There's something wonderful happening to pop music over in the U.K.
Underground dance music styles like deep house, garage and bass are breaking through the roof and taking over the charts, in much the same way they did during the '90s.
DJ-producer Duke Dumont is the prime example of this phenomenon. Despite picking up some moderate buzz as a remixer in the last few years, it wasn't until this past year that he came into his own as a producer.
Breakthrough single "Need U (100%)," an exuberant slice of retro '90s vocal dance goodness, catapulted to the number one spot on the U.K. singles chart after dropping in March.
For once, we here in the U.S. are actually lucky to be light years behind the U.K. musically, since it means we get to see its biggest-selling star, booked (thanks to Slap & Tickle) at an intimate small room like Bardot instead of the megaclub or stadium arena where a pop star of his caliber belongs.
Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music? Were you exposed to the dance music scene from an early age?
Duke Dumont: I think in the U.K., most people are exposed to dance music at an early age. I'm part of a generation that grew up with The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk on the charts. The cycle of dance music in the charts went away for a while, but I think it has come back around.
You've cited the notoriously experimental and genre-blurring producer Switch as an early mentor in the studio. How did you first hook up with him and what did he impart to you?
Dave [Taylor] (Switch) released an early EP of mine about 6 years ago. We spent a couple of days mixing the record, when he lived in Chester, England. Spending a few days in the studio with him opened my eyes to how you can get the most out of making music on a computer. I still think Dave gets better-sounding results from just a computer than a lot of producers who have a hundred thousand dollars' worth of recording equipment.
Until last year, you were mostly known for your remixes. What
prompted the leap to original producer? Was there a gradual evolution
leading up to that point? Or was there a moment of inspiration that
spawned those first original works?
I knew I had to release more
of my own music, because it had been a long time since I released my
earlier material. I had worked on approximately 30 remixes, between
working on my own material. With remixing, it teaches you how to get the
most out if something with a limited sound palette. When you make a
song from scratch, you can be blinded by the unlimited options you have,
which makes having a clarity of style very important.
How did "Need U (100%)" come about? How did you hook up with vocalist *A*M*E*, and what was the creative process like in the studio? Did you have any premonitions about this record blowing up the way it did?
I had recorded the instrumental, but I knew a good vocal would take it to another level, which is when my manager got in touch with *A*M*E*. She brought a pop aspect to the record, but also gave it a bit of soul. I knew after the vocal was recorded that it had a crossover appeal to it, but I didn't expect it to be as successful as it is.
With that single reaching number one on the U.K. pop charts, you've joined other dance music acts like Disclosure who are catapulting from the underground to the mainstream. What do you think this means for music in general? Is that deep house/garage sound about to lose its underground credibility as it becomes pop? Or is it a positive sign of how the masses' taste in music is improving?
To an extent, it'll probably lose its underground credentials, but the plus side is there is now another option within popular music, which previously didn't exist. I do think it is a positive thing because I think it shows that people's taste in music is maturing, largely thanks to the Internet. The likes of myself, Disclosure and Rudimental sell more singles in the U.K. than Justin Timberlake, with probably a hundredth of the marketing costs. I think that's a good thing.
It was quite a winning move to self-release the record on your own Blasé Boys Club imprint (and its first release ever, to boot.) Where do you plan to take your now-famous label in the future? Do you have any new artist signings or releases slated already? What sort of sounds are you planning to put out?
I'm busy recording music for the label at the moment. I want to work on and release music that excites me. There may only be 2-3 release on the label this year, but I have the confidence that those records are quality records.
So where does a formerly underground electronic dance music producer go after reaching your heights? Do you see yourself continuing in an accessible vocal dance style like on "Need U (100%)", or will you keep pushing the more experimental tip of your earlier material? Do you feel a pressure to continue pandering to pop tastes?
A new world has opened up to me, but for me a balance between the 2 sides of it are essential. I want to continue to record music that would work well within my DJ sets, at the same time I will record tracks that might work better on radio. Doing both is essential to be able to do both well.
What can Miami expect during you show at Bardot on Tuesday?
Outside of just playing music I really enjoy, I'll probably play a lot of music I play in clubs around Europe, which is mainly house music-based. The one thing I've learned from DJing is to make the women dance, and everyone has a good time. So I will be applying that philosophy when I play in Miami.
Duke Dumont. Presented by Slap & Tickle. With Pirate Stereo, Santiago Caballero, and Panic Bomber. Tuesday, May 14. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave. Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 to $20 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-7750 or visit bardotmiami.com.
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