Duke Dumont On His New ‘Blasé Boys Club, Pt. 1’ EP & Making Music His Way: Idolator Interview
Last fall, we spoke with Duke Dumont about his string of dance hits and the resurgence of house music in mainstream pop. The Grammy-nominated producer also explained at the time that he was two or three songs away from finishing up his debut album.
Over the past year, however, the 33-year-old Brit, whose real name is Adam Dyment, changed his way of thinking about the way his music should be released, and he’s now opted for offering up a string of EPs — the first of which, Blasé Boys Club, Pt. 1, arrived on Friday. (Grab it on iTunes). It’s a sign of the times with regards to the way we get our hands on music, so to speak, in this era of streaming, but it’s also a testament to the carte blanche Dumont is able to exercise while working within the major label system.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Duke says over the phone from London, just before his latest and lengthiest tour of North America is about to kick off. “I don’t necessarily have to be the biggest DJ or biggest producer in the world but I do wanna be one of the best. If they keep on letting me do my thing, that will happen.”
Read on to catch our latest conversation with the hit-making producer about his new single “Ocean Drive,” his latest EP and him (possibly) making a move to the States.
When we last we spoke, in October 2014, you were putting the finishing touches on an album. But now you’re releasing a series of EPs. What exactly happened to the album? DUKE DUMONT: I’ll let you in on a secret: If you were to buy my next EPs in chronological order then put them together, that would have been my album. What’s been incredible is, the time we spoke last to the time now, how everything’s changed. It’s really, really boring — I prefer to talk about music — but it’s also important. Basically everything is streamed and nobody really buys albums anymore. And this is sad. The music man in me is upset by that. The business man in me makes me have to adapt to the way it’s released. As long as I don’t have to adapt my music, I really don’t mind.
So with the EPs, you’re able to get several releases out over a short period of time. DD: That makes me happier. I think you could wait, at minimum, 18 months to two years for the next album. And we’re in a world where it’s a case of people just want that one song — you know, people don’t really have time to spend 45 minutes to 60 minutes listening to a record anymore. It’s sad in that way where everybody in the music industry is moving into a new age of the way music is consumed. However, the one thing that isn’t changing is me working my ass off trying to make the best music I can.
Your latest single is “Ocean Drive.” Who is the male singer featured on the track, and how did you find him? DD: The singer is an artist called Boy Matthews. I met him about a year and a half ago when he was working in a PizzaExpress. He was a session singer. He’s literally just given up his day job now to pursue his artist career in music. We wrote the song last summer — we finished it about September or October time. Essentially, it was a strange one, because we initially recorded it as a demo to get another singer on it — you know, a more well-known singer. But he sounded so good, we just decided to keep him on it. The other thing that I didn’t want to do is give the perception that I’m just trying to make music with the biggest pop stars in the world. I think the way the song came out, there is a bit of heart and soul to it. It’s not about trying to sell as many copies. It was a great day in the studio and we managed to capture what was needed, and I don’t think selling an extra few records was going to benefit taking away the performance that he did.
It is interesting to note that, for the string of hits you’ve had — Grammy-nominated hits, mind you — you have chosen to work with session singers on a bulk of your tracks, while some of your contemporaries usually opt for getting in the studio with the biggest names you can think of. DD: Saying that, I have been in the studio working with some of the biggest acts in the world, working on their material. So I pride myself on being able to make the best pop music possible. But for my Duke Dumont alias, that’s my baby. It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest pop singer or the most unknown pop singer; the most important thing is to try to make some of the best music I possibly can. I’m really proud of “Ocean Drive” in a sense that I feel I’m definitely on a path that I’m very happy with, musically.
What stuck out the most to me from our conversation a year ago was when you said, “I have one goal for my music, and that’s five, ten years down the line, it still has a bit of soul to it” — basically, you’re not concerned with who is singing it so much as the sound of the end result. DD: I usually change my mind all the time, but that’s one quote I actually am still 100% in agreement with, Robbie. Ironically, most of the songs on these records were made this time last year. And this is the good thing about splitting them up — the future music will go out a lot quicker. But the one benefit of not releasing music really quickly is you can sit with it for awhile and see, okay, this still sounds okay six months, seven months later. And that’s how it’ll probably translate to the market. So, you said if it still sounds good in five years? We’ve only got another four years left. [Laughs] So if it still sounds good in four years! I’m very fortunate that I’m one of the few artists who can generally make the music they want to make and still have a successful career. A lot of artists are pushed into a certain direction — I was going to say one direction, but that would have sounded like I was talking about One Direction. I’m one of the artists who is very lucky that I don’t get the record label telling me what I should and shouldn’t be making. I’m in a very fortunate place as an artist on a major label to be given that freedom.
You’ve been nominated for Grammys for the past two years. Has that heightened the amount of other artists who bang on your door for a song? DD: Here’s the thing: Yes and no, in the sense that big artists who knock on my door now, it wasn’t because of the Grammy nominations; it was because the label had played them my album. I was in the studio with possibly one of the top three biggest pop stars in the world, in L.A., about three or four weeks ago. I was in the studio for a week working on her stuff, and the reason I was there was because of a song off my album. I love that. I think the Grammy nominations kind of cement that, but ironically it’s [for] the music that no one’s heard, other than the artists and the label, they’re knockin’ on my door. Like I said, I’ve spent a little bit of time in the studio with other artists, but I love being a record producer. When I work with an artist, the strange thing is, I want to make the best piece of music for them with their artistic nature in mind, whereas when I’m making a Duke Dumont record, ain’t nobody gonna tell me to change anything. That is my vision.
One would think it could be difficult to strike the balance between creating for others and creating for yourself. DD: It’s been an interesting thing. In the last few weeks, one thing I have come to realize is I think I’m a lot happier just working on my own music as opposed to trying to be the biggest producer in the world — which is potentially an option I might go down. But at this point in time I’m really happy with the way the music’s being perceived under my artist alias. I’m loving touring with the live show. I’m loving the small amount of time I get in the studio.
Speaking of the live show, you’re going to be pretty much living out of a suitcase here in the States through the rest of October. Will this be your biggest North American tour to-date? DD: Yeah, for sure. I’m almost a resident now. I’m probably in the States as much as I am anywhere else. I’m even considering taking a leap of faith and…
Uh oh. DD: Yeah, exactly…making a move to the West Coast. The lifestyle is great, but it’s definitely a culture shock from London. New York is very similar to London. I could settle into New York a lot easier. However, it’s gotten to the point that I think it would make my life a lot easier to be based out of L.A. I’m looking at the [tour] dates now — I’m in America from October 4th to the 31st. What I love about America is going to the places I never would have had the opportunity to visit. I would probably never go to Portland if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing. Albuquerque…I certainly wouldn’t be in Columbus. I remember when I DJ-ed in Texas and I was a little nervous about how house music would go down in Dallas. It was a great show and it was really great scene. I generally enjoy touring North America more than I do pretty much anywhere in the world now, because it’s still quite new to me.
Let’s wrap up by discussing your Blase Boys Club, Pt. 1 EP track “Robert Talking,” which features legendary Chicago house singer Robert Owens, well, basically talking. How did this collaboration come about? DD: Robert Owens, if no one really knows, is a guy who started at the birth of house music. He was kicking around with the likes of Frankie Knuckles, playing at the Music Box and DJ-ing and MC-ing along with the likes of Ron Hardy — the guys who really were the essence of where it came from in Chicago. He lives in London now and a friend of mine had him in the studio. He said, “Look, I just had Robert Owens in the studio basically just talking for about 30 minutes about house music. Have a listen to this — do you think you can do anything with it?” It’s almost like an interview. I listened to it and just started building up a track around it [while he’s] talking about the history of house music, from disco to house. The really good thing about the song is the transition where he’s talking about disco — you know, suddenly the song gets a little more disco. When he talks about the 808, the 707, the 909 drum machines — guess what? There’s an 808 playing. There’s a 909 playing. So it’s a smart song. It’s probably my homage to house. Honestly, if I never made a house-based track again, I think that’s the one where it’s like, okay, I’ve just retired it. I can die a happy man that I’ve made this piece of music.