For Club Play Only… Duke Dumont talks career progression
Duke Dumont is a DJ/producer hailing from north-west London. His output is maybe not as high as some of his counterparts, but his focus is on quality not quantity and this shines through in each and every one of his releases. For instance, the recent For Club Play Only EP, which features some great techno-based tracks full of verve and energy, and seriously polished. I had a brief chat with the Duke himself recently and here’s the result of that conversation…
You’re from London, how has the music scene there influenced/inspired your musical direction?
I’m from the outskirts of North West London, from a place called Rayners Lane. My immediate environment of where I was based most my life has had absolutely no influence on my musical direction. If that were the case, I’d be a singer writing music about fast food, knife crime, and the Metropolitan Line.
How were you introduced to electronic music?
A pair of shitty Soundlab belt drive turntables, collection of shitty UK garage records, and Music 2000 on the Playstation. Music 2000 was pretty good, for a £25 computer game. I remember it had about 8 seconds sampling time, so it was good to sample drums, and various bits. I also bought a minidisk player, so I used to record the finished tracks directly from the TV audio outlet. Obviously the studio set up is a bit better now, but restriction can be productive. The more fancy tools you have to craft with, the more you can lose persepective of the core elements of producing a decent song.
When did you start to consider a career in playing/making music?
As soon as I made as much money from it, to quit my day job.
How did you make your ambitions a reality?
I didn’t have any ambition, other to do what I enjoyed doing for a living. Having a sustainable career making and playing music is enough.
Did you have any other career ambitions as a youngster? What would you have done if music never took off?
None whatsoever and no idea.
What did your parents think about you wanting to get into music?
I can’t really remember. I had a day job making ringtones for a living, so when I started making a living from remixing, and DJ gigs, I was about 22 yrs old, living in Willesden Green. It wasn’t as though I was 16 years old, living at home, and never had a job in my life.
What would you pinpoint as your ‘big break’ or the moment when making a living from music really started to become a reality?
I think a big break indicates that there was an element of luck, which is not the case. However building up a discography and profile which meant working with a DJ agent helped sustain a living.
What was the most difficult aspect of trying to establish a career as a producer?
I don’t think there is any. I have never consciously thought of ways to ‘establish’ myself, other than be knowledgeable, and good with regards to producing music. For me, the hardest part is the internal battle I have in my head between trying to be brave, and playing it safe. Being brave means taking music into a new territory, which you know will be esoteric, and only understood by the few. Playing it safe is operating within the pre-defined parameters already set by genres. Being brave is the most satisfying for the individual, and my overall goal, but playing it safe pays the bills, and probably makes more people happy, and garners more attention.
You studied music/sonic arts – how has this helped you in terms of making music? Would you recommend other wannabe producers follow a similar route?
No. But find whatever path benefits you. From my individual experience, I actually found Sonic Art hugely pretentious, and limited. More so the scene of people involved in it, than the actual practice of the art. It seemed to be less about the expression of individual ideas, and more about people in sitting in a semi-circle, listening to recordings of pops and clicks, whilst stroking their chins, and then commenting on it in a way in which the rest of the group would think they were intelligent, and accept them. Saying that there are institutions such as IRCAM in Paris, which play a significant and valid role in progressing sound, technology and art, which can sometimes drip thorough to music, over time. If you want to endeavour in sonic art, go study over there, or study computer programming.
Did it help you in any way at all?
The one thing it helped with was my appreciation for sound, which is why I think I am more interested in the tone and interaction between sounds in a recording, rather than hearing the lyrics, or what the song is about. In addition I was born partially deaf, so I don’t take the ability to hear sound for granted, which probably makes me appreciate sounds more than most people.
Do you have a set routine in the studio? How do you deal with potential writer’s block?
I tend to record between the witching hours of 23:00 till 03:00, Monday to Thursday, as there are no distractions. I don’t get writer’s block. But I do get ‘paralyses from analysis’ when a recording takes shape, which means the majority of recordings don’t get finished.
How long did it take you to get to a point where you were truly happy with the music you were making?
That’s a bit of a loaded question. I’ve never been truly happy with anything, but at the same time I know I have a greater understanding and ability than many producers whom would say they are.
What are you up to now? What projects are you working on?
I enjoy DJing. It’s the most fun, and financially rewarding aspect of what I do, at present. I appreciate the opportunity to travel most weekends, and play some great venues. Point being, I’m recording a series of EPs on Turbo Recordings titled, ‘For Club Play Only’, the first issue was released in June, and I’m aiming to release three throughout this year. My aim with it is to build up a strong catalogue of club tracks, under my belt. Other than that, I’ll do some remixes, and produce some other acts, throughout the year.
Do you keep up to date on the goings-on within electronic music/techno? What are you into at the moment?
Buying records from Clone, or Phonica keeps me on top of things. I’m not really into any techno acts at the moment. I’m trying to concentrate on my own recordings, without the corruption of inspiration, which can result in the act of plagiarism.
How do you feel about the growth of electronic music at the moment?
I don’t feel anything. I just concentrate on my immediate self, and nothing outside of that, with regards to music.
What do you have coming up over the coming months?
Heading to Hong Kong, Sydney, Taiwan, Europe, etc to DJ, and a lot of studio sessions.Duke Dumont, music
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