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A Sit Down With DJ Disclosure

16:32 Mar/14/2018

Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brothers behind Disclosure, are 22 and 19 years old (respectively), were born and raised in suburban Surrey, England, and self-identify very strongly as deep house artists. Since their debut album, Settle, dropped at the beginning of the summer, a lot of debate has centered on whether or not they really should. It’s a genre with roots in the esoteric 1980s Chicago club scene, and it’s having a very big, mainstream moment on international radio, much to the chagrin of its old-school devotees. Disclosure, with four charting singles in the last year, is either house music’s contemporary champion or the nail in its coffin.



"We would never work with someone who doesn’t write their own songs. We need them to write with us and we want them to, more than anything, because then they feel what they’re singing about."


You guys started really, really young and there’s no quick fix to success by getting someone else doing it for you. It would be like someone doing your homework for you, and you then getting busted.

It is quite like that. It’s becoming a rare thing for an artist to write everything themselves. Part of the reason we picked most of the collaborators on this album is that they’re not only good singers but they’re really good writers as well. Someone like Lorde writes all of her own stuff and you can hear it in the music. The coherence between the tracks and the style of the lyrics is so strong. She’s got such identity in the music and in all other areas like her branding and her image but the music specifically, I just think it’s unbelievably coherent.

Outside of the music you make together, do you think you and Howard have similar taste?

Yeah, it’s funny, when we were growing up we didn’t have similar interests at all. I was into hip-hop—American hip-hop specifically, like J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Gang Starr, all that kind of thing—and I was listening to a lot of Motown and ’80s pop. I was a drummer when I was growing up so I was just listening to anything with good drumming—even a lot of punk rock, because it all had really great music in it, even if some of it was a bit weird and a bit shit. So that’s what I was listening to. Howard was more listening to soul and a lot of singer-songwriters like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. Not a lot of it was current, we just listened to anything musical. I’d say now we have a lot more similar interests, especially in music. We still do disagree on some things, but yeah, not very often.

What’s your musical history?

At young ages, we both listened to a lot of what our parents listened to: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates—proper mom and dad music. When we were teenagers, our tastes grew apart. Guy got into American hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla, whereas I went the other way and got into singer-songwriters, like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. We really didn’t have much to talk about. Then we heard weird dance music and thought, Let’s listen to that.

I was wondering how you got your training in electronic music. It’s a bit more advanced than, say, learning the clarinet in elementary school.

Yeah, maybe. I don’t know actually, I’ve never played the clarinet. It might be really hard.

How do your collaborations with other artists work, do you give people a ready-made track to work to?

Well, it varies every time – there’s no formula – but with songs like White Noise, Voices and Help Me Lose My Mind we actually wrote the music on the day. I’ll make the basic chords patterns, bassline and beat, while Howard will sit with the singer and work on themes and lyrics. Over the day the whole track comes together. We’ve never said, “sing this!” All the people we work with are great writers, so we like to build something from nothing.

Have you noticed in certain territories where your music gets played on radio that you have had more success?

Absolutely, radio has been a quintessential part of our success – as has social media. I think people really underestimate the importance of radio play until they get it. When we first started out we were like: “Radio play? Who cares, we don’t need radio.” Then Annie Mac played one of our first songs. We were like, oh cool – we didn’t think it was going to affect our careers. And then suddenly there were like 500 more people than normal at the next gig and we were like: “Oh right! It’s actually really important!” Radio 1 have been incredible for us. They’ve supported non-stop since the beginning.

What’s the difference for you between writing pop songs versus dance music?

I think the pop song is structured with verses and choruses. And I think the main idea is everything needs to be wrapped around a chorus, and that chorus is supposed to be catchy. But dance music is meant to make people dance in a club. It’s designed that way. Certain parts make people react in a way, like, “Oh wow, that beat’s good!” Sometimes there’s a drop or a buildup, but that’s not really the case with pop music.

Does the perfect song exist?

A song can be perfect for a mood, then suddenly be not perfect when your mood changes! Some people have come definitely close – Stevie Wonder has a few times, Uptight, (Everything’s Alright) and Superstition are two of my favourite songs ever – they both make me happy and they’re fantastically written. So is Michael Jackson’s – Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. Marvin Gaye too. The best pop songs are from the classic Motown era and late 80s pop too, but sometimes even I hate that stuff. Then there’s the perfect deep house and garage tracks like the Stanton Warriors mix of Zak Toms’ Bring Me Down – that encapsulates everything you need to know about what garage was. Same goes for Saved My Life by Todd Edwards, or Neighbourhood by Zed Bias. Wookie too!

You’ve had a show on Beats1. What’s been the impact of that show and how do you think that station as a whole is going to change the scene globally?

I wouldn’t like to try and predict how it’s going to change the scene globally, I don’t feel qualified enough. For us, it’s been really good, not only as a new way of getting music out and listening to music but also to open our eyes to the fact that we really enjoyed doing the show. It was just a really enjoyable experience to have a platform as big as that – to show people not only music that we’ve made but also music that we love. To have that artistic control literally to play whatever we want was cool. We played some really weird stuff on that show and there’s not many opportunities that artists get to do that, or at least there haven’t been. I think it can only be a good thing.

What five artists couldn’t Disclosure exist without?

That would be J Dilla, Joy Orbison, Burial – he’s very important for me – , D’Angelo, because I think Voodoo is the greatest album ever made – and Michael Jackson, who taught me an incredible amount about the structure of a pop song.



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