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Has life's unexpected twists calmed Dave Clarke's hard exterior?

Monday 6th November 2017 | Rosh

Dave Clarke has been at the forefront of techno for over 30 years, he wears the name "The Baron Of Techno", a moniker given to him by the late and great radio presenter and journalist, John Peel, impeccably well.

Having relocated to Amsterdam and predicting Brexit before it even happened, Dave's personal and creative efforts flourished, helped along with the progression of technology. The recent years seem to have given Mr Clarke an inspiring sense of wisdom which can only come with years of experience from a sometimes, savage and ruthless industry. Listening to his new works, you almost sense a  biographical approach to how the album plays out, mirroring the journey his life unexpectedly took whilst still recording.

Dave Clarke comes across as a very deep, opinionated and insightful persona, the years seem to have added many layers to his already complex character, and when you hear his stance on things, you begin to understand why the moniker John Peel gave him fits so well. 

What's your current mindset/state of mind?

When I normally conduct interviews for the first few minutes, I usually am on my computer clearing things out and emptying the trash, that sort of thing, cleaning up. (Laughs) Am just getting ready for the day ahead I suppose.  Am going to record my radio shows just after I've spoken to you, that's sort of stuff

Do you have any morning rituals?

Well, I think my morning ritual is, because my weekends are generally not mine at all unless am lucky enough to have a day or a weekend off, I don't really have time for breakfast or relaxing.

So in the mornings I tend to take a long hour over breakfast, except for this morning, but generally, I'd take a long hour over breakfast where I'll make something interesting and have some fresh juices, listen to the Radio and just sit in the kitchen and just enjoy the fact that I have this time back which I wouldn't have at the weekend at all.

So releasing another album after so long, what’s changed for this album release, I mean, why now after so long?

Well, what's changed for me is that, honestly, this feels like my first album, not my first tracks, but my first album, that's the biggest difference to me on this project.  It took so long because I left the UK and I had to sell my studio, managed to keep 4 or 5 pieces from there, but I had to sell most of it and I started to then come over to Holland and then decided to live over here before Brexit happened and decided to enjoy life a little bit more because I've been against my will in many ways, I've been isolated in the UK by living in the countryside, which, you know, its a nice area with some nice people around. But I never got to socialise at all and when I came over to Holland I realised that I could socialise, so I started to socialise a lot more, and also I was waiting to see what was going to happen with the whole recording industry, which in retrospect is a little bit of a lame excuse because if your going make an album then you should just make an album no matter what, because that's what artists do.

But for me, it made sense at the time, so I just didn't record anything back then, but then computer power changed a lot since I made 'Devils Advocate' and I started to invest in a small studio here in Holland. I then started to get some lessons from Ableton because programs had changed, I thought I'd try a different tact, but I didn't like Ableton. Then I started working with a guy called Mr Jones and he liked Logic and Logic was really similar to Cubase so I started to learn that. We then were doing remixes and I think the catalyst that got me back into the studio was probably 'Black Asteroid' and Chris Liebing for doing remixes, and Mr Jones as well and then it just got more and more then I started doing remixes on my own for 'I am Klute' and people like that and felt comfortable but then I changed my computer then all of a sudden my computer was the power that I needed it to be which was really really great. It felt natural and then Logic 10 came out and when that came out I wasn't fighting with the machine anymore, at all,  it felt really comfortable being in the studio and throwing at it what I needed to throw at it without any complaints from the computer. Then Skint who have been sort of hovering around for a while actually, I was talking to them at the Brighton Music Conference and it all made sense at that time, so they just left me alone to completely record the album without no "over watching" eye at all really.

You mentioned that this album is entirely created and curated by you, without any "outside pressures" but more influenced by some delightful, intelligent and deep people who inspired you on your journey whilst making the album?

They where the guests that I invited over to do vocals, and I knew Louisahhh already for about a year because this album really is a story of Paris and Amsterdam, and the Persian side of it is definitely Louisahhh amongst other people including Marylin who did the artwork.

But I knew Louisahhh for a little while and I already felt a very close with her as a personality, so it was natural for me, for her to be my actual first collaboration on the album, and then all the other people that I was inspired by musically in the past, I invited in, and they still inspired me by their personalities, which you don't always know is going to happen, because some people do present a different side of them musically, but I think I have an instinct to maybe just attaching myself  to music and knowing that the other person will be cool, and that 's exactly what happened. Mt.Sims, I was talking about philosophy with him, and he has quite an interesting approach to philosophy, I don't know anything about philosophy really, don't want to come across as some pseudo-intellectual, because I really am not, I've just read about philosophy by Alain de Botton, the philosopher, in one book, and that's it! And anyone that quotes "Nietzsche" I generally dislike intensely. But am not an intellectual in that way but we had some very interesting conversations that completely changed my whole view, and on what was 3D as well.

With Gazelle Twin, again I worked with her but from a distance and I did a remix and realised that she was a genius when I got the stems from her. I had to cancel an Australian tour so I could make space for her because she just had a baby, and then she came over and that worked great. Matin Lanagan, that was really special as well, and of course, Anikka, I brought her album ages ago and it meant the world to me, and I consider her to be a friend so it helped make new friends and new friendships. With Keith Tenniswood, I never got him in my studio or me go over to his, but I've always wanted to work with him and I've always had a distant admiration for his capabilities.

The album does not feel as "dark" or industrial as your previous works, it promises to be your most melodic and personal album to date. Is this a reflection of the current state of affairs our world is in right now or does this signify a bigger change in yourself and your production?

I think its more the latter, so I think its a bigger change in myself and also the production and just allowing myself to be more fearless, and presenting what I want to present without second guessing it. Am not sure soo much about the influences from the world, because I mean the influences from the world, this probably would be one if the darkest albums I'd make due to everything that has been going on. But it was a 2-year journey and all the tracks were recorded in the order in how you hear them, so it reflects that it reflects whatever was going on in my life in those 2 years.

More and more deejays and artists are now coming out to speak about the mental pressures of being a creative, touring deejay, coping with the travelling, loneliness, mixed with too much of a good thing, which has affected their mental health and also stifled their creativity. How do you deal with your busy deejaying schedule across Europe whilst still finding the time to make music and dealing with the creative pressure of it all? 

Well, when I first started to make the album I had already decided to cut some work out because it was getting too much for me. So I wouldn't deejay every single week like I used too, or 3 times a week or 2 dates in one night, I stopped doing that because it was sapping so much energy and not replacing it with anything else and I want to do the job and I want to enjoy what am doing so I already started to do the change, the transition, probably about year or two before I started to record the album, and then of course, in the middle of the album, I had that car accident. That really changed my whole overview over everything and I thought to myself that "I really have to take better care of myself" and not be this box of oranges that, that's so constant and just in time for delivery for the shop to sell, so that changed my mind too, so before the car accident I already had more time to record because of that, then after the car accident, ironically I had to take 2 months off from recording as I had to get myself together.

But I had already changed towards that, as I've now been on the road for about 30 years. I think it's lovely that they're doing things about mental health, and some of them are heartfelt but some are jumping on it to get even more publicity. But I suppose that's the case of this whole industry, their's a lot of publicity whores in this industry that feels they need to jump on anything and everything just to present an opinion. I know a few people who have had a few difficulties with touring, I've had some difficulties with touring as well, it's a very, very tough life.

People don't seem to realise how difficult it can be, every job has its pros and cons, and people don't seem to realise that when you are a professional deejay you actually miss a big part of your social life, and I never wanted it that way, not because I think am better or special, its just that I just didn't want to be in that situation were you have to do people favours or they expect favours off you and vice-versa, I just didn't want to be in that whole situation which ultimately always happens, I've seen it, so I kept my distance from a lot of people within the industry because I just wanted to have friendships out the industry that were not involved in the whole politics.

But you miss a lot, so you miss birthdays, you miss weddings, you miss everything actually, and whilst living in Amsterdam the weather is generally pretty shite, when you travel to the airport it's generally raining and its a quite an easy journey to the airport when its raining because you think no one's going to have a great time anyway, which is horrible of course, but you think that, but the worst time is when you go to the airport on a Friday and you see at around 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm, everyone has finished their Monday to Friday jobs and their all out drinking, or in a cafe, and you just think to yourself, "your missing all of this", and it's awful. So it was about establishing a balance I suppose, but the mental health stuff is very hard. It took me a very, very long time, and a person that was close to me, to tell me that the reason why I was so down on a Tuesday was that I would finally get sleep on a Sunday and a Monday and then Tuesday would the first day that everything actually started to come together and it was just a very, very tough thing.

I would generally never sleep very well on a Tuesday night because I'd just be completely confused and I would have my blackest day on a Tuesday actually. Now that's really hard, and I don't even take drugs, so you know, and I very rarely drink when I deejay too, so those deejays that drink and take drugs and then have the lack of sleep, and then the travelling and then the hard work, well, of course, your  going to destroy yourself. You have a one in a hundred chance of actually being extraordinary through that whole situation. Some people are like a rolling  stone and are quite resilient and will get through anything now, but most people will break, and you see it, and it's very hard, so re-establishing a much more balanced outlook on my professional life is the only way to go forward now, and being in the studio now is part of that of course.

Your ADE nights "Dave Clarke presents" have garnered much success over the last decade, can you tell us a bit about how this comes together each year and what you feel has made it so popular?

Well, when I first started doing these ADE nights 13 years ago, no one was that bothered about techno as a genre, there were a few people, but generally, they weren't that bothered, it was still house, trance and some other subgenres, but techno wasn't really seen as something that was of use, or to do a night here for some reason, I don't know why, so in those days it was relatively easy  to put together a line-up, and I've always approached the line up in the same way, in that I like this person's music, I like this person as a deejay, I want to book this person.

It's not, "what can this person do for me" or anything like that, so I've always booked talent based upon how I feel about the talent, so I've always quoted myself as doing this from a "fanboys" perspective because it really is. But as times gone on, especially in the last 6 years, all of a sudden, Techno was much more "in vogue" and then politics came in and people were playing dirty politics and it becomes much trickier to book lineups. But still I enjoy it, but its a lot more difficult because I think am the only person to do a Techno lineup for the whole 13 years that I've done them, other people just jump on when it suits them financially when the capacity of ADE started to explode more than they jump on it as well without really supporting it. There is a little bittersweet thing going on there, but the nights themselves, I work with some really great people at the Melkweg now, I've worked with two teams there and both of those teams throughout the years, again from a "fan" perspective have been very easy to work with, and we try to be as anti-political as possible over the whole situation.

Which are the standout shows or festivals you have played at this year?

Ohh, that's tough because I travel so much and I often forget where I was the week before,  probably sounds a bit bizarre to those people that don't travel that much, but yeah for me, Concrete, Paris, that was amazing this year and also Igloofest in Montreal was really really good. Rotterdam Rave was brilliant and also Hong Kong Sonar was really good and I really enjoyed that. Playing for the guys in Liverpool, the 303 people over in Liverpool and Manchester is always really really good. Soenda Festival here in Holland was also really good this year. Dublin was amazing this year for me actually, it was like 37 degrees inside the club, that was incredible.

Unfortunately this year we missed the talk in which you presented a panel discussing Brexit. Could you tell us how you feel Brexit could impact the UK and global electronic scene as a whole, positively or negatively?

Well, let's deal with the positives, and am not sure about the electronic music scene because generally, the electronic music scene does not have that much to say verbally or lyrically, so let's just talk about the music industry from a positive perspective. I think that we will start to get much edgier music written by people who are just angry and in the words of John Lydon, "Anger is an energy". I think we are going to get very good anarchist music, more authentic, more socially aware lyrics, I think a lot of people have grown up in a situation where yes there are difficulties but most things are "Okay".

But now things are going to be quite tricky, and there is that talk that is there is a hard edge Brexit then bands coming into the U.K will be subject to having all their gear signed in and signed out, so longer queues at the very least and vice-versa, it will probably happen within Europe as well. So if your travelling in and out, I mean there has always been passport checks anyway, but now it will be far worse coming into Europe then coming into the UK. It's just going to be far far worse. You might have to get a work permit to be able to come over here, it'll probably be a shamen work permit, but who knows. You might get higher taxation on both sides of the Chanel at the moment as a Non-UK resident and when your playing in the UK, after a certain point of earnings you the promoter has to pay 20% more tax on top and there will be a lot more administration.

Do you think that will stop some UK promoters booking certain artists?

Not really, some promoters sadly see this 20% FEU tax as a 20% discount to themselves, and they never file it, because its actually  a very difficult tax to police as an artist and you just have to take someone's word for it, and because you don't actually get it, no one really knows. It's not a very fairly "put out" tax, it's quite easy for people to take the piss out off, which I've experienced in the past going back to play in the UK, so there's going to be those things as well as the cultural thing where most people at the moment are just worried about their mobile phone bill costs  going up when they travel abroad but they will probably just travel abroad less because I think it will become more expensive to travel, am sure the planes will be allowed to travel of course, as there was that whole talk of the planes not being able to travel, but am sure they will be so that will be fine, but it's going to be more expensive to travel so your not going to have so many Easyjet festival goers, which ecology is much better for the world but culturally it's not a great handshake so people might stay in more.

There's going to be less cultural proliferation between countries within the UK because it's going to become more isolated. The internet is the only thing that was different from when the last political situation was bad in the UK compared to whats happening now, but you know, this morning I was on the internet and just reading stuff on Facebook and you know, its sad about all the revelations that are coming forth, but now its just mad revelations, that are unproven, and it's just, trail by fucking hang which has always been the worst bases of everyone's character, you just turned the village into a worldwide village and that's really sad, but the Internet is around so people will still be able to get music quite easily from other places, there won't be so much import duty on 12 inches and stuff like that but there's not going to be a cultural handshake as much if it's a hard Brexit.

If it's a soft Brexit, which I think will be wonderful but I can't imagine that happening because it sets a bad precedence if the UK gets a Norway plus deal, as they were hoping for, then whats to stop the whole of Europe disintegrating because they all want a Norway plus, so I think the UK will have an example set in it and I find that mildly ironic considering that the UK is known as the divorce capital because it's so unfair, in the world, yet it's only going to get buttfucked severely in this divorce. So yeah, I worry about, I try not to think too much about it, but I predicted it was going to happen. I have always considered myself as an English person but less so now after Brexit, and I feel like a lot of people feel like that.

Most of my life I have considered myself to be a  European, back in the mid-nineties when there was a possibility of it going to a vote, I actually wanted the vote to happen then because we where less part of everything, so the extrication would have been relatively simple if people honestly felt that way, but to do it whilst your within it and there are just so many positives, its just a mad thing, a mad mad thing. I mean you could concentrate on the possible seven thousand five hundred jobs that will be lost in the city after Brexit if there's no passporting, but your not concentrating on the profit that those people will bring in, so there's a lot of pain to come, I foresee that if there is a hard Brexit the pound has probably a further 18-20%  devaluation to come and that is going to really affect the UK because it doesn't really have a manufacturing base anymore so it can't benefit from that, its just makes everything that it's going to buy in, really, really expensive and your going to see rates of inflation go up like 5 or 6% on RPI.

What ideas have changed your life?

Well the whole European revolution of everyone getting together, and free travel, I still remember getting on the ferry from Dieppe to New Haven and having to stamp in and stamp out how many pounds you took in because pounds was still, you know,  more, to take in and out the country and that would be my foreign holiday it'll be a day trip to Dieppe and that would be it for the summer and I felt quite posh about that. So the whole European story has been one of the biggest changes in my life on a political level, I think that would be the biggest thing for me actually.

What is the first law you’d change or even introduce if you were prime minister in the UK?

I wouldn't just have one law, I'd have quite a lot of laws. I would have everyone on both sides of the argument that knowingly presented fraudulent facts to the public on voting for Brexit should be immediately taken from office, held accountable for their lies, and if necessary, imprisoned. Becuase it's fraud. it's absolute fraud. It's misleading to a level that's dangerous and it's more than dangerous, it's catastrophic. If you're going to ask people to make an economic decision that is above 80% of peoples heads than at least have the courtesy to present the true facts, have the courtesy to have a level playing field within this so-called political arena where people have their facts checked, and then they present it. So I would do those people for treason, audacious, liable, I don't know, I'd invent a whole new thing but basically get justice served.

I would also make sure that sexual equality was enshrined in law, and the difficulty women have in having children if they want to to have a career, which not every woman has in my experience, but a large amount of people do. But if they want to have a career then, not the company, not the small 2 person company, but the actual NHS, the NHS in some form help actually support these people through the change, the family through the change, because we all pay money into it and I think that's something that really really necessary, I don't think women should ever be penalised for the biological flip of the coin once they have the children, so I'd want sexual equality and I'd also want racial equality too.

Also better schooling, I don't like the fact that there's a two-tier system in the UK of public and private schools. I think its fine if your a foreign parent who wants there child there because you still want that child to still learn in your native language, because your only going to stay over there for 4 or 5 years, and you maybe need a French school or a German school, yep that should be private, yes that's fine, but I do not believe there should be private education at all. I think all education should be good and be available to everyone in every single city and then within a few generations the nation will become much stronger, much more defined and knowing where we are going and this whole class war that is in the UK is just an absolute uproar, it's just wrong. So I would change that too.

I would also make sure that the NHS survives and is run as efficiently as possible and as well as possible, because it is one of the most beautiful things in the UK and the staff that work there, whether their English, E.U or outside the EU, every time I've spoken to those staff, they care and they work their arses off and don't get the credit they deserve, and their working in a system that is politicly charged because the politicians don't know what to do with it. But the NHS is a beautiful thing. Errrmm, I'd also spend a lot of money on infrastructure and not wars, because every time I go to the UK, I find the shoddy infrastructure even more shocking and it makes me sad. So the UK has so much potential, but it has to change a lot of things. So yeah I'd have the Brexit people from both sides that were lying put on trial and put in prison, change sexual and racial equality, sustain the NHS and have a better infrastructure.

Get yourself a copy of the new album here and catch Dave Clarke at Superstition on December 9th at Village Underground, details for that over on our listings.

PHOTO CREDIT: Marilyn Clark

Dave Clarke
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