For Dave Clarke techno and electro isn’t just dance music, it’s a way of life. Clarke is one of the most respected techno and electro DJs and producers around. Beginning as a hip-hop DJ in the mid-’80s he shifted to acid-house and later rave before finally moving to a brand of straight-ahead techno in the mid-‘90s. Clarke’s knowledge of cutting edge music remains well honed to this very day. Recently, the irrepressible Dave Clarke followed his 2003 album, Devil’s Advocate, with the second volume of his DJ mix series World Service. “If I don’t do this,” says Dave Clarke of his music and DJing, “I can’t even judge myself as a human being – it’s in my blood and bones.”
Chain D.L.K.: For four years people have waited for the next installment of your World Service series release. Would you tell us how do you picked the tracks for the series? How involved is the label in the process of putting together a mixed session CD? Do they have any say at all?
Dave Clarke: The whole point of getting an artist/DJ to do a mix compilation is to have their input taken seriously. When a compilation starts going to committee, then it’s not something I want to get involved in. The only limitation was that I was to not exceed 50 tracks for the entire 2CD mix. The purpose of the label is to act as a conduit and try and make the whole process as transparent as possible, and not bog the artist down in paperwork. On occasion a track can be hard to license due to managerial or label control. That can usually be resolved by simple artist to artist contact.
Chain D.L.K.: When putting out a new album, is it important for you to deliver a message to the listener, something that people can interpret on their own? Or is it all about having fun and that’s it?
Dave Clarke: I would say it’s mostly about enjoying yourself and presenting something that is very you and yet different from any other mix LP’s.
Chain D.L.K.: You are constantly referred to musically as being “very dark and challenging.” Your influences go back to punk with bands like the Damned, Devo, T-Rex, the Ruts, and the Stranglers. What other music has influenced you? Any new wave, darkwave, EBM, electro or industrial?
Dave Clarke: Die Warzau were an influence as, of course, was the whole electro movement from the late-70’s onwards. I have so very many influences that I tend to group many together so as to inspire something new. Currently, I am listening to Mercury Rev as I type this. I never want to be limited to one or two genres for inspiration. My iPod ranges from punk to funk to rock to electronica to hip hop. I could never have an iPod filled with just electro to take with me on the road.
Chain D.L.K.: With such a diverse array of musical influences, have you ever considered partaking in another project with a completely different style? A punk-based project, for example.
Dave Clarke: I would love to, at some point, for sure.
Chain D.L.K.: You’ve been known to consider England to be a rotten place musically. In your own words you’ve called the music industry and its resultant product shit. Are you referring only to pop and dance music? Or are you referring to indie and rock as well? What caused you to feel this way? Do you play any British artists in your set?
Dave Clarke: Hmm, I wouldn’t say England is a rotten place musically. Against all odds there is still some incredible music coming out of the UK, from techno to pop. However, there is a decline in how it is serviced. Radio stations, both public and private, have so marginalized good music that the general public “thinks” that the music stations play is the only music out there. The pop music industry is terrible now. No one is interested in Top of the Pops anymore because the music is generally dire. Very little comes out now that is clever or wry. It really is simply manufactured. People like Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello wouldn’t stand a chance if they were new on the scene these days… and that is really quite sad. I will continue to support artists who make good music, and that includes British ones. However, the radio industry as a whole needs to be dramatically overhauled so as to once again influence musical culture. It has just spiraled into characterless broadcasting. France, Belgium and Holland are so much better in this field, especially in public (not privately owned) radio broadcasting. Techno has never been represented on public radio in the UK consistently. I seem to remember Pete Tong being quoted as saying that there was no place for a techno show on the radio (despite its huge following), but that there was for drum & bass. And of course there should be one for drum & bass, but techno has been around for much longer and has even influenced drum & bass. I found it quite easy to get a weekly techno show broadcast in Belgium, Portugal, and even Istanbul. I had the first terrestrial and web broadcast techno radio show. But could I get a foothold for that music on the UK airwaves? No. That makes me sad. Regardless, good things came out of that as I gave up my show to concentrate more on making music.
Chain D.L.K.: You have been playing electro way before anyone else, and now there seems to be all this hype about electro in Europe. Where do you think electro music is heading? Is it as good as it was several years ago? Where do you see the future of dance music in general? Do you think people will squeeze electro to the max? If so, then what comes next?
Dave Clarke: I cannot predict, but I can follow passionately the music that I care about. Electro still does it for me, but it is different from the past generation in many ways.
Chain D.L.K.: You play a lot of 80s electro and synth/new wave in your sets. You are constantly keeping the music alive, reviving it on each and every set. Do you find 80s music timeless? What do you think is so unique about this music which still burns the dancefloors on your sets all over the globe?
Dave Clarke: I find that all good music is timeless. It doesn’t have to come from the 80’s to qualify. It means more to me because I grew up in the 80’s. However, some 60’s music blows me away, as does some music released over the past few months across various genres.
Chain D.L.K.: You are a die hard fan for covers and remakes, are you not?
Dave Clarke: Not really. I like the juxtaposition sometimes, such as Nouvelle Vague, with a cliché French innocence, covering punk/new wave classics, and Ciccone Youth.
Chain D.L.K.: So what do you basically look for in a track? Do you specifically look for music that will have a good groove for the dancefloor?
Dave Clarke: Something that taps into darker energy, that has depth and powerful production. The music that I listen to always has to have some sort of depth that makes you want to play it again and again.
Chain D.L.K.: It seems you have a big problem with the music people listen to these days. You don’t want your albums to be presented in stores alongside what you call “opium music.” What is the problem with today’s music? Do you feel that it doesn’t give people a chance to explore themselves? Who is to blame? What can we do about this? Do you find the alternative you offer musically to be an answer to that?
Dave Clarke: “Dance Music” in itself is such a wide genre that I really cannot see what I have in common 90% of “dance” artists. The UK commercial dance music industry has been run predominantly to capitalize on money, not creation. That makes me sad. I have been lucky enough to have people want to interview me, and yet the majority of interesting questions come from European journalists outside of the UK. How am I supposed to answer questions that aren’t presented to me? If it’s just a rehash of an earlier “interesting question” interview, how am I supposed to convey anything????? So many people are to blame, but it still challenges me to carry on.
Chain D.L.K.: It seems that so many people are in the industry these days for all the wrong reasons. We’ve lost a lot of the passion in music, and people who produce today aren’t there simply because music is all they care about. What can be done about this?
Dave Clarke: I don’t believe we have lost the passion in music as a whole. It’s just the public is less aware of it, for many reasons. Commercial record companies would rather have someone without passion because passion cannot be controlled. We have also lost a lot of smaller labels who understood this passion. I believe that when the business model for selling music has reestablished itself, we will have certain cult portals that will have the same impassioned followers that Stiff Records/UR already have. I really am not too worried about the future, I see rebalance as very possible.
Chain D.L.K.: You have always been rebellious, even in your youth. In the music industry you’re kind of an outsider. You tend to do things in your own way and you have very strong opinions about many things and don’t shy away from vocalizing them. Do you feel this attitude of yours has helped you through the years to achieve your goals?
Dave Clarke: Maybe I am a Sith! I do what I do. I’ll let others judge.
Chain D.L.K.: Did your parents encourage your tinkering with their disco records, lights, and music equipment in their attic? Are they presently big supporters of your music? Does the studio you have now remind you in any way of your teen attic getaway?
Dave Clarke: My mum had the records and my dad had the technical gear. He died at the beginning of the year and the only thing I looked for when I was going through his flat was a vintage spring echo unit that I had hoped to incorporate into my studio. I know my mother is proud of me.
Chain D.L.K.: If an amateur DJ or producer approached you today, what would you say to them? What advice would you give?
Dave Clarke: Unfortunately, I would say make a great record. That seems to be the surest way to cross over, even though the two talents are very different. Other than that I would suggest carving a niche in the biggest nearby town and build up confidence before attempting to break out of that scene.
Visit Dave Clarke on the web at:
[interviewed by Jez Porat] [proofreading by Ryan Hill]