Filed under: Interview
“Yes I can be partial to some Purple Haze or Siberian Tiger, though I very rarely do it. Sometimes I don’t touch it for 6 months, its very mellow, like drinking wine for me.”
Previously renowned as a ferociously uncompromising anti drug zealot, British techno icon Dave Clarke could certainly be described as having mellowed in recent years, not least since he’s also renounced Cuban cigars and his other great passion fast cars. Just two years ago he told Mixmag “I love cars- I fucking adore cars” though since (partially) relocating to Amsterdam last year, he admits he’s reassessed his priorities.
“Funnily enough, spending time in Amsterdam makes you see the car as a part time thing, it’s not important,” he explains. “I could have any car(s) I wanted now, but I’m not bothered, I’m really not, I just care that it is comfortable and has a great sound system, so I’ll be sticking to my old merc for a long time to come.” He also admits that he’s no stranger to the city’s fabled coffee shops whether for his own occasional smokes or when he’s accompanying (British) mates in town, keen to seek out some puff. Not that his newfound tolerance extends to all drugs, he’s quick to point out.
“I have always been around people that smoke, it doesn’t bother me, just the people that do cocaine get right up my arse with their ego shit,” he snarls. “It really makes me look down at someone when they do that stuff.”
Throughout his career he’s endured (or enjoyed) a fractious relationship with the media, not least for his enthusiastic willingness to slate them (us!) at any opportunity, such as in a revealing interview with an Australian site some years ago.
“Journos do my head in quite a lot, either through lack of knowledge, passion, or intelligence, and when you get all three in one package it’s incredible,” he told inthemix.com. “There are some good journalists in the UK, but most of them don’t like me.”
Though he certainly has his media detractors he also has more than enough supporters such as long term friend DJ Hell, a man with more in common than might first meet the eye.
“Lots of people have the wrong impression of him, he’s a very nice guy and he’s also very funny as well as being to me one of the greatest DJs and producers,” Hell told Skrufff in 2002. “I really like him even as a person, we’re friends and there’s a lot of respect between us. When he talks to the press he talks loud and clear and a lot of people don’t like that. I know what he’s talking about and what he means and we always have a great time when we play and travel together.”
Like Hell, Dave’s also started paying more attention to his image in recent years, cheerfully slapping on Sisley make-up when he performs attracting ‘great reactions from girls and strange ones from insecure males’, he says. He’s also more than happy to admit he considers himself a metrosexual ‘fully in some ways though unfortunately I can slip into alpha male mode sometimes.”
Chatting to Dave via email (he’d make a surprisingly good journalist if he wanted) he’s also blissfully unconcerned about offending sensibilities, such as those o Fischerspooner’s; the electroclash darlings he unwittingly unleashed on the world.
“That’s a bitter pill sometimes,” he admits. “I was playing Emerge before anyone else picked up on it and I was getting emails at the time from Fischerspooner and their singer as they were really excited.
Then 2 years later, by accident, I saw their ‘performance’ on Top Of The Pops and immediately thought ‘Thank Fuck I didn’t get involved after all’. They were responsible for killing electroclash in one foul swoop (with their Flock Of Seagulls gets dumped by art school kind of vibe), and they had the biggest egos I had ever come across. I still think that Emerge was a fantastic record and they still haven’t even come close to that since but as for electroclash tt’s just a Hoxton/Shoreditch (East London) thing; the followers call themselves trendy yet they were so late taking it up in the first place, it’s just funny.
There are still some good electroclash records out there but I actively distance myself from that scene, I don’t wear a tight scarf or a dodgy hat, I listen to music as it comes and I never follow musical fashion. I think the electroclash scene hasn’t made a blind bit of difference to the international club scene, just a few very, very local scenes which ironically have scared a lot of people away from it because they don’t want to be associated with the fashionista.”
Interview by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Starting with the compilation: was it an easy task for you to put it together or something you spent months and months toiling over track selection, sequencing and overall vision?
Dave Clarke : “A compilation is always a balancing act, I spent quite a while doing it mainly because my father and road tour manager died within a week of each other and about a month after signing the deal. I kept thinking it wouldn’t delay me too much but it made the whole process about two months longer than any of us were expecting and everyone at Resist was really understanding. When I got back into doing it I was really happy, yet again music makes it all worthwhile. I was initially thinking of doing a more punky CD incorporating Helmet, The Ruts and Tom Vek, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it as a CD for sale; When I got a tracklisting together for both the techno and electro CDs I knew I’d made the right decision.”
Skrufff : How much is the CD about entertaining listeners and how much educating?
Dave Clarke : “It’s always about both, but it’s also always about doing a representation of what you have played and will be playing in the clubs. I don’t like to use the word educating because it suggests you are somehow more intelligent; it’s not that, it’s just that music is my life and more so than the listener on average so my awareness of music is going to be sharper. I then like to use this awareness to present something exciting and challenging.”
Skrufff : The press release says the CD was completely mixed on his beloved Technics DZ 1200 CD decks’: did you do it in one take or use computer trickery?
Dave Clarke : “No I didn’t do it on computer, I couldn’t bring myself to do that at this stage, it’s more fun working live on decks, it’s more of a seat of the pants process than doing it predetermined with multiple undos.”
Skrufff : you also say on the accompanying press release “techno DJs have better skills than for other genres”: do you make many (any?) mistakes when DJing these days? (is CD mixing easier?)
Dave Clarke : “All DJs make mistakes, me included, CD mixing is easier in some ways (quicker cueing for example) but CD mixers also add their own problems and you have to adapt to different techniques (for example there is no centre spindle on CD decks to speed up so you have to develop a new flick technique) but it keeps you on your toes. Ableton mixing is soooooo easy, OK the pre-programming is where the skill is, but you can’t drop a beat when you’re using it so that to me isn’t DJing, it’s just sequencing without risk.”
Skrufff : Do you have many bad nights, or have to have particularly unresponsive crowds: do you ever feel like slowing down or retiring from DJing at any point? (do you visualise yourself doing it when you’re 70?)
Dave Clarke : “I don’t even visualise living to 70. I very rarely have bad nights, but that is because I have a good agent and an instinct that I normally follow. As for retiring I am sure I have some years left to give, and I will continue as long as I enjoy it, feel it and love it.”
Skrufff: You’re DJing constantly- how often do you experience magical truly memorable gigs, do you believe in higher powers and magic?
Dave Clarke: “Last week I had two excellent gigs, I often experience incredible gigs, I sometimes have tears come into my eyes because the music and atmosphere is everything that I dreamed it could be and more. I don’t believe in higher power like religion but I do believe there is something that has a greater intelligence and nature has to be respected, and my local chef does great card tricks that must be magic, nothing else explains them.”
Skrufff : You recently relocated to Amsterdam: why did you choose Holland instead of say America or Australia?
Dave Clarke : “I have moved here that’s right and it’s ironic because I was thinking about it after my first gig in Holland in 1988, it is a very peaceful city that is bohemian in outlook. I don’t entirely live here, I also spend time in the UK. As for other places, I could never live in the States until Bush is voted out, I wouldn’t even consider it. A lot of promoters have tried to get me to play in the States and whilst some are friends I cannot go there professionally whilst Bush is running a protectionist war-mongering country. I love New York though. Melbourne rocks, great people, great food, really, really cheap property (by European standards), but it is too far away from things. To me, it’s a place to retire or visit a few times a year, it doesn’t work living there if you are really busy around Europe.”
Skrufff : I understand you’re now flying private planes: what’s the attraction? (ever had any scary moments on planes?)
Dave Clarke : “They’ve suited my itinerary and made my gig commitments possible, though I have had loads of scary moments, sure. That includes a dodgy engine once when fuel was pissing out the starboard wing tank (one spark on emergency landing and we’d be toast), 767 heavies right up your crack when landing at Frankfurt, holding the pilot’s door closed just after take off. It just makes life more on the edge sometimes, though it’s not nice when you think this is your last landing and ATC (Air Traffic Control) is referring to people on board as “souls” and I’m thinking fuck don’t refer to me as a “soul” yet I’m still alive and kicking.”
Skrufff : You told DJ magazine recently “I love punk and most punk musicians weren’t knowledgeable. I find Beethoven tedious and predictable. The point is knowledge can sometimes stifle energy”, do you still consider yourself a punk in any way (what does the term mean to you?)
Dave Clarke : “Punk means two fingers to authority, kicking against the pricks, being a spanner in the works, not towing the music mafia whips line, being independent. I still vibe intensely off the music and the ethos (though not the Mclaren/Westwood fake shit)
Skrufff : Do you ever find techno becoming tedious and predictable?
Dave Clarke : “All music has that ability, it’s finding the material that isn’t that makes it all worthwhile and challenging.”
End of the interview
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