A Sit Down With Dave Clarke

07:28 Oct/20/2017

A man who’s rallied against the “really boring” tech house sound since day one, Dave thinks it’s only a matter of time before the genre dies, and like minimal — the tech house precursor — “everyone will go ‘yeah well I never played that.’” In an attempt to repackage tech house acts as techno before that happens, Dave sees the modern media hype machine stirring up confusion, at times purposefully. “There's hype around the wrong things,” he says. “And there are certain artists using investments from cash-ins they've had to support their career and buy journalists, apparently.”

IT’S hard to single out anyone in the last 20 years who’s done more for techno’s onward march than Dave Clarke. While some veteran DJs coast along, dining out on their classics and releasing retrospectives, Clarke is still in thrall to techno’s inherent futurism.


"I'm not looking for a time to cash my chips in and turn traitor to everything I believe in; I'm content where I am".

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What made you so interested in electronic music and what made you want to become a DJ and a producer?

 In electronic stuff I got interested because of my father, because he used to have a lot of interesting things in the house: recorders, echo machines, disco lights even. And then becoming a DJ was quite natural for me because I just really really enjoyed music and then I stared doing a few parties at friends’ birthdays and rolling discos.

Did you move to Amsterdam because of the ease of access to the rest of Europe?

When I first went to Amsterdam and I fell in love with the place. I don’t know why, I can’t really explain, it’s just bizarre really. It’s not because of the drugs either because I don’t like drugs and I actually hate that cliché that it gets presented with. It’s just a city that I fell in love with and I’ve always had in mind and circumstances in my life just enabled it to happen. Then, after that, it became very clear that living in a European country within the schegen district makes more sense than going from other countries. Sometimes when I fly to Spain I don’t even have to show my passport. I don’t have to queue up and go through the passport queue every single flight that I take.

 You also say  "techno DJs have better skills than for other genres. Do you make any mistakes when DJing?

All DJs make mistakes, me included, CD mixing is easier in some ways (quicker cueing for example) but CD mixers also add their own problems and you have to adapt to different techniques (for example there is no centre spindle on CD decks to speed up so you have to develop a new flick technique) but it keeps you on your toes. Ableton mixing is soooooo easy, OK the pre-programming is where the skill is, but you can't drop a beat when you're using it so that to me isn't DJing, it's just sequencing without risk.

Do you have a personal assistent in buisness or do you prefer to do everything yourself?

I have to do that as a DJ or my sets will get stagnant. Some DJs get other people to do it for them but I feel like I need to do it myself. People are sending me their music personally, they’re struggling to get it heard, you have to go through it. Then again, you can always tell if they’re not sending me their music personally. If they’re going, ‘Yay! This is the biggest hit on Pete Tong’s radio show and it’s smashing it in Ibiza’, you know there’s a 98.5 per cent chance of you not enjoying that track.

Tell me about quality of EDM in the recent times.

What most upsets me about EDM is that they’ve completely forgotten the roots. People like Hawtin, people like Guetta, in a way they are kind of like Isis in Palmyra, destroying everything that came before to suit their own needs. That’s probably an ironic statement coming from someone like me who’s a punk, which is always about destroying. But that’s about destroying the establishment, things that don't make society fair and correct.

Can't you lose yourself in EDM just like you can with techno?

 EDM disrupts the attention. It's not hypnotic. It goes alongside the problem of phones, filming and selfie sticks. Certain clubs have the right idea, saying, "Fuck off with your cameras. You're here to interact with people inside a club, not to take photos every five seconds." The whole point of music is to disconnect with parts of world you can't be bothered with. House was always about a slow build-up of drums taking you somewhere. With EDM it's not about taking you anywhere, it's about telling everyone what a great time you're having. 

The electronic industry is a fickle. How do you fight in such an environment?

I like to keep things separate because sometimes it’s a matter of ‘What can you do for me and what can I do for you?’ I think it’s healthier to not be surrounded by the industry in every single part of your life because then you’re not going to be a well rounded person. My friends are not involved in my industry exactly as my industry is. Sometimes they do videos for other artists – EDM artists even but they’re not getting anything from me, I’m not getting anything from them. I’m quite private.

This is was really affected me when I was growing up, it was the X Mix Electro that you did. Is this a topic that you will return to?

It has always been there for me. Those people that pine for a mix CD are very, very sweet but it’s not going to happen any more. A mix CD was a step up from a mixtape, which to me always sounded really bad. Making a mix CD doesn’t really make sense anymore but electro on the other hand; it’s always been a massive part of my life. The last Fact mix that I did was electro and I play a lot of electro on my radio show, White Noise, it’s always there. I play it out less in clubs now because it doesn’t seem to be so popular, but then you have to have an incredible sound system for it to work well and so that people can understand it.

What do you think was the greatest challenge you had in order to get where you are now?

To give up complete social life. To give up weekends. To give up holidays most of the time. You know, that’s one of the things no one really talks about.. If you have a normal job, of course it’s tough, of course it’s difficult, but you normally have time off where you see other people, other friends at weekends and so on. You know, I live in Amsterdam and I get invited to birthday parties for one or two years and all of the sudden people don’t invite you any more because they think you’re constantly working. So that’s one of the toughest things, that you don’t really have a social life and weekends. And that’s quite hard.



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