It’s one of the hottest tracks of the last two years, and it’s never been released. “Sunsets & Dolphins” is the “lost” single from UK duo Dusky (Nick Harriman and Alfie Granger-Howell). It had an auspicious debut in a Disclosure Essential Mix in August 2013 and… well, that was it.
Like everyone else, I’d give a pint of blood and the signed rights to my firstborn for a copy and I might have a chance after I entered a unique contest Nick & Alfie put together. They’ve pressed just one copy of “Sunsets & Dolphins,” as a dubplate, and will give it away in a contest via their site.
That isn’t all these guys have done but I’ve thought it was one of the coolest. Together (as Dusky) since 2011, they’ve had a run of fantastic releases, including “Flo Jam” and “Mr. Man.” They are, in a way, the Men of the Moment. And since they’re coming back to Chicago this June 12, 13 & 14 for the Spring Awakening Festival (tickets) this was a good chance to get to know them.
You’ve pressed one record in one copy on one dubplate, and it’s a record that everyone wants. That sounds incredibly precious and very cool. Was this inspired by the Wu Tang Clan’s Shaolin or was it born from your own minds?
NICK: It’s wasn’t strictly inspired by what Wu Tang did with their album release though we did hear about that concept before we pressed the dubplate of “Sunsets & Dolphins.”
It’s quite a different approach from our perspective. They were selling the album to the highest bidder, whereas we’re giving the dubplate away for free. I think Wu Tang were making a constructive comment on the current state of music sales and making us question how music is valued in the digital age. But we’re just having a bit of fun with a track we were never planning to release, and celebrating UK dubplate culture, which has sadly been lost since the rise of digital distribution.
I remember the stories about Prince’s Black Album and the way it circulated on bootleg tapes for years. These things eventually get out. Would you be really disappointed if the first thing the winner did was put “Sunsets & Dolphins” on Mediafire? Or would you be more disappointed if they immediately put it on eBay or discogs, as is the fashion of our age?
ALFIE: If the winner of the dubplate rips it and shares it for free that’s fine with us. It’s totally up to them. It would be a bit irritating if they put it on discogs and try to make money out of it but that’s always a possibility when you do something like this. Let’s hope whoever ends up with the acetate recognizes it’s value not just in a monetary sense.
What other plans do you have for your 17 Steps label?
NICK: The next release will be from Velvit (aka D Bridge), which we’re really excited about. After that will most likely be another release from us.
We’re focusing on quality rather than quantity so we’re not going to rush the release schedule just for the sake of it.
I don’t know many people who can maintain an international profile as DJs without playing festivals. How different do you play a big stadium like Soldier Field here for Spring Awakening vs. your club set? Like are there any specific records that you can think of that would work in one context but not the other?
ALFIE: It really depends on the crowd and what they’re reacting to, how long we’re playing for, and what time of day or night it is. At a festival, a large proportion of the crowd are coming and going as they move between stages, so you can’t rely on the same sense of narrative and direction that you might have for a club set where people are there for the duration. As a result we often play slightly more quick-fire and upbeat to maintain people’s interests.
Also some of the deeper tracks we tend to play at the beginning of a longer set don’t work so well in a festival context. And same goes for the more experimental tracks we might play at 5am in a club.
I saw that you played with Murk down in Miami and wondered if you were influenced by that sound. Were you familiar with the classic Murk material when you set out to make records? If so (or if not), what others records that might not be terribly obvious do you consider the gold standard of production that’s influenced you?
ALFIE: We hadn’t heard of Murk when we first started making House but as we got deeper into it and started doing more research and digging for our DJ sets we came across them. It was great to have them down with Danny Daze to represent the real Miami underground House.
NICK: A track we always mention that’s not that well known, but has really stood the test of time, and has been an influence on our sound is “Sole Fusion – Bass Tone (Underground Network Mix).”
Well you’ll be playing in Chicago soon enough. How have your past experiences been and have you felt much of the cosmic vibrations that spread from the underworld of this historic place?
ALFIE: We’ve only played in Chicago twice but both times have been great. Our most recent set was at Spybar where we played an extended set and it was definitely one of the highlights of the tour. The crowd were very open to us playing across a wide spectrum of House and Techno and it was packed from start to finish. It must have been the cosmic vibrations!
Essentials: Dusky will be appearing next in Chicago at Spring Awakening June 12, 13 and 14 at Soldier Field – tickets available here. You can reach them via duskymusic.com, on Facebook, on Soundcloud and via their label 17stepsrecordings.com.