The word “legend” is thrown around a lot these days, especially to hype up various over-the-hill groups riding the retro gravy train to Iceland, all with the purpose of parting large sums of cash from locals with more money than taste.
But once in a while the description is entirely apt. While some may not know Dave Clarke, he’s considered one of the electronic music scene’s true greats. His seminal ‘Red’ EP series and ‘Archive One’ album helped to define the techno sound of the ‘90s, while the last decade has seen him move beyond techno to explore other styles from electro and hip hop to post punk, with albums such as ‘World Service,’ ‘Devil’s Advocate,’ and ‘Fabric 60.’
In anticipation of his arrival to Iceland, where he will perform a set with some of Iceland’s best electronic artists, we caught up with Dave to pump him for information about his music, technology and why Iceland helps his hay fever.
Right now you’re on your way to Japan to play a DJ set. What’s the reality of being an international DJ? It must be tiring spending hours travelling all over the world, being dropped into a festival or club with barely a moment’s rest.
I’ve just landed in Tokyo and the driver is an hour late, that always seems to happen here, but this interview should give me some distraction in the sweltering heat and humidity. But yes it is tiring, travelling hasn’t been fun for at least fifteen years. The job is still good, though, and I’m very lucky to earn a living by being creative, so I shouldn’t complain.
MINIMAL, UNINSPIRED KETAMINE-HOUSE
You became synonymous in techno for the series of releases that you created in the ‘90s, such as your ‘Red’ EPs and ‘Archive One’ album. What is it about techno itself that drew you to it in the first place?
The music was funky, space-age prophetic computer music; it took from electro and made it edgy and industrial.
Despite being known for techno, you’ve talked about your love of other types of music, from post-punk to hip hop and electro. With people today ransacking the internet for different sounds to make music, are we moving away from the puritanical idea of what electronic music is?
Well if that’s the case, it’s a shame that many internet portals are plying minimal, uninspired, ketamine-house music then. Most of the music I get is from the artists themselves. I’m not even sure if their stuff makes it to Beatport. But there are some incredible artists out there on the edge of the genre, like Mazzula for example.
You recently started up Unsubscribe, a production unit with Dutch musician Mr Jones. How did you two meet up? And what’s the state of play right now?
I was impressed by his music and tenacity. At one point I was playing a new track every week from him on my radio show, and then I met him in Utrecht and we slowly got to know each other. At the moment I am having fun working with someone in the studio; before that I was 95% on my own in the studio, so as long as the vibe stays good for both of us I’m sure Unsubscribe will continue.
AMOUNT OF SHIT
You’ve often talked about “the amount of shit you received” for being an early adopter of digital technology in techno music. Looking back, do you feel slightly vindicated that the same technology is so prevalent in much of today’s electronic music, as well as the fact that people are still having arguments over its use in live sets?
Yes and no. We have to march forward, as the whole point of techno was to embrace both music and technology. To just stay with vinyl made no sense, but… but we lost the record shop scene, which inevitably meant more commercial music would take over. A lot of DJs have also really watered down their sets, which is very sad, but it seems money is more important than integrity to these characters. With every change there is good and bad; I don’t necessarily feel vindicated, but I am happy I made the switch when I did.
As an adopter of digital technology and the internet, what are the biggest opportunities/challenges facing musicians on the internet today?
Doing this interview whilst waiting for my driver at Narita airport via free wireless! Social media is good, but it often distracts and detracts from the artistry.
As I understand it, you’ve been to Iceland before. What are your hopes/expectations of how your visit is going to go down this time?
I’ve been many, many times and I love the place. It gives me respite from my hay fever!