Exclusive interview with Duke Dumont
With the ever-increasing commercialization of the EDM scene, many have begun to wonder if the true feel of old warehouse raves will ever truly come back. Duke Dumont’s performance at Coachella’s Yuma Tent was a wonderful throwback to that feeling amid one of America's most commercial festivals. Fans dying to see what they knew would be a special set waited in lines wrapped around the tent to get inside the packed-out performance. Inside this dark, smoky, intimate venue, Duke Dumont played an incredible house set, which he told us was inspired by old-school raves. He opened with the hook from his new song with Jax Jones, “I Got U," animating the audience with just a hint of the melody before mixing into extended versions of his hits such as the Grammy-nominated “Need u 100%” and “The Giver” before dropping back into "I Got U.". He kept the funky underground vibes running with Route 94’s remix of MK’s “Always”, converting everyone inside to be an old-school house fan. The crowd grooved along under a shark-shaped Disco Ball, leaving behind all inhibitions and truly losing themselves in the music.
We caught up with Duke after his set to talk about his inspirations, fears, and plans for the future.
The vibe of your set felt like a throwback to '90s house, was that intentional?
Well I play a lot of rave music. A festival is different than a club scene, you've normally got to go pretty high-octane and majestic. But I'm inspired by a lot of house music and rave music so I played it myself.
Can you take me through the inspiration and creation of “I Got U”?
It was made mostly during the winter, made with a lot of steel drums. The studio I work in is really cold, so I probably subconsciously made a song with summer vibes just to warm myself up. It actually doesn’t sound like the Whitney Houston song. It got to number one in the UK because it’s kind of poppy.
One thing I do is try to work with the best sounds I can, so I spent a lot of time trying to find good sounds. It’s like cooking, you have to use the best ingredients, and sometimes less is more.
Great Pop is minimal - just a few really good sounds. Do you think you’ll be doing any more songs like "I Got U" that are pop-ier than your usual stuff but are also really beautiful?
The thing is when I record I try to write the best songs I can. But because of all the success I’ve had in the UK there’s a lot of stuff I write now that does have a chorus and does have a verse. It’s only two years ago that I wasn’t doing that, I was writing house tracks, that might have a little bit of a vocal and it just loops, but off the back of “Need U 100%” it changed it for me. So “I Got U” is a reaction to that. The next single is gonna be the same - have a verse and a chorus, but when it comes to my album there’s gonna be a way more musical side - there’s gonna be house tracks on there, a big mix of stuff.
What track are you going to play in Ibiza at sunrise?
I mean obviously I hope to find the track in the next couple of weeks that defines that. I’m a big fan of like 808 State and Papua, New Guinea. That Hacienda (famous Manchester night club in the early '90s) rave music, the Manchester scene.
Do you work with any other artistic mediums?
I used to paint, kind of abstract and fractal paintings - I’m like really into them, even obsessed with them. I work with computer generated fractals and base stuff around that. I hope one day maybe I’ll get back into it. I’m really into film as well. I want to be Stanley Kubrick, but it takes a lot of years to be like Stanley Kubrick. When I make enough money from music I’ll probably do a vanity project, probably like film. The one thing for me is that as long as it gives me the freedom to do what I want to do in life so I’m happy. I love painting and I love film but right now I’m just concentrating on my music.
Do you know where you’re going with your music?
No, I just live I the moment. Just try to make the best music I can make. For me there’s no master plan.
Does that excite you or scare you?
I’m too busy to think of either. As long as I just keep on recording - I mean the one thing I don’t want to do is take a break from recording. A lot of artists work on their albums and then take six months out of the studio. No. You do that and it’s game over. Working in the studio is like going to the gym, you have to keep on doing it. I’ve been away from the studio for three weeks and it takes about three weeks to get back into the swing of it, so no I’m neither scared nor relaxed, I just work 14 hours a day in the studio when I'm home.
You touched on being inspired by rave music and old 90’s rave house. How has the inspiration behind your music changed over the years?
I’ve been DJing for about eight years and I used to play a lot more techno. My taste has switched more towards house music because I feel having a vocal in a club track can take things to a whole different level. I mean I love my techno, I still play a few techno shows. I used to be signed to a label called Turbo with is Tiga’s label in Canada and it’s a huge techno label, but right now a lot of the shows I play, a lot of women come and it’s like 50% women, 50% guys and I think it makes for the best club nights. And the type of music I make is quite female-friendly. I used to play like 100% dudes in the crowd and now the clubs I play are less aggressive and a much nicer atmosphere. I kind of found when my musical style kind of changed was when the crowd changed as well. But there’s no master plan behind it, it’s just whatever inspires me.
Read on to hear about the strangest place he's woken up, his Grammy nomination, and a break down of inside the studio.