UK duo Dusky grabbed some major attention last month by beating out mostly mainstream bangers for the coveted #1 spot on Beatport’s Top 100 chart. Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman, who make up Dusky, have been putting out a widely varied range of music, touching on everything from deep house to techno, all to much acclaim. Their ability to weave in everything from uplifting melodies to low-end density have marked them as a duo unafraid of the depth and originality that electronic music is often accused of lacking. We catch up with them below after their set at HARD’s Day of the Dead at the Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage.
Photo: Jerry Lin
LA CANVAS: Is this your first major US festival?
DUSKY: Not the first one, we played Tomorrowworld. We played somewhere else… uh, we played Decibel Festival in Seattle too. Oh we also played Ultra Festival.
LAC: Have you noticed a difference in playing to US crowds versus European crowds?
D: UK has quite a big repertoire of tracks that they know. They know our scene and people respond quite differently. The UK crowd like to be quite wild. That’s probably partly because of the amount of substances they like to take [laughs] and they like to drink.
LAC: The UK and drinking goes hand in hand.
D: [Laughs] Yeah, definitely.
LAC: Australia’s like that too right?
D: Probably worse over there cause they can’t get drugs over there so they just drink really, really hard. In the UK at least you can get cheap drugs, so, like, by the time it gets past 3, all the drunk people leave and all the people who are really wired are still there.
LAC: Congrats on your #1 Beatport Hit ‘Careless’. What’s it feel like? If you look at the other tracks on the top 10, it’s stuff like Cedric Gervais and Hardwell.
D: It was a nice surprise. Very unexpected, it’s just kind of nice that it’s there. We made it kinda thinking ‘Yeah, we really wanna be Beatport #1. Then it happened and we were like, oh, cool, maybe we should try and get another one.’ [laughs]
LAC: Have you seen a surge of support from people who are like ‘Oh my god, you’re beating out so-and-so’?
D: Yeah, yeah, it was nice! We did a Facebook post, the timing was perfect. It was like the day after Hardwell had gotten announced as DJ Mag’s #1 DJ. So we’re like ‘House Music – 1, EDM – Nil (0). Wooo!’ It got shared like thousands of times and thousands of likes – more so then any of our normal posts. It was good timing. We’ll see, stuff normally takes quite a while to feel the power. If you get a #1 on Beatport it takes like 6 months or almost a year to actually feel the power, for it to translate into your shows. We’ll see how it affects us but hopefully it’s positive.
LAC: You guys started off on the label Anjunadeep. From an artistic standpoint, do you normally come up with tracks and decide where you might want to release them, or do labels come to you and you try to cater to their sound a little bit? The variety of your tracks is quite large.
D: We work with quite a lot of different labels. A lot of that’s out of necessity, because the tracks are so different. Some would work with one label and some wouldn’t. But we try not to try too much to cater to a particular label, we just try to work with different labels. Sometimes we decide we want to do something a bit deeper or techno-y, or garage-y, so we’ll work on relevant ideas. The way we tend to work is we have a huge bank of fragments of ideas. We sit on them and pick them out and take this and put it into a track. After we’re finished we’ll say, ‘Okay, what label will fit with this?’ I think it’s slightly different from a remix. If you’re remixing for a certain label then you’re not gonna put a 12 minute long or a 110 bpm tune. It’ll depend. With originals we just kind of write it and see where they’ll fit.
LAC: With your popularity growing in the US, where do you see yourself in the next 2 or 3 years?
D: Uh [Laughs]. Ask Andrew [their manager]. We never really looked at it like, ‘Oh we wanna get to a certain place,’ we just do it cause we enjoy it. I suppose that comes through in the music and the way we DJ. Hopefully that keeps building. We’re not like, ‘Oh yeah, in 3 years we wanna be Tiesto, or Hardwell.’
LAC: Or Duskwell.
D: [Laughs] Yeah, 13 city tour with Duskwell!
LAC: How would you describe LA in three words?
D: Three words? [Laughs] Uh, what’s the word for spread out. ‘Vast?’ ‘Hot.’ Uh… I don’t know, I guess I was trying to think of a word to describe the architecture. Cause to me it’s like, I don’t wanna be rude [laughs] but I think the architecture’s quite bleak.
LAC: Alright, ‘bleak’! We’ll take that…[laughs]
D: [Laughs]. ‘Vast. Hot. Bleak.’ [Laughs] ‘See you next time, in 2014. Or never again.’ No, no. Don’t say that ! We’ll say fun. How about that?
Go tag-crazy with our photos from HARD Day of the Dead 2013 on our Facebook.
Yes, Halloween might be on the 31st, but what we’re really excited about is HARD’s dance music festival-incarnation of Dia de los Muertos. HARD Day of the Dead comes to LA’s State Historic Park this weekend, Nov. 2nd and 3rd, and we’re all for honoring the deceased with a dance orgy of epic proportion. Alongside obvious headliners like Skrillex and Deadmau5, there’s a first-rate lineup of DJs taking reign of the decks. From dubstep-turned-disco act Skream, to LA’s own beatsmith TOKiMONSTA, we’ve picked out our sets to catch below.
Dusky [2:45-4:15pm, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage]
London-based musicians Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman are the duo who make up Dusky, a producer/DJ team whose hit “Careless” currently holds the #1 spot on Beatport. The coveted #1 spot is a huge feat considering the fact that it’s usually reserved for the type of banger you’d hear at an EDC mainstage set, yet Dusky’s ‘Careless’ leans more closely to a deep and soulful brand of house.
Salva: [4:15pm-5:15pm, Harder Stage]
Frite Nite owner and Chicago native, Paul Salva knows a thing or to about working an audience and igniting the turnt up flame. Most known and recognized for his remix of Kanye West’s ‘Mercy,’ which garnered mass radio attention, Salva’s craft showcases heavy dips, house motifs, funk and tsunami waves of bass. Alongside Shlohmo, Jerome LoL and Groundislava as one of the foundations of record label Friends of Friends, this set will be unforgettably unique.
TOKiMONSTA [4:15-5:15pm, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage]
The monster is back with a newly released project, “Half Shadows,” where she explores some new sonic territories but still remains the chilled hip-hop flavors that we know and love. The LA producer is set to take you on a multi-genre journey filled with her own brand of bangers — from disco to electro-pop to hip-hop, this girl’s going to to throw it all down.
Maya Jane Coles [7:15-8:30pm, Underground Stage]
This house queen hails from the UK, spinning smooth and penetrating bass-heavy beats with a quiet finesse on the decks. Ranked #10 on Resident Advisor’s top 100 DJs, Maya’s deep and tech house sets have hypnotized crowds from Ibiza to Coachella’s Yuma tent last year.
Kavinsky [7:30-8:30pm, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage]
Frenchman Vincent Belorgey’s productions reminisce on that one awesome 1980s signature that we hate to love: that synth-heavy electro-pop that littered 80’s film soundtracks. Though he’s only been making music since the early 2000’s, Kavinsky’s tracks sound like they are decades-old, and just as refined.
Justin Martin [8:30-9:45pm, Underground Stage]
Justin Martin is one of those producers/DJs who manages to capture the elusive combination of dance-worthy tunes with emotional depth. Catch him at the Underground Stage for a set that’s sure to be full of low end-heavy house with a disco bounce and sub-tropic vibes.
Lunice [11:00pm-12:00am, Underground Stage]
Don’t break your neck when you see this cat, the Montreal producer and one-half of trap-hip-hop-glitch-whatever-you-want-to-call-it duo TNGHT, murders every set he throws down with big bass and big beats. Taking classic hip-hop joints and transforming them into trap lords, Lunice throws down hard each and every time.
Cirez D [10:45pm-12:00am, HARDER Stage]
If you’re not seeing the legendary Lunice or grooving to Masters at Work over at the RBMA Discotheque Stage, head to the HARDER stage for a rare appearance of progressive house maestro Eric Prydz spinning dark techno under the Cirez D moniker. It’s kind of masochistic, but we can’t wait to hear the master of anxiety-inducing progressive build-ups to get our hearts thumping.
Maribou State [2:30pm-3:30pm, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage]
To borrow from the Guardian’s description of the duo, this UK pair are like the downtempo equivalent of Disclosure, except with a little more depth. While their tunes still have hints of a dance floor sensibility, their productions have an emotional complexity that Disclosure’s lack. You’ll find their songs are soulful and touch on jazz with bits of melancholy. We’re curious to see how their sound will play out at a festival such as HARD’s Day of the Dead.
J Paul Getto [4:00-5:30pm, Underground Stage]
This Chicago producer is probably one of the most slept on producers in house music. We started noticing J Paul Getto on soundcloud for his undeniably groovy tunes, but it’s this reworking of the instrumental from the hip-hop classic ’93 Til Infinity’ that really solidified J Paul Getto’s status in our eyes. Their translation of the jazzy warmth of the original into a bonafide house beat was simply genius.
Cut Copy [5:55-6:55pm, HARD Stage]
This Aussie duo has mastered the art of making incredibly catchy synth-pop with hits like “Hearts on Fire” or “Lights and Music.” Their appearance at HARD should include some tracks from their forthcoming album Free Your Mind. Catch them at the mainstage for some euphoric dance-heavy magic.
Skream [7:30pm-9:00pm, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage]
If the name is familiar, it’s because Skream is one part of the UK dubstep-popularizing trio, Magnetic Man. Publicly announcing his departure from the genre, Skream is now focusing his efforts on a decidedly more cheerful genre: disco. His appearance on the RBMA Discotheque Stage may be one of the first times Skream has played a major stateside festival under this new direction, so his set should be well worth checking out.
If you’ve never heard of G-house, now’s the time to get familiar. Amine Edge & Dance are a duo out of France who are pioneers in this genre, pumping out beats that are heavily influenced by the sounds and funky basslines of 80’s hip-house.
Duke Dumont [9:00-10:30pm, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage]
With one of HARD Summer’s best sets, Duke Dumont has quickly gained a heavy following in the last few months in Los Angeles. His sonic confections, smooth melodies and perfect transitions have a mesmerizing quality, which keeps you hooked on each beat as if it was the last one for the night. We hope they’ll have the lights dimmed down low and the mood just right for what’s sure to be a massive set.
Paper Diamond: [Sunday 11/3 10:45-12pm, Harder Stage]
With Paper Diamond closing out the Harder Stage, you can expect a slew of surprises: new releases, collaborations and visuals. Under Pretty Lights Music and an EP off Mad Decent, Alex Botwin has found himself escapading all over the globe with his destructively diverse repertoire at festivals and shows. With versatility under his belt, you can expect big revelations during his set.
Giorgio Moroder ft. Chris Cox [10:30pm-12:00am, Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque]
He might be old enough to be your grandpa, but the guy is homies with Daft Punk and commands the respect of many electronic musicians alike. One of the most prolific acts on Day of the Dead’s lineup, Moroder is an Academy Award-winning composer, a recognized songwriter/producer worldwide, an artist, designer, filmmaker, entrepreneur and overall disco OG. This man does it all and has been crafting a musical evolution for nearly 50 years. Prepare your mind to be swept away by this genius in the Red Bull Discotheque Stage.
Eats Everything, a.k.a Dan Pierce, has seen a meteoric rise in the house music scene with a decidedly groovy and low-end-heavy breed of house. After struggling for years and even going on the dole (the UK’s equivalent of collecting unemployment), he cut a deal for his single “Entrance Song” in 2011 and the rest is history. Today he ranks #13 on Resident Advisor’s top DJs list, and is one of the most in-demand DJs in Europe and beyond. We share a conversation with the affable gent on the underground, drugs, and wrestling. Yes, wrestling. Read on for an explanation…
LAC: I read in an old interview that you were into wrestling as a kid… and that it was how you really got into electronic music. Can you share that story with us?
EE: Well I was actually into WWF as it was known then, when I was 10 or 11 years old. I had the ropes painted around the walls in my room and all the logos of Hulk Hogan, etc. painted on my walls. I used to wrestle with the pillow and listen to Radio 1. They played what I now know to be house music basically. And they played Felix’s ‘Don’t You Want Me.’ I thought, ‘wow, I haven’t really heard anything like this before.’ So I recorded the show, and every time I wrestled my pillow, I played that song.
LAC: So, basically a gay anthem became your entrance song…
EE: Yeah, exactly! My entrance song is basically a gay anthem, so just picture me wrestling my pillow, walking into my bedroom and ‘Don’t You Want Me’ is playing.
LAC: Well that’s got to be the most entertaining story of how anyone’s gotten into electronic music…
EE: Yeah, [laughs]
LAC: You’re into a lot of music, and consider yourself open-minded… why do you think electronic music in particular though, is so powerful?
EE: You want the honest truth? Because most people who get into it, take drugs with it, and they like it, the drugs give you a euphoria and I don’t think there’s anything more euphoric than a huge piano riff or, like, a big massive riff. Electronic music is very strict on its boundaries, with how it works, for example, it’s usually got a 4-4 kick drum, very definite broken beat, and so on and so on. You can really associate with it. Whereas, rock music, for example, is 4 different speeds, ranging from like from 100 to 200 BPM, I’m not saying in general, but me personally I could never grab onto anything. I like it, but house music you can grab on to it, you can grab onto the kick drum. There’s an element of that that works… It works for me and other people, it’s got something that really grabs you. EDM, it’s such a big thing in charts now, there’s a big culture around it.
LAC: Speaking of drugs, I’ve seen a rise in the use of psychedelics and there’s this discussion around the audio enhancement you can get on psychedelics. Do you think there are musicians out there who produce specifically keeping that in mind?
I do think there are definitely producers who do. But I mean, me personally, I don’t… well, I guess I do in a way. From the ages of 15 to 27 or 28 I was getting fucked up every weekend. And I mean, obviously when I’m making a record, I have an idea subconsciously how it might sound. And there probably are writers who do specifically produce for people on acid or [psychedelics]. Take psy-trance for example, it’s definitely produced for people on acid and stuff.
LAC: Thanks for answering that so frankly… Moving on, I’m curious about Claude VonStroke. What role has he played in your career and what’s it like to be a part of the Dirtybird family?
EE: He’s a real legend and amazing person. Really helpful. I mean, he’s out for himself, not in a bad way, but in the sense that he wants his label to do as well as it possibly can, he does this by signing the best artists and the best music, there’s no bad in thing in that. He’s given me a lot of advice and he’s really helped me a lot. The Dirtybird guys are my favorite guys in this industry, they’re great. Not just cause they’re my crew, but they’re really just my favorite guys in the industry. But really, there’s not really anyone in the underground-ish house scene who aren’t cool. There’s no arrogance, no cliquey-ness, anything like that. Also, we’re all a bit older, we’re all in like our 30’s, we’ve been around a lot..
LAC: There’re no egos right?
LAC: I’ve always thought when the egos are thrown out of the mix the music is much better.
EE: 100 percent.
LAC: You’ve been in the game a really long time now. I’m sure you’ve seen the sound of the underground change from year to year.
EE: Yeah exactly, look at “Jack”, that was underground…
LAC: …But now it’s huge!
EE: Yeah, now it’s gotten to the top 10 in England! You know, I don’t even call myself underground really. I say [my sound is] underground-ish… I don’t think people and clubs and cliques could say that they’re underground but they’re not cause if you advertise on your Facebook and tell people “come to my party” or “buy my record”, then you’re not really underground. At the end of the day, you’re not underground. I would never call myself underground ’cause I advertise, lots of people know who I am, I have a Facebook, I say listen to this or that on the radio… there’s nothing underground about that. And it’ll continue to be like that forever, because the kids who are into Skrillex and you know (I mean I love Skrillex but it’s just an example), they’re always going to be wanting more or looking for something new. I just think underground will always become mainstream, because the kids will always want something new and their attention spans are already short, but I see them getting shorter and shorter. I don’t think there’s really any such thing as underground anymore.
LAC: You used to be into darker music… You’ve played everything from hardcore to jungle, speed garage to a funkier, groovier breed of house. Can you tell us a bit more about your transition from the heavy to the lighter? Would you say the heavy side still influences your sound?
EE: When I was a kid I was listening to, obviously, Felix. Then, when I was about 13, my friends who had older brothers who were basically you know, they’d go to raves and hardcore raves…
LAC: So you got into raves when you were a kid.
EE: I was from a small village, basically in the middle of nowhere, miles from anywhere. There was nothing to do, and you could either get into crime or go to parties. Luckily for my parents I got into partying and taking drugs a bit [laughs]. Yeah, I was taking drugs and enjoying myself [laughs] We’d listen to hardcore… it was all about breaks, jungle types of breakbeats and piano then all of a sudden they added all this shit… cheesy lyrics into the track, it kind of turned a lot of us off.
LAC: Are you talking about happy hardcore stuff?
EE: Yeah, happy hardcore! So basically the hardcore became happy hardcore so we got into jungle and drum ‘n’ bass, then it got darker and it kind of lost all the soul for me, so then we got into house music and into its emerging and amalgamating form. I’ve always been into the more banging heavier end of the spectrum, but, yeah, I would say I’m one of the more heavier DJs within this “underground”-ish scene.
LAC: I read that you have a collaboration album in the works in Justin Martin
EE: Yeah, I’m in San Francisco at the mall at the moment looking for a new shirt. (I’ve run out of shirts), but yeah I’m actually here to record with him, I’m staying at his house recording music! We’re trying to write an album of what we consider dancefloor-friendly, we just want to make an album of tracks that we can play and we can tour and play it in a certain way. We just want to make a lot groovier records basically.
LAC: I’ve heard a lot of your collaborations but haven’t seen so many of your own solo productions lately. Where do you see your career going, are you still thinking of opening a studio?
EE: My career, well, me and my management, my team, we basically have a plan for what’s going to happen. And the reason now I’m doing a lot of collaborations is, because at the end of the day, I’ve released a lot of singles, I’m doing a collaborations and then I’m gonna do a lot of touring, then after that I’m going to sit down and write an album, cause with this game I’ve learned more and more that things can get stale and you have to do different things for yourself, cause I don’t want to get bored. I know if I was in the studio all the time I’d get bored, so there needs to be a balance.
LAC: Understandable. Do you have artists that you’re thinking of collaborating with or artists who are just under the radar that we should keep an eye out for?
EE: There’s this guy German Brigante who makes fucking brilliant records every time. Every record is a winner. There’s also a guy Truncate who makes techno. He makes really cool, really crazy techno.
LAC: This one’s a bit random, but what are the best and worst foods you’ve had in the United States?
EE: That’s a tough one! I’ve actually never really had bad food here, I’ve liked pretty much everything. Let’s see, I had a really good meal at a place called House of Prime Rib. I like most foods so anywhere I go I’m pretty happy.
LAC: You play Splash House this weekend in Palm Springs and you just played HARD Summer here in LA. How was that experience for you? Do US audiences differ from UK ones?
EE: They do differ in that the US audience is a little less expectant of what they want you to play. US audiences seem a lot more open-minded, they kind of just let you do what you do and get down… whereas in the UK, the audiences are a bit more… difficult, in the sense that they want you to play certain tunes or records.
See Eats Everything get down this Saturday at Splash House in Palm Springs. From August 10-11, Eats Everything and artists like Bag Raiders, Poolside, Classixx, Perseus, Plastic Plates, and more take to the decks for a triple-header pool party at the Saguaro Hotel, the Curve Hotel, and the Caliente Tropics! More details here.
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