It’s quite unusual putting up in this magazine an interview with a dj. We are not a don’t want to be a music magazine. We talk about electro music as one of the derivations offered by the artistic application of the new technologies. We are convinced that in this sense dj’s are not a good example and we are kind of bound in finding musicians and dj’s that go further the common image of this type of artist.
But it’s clear that in the international panorama of superstar dj there are several exceptions. Dave Clarke is for sure one of those, beyond personal tastes, techniques, music, beyond the fact that he is too techno or not much electro, that he annoys or amuses. He is material on which writing pages and pages of sector magazines. Digimag wants to go further, wants to find the man behind the dj, convinced as we are that ideas and background of the artist reflect the approach to the djing art, convinced that they are the skeleton of every set in every part of the world.
Clarke is more than everything considered one of the best electro and techno dj of the world, able to amuse with various and eclectic dj set, rich of the breakbeat influences that make the difference with the mono-tone and static dj set. At the same time Clarke is an outsider (as the Brinkmann written some time ago on Digimag), since his childhood to the relationdhip with the media now, since his first album Archive 1 (1996), in which he introduced elements of electro breakbeat inside the pure techno, attracting the barbs of criticism and colleagues, up to the important remixes for Depeche Mode, Death in Vegas, Moby, Fisherspooner, Leftfield, Underworld, Laurent Garnier.
Considering the idea of Dave Clarke on journalists and review about electro music, the interview granted during a night of the last festival Dissonanze in Rome is something rare and precious. As the successive djset that shook the Palazzo dei Congressi (and our tired limbs) until seven o’clock in the morning. Maybe superior at the one played in Barcellona at the Sonar
Marco Mancuso: You are now living a great career of dj. You started in little clubs of a little city such as Brighton to get into the best clubs and festival all over the world. How did you build such a career?
Dave Clarke: Well, it is important to follow your passion. I played different music style, every single style that I was appreciating in that moment. It’s a tough decision dedicate your life to music and try to become a dj or a producer, but the passion is surely an important propellant, most of all to play every night and in different places. Your social structure can be damaged, it is not possible to relax during the weekend, you cannot see your friends as you like, not to talk about your family. Sometime I’m stressed out, but every time I play and enjoy myself the malaise passes. It’s not easy to be a superstar dj, I swear, even if fascinating.
Marco Mancuso: You play techno, breakbeat and electro music, as alternative to the dance music. Your sound is various and eclectic, your set as well. You played breakbeat in the past and you have a predilection to punk and post-punk. Do you think that this type of eclecticism has been and is important during your career?
Dave Clarke: My musical background is the most important thing ever and part of my sound alchemy. I listen to and I’m influenced by lot of music, even if sometime I’m sort of confused by all the input I receive. I’ve been inspired by the Mod and disco music in the past, by the punk and the classical, by the hip-hop and by the electro. Brighton has been a great place where to grow up during the 80’s, as lot of music arrived there and it was interesting to grow up inside all that. England was a sort of not only diplomatic bridge with the U.S. and the Europe . As teenager there was an enormous selection of important LP, you could have all the music that you liked. I think this made the difference from the beginning. I’ve never liked this form of purism and I think that my choices made the man that I am, while several dj’s lost their way.
I try not to be part of any scene, to be as independent as I can. I do not live in London but in Amsterdam where everything is more relaxed, everything is five minute walking. For sure the clubbing scene is less dynamic and open than in England , but at the same time I think that it is not necessary and wise to live so close to your scene. Even in Amsterdam I feel the same, I try not to be part of the city.
Marco Mancuso: Exactly. You have always been radical and critic about the purism in the techno music ambit. I’d like your opinion on today and tomorrow techno. Which are the new directions and input?
Dave Clarke: Techno is nowadays spread all over the world, people love it and follow this musical phenomenon. But people always need new tendencies and stiles in techno, new fashions and I don’t like this side so much. I rather and always searched not to crystallize in this genre and its thousands derivations, always seeking for new ways and directions, looking for more eclecticism not to close in my musical influences that I had and that I will have.
Marco Mancuso: I read you’ve been introduced by the love for the technology of your father. What is your relationship now with technologies inside your work?
Dave Clarke: My relationship with technology changed a lot during last years and it’s based on a both simple and fascinating concept. In general when I can do everything with the technology I try to do everything possible. Instead when the technology is limited, I try to do everything as well but I’m pissed off. I love the hardware, I’m stimulated by the profession of sound designer and I like finding new samples and loops, software and instrumentations already tested.
Marco Mancuso: What can you say about your live set?
Dave Clarke: I’ve played in Brazil , Germany and many other places all over the world. It is exciting and most of all live, without computers to support me. I do not play this way many times, usually to promote my albums. Every live set that I played sounded completely different from the others.
Marco Mancuso: You had the chance to remix many artists of absolute value and great international fame. Which was the experience that impressed you the most?
Dave Clarke: The Depeche Mode remix. When Mr Fletcher came and asked a remix, well in that moment I felt realized in my work of remixer. Although the best remix ever was my first, the strongest, the most dynamic, the most powerful. The one for Fisherspooner was valid as well and the one for Moby one of the remix that I better remember. I’ve never had the occasion to work directly with those artists, as I don’t find this a good idea. Beside I’m not a member of the band, so I rather work by mail with their material.
Marco Mancuso: Can you tell me something about your relationship with authority and media. I read you don’t like them. Why?
Dave Clarke: I’ve never been interested to reviews and media, to magazines for young in England . I dislike journalists without any knowledge on the artist background, that don’t know what the artist made in the past. Their question are tedious, not intellectually stimulating. Questions from Italian or European journalists are deeper and more interesting, even if English is not their first language. English media are lazy, and that’s a reason why many reviews from the past are now dead. About the authority I think that nowadays more people than before believe in it. I rather believe in the democracy, in democratic rights. If I ask myself what the authority did for me and the society, there is no answer. I think it is right to have rules in this life, but when I think about the authority I think to corruption. In England the situation is even worse, just think about how the authority brought us to the Iraq war. These are my problems with the authority now, problems that every person with conscience and critical spirit in the world has.
Marco Mancuso: Do you think that your choice in life, your lifestyle, your way to be a dj reflect this approach to life and these thoughts?
Dave Clarke: Well, I don’t think to have made radical choices, but rather to have searched to live in an instinctive way, to live a simple life. I left school early, I worked in a shoes shop, I worked for the Britain government, I worked as software engineer and I didn’t liked it. I always followed my passion, and this is the only important think.
Marco Mancuso: You were good friend of John Peel. What does his dead mean to you?
Dave Clarke: John was a real music culture, against the authority, the musical version of everything I said before. When I lost him I stopped listen to the music, nothing more represents my music taste as when John was in Radio1. There are some other radio that play good music, but John Peel was different and I’m happy that he’s been my friend, who respected me as dj and producer and came to my concerts. I met John numerous times, had quite a few discussions, read several books together, we had the same thought about many thing.
Marco Mancuso: What do you think about the free circulation of music on the Net? What about the netlabel, the podcast and the free music, the integration between media and supports? Do you think there will be a contest in the future for the emerging artists as well as a way to disconnect the major monopoly?
Dave Clarke: Inside this contest, I’m definitely in the middle. The oldest generations are completely unfavourable to the free circulation of the music online, while the youngest are completely favourable. The artists make music to live, they can live playing concerts and making people pay, but if they do not earn by the album purchase, how can they survive and make more music? I don’t think it is correct that the label recharge such a price on people giving so little to the artists. Maybe the solution offered by some online services that purchase a euro per song is the right way to evolve, even if the quality is not the same offered by a CD. I don’t have problems with Internet, but with the people that cultivate the p2p in an unfair system for the artists.
Instead netlabels have with Internet great potentialities and occasions to diffuse their work. With an online review as your is practically the same. With a netlabel I can reach much more people with a minor expense than a normal review. The point is that maybe the market is not already prepared and these realities made a huge effort to head on. It is though surely a growing phenomenon to keep an eye on.