Hitting the right notes: Dale Howard
Dale Howard is a producer who has really hit his stride recently, knocking out some great music and being signed to some very reputable labels while he’s at it. Dale hails from the north-west, spending his formative years in Liverpool, which is a city that (although close to influential Manchester) has never really had a strong house scene to speak of. With this in mind I caught up with Dale for chat about his inspirations and his recent run of form…
When did you first start getting into dance music?
I only started getting into dance music when I was about 18 after me and my girlfriend (at the time) split up, which meant I was going out all the time (as you do). One of my mates asked me to go to a club in Liverpool that played house music… It was shit house music, but house music nonetheless and it was a completely different crowd and vibe to what I’d previously been used to. It was around the time electro started to take off too so I guess people I was into at the time were people like Dave Spoon, Sebastien Leger, Mark Knight and so on…
Who inspired you to start DJing and how long have you been at it now?
I’m not sure how it came about really. I do remember seeing local DJs playing though and seeing how happy everyone was in the clubs, so there was a point when I thought, “Right, thats what I wanna do!” Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that the increasing amount of time I spent at after parties and DJing, is directly proportionate to the demise of my uni studies. I started DJing pretty soon after I started going to clubs that played dance music actually… so pretty much eight years.
Can you remember your first gig?
My memory is so shit, so I don’t think I can remember my first gig actually… I can almost certainly assure you that it would’ve been fucking horrific though! Along with many of the ones that followed soon after.
Some of your stuff has a garagey sound to it, were you a big garage fan?
Yeah I’m starting to hear this more and more.. and, no not really. It’s funny because, musically, it’s kind of been a regressive process in terms of inspiration. When I first started out producing, and even up until the end of last year, I wasn’t using ideas from old nineties stuff and UK garage, that’s why I don’t think I was making enough impact with my tracks. My sound wasn’t clear, as I’d taken inspiration from… fuck knows really, but it wasn’t great wherever it was from! Now that I’ve really made time for music, I’m just making stuff that I think sounds good and not caring about what aspects of my inspirations technically ‘work’ with others.
So what’s the ethos behind the music you’re making?
Primarily, I’m making music which makes me want to dance (cue the textbook studio head nods) and that’s how it should be for every producer, I think. But obviously it’s good to see that other people are liking them too. It does give you the confidence to try out new things, which in the past I may have thought, “Naaa, that’s a bit too left field than usual’ – so I’m excited to get my new stuff out.
How much influence have you taken from your local scene in the north-west?
I’ve really taken absolutely no musical inspiration from Liverpool. There’s a couple good nights but apart from that it’s rife with ‘club anthems’ and general commercial shit ‘house’ music. I was inspired to get into DJing by some of the DJs I saw in Liverpool at the time, but in terms of producing you can’t be inspired by someone who only plays other people’s music.
Where were you going out when you first started raving and what’s the local scene like now?
There were only two clubs that stayed open late enough to go to really – Garlands and G Bar. Both played good music for the time but nothing ground breaking… it was very much a local thing in terms of who would be playing too, apart from the odd guest now and then. The two haven’t really ever moved forward either to be honest, but that works for them as that’s what the loyal ‘punters’ seem to be into going. There’s mumu and Circus to choose from really now so Liverpool is still miles behind cities like its neighbours, Manchester (which is like the Premier league) and Leeds too.
So when did you decide to start making your own music as well as playing other people’s?
I started making my own ‘music’ (which was incoherent shite to begin with) about a year after I started DJing and to quote an absolutely rinsed cliche, it was a ‘natural progression’ for me. It was more a case of wanting to be able to play my own music instead of just everyone elses really and also knowing that in order for me to be playing out at decent gigs, I’d have to make it as a producer, because no one gives a shit if you can ‘DJ’ anymore because everyone’s at it!
What’s inspiring you musically at the moment?
Yeah, stuff’s going alright for me at the minute. In terms of inspiration there isn’t a lot that’s in the charts that I’m feeling to be honest. Tech house is full of percussive stuff, deep house is full of those big overused boring bass lines, 95% of the house chart isn’t even house music… so I’m taking a little inspiration from all kinds of stuff really and then putting my own spin on it along with my own ideas.
Who amongst your peers are you really feeling at the moment?
Really into how diverse Shenoda and Dusky are, and also loving Bicep! Those guys are killing it at the minute and I’ve always been a fan of Huxley and Jordan Peak’s stuff too.
What’s your studio set up?
My studio set up is pretty average to be honest – I’ve got a 27-inch iMac, a Roland midi board, an M-Audio midi board with drum pad, KRK Rockit 6 monitor speakers and a load of plug-ins and VSTs. I’m going to pick up the new Maschine Mikro though when it’s out and I really want a Roland TB-303!
What have you got coming up in the next few months?
I’ve got EPs on Morris Audio, Klangkultur and US label ‘Large’, which are all on 12-inch and digital. I’ve also got a load of remixes out too over the next few months on various labels and I’m just finalising some EPs on some labels that I’m really excited to be on. But I’d prefer to keep that in the dark at the minute because I always think something’s going to go wrong and the EP isn’t going to end up happening [laughs].
Where do you want to go with your whole music?
I’d love to be able to establish myself as one of the main guys on the house/deep house scene, so I’m just spending as much time as possible making music and trying to build on what I’ve done so far really. There’s a couple of labels I’d love to release music on, so if I can achieve that by the end of 2012 or 2013 then I’ll be really happy. In terms of gigs, there’s a few places I’d love to play at next year in particular (I’ll keep those to myself though so I don’t look like a tool if I don’t get booked) and I’d love to play at a festival too. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing though and see if any of it happens.. if it doesn’t, at least I haven’t told you so I wont look as bad when I get pied!
How did you label come about and what’s happening with it?
I set it up in 2010 and, much like my producing, it was a bit of a side project. I was more into more techy kind of stuff round about that time so that came through in the sounds on the label also. Now I’ve made music a full-time thing, that’s kind of run through into the label too so the stuff coming out on Static over the next few months is really cool and I’m excited to get it all out. Its a lot more housey in terms of its sound now though, so I’m happy about that. Much like my own aspirations for myself in 2013, I’m hoping that the label really builds on the releases and artists I have on board at the moment and just keeps moving forward. That’s all you can hope for as a producer and as a label owner really.Dale Howard
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