Nearly 15 years since the release of his first single, the classic “U Don’t Know Me” with Armand Van Helden, Duane Harden finally releases his debut solo album #NB4U (Naked Before You). In the time elapsed, he has grown into many roles – singer, songwriter, producer, label mogul, author – all of which has contributed to his current release. The album features collaborations with everyone from Ferry Corsten, Sidney Samson, and Louie Vega to Bimbo Jones, Jessica Sutta, and Chris Willis. There is truly something for everyone on the album. This kind of diversity of talent is not a surprise, if you take a moment and search for Duane on discogs.com, it might blow you away to see how many incredible records he has been involved with over the years.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Let’s start with something I’ve been wondering about. How did the Chicane “One More Time” collaboration come about?
Duane Harden: Chicane sent me a message and it was the usual process from there. I think he may have gotten the idea from Ferry Corsten because they work together a lot and I did the Ferry Corsten track “Love Will.” It was my first dive into that genre of music, so maybe he thought it would be a cool idea to do a track with an underground, soulful dance artist.
RS: Yeah you wouldn’t really think that trance and soulful house would go together, but it does.
Duane Harden: I think that music and music go together, that is why I haven’t done my album to be a specific genre. I just write songs, and whatever genre the producer decides to go with is their decision, but I am a songwriter, so I can be in trance, vocal house, EDM, or country and western, it doesn’t matter. One of my favorite genres of music is Spanish music and I love to dance to salsa even though I don’t understand much Spanish. The music speaks to me, so it becomes universal.
RS: I didn’t realize you wrote Bob Sinclar’s – “Love Generation.”
Duane Harden: Yes, I just want to clarify that every song is a co-write, but yes, I was involved with “Love Generation,” “Sound of Freedom,” “Give a Little Love,” “Shining from Heaven,” and a bunch of other stuff.
RS: What other big songs have you written that we may not have known you had your hands on?
Duane Harden: A lot, but one of my recent favorites is Erick Morillo feat. Shawnee Taylor – “Live Your Life” and “Stronger.” The last big pop crossover was Sean Kingston – “Party All Night (Sleep All Day).” I do a lot of writing, but the thing about music today is that you usually don’t get a piece of vinyl or a CD that you can look at and read the credits, so people don’t know that I am behind the scenes on a lot of dance hits.
RS: Producers will always come to you and say “hey, would you write on my track,” but as a vocalist, trying to get a producer to do a track for you is often a challenge. How did you get so many producers that were willing to give you a track for your album project?
Duane Harden: Well, I call myself the ‘vocal mafia’ and I have written so many well-known records that a lot of producers come to me. I have been in the business for several years and I have never asked for favors. It’s basically like ‘either you do this favor, or you don’t get any more lyrics,’ plain and simple!
RS: Who has said no to you?
Duane Harden: There has never been a “no” from a producers’ standpoint, but more like “I’m busy, when do you need it back,” and my response is always ‘yesterday!’ It has always been a question of timing. This is my first time working on an album so I wasn’t sure how to plan everything with the timing.
RS: You also have a lot of vocalists with you on the album as well.
Duane Harden: I have heard “no, I’m signed to a major label” and “no, I’m on tour right now,” but the only real no that I had was from Kat DeLuna. It was a particular song insinuating sex, but from a dancing perspective on the club floor. It wasn’t literal, but just like the song with Sidney Sampson called “Like It Ruff” you would think it was sexual. But I was talking about the sound of Dirty Dutch which is tough and aggressive-sounding, hence the name “Like it Ruff.” Kat DeLuna interpreted it as being too sexual and she said that she would never do that. I didn’t interpret the song that way, but I admire her integrity of what she will and will not do in the industry. I don’t smoke or drink, though, but I wouldn’t have a problem if someone from a liquor or tobacco company wanted to sponsor me, I feel that they are two separate things.
RS: What other vocalists are on the album?
Duane Harden: What other vocalists are not is the better question. We have Timomatic, who was nominated for an MTV VMA award for best Australian act. We have Adrienne Bailon, who was recently in the movie with Ja Rule “I’m in Love with a Church Girl.’ She was in 3LW and a Disney Cheetah Girl and Ne-Yo signed her to Compound Entertainment and got her on the album. Jessica Sutta, who used to be a Pussycat Doll, is also on the album along with a ton of other people.
RS: How do you keep your life in balance, being away from home as much as you are?
Duane Harden: With technology you never really need to be in any particular place, but as far as missing my friends and family, we Skype, text, and call. My mom has Facebook now so that she knows what is going on with me. She always puts embarrassing things on Facebook, but that’s a mom for ya.
RS: Your first single that we know about was “U Don’t Know Me” in 1999, why did it take this long for you to do an album?
Duane Harden: After “U Don’t Know Me,” I had another Top 20 record with Lenny Fontana called “What U Need,” by Powerhouse. Right after that I was supposed to start working on a project, but unfortunately Strictly Rhythm went out of business and went bankrupt. When they went out of business, I was an asset on their books and technically I could not sing for another label. That’s why you see artists change up their name because their mark and name is signed to the label. I couldn’t sing, but I could write so that’s how I got into songwriting. Strictly Rhythm was the only label that I felt at home with; Mark Finkelstein definitely had a reputation for paying people. It’s great to have a record out, but it doesn’t matter if they aren’t paying you royalties. I also met Gladys Pizarro through being signed to Strictly Rhythm, and she is my bestie. After the lawsuit finished and they finally got their name back, I decided to come back on the label side with Moises and Jay. We did that for a while and I realized that every 6 months the industry changes drastically. When we started the label, licensing was still hot and now everyone is selling and nobody is buying. Why am I going to license your record in when I am trying to license my record out? When we started Soltrenz it was like another label where we licensed records that were already hits in Europe for America. It’s not rocket science, because it’s already a hit and so you have a story behind it and it makes it easier to break it into America. That gets expensive, though, and the revenue wasn’t being generated, so we decided that we had to create the original music. So two years later, I made my 1st artist album at 42 years old!
RS: As the author of 5 Easy Steps to Financial Freedom, what advice do you have for up-and-coming DJs and producers?
Duane Harden: In anything that you do, if you do it for the money the gratification will be short lived. Happiness is defined in passion, you have to eat, sleep, rave, and repeat to do this. There are going to be more rainy days than sunny days, and on those tough days it has to be the passion that keeps you wanting to do this.
RS: Any specific financial advice for artists and writers?
Duane Harden: Invest. My first record that I co-wrote was released as Innervision ft Melonie Daniels. It was called “Don’t You Ever Give Up” and it was my first record on the radio, played by Louie Vega who coincidently is on this album. My first song that I wrote and sung in 15 minutes turned out to be a #1 record and I got a lot of money for it and I invested it. A lot of people don’t invest, but it is so important to do.
RS: What is the best way to follow you?
Duane Harden: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the three places that you can find me.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Duane Harden: Keep dancing. I love this eat, sleep, rave, and repeat meme that’s been going on since this summer. Thank you for this interview, Ron, and thank you to all my fans and all the fans of music. Music has a healing power and the industry is changing so much. The fans of music don’t realize what the people who create music go through. I think fans will see even more changes happen as we try to figure out how to be in this industry. Thank you; hang in there because it is going to get better! And of course, keep dancing.
Duane Harden Interview 2014 #NB4U conducted October 2013 during Amsterdam Dance Event. Special thanks to Nicola Freitas at Sliding Doors Publicity for arranging this interview.
Duane Harden Interview 2014