UK House Music Stars Dusky on Dreams and the Lydian Scale

Dusky, at dusk.EXPAND
Dusky, at dusk.
Courtesy Dusky

Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman make up Dusky, an award-winning electronic music duo out of England, and this Sunday, March 13, they will be reaching deep into the lovelorn and party-hungry souls at Beta with their familiar yet fresh take on acid, jungle, rave and techno-inflected house. Below, Westword talks with Alfie about the origins of the group, the differences between European and American club audiences, and the musical dreamscape that helped inspire their Lydia EP, their most recent release on their 17 Steps imprint.

Westword: When did you two first meet?

Alfie Granger-Howell: We met at  college in the U.K., about when we were sixteen, and we hit it off, and we both were already producing music at that point, so we kind of bonded over that. But it was quite a few years after that that we actually formally made a track together.

Is there a role thateach of you adopt in the Dusky?

I mean, I think we both come from slightly different backgrounds, Nick is more production-focused, whereas I have a more traditionally performance-based musical background. I played piano and studied composition and things. So I think when we were both starting, there was a much more clear-cut role about what each of us should do…but I think over the years that sort of relationship has changed and evolved [to] where we both learn skills from each other, and we both contribute equally.

Speaking of composition, you recently released your Lydia EP, which was inspired by a dream you had in which all music was composed in the Lydian mode (a rising pattern of pitches comprising three whole tones, a semitone, two more whole tones and a final semitone)?

It’s very hard to explain. Everything spatially and sonically was constructed through the Lydian scale. And I can’t quite remember what was happening in the dream — I think everything was made out of the Lydian scale. But, yeah, it helped spur this idea.

Do you often get musical ideas in your dreams?

Not often, no. Occasionally, it has happened before. Sometimes I’ll hear melodies in dreams and wake up… and if you happen to remember it, you realize it is not as good as it was in the dream [laughs]. 

So are you guys previewing any new material on the tour?

Yeah, we got a few songs, maybe one off our album…and we have some new stuff in our sets.

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How do you know your tracks are club-ready?

Normally we just play it out a bit and see the reaction, and then we’ll go back and make tweaks on it and see what things we can improve on it. That can be more tricky with some of the album stuff, that’s not strictly club tracks, so we don’t have the chance to play them out and test them on audiences. Its kind of like stabbing in the dark a bit. But the club stuff is always, like, make a version to play out, tweak it, and see the reaction we get with the new version.

Do you think American audiences have different expectations than English or European ones?

To a certain extent, yeah, depending on the club or city you’re playing, stuff like that. Crowds in New York or Chicago might be a bit more cued up, are a bit more into the history of dance music. And it’s the same in London, or in Manchester, people are going to be more cued up than in, like, Hampton.

So it has to do more with the city you’re in rather than the continent?

Yeah, I think so. But maybe in general, Europeans, they kind of have very specific tastes — where in America, they’re a bit more broad-minded.

For the broad-minded blue-blooded American b waiting to get down, see Dusky at Beta this Sunday. Tickets are $10 for this 21+ show.

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