’m making.
You did a bunch of remixes before you starting recently releasing your own original tracks. What advice would you give to people on remixing tracks?
Like with anything—with any kind of music or anything in life—try to only do remixes of songs you really want to do a remix of. Don’t do a remix just because you’ve been made an offer, but because you really like the song or the artist you’re remixing.
Now technically: Find an element within that song—and it doesn’t have to be obvious, it doesn’t have to be the vocal—but find one element that you really like in the song, and use that to shape your remix around. It’s about your ability to move around that; take that element and create the remix in your own vision.
Did you release “Need U” on your own label Blasé Boys Club because you knew it was going to be such a big hit?
To a degree, yeah. I mean, I didn’t think it was going to be as big a hit as it was. I thought it would be a Top 40, Top 30, or even a Top 20. So the fact that it stayed #1 for two weeks—it’s actually still in the Top 10, and has been for four or five weeks now.
But basically, with that song, it gave me the opportunity to set up my own label. Ministry of Sound did a huge percentage of the work, but it gave me the opportunity to get all my music up through my label. My philosophy is just to let things grow organically. To only release music I’m really happy with. It could be three or four releases a year.
For example, Ed Banger is one of my favorite labels. When they started the label, it was very slow. But it found it’s speed and grew and grew, and now they’ve released Justice and Sebastian and people like that. It’s all about quality over quantity, but also to release as many quality tracks as possible.
A*M*E is one incredible vocalist. She’s so good, how come we’ve never heard of he in the states? Is she a big UK/Europe phenom only?
She wasn’t a household name in the UK or on a big label, but on the back of this release, she’s come into her own. My background is house and club music up until this song. But her background was major label pop music. I think she’s such a good vocalist that she can kind of do a good job on a song that she might not necessarily be used to before. Having started with pop music vocals, that’s one of the keys to a headbanger being as successful as it was. And there was never anything dull about it, before it was #1, because it was still a soulful vocal. DJs found it quite easy, they were still playing it out before that.
How did ‘Need U’ come about? Did A*M*E find that hook?
I worked on the track and produced the track as a whole. MNEK, he co-wrote the song and A.M.E. stepped in with the hook. MNEK and I co-wrote the song together. The humming on the hook—he did that himself. So the three of us were involved.
What are your plans for 2013? You know you’re going to get hit up by some big names, but who would you want to work with?
I mean, a dream of mine is to become a really established record producer. Here’s the strange thing: when I was younger, I was like, “I really want to work with someone, or want to work with this person.” But I’ve come to realize that I just want to work with really talented people.
They don’t have to be a bigger name. What’s even better is working with someone who’s not a big name and recognizing how good they are. That’s my goal. What happens happens. If I work with household names, names I recognize now, I want to make sure to make music that’s going to stand out from the crowd.
Over the years, there’s been some household names who’s done that. The Neptunes achieved that. They were making music that stood out from the rest of pop music. ‘Need U’ doesn’t sound like every pop song in the UK, but it still has the same kind of formula to it; it’s just a little bit different. When I’m producing music for someone, it’s not necessarily going to be a house track, just the best possible music I can make with that person.
This festival is called ‘Together’, how have you seen the physical manifestation of this word through making and playing music for people?
I picture the image of ‘Together’ from the DJ’s perspective, just a kind of unity that goes on within a subcontext. The best DJing experience I’ve had is when I create a kind of community feeling, get everyone on the same level, where everyone just wants to have a good time. Things are kind of relaxed. The word together definitely has more meaning for me in the context of DJing and playing music for large crowds.
You kind of share in the music and hopefully, (I know it sounds cheesy) (laughs), hopefully bring everyone together.
TURBO RECORDINGS SHOWCASE WITH
NAUTILUSS, BORDELLO, DOCTOR JEEP
MIDDLE EAST DOWNSTAIRS
472-480 MASS. AVE.
7PM/18+/$10 ADV $15 DOS