If you were listening to electronic music after 2001 but still haven't heard of Gabriel and Dresden (due at Beta on Thursday, June 16) ... are you sure you didn't hit the scene after the critically acclaimed duo called it quits in 2008? Just checking. At any rate, you've probably heard Josh Gabriel and Dave Dresden's tracks and remixes; they won the Winter Music Conference Best American DJ award in 2007 and 2008 (the 2008 award was bestowed the same day they broke up). But now the powerhouse duo is back together again, shaking dance floors around the planet since New Year's Eve. We caught up with the two to talk about their hiatus, why they're back together and more.
Westword: How did you two meet?
Josh Gabriel: We both were people who went to the Winter Music Conference for years, and in about 2000, I was there for the first time ever just for music -- before I'd been there with my technology -- and this was the first time I was there just handing out music, and Dave was there, and we had never met. He got a copy of my record, "Wave 3," and a couple of weeks later, Pete Tong [the BBC's Essential Mix/Essential Selection radio-show host] put out a compilation with "Wave 3" on it. And eventually, for all of Dave's hard work, Pete Tong offered him a remix. We ended up working on it together, and it became our pattern. We conveniently made music together -- we didn't think about starting it, it just never stopped.
So why did you stop when you did?
Dave Dresden: There were always things we wanted to do in each of our musical sides that we weren't able to express in Gabriel and Dresden, and we decided -- we'd been basically together every day for six years, and we felt like it was time to maybe explore some of our music sides that we weren't able to do for Gabriel and Dresden, and come back in a few years and see if it's going to work again. When you work with somebody as closely as we did, you need a break so you can assess what it is each of you bring to the table.
What did you do while on your break?
JG: I worked on an album focused on instrumentals, did a couple of collaborations with people, started a project. The biggest thing that I learned was how to collaborate with people, and how to take Gabriel and Dresden off the table and let me shine through. I think that now I'm a better collaborator.
DD: I basically learned a lot of new tricks about production. I came from the DJ side of things, and Josh was really my first real music collaborator, so I worked with a bunch of different people, learned a bunch of different new ways of making songs, from starting with drums to starting with a bassline to starting with synth. There's all kinds of different things that I learned about making music. And I also got to work with some really amazing people. It primed me to work with Josh again, whom I feel I mesh with best. I think we have a one-in-a-million connection.
What led to the reunion?
DD: We had just started talking again. We kind of laid low with each other for about two years, and we started talking last fall. And at the same time, an offer came in for us to play on New Year's. Every year since we broke up, we've been getting offers, but this year, we decided to take it; we've been hearing from the fans saying they wanted us to do a show again, and we figured, "Let's try it and see what's it's all about." And when we collaborated and did the show, we realized we had a lot more to say as a band, and we started taking in more shows. And we just decided to do this again, because it felt right and the fans were into it.
What's been the reaction?
JG: Since New Year's, it just keeps getting better. It's a chance for Dave and I to understand what we want to say as DJs together. We've been breaking new ground, trying things out that we never would have tried before. It feels very free lately, and we both have a lot of fun DJing. The fact that we're into it and the crowd's into it, since New Year's it's been really amazing.
What have your sets been like? Are you playing old classics, new stuff or a mixture of both?
JG: We've taken a lot of our classics and mixed them up with other newer tracks. We've done bootlegs, we've done mash-ups, taking two or three songs, putting them together to create a new song. We really have been working hard at creating something new, not just playing our old classics as they were.
DD: As far as playing our old songs, at the end of the night we'll play one or two or maybe even three of our older songs in our original form as people know them -- kind of how the band saves their biggest tracks for the end of their set. But by and large, our set feels very modern and current. By using a capellas and things like that.
JG: I think that Gabriel and Dresden fans should expect to hear things that they'd expect to hear, but hear them in new ways. I think people who like our music become bigger fans; we play old things in a newer way. And there's a lot of new things we've been doing with bootlegs of popular songs, and I think people would be surprised at some of the combinations. It feels a lot different from before. Things are a little more clear, there's a different energy. It's not as if we're going back to three years ago. It's sort of Gabriel and Dresden 2.0.
What are your plans for the future?
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DD: We're working on a mix CD right now for Armada music, Armin Van Buuren's label. It'll be released in the late summer and will have at least one or two new, original Gabriel and Dresden tracks; there might be some remixes of our older songs. We just did a remix of an Andain track, which is Josh's band with Mavie Marcos and Dave Penner, "Promises." It just got released on Black Hole recordings. And after we do the mix CD we're going to analyze and see where we're at. Maybe put a new album together.
Well, I hope you guys enjoy playing at Beta when you're here.
DD: We love Beta! It's one of our favorite clubs to play in, and has been since it opened.