Written by Savoula Stylianou (Interview by Tiffany Lam)
The scene is a red car driving to work on a road in suburban somewhere. In a journey otherwise filled with monotonous pop song after pop song, a song comes on that has me turning the volume way up and doing my best Night at the Roxbury impersonation. Not caring about looks from other drivers, all pretense of cool was let go as the song got the better of my emotions. (Side note: all the rules and regulations of safe driving remained intact in this instance.)
The song is “Ocean Drive” from Grammy-nominated English producer Duke Dumont, and the mixture of soulful lyrics with synth-based staccato beats makes this record one to immediately put on your feel good driving playlist – and any other applicable dance playlists – if it wasn’t there already.
Over the past few years, Duke Dumont has made a reputable name for himself with singles “Need U (100%)”, “I Got U”, “Won’t Look Back”, “The Giver (Reprise)” and more recently, “Ocean Drive”. In fact, this hit-making artist played a revolutionary role in the music industry, with his 2013 track Need U (100%) being the first house track to hit No. 1 in the UK in 15 years.
Prior to doing the sound check for his show at the Danforth Music Hall earlier this fall, Adam Dyment, who goes by the moniker Duke Dumont, tells us about the live show that night followed by the after party DJ set at the Hoxton, something the artist says he hadn’t done in a long time. “Obviously the live show is all my own music. I won’t play any of my music in the DJ set, which I quite like sometimes,” he says, “I’m not used to DJing – I do play my own stuff because people buy the tickets, but the DJ set is different because I can play music that influences my stuff and music that I love.”
Going back and forth between DJing, producing, and performing his own music has given Dumont a wide range of experiences. On this particular tour, Dumont says, “What’s quite funny is I’m on a tour bus and we finish around midnight and we get up at 8 or 9 AM and it’s so easy compared to DJing where you’re not asleep before 3 or 4AM.” He continues with an example, “On Boxing Day this year, I DJ in Liverpool, then on the same day I’ve got to go DJ in Los Angeles,” he explains, “But then again, I’m doing what I love – it’s not hard. It’s just sleep deprivation that can be quite tough. I say to anyone that no matter what you’re doing you’re not going to sleep for the next four days and that’s going to happen every two weeks of every month.”
When asked about his proudest moments and wildest experiences so far, he shares, “Last year I did 150 shows and did an album as well, which has now been split up into a series of EPs – that’s quite an achievement to do 150 shows, and probably 110 of them were overseas, so I don’t know how I did it.”
In the immediate future for this busy musician is more shows and releasing part 2 of his EP series, entitled Blasé Boys Club. Dumont says an album’s worth of material is spread across the two EPs, and explains why he chose to release it in this format. “I think for most acts, the average wait between albums is 2 years and it scares me – I’ll try not to swear – senseless to keep fans waiting for 2 years to hear your music,” he explains. “With an 18-track album, a lot of the songs that you personally like that aren’t obvious big songs get buried in the mix, but if you insert them in a 4 or 5-track EP, they’re probably going to get more attention.”
With years of experience being on both the musical and production side of making music, Dumont goes on to deny claims that the album format is altogether a dead concept. He says, “I love the concept of the album and the art form of the album, but in an electronic music album, the format is dead because of the way that music is consumed, and it kills me as a music lover to say that, but unfortunately it’s true and you just have to look at record sales and very new releases in the electronic genre and read between the lines; it’s not because they’re bad albums, it’s because of the way music is consumed.”
Dumont’s ultimate solution to this unfortunate problem has been to not only split up his music into different EPs, but to also allocate specific kinds of music to each EP. “Blasé Boys Club is basically music that would have been on albums, so it’s a little bit more musical and song-based, and For Club Play Only [another series of EPs from the producer, the last of which came out in 2014] is ‘for clubs only;’ it’s music for nightclubs, and now I have every option covered.” He continues bytelling us about how this option doesn’t leave him feeling restricted in his musical choices, “I’m free to do whatever I want to express and the one thing I pride myself on is being able to make music that doesn’t follow the same formula always.”
Elaborating on his musical freedom, Dumont says that he will always make music that provides him with inspiration at some point in the studio. For example, he references his Grammy-nominated single “Need U (100%)” and says, “I’d probably be a richer man if I just made 10 more songs like that, but it gets boring and I’m better than that. I’ve been a producer for way too long and I just basically want to make music that can trigger some kind of emotion in other people.” Whether that reaction is negative or positive, he points out, is the purpose of art. “If you go and watch a film, at the end it should have done something emotionally for you, and that’s the same as music,” he describes to us, “I think a lot of people lose that in music, and can get caught up in genres and zeitgeists and subgenres, but essentially just make music that’s going to push some kind of emotion – whether it’s going to make people dance, or make them happy, or make them fall in love.”
An example of Dumont’s position in always keeping things fresh and different came to the radio waves in the form of “Ocean Drive,” which the producer calls “quite a brave song” for him. “It’s not a particularly pop-y song; however, I think it’s one of the best pop songs,” he says, citing that he doesn’t believe all pop music needs to necessarily be bright and cheerful. “This is going to sound really egotistical and I’m going to have a Kanye West moment,” he jokes, “but I think it’s one of the best pop songs to come out of the UK in the past couple years. Not every pop song has to be cheesy; if you go back to UK pop music in the 80s, it was incredible with the likes of the Smiths or New Order. It wasn’t cheesy and their music is timeless.” In reference to the lead single, Dumont says pop music shouldn’t be devalued if it doesn’t fit the formula of bright and happy, and “Ocean Drive” is his contribution to try and stop that stereotype from being propagated. “‘Ocean Drive’ is my attempt to be like, ‘Okay, this is the best pop song I’ve ever done and let’s see how people react’,” he says, “That song’s definitely given me confidence that I can truly, truly make the music I want to make and that’s why I want to get back into the studio and make more music.”
While that song from the EP Blasé Boys Club Part 1 has been Dumont’s favourite song up until this point, that spot at the top will soon be taken by the lead single from the upcoming Blasé Boys Club Part 2, Dumont says, with a track called “Higher” featuring the stunning vocals of Irish musician James Vincent McMorrow. Naming the track as his current favourite to perform in his live shows, Dumont says the song’s emotion might make it the best piece of music he’s written today. He says, “It’s pretty much a gospel track and is completely different to what I’ve done before and it features an artist called James Vincent McMorrow who did such a great job recording the song.”
In regards to current influencers and admirable artists, Dumont named KiNK as one of the best electronic producers and DJs from the past 10 years, with their remix of “Porchlight and Rocking Chairs” being one of his favourites to put into a DJ set list. Another artist that Dumont says should be on the must-listen lists for audiences is West Coast singer Gallant. Dumont says, “He opened for me in San Francisco, and you should go on Soundcloud and have a listen to how great a singer he is, he kind of reminds me of Maxwell as an R&B singer – he’s that good and has got an extremely bright future.” In fact, Dumont says his personal taste in music deviates a little bit from his professional music. “[Gallant is] a soul singer, and that’s the music I love. I don’t even listen to that much house music – as much house music as people would maybe think I do anyway – but I always listen to old soul records,” he says.
An exciting future plan for this triple threat is to move to Los Angeles in January. “I might get a little apartment somewhere and escape the winter,” he jokes of the cold English weather. For Dumont, striking a balance has gained renewed importance in his life. “I’m starting to get to the point where I’m trying to find a balance… I certainly didn’t have a balance last year, butI managed to get through it,” he tells us, “I’m at the point now where I really want to get back into the studio and finish stuff off.” Dumont says on his bucket listis “to actually own a house because I’m so busy. I just want to start settling down a little bit and spend more time producing music.”
One thing is certain: The musician’s call to keep adding to the electronic dance music scene remains as strong as ever. He says, “I really want to make more club music because essentially if I’m going to DJ, I need to contribute to the club scene. It could be dangerous if you just DJ and other DJs aren’t playing your records, because then you’re not contributing anything to the scene.”
If this step back from non-stop touring makes room for another string of dance-oriented, intricately produced, pop releases, then this writer is all for it.