Dusky on spending time in clubs and how nobody gets inspired by sitting inside all day
It's been a stellar year so far for Dusky, the London-based duo that's blowing up right now with a garage-house sound they mastered in their native stamping grounds. Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman, the pair who make up Dusky, have had their tracks spun by such notables as Pete Tong and Dubfire, and last December, they created a BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix. We recently caught up with the pair for a chat about how they went from drum-and-bass to their current sound and more.
Westword: I know you both started out with roots in the drum-and-bass scene in the U.K. -- how did you progress from that to your current sound?
Nick Harriman: I guess it was just kind of a natural progression of our tastes. In the U.K., you start with dance music when you're like fifteen, sixteen. Most people first get into drum and bass, and then get drawn into other forms of dance music.
Alfie Granger-Howell: That was at the time; now it's more dubstep.
NH: Yeah, at the time it was drum-and-bass, and as we got older, our tastes developed, and so did what we were writing.
How do you think your interest in jazz and classical music has helped shape your sound and set you apart from the crowd?
AG-H: I think it's helped in quite a lot of ways. I studied composition, whereas Nick's studies were more focused on music production, and between us, I think the most valuable skill is being able to analyze different types of music, different styles, seeing what it is about them that appeals to people and is unique and interesting. And that kind of studying, it's very useful to them. It just enables you to take those points of interest and apply it to our own music.
When you first started playing together, were you focusing more on producing tracks or deejaying sets?
AG-H: It was both. We met when we were about sixteen, seventeen, and at that time, we both got decks and started deejaying, and we used to go out raving and clubbing together with other mates. And we'd maybe have some drinks round each other's house before we left. We'd be deejaying in each other's bedrooms. But the producing side, as well, from a similar age, we were both experimenting with FruityLoops and other programs, and I think it was similarly very early on that we started playing each other ideas and sending things back and forth.
NH: It was definitely a bit of both, first learning to DJ and then writing stuff all the time, recording mixes, listening back on it, and seeing how we were doing. There were four or five of us who would swap music.
Do you have a preference now for the studio or the dancefloor? What do you like or dislike about each?
AG-H: I don't think I have a preference, I think they complement each other really well. I enjoy being in the studio, but it can be really stifling at times, sometimes with both of us, sometimes there's just one of us in the studio -- it can get quite lonely in that kind of social set, and the actual gigs, the shows, more than make up for that by being in front of hunderds and thousands of people. I can't really separate the two out. I need to have both in order to be happy, I think.
NH: I agree. I think the studio is nice sometimes, but to get inspiration, you have to be out of the studio. No one gets inspiration by sitting inside all day. You need to go out, meet other people, spend some time in clubs; it helps give you that balance.
You've been playing together for a long time and have gotten some attention as a duo -- what do you think are the advantages of working as a team versus going solo?
NH: I guess, from a studio point of view, there's two of you working toward one goal, so you're getting twice as much done. So that' a big advantage. And DJ wise, touring wise, it's nicer to travel with your friend than travel by yourself. You can get quite lonely sitting in hotel rooms by yourself. I think that's probably an advantage.
AG-H: I've done stuff with bands before, and it can be quite a slow creative process. You've got to get everyone's opinion and get everyone to approve. Working in a duo, I think, is a good balance. I don't tend to work particularly well on my own. I'll get carried away with ideas, and it's good to have someone there to keep those more outlandish ideas in check. But, on the other hand, too many people in the process, it's too many cooks who spoil the broth.
I know you've done some production work for television -- have you ever thought about translating some of that experience into film scoring? What kind of movie would you most like to create a soundtrack for?
AG-H: I actually started out doing composition for film and TV. It was more geared toward more film than TV stuff. I just happened to find myself doing more TV and advertising work. But it would definitely be amazing to do some film scoring. I'd love to do that. I don't really have any preference as to what type of films; I'm not fussy. Working on any film would be really cool.
NH: But it would be nice for the first movie you worked on to be something you were really into -- the new music for the next Zoolander Part II might not be as exciting as doing the next Bladerunner.
It's been a pretty big couple of years for Dusky. Looking back, what would you say have been some of the highlights for you?
AG-H: Being asked to do the Radio 1 Essential Mix for the BBC -- that was a real mindspin for us. So many of our heroes, who we've always looked up to in dance music, if you look at the list of people who've put that together, it's like a who's who of dance music. So it was a real honor to be added to that list. Playing Ibiza for the first time was amazing, really cool. We played at DC10, and we played a boat party, but DC10 was really special; it's a really respected club. That was fun.
NH: I guess it's kind of, more for me, a combination of little things that have happened along the way -- your music doing well, certain DJs picking it up and playing. I find satisfaction in that rather than one moment. Obviously, the Essential Mix was a big thing, but it's more little things building up that I get satisfaction from.
What's still on your list of things to accomplish, musically speaking?
NH: Write another album first!
AG-H: We've started working on another album; definitely that's going to be quite a big focus in the coming months. And then there are lots of places we want to continue touring and visiting new cities where we've never been before and other clubs, festivals and things.
What's coming up next for you? Anything else you want to add?
NH: We've got an EP coming out at the end of September on AUS Music called Careless. After that we'll probably have something coming out at the end of the year but we aren't sure about the exact date of that yet. Lots of touring!
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