After many years of productions and remixes on a multitude of imprints, Lost My Dog founder Pete Dafeet finally dropped his debut album this summer, fittingly released on his own label. Several years in the making, The Root, The Soul received critical acclaim, national radio airplay in the UK and support from DJs all over the planet. It felt like this artist and his label had finally come of age. Pete responded to this new level of success by closing the doors at Lost My Dog. For good. Understandably, we had questions…
First off, congratulations on the new record: it hangs together as a piece of art, which is no mean feat for a House long player. Were most of the tracks written with an album in mind, or is this a happy coincidence?
It was written as an album from the start, though I wasn’t sure if I’d finish it! I work full time outside of music so have always struggled to find the time to produce, but after 12 years making music I was bored of the usual stream of EPs and wanted to do something special. I asked to go part time at the start of 2013 and my boss kindly agreed, so I suddenly went from having a few hours of producing each weekend to three full days each and every week.
I’d had a couple of false starts on an album over the years, but this time round I had the time, patience and motivation to fully commit. By the end of the summer I had the first four or five tracks done and thought I would breeze the rest. I think it was about six months before the next track was finished, and a year before the record was done – there are a lot of half-finished tracks in the bin!
This may well be the longest time we’ve ever had to wait for a debut album. What took you so long?
The lack of time was obviously a factor, but the most important thing was that I lacked experience and confidence. I’d been producing for over a decade but I had never felt totally comfortable with it – making music was often a frustrating process that I had to squeeze around the rest of my life, and as a result usually dragged on far longer than it should have. Going part time at work helped me really focus on the art of making music, and I quickly started to understand what I needed to do to improve – both in terms of production techniques, but also getting ideas out of my head and into reality far quicker. Once I had that down the album became much less scary – even if it still took over a year to record!
Let’s get the sad part of the interview out the way. Lost My Dog has closed its doors. Why now?
It’s just part of life’s natural rhythm I think. We’re celebrating 10 great years with the label, and when we started we were all single, living and breathing House Music, with little else to do. But naturally our lives have moved on. Of the three founders, Nags’ creative passion has moved towards filmmaking, while Ian and I have full-time jobs in other industries that take up our time and attention. Running the label was hugely exciting at the start, but a lot of it has become routine, and – as everyone knows – routines get tiring after a while. Better to go out on a bang than a whimper!
Another reason for my own declining enthusiasm has been the way the market has shifted. We were vinyl-only when we started, and the distributors and record shops were in the shit just like we were. No-one was making money, and it felt like we were all working together! Now you see download stores valued at $250 million, but that money isn’t really trickling down to the creators, at least not beyond the Calvin Harrises of this world.
I think it’s great that money is being made through electronic music, but I certainly don’t feel incentivised to bust my gut when large companies are racking up huge profits while I see few benefits.
Looking back on your years running LMD, what have been your personal highlights?
One of the best things about shutting Lost My Dog has been the opportunity to look back, and there are some great memories to look back on.
Hearing Norman Jay play one of our releases (YSE’s Bounce Back) on BBC Radio 1 live from Notting Hill carnival is right up there with the best of them. It was the first time we’d been played on a big radio station and made us feel like we were a proper label – especially as he’d bought it himself! Having Pete Tong play one of my own records on Radio 1 a couple years later was also incredible, especially as he was very kind on the voiceover. I thought that was the peak of everything for me, but then he played it again the week after and I nearly died!
As for gigs, being asked to play Fabric was very special. I’ll never forget the times we played there as each of them was a fantastic night, and the crew always made us feel so welcome. Some of the other gigs we did as Lost My Dog have great memories too – being paid to visit places like Shanghai, Dubai, and New York was pretty cool!
That all said, I’m hoping this album will be the ultimate highlight, at least for me personally. The lead single “Wife” was been played a few times on BBC Radio, which is a pretty good barometer of success in my eyes, and having it supported by people like Danny Howells, Ian Pooley, and Chez Damier has been great for the self-esteem! The CD and vinyl will certainly be framed and will hang on the walls of my house for a long time to come.
What will you miss most about running LMD?
Working with Ian (Straker) on a daily basis. He’s a huge reason why we’ve been successful over the years and have managed to build (and hold onto) a good reputation. He always nailed the business/operations side of things – everything he does is organised correctly; everything happens exactly when it should; and every last penny is allocated correctly when the royalties come in. Our artists have always been treated fairly and paid in full, on time, without prompting… which is why they’ve always come back to release more records. It’s been a genuine joy working with him over the years, and I really hope we manage to keep in regular contact after the label closes.
There’s a huge restructuring of the music industry taking place as we move into the streaming age. Where do you feel House Music stands within this?
The move to streaming presents a whole new set of challenges to the industry, and – to be honest – I’m pretty thankful I don’t have to worry about it. It’s hard not to see the negatives: the move to digital has undoubtedly devalued music as a commodity, and the move to streaming can only push that trend further. But times move on, and the industry can’t stand still. Labels have to figure out a way of making it work. Unfortunately for most it’ll just mean taking a bigger hit – most House labels are run for the love of the music. Most of the companies who distribute and sell music put profit first (they’re businesses after all), so ultimately any shortfall will likely come at the expense of independent label owners.
I’ve always been struck by the quality and originality of your remixes over the years: true re-interpretations rather than “slap the vocal over a track I made.” How picky are you when it comes to choosing tracks to rework? Do you have a specific process or approach which leads to such interesting versions?
You know what, my selection criteria over the years has been fairly random, and I’ve never been all that picky. It’s usually been a mix of whether I like the track, maybe I’ve had a weekend free, or that someone offered decent money… or just asked nicely for once.
As for how I like to remix… I’ve never seen the point in using all the parts in the same order and just putting new drums underneath or something. It just seems a bit boring. I like to rip things apart, and muck about, and try new processes, and see what happens. I think that’s the beauty of a remix, it should be about the producer re-imagining a track through the filter of their life and experiences, not just trying to make something work better in a club.
I’m not really doing remixes any more though – I’m now back working full-time so don’t have the time. If you see a new remix from me soon you’ll know it’s because someone offered big bucks!!!
We’d love to hear your take on the current House Music scene. Which are your current favourite artists and labels?
There is so, so much House Music around these days that I find myself drawn to anything that doesn’t quite fit the mould. I think Seven Davis Jr. is fantastic, and has everything he needs to be a real crossover star (while keeping a tight hold on his integrity). I loved Hercules and Love Affair’s most recent album, and I rarely tire of the music that AtJazz and Jimpster make.
Overall I think there’s as much talent and innovation in House Music as there ever was, but there’s so, so much music around it can often feel like the good stuff is being swamped by the average. I think there’s too much focus on the technical side of production these days, and not enough on the creative side. It doesn’t matter how polished your sound is if your song is boring. I’d advise every budding producer to listen back to some of those early releases on Trax and the like, to understand what makes a great record great. If you put a great song together and it doesn’t really matter what it sounds like.
We constantly hear the old guard ranting about EDM. What’s your take, if any?
To be honest I don’t have a strong opinion either way. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed the examples I’ve heard, but I don’t come into contact with it much in my daily life, so I wouldn’t be a great judge of it.
What I would say is that I’m put off by the overblown, excessive edge that seems to run through EDM. I think it’s very counter-intuitive to the House Music that I know and love. I’m pretty sure that most House DJs over the years would list “soul” as a key component of House Music, and it seems like there’s very little of that in EDM. But it’s hard to deny that the popularity of EDM has boosted House Music. You have to think that EDM must be driving some people to dig a little deeper, and discover “true” House Music, as we’d know it. And on that logic it’s likely that EDM’s emergence has probably reinvigorated the careers of some of the old guard who dislike it so much, which is kind of ironic.
But it’s all cyclical, EDM will burn out sooner or later, and rock will come back with a vengeance, and then we’ll all be wishing the House clubs were busier again.
What’s next for Pete Dafeet?
A bit of a rest to be honest! The album has ticked a lot of the boxes I wanted to tick, and my creative juices are at a temporary low. I’m very happily married and enjoying home life at the moment, we have our first child on the way, and most of the time I’ve had free this year has been spent following my favourite football team around the country. I’m happy to be concentrating on things outside of music for the time being, but I’m sure I’ll be itching to get back in the saddle before I know it.