INTERVIEW: Dave Clarke (2013)
After ten years of interviewing DJs, producers and artists, I rarely get nervous when speaking them. However, approaching Dave Clarke was a bit nerve-wracking, because people that are into techno are REALLY into techno and are practically experts, so it’s kind of intimidating to techno purists. Imagine my pleasant surprise to discover that the “baron of techno” is cordial, friendly and helpful. Dave Clarke is one of the most respected DJs in the world and his radio show/podcast has a loyal (almost cult-like) following of listeners (its available through 2FM RTE and iTunes).
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Starting with the basics, who would be 5 artists, including yourself, that someone should follow to learn about techno?
Dave Clarke: Jeff Mills definitely needs to be there; he is less abrasive now with his sets and has been in his Spaceship vibe for the last couple years. Occasionally he can be a bit abrasive, and that is when he is my favorite. If you are looking for someone from a vinyl or heritage prospective, I would say DJ Bone. If you are looking for someone that is bridging the gap and latecoming into the scene, I would say Chris Liebing, he has his own sound that is very specific to him. I would also say Derrick May because he can be funky, which a lot of people forget how to be- and also Green Velvet.
RS: Green Velvet was on the lineup for your ADE show. Congratulations on the sellout of your show, how did you choose the people that were performing with you?
Dave Clarke: It is very easy, it is people that I respect, and I am not going to invite someone that I don’t respect. It is not difficult to do a lineup with people that you respect; you just have to hope that they are available.
RS: A lot of people that you mentioned are people that are legendary and have been doing techno for many years, are there any newer producers who you would recommend?
Dave Clarke: There are a ton of new producers and the best way to find out about them is to listen to my radio show White Noise. You will find that I am pushing new producers like Mazzula, who has very interesting electro. There are so many people that are producing great music and honestly the best way to find them is to listen to shows like mine on the internet or radio.
RS: You also had big success at Tomorrowland, what was it like playing out on your own stage this year?
Dave Clarke: I think the word that I would use is juxtaposition.
RS: How so?
Dave Clarke: I am so dark and Tomorrowland is so light and like a fairy land or efteling. A juxtaposition that was funny but actually worked, I was very happy with it and I know that the organizers were happy as well. I hope that the quality of music that I put through on the stage translated. It was a busy area, in one area you had David Guetta and in another area you had Green Velvet and Miss Kittin and Chris Liebing- it was fun.
RS: You just used the word efteling, what does that mean?
Dave Clarke: It is like a fairyland place for kids, it could probably be imagined as a nightmare place if you happen to be ill.
RS: Did you help design the Denon SC2900?
Dave Clarke: Yes
RS: How did you get involved with that and what exactly is it?
Dave Clarke: There is a great video that Denon is putting out in the next couple of days that explains how I got involved with it. What happened was that I was using Technics CD turntables, the CD-Js, but Technics stopped being around a few years ago and it was getting more and more difficult for promoters to find them. They were calling me more difficult than I am because I wanted them and they couldn’t find them. Rain in the US asked me what I thought about the Denon decks, I liked them but I noticed that there were a few technical issues that hadn’t been resolved. I offered my help and took some trips to Japan with the engineers to talk on a technical level about standing waves and different things like that. I have been working with them for about 2 ½ years.
RS: So it is a controller for software?
Dave Clarke: It can be, if you use timecode on there or if you use it in MIDI hybrid mode, which is developed in the 3900 but not the static-platter one yet. It’s really good.
RS: Are you playing on CDs right now?
Dave Clarke: Yes, I am playing on timecode CDs to control Serato software.
RS: I think that you mentioned a quote “the problem in the music industry is the future is in the hands of dull characterless technicians masquerading as artists.”
Dave Clarke: That is not a quote from me but one that I understand and believe in. A friend of mine who is actually a very big promoter in Ireland and books many acts said that. I believe he hit the nail on the head because it has changed.
RS: Is that your take on the whole idea of a superstar DJ?
Dave Clarke: People have called me a superstar DJ through the years and I don’t understand that. There is a certain diva behavior that is with the superstar DJs of today- but I don’t know.
RS: There seems to be a culture right now of DJs that don’t really do their own production/work and just show up to DJ.
Dave Clarke: Yes it is very sad and true, there are DJs that don’t do their radio shows and they choose someone else to choose the music, put it together, and provide voiceovers that are probably scripted by someone else. For example, Phillip Stark doesn’t design everything himself, but he does keep an eye on everything, it has almost become that the brand is more important than the product. It is really sad and it’s an opportunity missed. I didn’t come into this industry to be branded so that everything is creatively taken out of my hands; the whole point of creativity is the enjoyment, frustration, and finding what works and learning from it. There is so much branding and premade CDs, and in some ways a lot of these guys become so arrogant that they don’t even give a shit if people are taking pictures of them when their equipment isn’t even plugged in. It is really tragic on many levels; it is tragic that journalists aren’t pursuing this because they have other interests. Journalists should be pursuing this, exposing it, blowing it up, and throwing it out. For artists to do that to other artists is not particularly great and it is a journalist’s job, they should be exposing the reality of this so that they can thrive based on creativity.
RS: I totally agree with you and there are so many sad stories here. I wanted to ask you, did you move from London to Amsterdam because of the weather?
Dave Clarke: I actually live on the south coast of England now, we do have palm trees there, not many, but they are capable of growth throughout the whole year and the skies are a lot bluer. I miss the weather though, the weather here can be quite depressing, but there are so many other good things about living here that it outweighs it heavily.
RS: I noticed that the Dutch scene is much more open and experimental with their music; do you think that is why there are so many Dutch DJs that are out in the market and doing so well?
Dave Clarke: I think that from a branding perspective, the Dutch are known as traders so if they can’t get branding right with trading, then their culture is a bit strange. The Dutch have long been known for being traders and branding is just an extension of that. For the underground music scene and the people that care about music I think that there is a freedom of being who you are, there is less peer pressure. I don’t really involve myself in the social level in the music industry, not because I think that I am above it but I don’t think that it is healthy to have everything revolve around one thing.
RS: What other things besides music do you have going on?
Dave Clarke: I have friends that I am able to talk about various things like politics with. It is the strangest thing, as an artist you are almost frowned upon for being political. It is kind of like how boybands are to girls; they are safe because they don’t have penises. As a DJ you are not really allowed to have political opinions because people may disagree. I enjoy talking about politics with my friends; I also enjoy being in pubs, experiencing culture, and even just walking.
RS: I saw something on your twitter that I didn’t understand, what did you mean by “devils dandruff?”
Dave Clarke: That’s cocaine.
RS: Okay I didn’t know that.
Dave Clarke: The English language is brilliant.
RS: Are you working on any new productions right now?
Dave Clarke: Yeah, I am working with an English band that I can’t name right now. I have a couple of remixes, one for Octave One that I did ages ago with a guy called Mr. Jones by the name of Unsubscribed.
RS: When you are in the studio do you work on Logic?
Dave Clarke: Yeah but I am still waiting for everything to go 64 bit. It’s frustrating, I have a go with Mitch at SoundToys. I almost sent him a text, “thanks for sending me your music, but I want 64 bit.” I am waiting for UAD to go 64 Bit and not concentrate so much on hosting their own plugins and their own specific peripherals. I am using Logic and a lot of Brainworx plugins which are all 64s, they are fantastic and really strong. I have to give kudos to Waves, I don’t really like some of their GUIs but they went straight on to 64 Bit and they are reliable and brilliant. I have a mad Mac tower with 24 cores and 48 gigs of RAM so it is starting to be fun for me now.
RS: How does it feel to be chosen as one of the faces of ADE this year?
Dave Clarke: I didn’t know that I was.
RS: Yeah I read that you were, how does it feel?
Dave Clarke: I guess I have a face for radio.
RS: Just two more questions, what effect do you think that ADE has had on the Dutch music scene?
Dave Clarke: I think that ADE has had more of an effect on the European and world music scene. Obviously it is important for Holland but the Dutch have done this right. This is the most important dance music conference in the world, so by doing that and then having it in Holland it comes back to say that the Dutch rock.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Dave Clarke: Out where?
RS: Your fans all over the world that are reading this and listening to you.
Dave Clarke: Hello…
Interview conducted during Amsterdam Dance Event 2012.