Duke Dumont’s “Need U (100%)” is one of those records that marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another.
It was the first time in more than a decade that a real, true House Music track made it to #1 in the UK, preparing the way for full-fledged invasion that included Clean Bandit, Disclosure and others. He did it again with “I Got U” and “ended” the run when “Won’t Look Back” merely peaked at the #2 spot. And while his pop sensibilities lead to this sort of chart action, there’s no question that Duke’s records are a modern DJ’s delight.
Duke is coming to Chicago again for Spring Awakening June 12, 13 and 14 at Soldier Field. I had a chance to feed him some questions for a 5 Mag interview and had to start with his long-anticipated album, of which his latest track, “The Giver (Reprise)” is a taste.
When is your album expected, and are you presently playing anything from it to test on audiences? Do you test your material this way? And have you ever made changes based on it?
Early Fall ’15… Yes, I include forthcoming material in my DJ sets. But I have never made changes based on a crowd reaction. I do not tend to “road test” material in demo form. I will finish it and play it. All decisions are made within the moment I am at the studio, not by committee and crowd response.
I have confidence and clarity on what I want to make musically, and have the mindset that “a cow is a horse made by committee.” So I tend to be insular during the creative process.
There seems to be two approaches to the modern dance album: cluster a bunch of club singles together or try to make a musical statement that fits for a listening experience as well. Do you agree? Is there an overarching approach for you?
I suppose another way to frame the same question is, “When you’re working on album material, are you thinking about songs or DJs?”
I 100% agree with your statement. To answer your question; “When you’re working on album material, are you thinking about songs or DJs?” – I only ever think of songs for the album. I have a series of EPs called For Club Play Only – now that is tailored towards DJs.
My album is more of a musical statement, and a “dance album” in the old fashion sense, where it is not a bunch of club singles but has real dynamic to the whole record. I think the stand out moments on the record are moments people will not know me for already …
You recently dropped a new version of “The Giver.” Why did you feel it needed a reprise?
I wanted to present it to a larger audience. In its previous incarnation as a six minute club structured track, it wouldn’t have been given the time of day by certain media outlets such as radio and TV. To really “capitalize” on it, I could have brought in a pop singer, with the agenda to sell as many copies as possible. However I wanted to keep the integrity of the original, and I feel the Reprise is evidence of this.
Playing a festival is big, a televised festival makes it even bigger. Your original tracks feel so intimate by contrast. How do you adjust for the biggest of “big rooms”? Does it affect your style when you play before or after a more progressive EDM-oriented DJ or act?
It doesn’t affect what I do. I can only concentrate on what I can contribute, and not be distracted by others. I am not in competition with anyone else. I know what I want to achieve in my career, and it does not involve trying to compete with any EDM acts.
I know what techno artists like Kevin Saunderson or Octave One use for a live show. What do you use for yours? Is there a kit of gear that you use and swear by?
I swear by my computer. A lot of tailored sound banks. And effects 🙂
Do you learn anything from simply working over some of the grand tracks you’ve remixed? For instance, “Dim All The Lights” – it’s Donna Summer’s vocal, but it’s also Don Giorgio’s production.
In all honesty, I haven’t had the time to analysis the stems from Giorgio Moroder. Subconsciously, having done a lot of remixes, it has taught me all of the components needed to try and create a good song technically. However, the best songs are always about feeling.
I think we’ve asked this question of Steve Hurley, Louie Vega, Frankie Knuckles and others over the years: What changes when you’re Grammy nominated? Does it open doors, and are those doors that one really wants to walk through? or is it all good?
Honestly… I haven’t noticed any changes. Whether there has been changes, I cannot say with certainty. I am content with the fact I can make music from my heart, and sustain a living from the thing I love.
Duke Dumont is appearing next in Chicago at Spring Awakening June 12, 13 and 14 at Soldier Field; tickets are available through ticketmaster. Get up on Duke via dukedumont.com, on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.