Huw Oliver sits down with in-demand house producer and all-round top bloke Duke Dumont (alter-ego of London boy Adam Dyment) to chat about his astonishing For Club Play Only releases, the future of house music and the propitious new wave of Radio 1 A-listers.
Until this year, you’d released very little in the way of original material. Why now?
Things didn’t actually happen in a linear process. What probably happened was that I got too consumed doing remixes, because I was getting asked to do a lot of them. I was also ill for about six to seven months last year, and so I found it difficult to sit in a studio for long periods of time because of my kidneys. It’s a combination of many things, really. Not putting out too many EPs in the past has almost given me more energy to do so now and also given me a bit of inspiration to concentrate on my own stuff rather than remixes. I think it’s a lot more important nowadays to record your own music rather than rework stuff, whereas I think four years ago, it was different. Nowadays, there are so many remixes of every song, so it’s hard for the good ones to come through.
What was the idea behind this For Club Play Only series of EPs?
I gave it a real kind of bold title, a “does what says on the tin” kind of thing, so it’s pretty much just that. They’re double A-sides, with two tracks which can be played in clubs. The reason why I gave them that title is because with my previous stuff, especially my remixes, they’ve all been quite varied in the approach and the direction I’ve taken. I just wanted to let people know what they were getting themselves in for. They wouldn’t be getting an eight-minute orchestral piece like I did on a remix for Bonobo, the guy on Ninja Tune, for example. I just wanted to let people know what to expect and essentially get more material under my belt to play out in the clubs. I needed more stuff to play under my own name. That’s not to say I’ve given up the more eccentric side of the production, but I think for these EPs, it’s pretty much just going to be house music, or borderline techno music. I think any other kind of stuff will come after this.
In the studio, where would you start with a song like ‘The Giver’?
On that song, the creation process was actually the complete opposite to normal. We had the vocal already recorded, so it was a case of just finding a few bars of it which worked, and then we just built the track around the vocal part. But 9 times out of 10 it’s the opposite, where I’ll start with the drum and the bass parts. And usually, if anything, I’ll probably spend too much time working with these basic elements. If you get the basic half of the song sounding good – that’s the drums, the bass and anything vocal – then everything else is just really easy. You’ll spend two or three days fiddling around with the most basic elements of the song, and then you can just add the gloss and mixing to it. With any track, it’s just a case of taking time to use good sounds and put them in the right order.
Who did the vocal on ‘No Money Blues’?
That was a band called Extra Curricular. It was an old Marvin Gaye record, but we re-recorded the vocal and it turned out great.
In terms of your musical upbringing, when would you say you were first exposed to house or garage?
Right from the start, even before I had a career in music. From 14 or 15 years old, when I was growing up in West London, I taught myself to DJ, and all my records where house and garage records. That’s how I started, and when I got to about 17 or 18, I taught myself how to choose music. I probably spent more time doing that than actually DJing. I was really into house music, yeah, but more into the US side of garage rather than the UK side of things. My first instances of going to clubs were house and garage nights in West London, and it’s the definitely the biggest kind of club music around there. Elsewhere, there’s more grime and MC-based stuff. When I started with the whole Duke Dumont thing, there was a huge wave of French house acts, and I kind of got caught up in that.
In terms of US garage, what kind of figures are we talking about?
The one record which really got me into those genres was Roy Davis Jr, ‘Gabriel’. I remember I bought it in a record shop from the same boxes as all the UK garage stuff, but it was the first house record which had a huge a huge amount of soul in it. With UK Garage, like twelve years ago, there seemed to be a lack of soul, and a lack of quality, really. That record was the first record which really stood out, and after that, I became a big fan of Chicago House; one of my idols is Paul Johnson, who, with the exception of ‘Get Get Down’, has an incredible back catalogue.
Fast forward to 2012, and what do you make of the new wave of crossover house-pop acts like Disclosure and SBTRKT?
OK, let’s take, for example, Disclosure. What annoys me about the internet and interviews and stuff, the first thing people say about them is always “you know they’re only 18 or 19”. Yeah, that’s great, but the most important thing is that they make really good music. It is really, really good. Their age is irrelevant; they could be 45. It just doesn’t matter. They’ve come out, like, fully-formed already. It’s amazing. I was in the car today, listening to daytime radio 1 and they played that new track of theirs with Sam Smith. It just sounded great. It’s great for everybody that the music they make, which is oriented around house music, is getting all the attention it is. There’s so much worse music out there getting the same level attention that you just can’t hate on the guys. I take my hat off to them completely. But I do see another side of other DJs who bitch and moan about guys like them. And the only reason why they worry about it is that they probably feel slightly threatened. There’s a parody in underground UK pop at the moment – taking R n B acapellas and speeding them up – but those guys, should not be attached to that whatsoever. I’ve got nothing but love for what they’re doing.
You recently remixed AlunaGeorge, another great upcoming band. How did that come about?
Their manager was aware of the remixes I’d done in the past, and it sort of just worked out from that. And essentially, what I just said about Disclosure also applies to AlunaGeorge, in the sense that they are making popular music, and they are playing the PR and chart game, but they’re doing it really well. They’re just coming in at a slightly different angle, and anybody who’s making music from a slightly different angle like that, trying to infiltrate that pop music scene, I’m only in awe of them. They’re definitely in the same kind of camp as Disclosure. And if any kind of music like that is going to take away attention from others kind of top-10 chart music, you know, I’m happy about it.
How did you find reworking that song?
It wasn’t too hard because the tempo of the song was around house music anyway – around 120bpm. So yeah, it wasn’t that difficult, but it wasn’t the easiest one I’ve done. I’m working on a remix at the moment which is a lot harder; it’s taken me about a week or so to do.
Favourite remix of yours?
I really like this remix I did for an Australian band called The Canyons because what I did was pretty much rework the entire song. There might have been a small amount of instrumentation from their end, and I just used the vocal, but I liked it because what I wanted to create in my head really came out in the studio. The atmosphere was totally there. On a commercial level though, it didn’t really have as much as an impact as the remix I did for AlunaGeorge, for example. However, from a production and musical level, that’s definitely my favourite I’ve done, certainly in the last couple of years. I’m just not sure if anyone’s heard it.
Finally, do you plan to continue with this series of EPs?
I’m contracted to do four of them, and I’m recording the third one right now. So, there’ll be at least two more. And like you said at the beginning, “Why haven’t you done much original music in the past?”, basically, you know, I want to completely change that now so in the years to come you’ll probably be asking, “why are you releasing too much music?”. I want to balance out what’s happened in the past. My favourite artists always have, like, 40 incredible tracks released over a period of 10 years, and that’s the kind of level I want to get to with my own stuff.
- Huw Oliver