You get the feeling Dave Clarke’s been fighting for a while. With a career spanning three decades, he’s spent his time celebrating the best of contemporary sound, a job that involves battling the music industry’s BS, fighting for the would-be classics that will take the wind out of you. But Clarke’s not solely interested in the right techno-hooks, his mixing technique owes much to hip hop, his music selection always pays a debt to dirty rave and hardcore and his fighting spirit comes from a punk DIY-or-bust attitude. For Clarke, it’s not hype that’s important, it’s whether the sound floors you, his White Noise (“the world’s longest enduring techno show”) has become an agenda-setting showcase of everything that’s batted his eardrums on a weekly basis.
Ahead of his Superstition headline show at Village Underground on 20th December, Dan Davies sat down with Dave for twelve rounds of sparring. Famously dubbed the Baron of Techno by John Peel, Clarke’s another man not averse to a rant, and we found him by no means hard to bristle. You can tell Clarke doesn’t do small talk – often the saviour for all interviewers looking to warm up before a 1-2 combo. Instead, Clarke’s got an almost impenetrable wall of no-nonsense, most likely a coping mechanism after thirty years of industry drivel and backstage pleasantries. His tone is tricky to get across from the raw transcribe, but it’s not aggressive. The swearing, the blunt responses – it’s what we’d all really say if we didn’t have another agenda. Clarke’s simply a man sick of things coming up sub-standard.
ROUND 1 – STAYING ECLECTIC
VUZ: You’ve been around for such a long time, and you are a “type” in yourself as it were, is it important for you to stay eclectic?
DC: I don’t find it’s important, it just happens. Anyone who listens to deep house all day must be as brain numb as anyone who listens to techno all day. I listen to so many different types of music – from a group called Low to Scout Niblett – so many different types of music. And ironically so many different types of music that I listen to when I’m not working is music which is full of dynamics and it’s going to be analogue-recorded. I enjoy that, it’s a very special way of listening to music.
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ROUND 2 – LEAVING THE UK
VUZ: What prompted your move to Amsterdam?
DC: I got divorced and fell in love with someone who was over [in Amsterdam] and that didn’t work out but I just fell in love with Amsterdam – which I already did before because the first ever gig I did here was 1990. And I loved it but I couldn’t afford to think about moving down the road let alone to a different country. But with the divorce and falling in love with somebody it made perfect sense. So I slowly came over, I was still living in England and then eventually I decided to move over about 7 or 8 years ago.
ROUND 3 – NIGHTLIFE
VUZ: Was there a nightlife element to your move to Amsterdam at all?
DC: Not at all. I very rarely do any nightlife, I never really did. I mean you don’t go to a chef on his day off and ask him whether he wants to go to the wholesalers today?
I go and see concerts now and then for example but it’s nothing to do with the nightlife, it’s more the fact that it’s such an amazing city, it’s so small yet so big and has a great airport because before I moved I was having lots of issues travelling from the UK with lots of delays but living here made a real difference to that.
ROUND 4 – EDM
VUZ: The last time we spoke, about ten years ago, you had a massive anti-electroclash rant, which was published in full. I wondered if you have similar feelings on EDM, for example?
DC: Honestly I don’t really give a fuck. Because every time that you give a fuck it gives them more oxygen. It is what it is, I don’t really care, whatever. I know you wanted a much more in your face, “my quote” kind of vibe but I’m all sort of talked out on EDM to be honest. I let them all expose each other, I mean apparently there’s a whole thing between Skrillex and deadmau5 or whatever. Their egos are all out of control and they all need a bit of a slap and then maybe a nice detention you know?
[aesop_image imgwidth=”500″ img=”http://vuzine.villageunderground.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/dave-clarke-2.jpg” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”Dave Clarke with Mr Jones” captionposition=”left”]
ROUND 5 – SUPPORTING YOUNGER ARTISTS SUCH AS MR JONES (JONAS UITTENBOSCH)
VUZ: I’m interested in the support you do give to people at ADE and the people you’re playing alongside at Superstition. What’s your working relationship with Mr Jones and Unsubscribe?
DC: I mean support in music is always important and one of the things about working with Jonas is that for many, many, many fucking years I was in the studio on my own doing absolutely everything, like many of us. We all started off with very small studios and built them to suit our needs so we all worked on our own ostensibly. But then you get to a point when you don’t want to work on your own because it’s not always fun and maybe I just wanted to be more sociable.
It’s really important to support fresh new music. There’s nothing better than a White Noise radio will play out 12-13 tracks that I’ve never heard before. It doesn’t necessarily turn into a good financial reward – a bit of earnings and support so they can buy new machines and have marmite sandwiches and stuff like that. But it does allow people to have an artistic out but for me it’s important to keep it going.
ROUND 6 – CREATIVE TALENT VS COMMERCIAL VALUE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY TODAY
VUZ: Obviously when you started there was no dance industry or music business behind you, do you think it is easier or harder to do something artistic rather than commercial in the dance community these days?
DC: It’s always easier to do something now than it was then but it’s much harder to earn a living from it. And that’s the difficulty because you might have some interesting artistic ideas and maybe 10 or 15 or 20 years ago you could sustain some sort of living from that and then use that to fund further things. But it’s a pros and cons thing, because now you can buy the equipment, programme it for a lot cheaper than it used to be so the level of financial input is lot less. But at the same time you’re going to get a lot less money.
I don’t think it’s the right way, I don’t have a solution for it but I think it would be nice for people who have an artistic idea can actually get financial support from that because it makes all our lives a lot better. Music has always been there for me. I’m going through a bit of shitty time at the moment and music isn’t just the backdrop it just gives you the ability to live life sometimes, so it’s very important part of our world and right now.
Now everything is on the internet you don’t necessarily need to go to a professional anymore, because it used to be behind closed gates. It’s a shame that people can’t make money but it will happens to professionals and when it happens to professionals what happens? We all become “artistic”.
ROUND 7 – ON MAKING REMIXES
VUZ: I was going to ask you about the money-earners, the remixes and for cash. Do you have a formula for that, or are the stems kind of your muse?
DC: It’s never fun to be pushed into remixing something that you don’t like and that’s happened a few times in my career. I like remixing something that is interesting and dark, of course. I also like working with lyrics because up until recently I haven’t really written any lyrics and maybe I was scared to channel emotion or maybe I thought my emotion couldn’t be channeled. When you have someone give you the stems and you have emotion to rejig and rework into a different thing it’s very raw and very good. When someone sends me a remix to do and it’s a bass drum, a high hat, etc you think “really?”. It doesn’t really make any sense, I’d rather be given a complete song to remix.
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ROUND 8 – WORKING ON THE MUSICAL DIRECTION AND NARRATION FOR THE OWL IN DAYLIGHT, A BIOGRAPHICAL FILM ABOUT PHILIP K DICK
VUZ: I didn’t know you’d done a film on Philip K Dick?
DC: A friend of mine called David Kleigwegt did the film and he also wanted me to do the music. He gave me the date of Philip K Dick’s death and I couldn’t use any music after that date. Sometimes I had to cheat a little bit and like the Visage track I found was used in an advert prior to it being released by the band. So we compiled the soundtrack and he put in a few tracks – I think he chose the opening track by Felt. And he [Kleigwegt] does the narration on the Dutch version and then there’s the English version where I do the narration.
ROUND NINE: ON SUPERSTITIONS
VUZ: Are you a superstitious-type? Do you stick to beliefs passed down by your parents?
DC: I don’t know if you break down all superstitions then it usually leads to some religious rubbish and I don’t stick to that.
ROUND TEN: PRE-PERFORMANCE RITUALS
VUZ: What about when you’re gearing up for a show?
DC: Apparently if it’s a big gig and I want to knock the shit out of them then apparently I look like I’m limbering up for a boxing match. I like to have a little sleep and a banana… it’s all rock and roll here mate.
ROUND ELEVEN: ON FABRIC
VUZ: You were quite a regular at Fabric for many years, was it because of the promoter or the club that you returned to it?
DC: Initially, it was the sound system and the credibility factor. Fabric has a special vibe – it’s about the music, it’s one of the few clubs in the south of England that’s been consistently on top of its lineups, making sure they’re really credible, interesting, exciting, and you know, I’m not really a Ministry of Sound person per se, I only played there maybe 1997 and haven’t been back since, but for me, Fabric is just a very very good vibe place to go – I really enjoy it. So why wouldn’t I go? And it’s important to support clubs that support the music, because in the south of England there’s not that many.
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ROUND TWELVE: THE DEMISE OF GRASS ROOTS MUSIC VENUES IN THE UK
VUZ: I don’t know whether you followed the news recently, when all the small music venues in London including Village Underground met up at Ministry of Sound, to discuss protecting all the small to medium sized venues in London. How would you feel if there were no, you know, music areas in the UK?
DC: I think these people should play Sim City, and actually understand how plumbing works, how to make the population happy and how to have a zen factor. This is the difficulty I have with England.
The short-termism of UK government is well founded, whether it’s Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, whatever it is. It’s always short-sighted, it’s always about money, it’s always about a deficit. Always. North Sea Oil – they fucked it. And what they should do is basically make sure that populations are happy. It’s not about a quick turnaround. What’s happening now with gentrification is [billionaire and NBA superfan] Jimmy Goldstein. Making a quick buck – selling off the family silver- again, this is the new family silver. The old family silver was the state infrastructure: It was gas, it was water, it was the railways. But that’s gone now. So the next state infrastructure is the land. So let’s sell the land off and make money from that. We can make more money per month on this than we can with a club. Then what you don’t realise is that no-one’s having any fucking fun. So all of a sudden, what’s going to happen then is it’s gonna be we’re in the Fifties again, it’s gonna take a long time but everyone’s gonna be bored- “what am I supposed to do? Where do I go? Where do I meet girls, where do I meet boys?” It’s just short sighted.
And that’s the problem of England. I love the fact I was born in England, I love the fact I’ve been given probably the most amazing language I could ever wish for. But I am so sad that every time I go back to England, the infrastructure’s completely fucked, there’s no investment. England invented. It made the jet engine, the hovercraft, the telecoms, the TV. It invented all this big shit – but now we lose it – it goes to the Americans – somewhere else- and this is the problem with the UK – it’s up to capacity and its being mis-managed. I understand the environmental issues that have happened with airports – but at the same time airports are here – at least for the time being, Heathrow is running at 99 per cent capacity and it has done for many years. You can’t have a grown up economy – HS2 should be linking every part of England up that’s worth linking up to for money and business because it has a different effect. And no one is doing this. Crossrail is brilliant, by the way, but no one is really doing this.
I don’t understand what is going on with the budget. Why is it so expensive to live in the UK? When I go there food is ridiculously expensive compared to Holland – and Holland is not a poor or rich country. It hasn’t got much of a manufacturing base apart from tulips, but it invests heavily in its infrastructure – I find it embarrassing and upsetting and it really hurts me when I go back. I love the countryside, I love the humour, but when I actually see the infrastructure that every fucking government fails to do. I don’t give a shit if it’s Conservative, Liberal Democrat – whatever. They all promise and they all fail. It sucks.