DJ-ing in 2014: During a Deep Era – By Ian “Skev” Hardy.
Q: What do Duke Dumont’s “I Got U”, Second city’s “I Wanna Feel” and Mr Probz “Waves” (Robin Schulz Remix) all have in common?
A: They are all great records.
Right? You may have heard them too much, but they are great records. You don’t have to change your opinion, I’m not going to scold you for liking them, it’s okay. The truth is, I like them as well. Not as much as I used to, but they are excellent tunes.
This is where the conundrum starts for a DJ.
I can remember my first time hearing all three of these house records at the beginning of the year and, particularly with Duke Dumont, it was an electric experience and it gave me a great feeling. It was reminiscent of Dario G’s “Sunchyme” due to the steel drums but it felt much cooler, it was reminiscent of the older soulful house records with a huge vocal and a driving bass line not dissimilar to garage. I knew it would be hugely successful record straight away. I heard it in late winter/ early spring and it felt like summer was already here. It’s one of the few tunes that I included the same version of it on more than one of my mixes in the year. And it did go on to be very successful with a great video to accompany it as well, it went to the UK number 1 and hit top 5 in many other countries in the world.
Let’s just take a look at the other UK number 1’s this year:
- Rather Be – Clean Bandit
- My Love – Route 94
- Hideaway – Kieza
- Waves – Mr Probz
- I Wanna Feel – Secondcity
- Gecko (Overdrive) – Oliver Heldens Feat Becky Hill
- Prayer In C – Lily Wood & Robin Schulz
All of these great songs, but I feel kind of upset that they are all from “my” scene. This sounds like a really unpleasant thing to say but stay with me while I explain exactly what I mean.
The modern DJ music scene.
Firstly, I wish success to all the artists recording music out there and the DJ’s playing it. Great music is great music and it deserves to be heard by as many people as possible, but, as a DJ, it’s my job to keep bringing you great music that you will enjoy and will bring you excitement and ideally not stuff you have heard loads of times before. I (and all the other DJ’s who take it seriously) search far and wide to find new records that we all enjoy, after all, we DJ’s have to enjoy playing them as well but this year it seemed that as soon as I got a big record and started to enjoy it, so did commercial radio and it was on in the background wherever you went. I look back on some of my sessions from earlier in the year and they have some big commercial hits in them which aren’t really my style usually.
One of my biggest surprises from this year was Ten Walls “Walking With Elephants.” The first few times I heard it, I didn’t get it. In fact the second time I heard it, I walked off the dance floor to get a drink and almost refused to dance to it. It wasn’t until I heard it on one of Idris Elba’s 7-Wallace sessions live from Ibiza that it really sank in. I still don’t know now what clicked and made me like it, but once I did, it was such a refreshing record. Until commercial radio started to play it.
I guess the point I am making is that I miss the magic of the early days of house music and electric music. Those days when clubs were underground and you almost were a member of a “club” if you knew where to go and listen to these new and exciting records and which DJ was playing them. I’m not going to get all teary eyed and go on forever about how it’s not like it used to be. Evolution will show us that it will never be like it used to be. And for the most part, that is a good thing! But the evolution is not always for the good of the scene.
As with most industries in the world, money is what drives it but money was also what ruined it. Deep House was this year’s trend. Except it was a bit of a mash-up between deep house, funky house and garage (which are the styles I cover with FunkySexyCoolDeep) and that is probably why it was so popular. There were also a growing number of people in America denouncing their EDM ways and looking for something that was, in my opinion, better to listen to. All of this will have an impact on a scene. As big labels in the UK and across the world attempt to release as many compilation albums as they can, all of the stuff that was kind of underground and cool filters through and becomes commercial, and very few of these albums are mixed by DJs, so they often lack the flair and objective taste that a listener would have received on say, a mix in the 1990’s for Global Underground by Danny Tenaglia or a Miss Moneypenny’s session by Boy George or as many of the Defected albums do now. You grew to know their style and to enjoy the particular remix of the track you hadn’t heard before and grew to love the slightly more underground mix and ultimately, you respected their style and them as a DJ.
DJ-ing – A hard day’s work
All of this leaves a DJ stood behind a set of decks, attempting to retain their style, looking for records to play that you haven’t heard 50 times that day. There is also a certain amount of snobbery that exists in the industry around playing mainstream/commercial/chart records. It’s seen as being uncreative as a DJ almost as If you are just playing the charts, regardless of if you have been playing that record or that style for some years before it becomes popular, you just get looked at as one of the people who have just jumped on the bandwagon because of the popularity. So now I’m attempting to find artists before they get their work signed or before crosses over even more. I’ve been picking up great records from artists who are not as well known on the mainstream, you will probably have heard of a lot of them from DDR as Kono Vidovic and I share similar tastes with the likes of Ganzfield Effect, Pat Lok, Grey Area, Isaac Tichauer and Dusky to name but a few. Kono’s taste is probably more towards the disco side of things and mine lays closer to the older days of bass heavy UK garage but there are some great artists out there that we enjoy in common.
Sometimes we DJs have to be a little experimental, but try and stay with us, we are doing it to see what reaction we get, we want to know if you enjoy this record, the first time you hear it, it might sound different to what you were expecting, but different isn’t always bad. I mean, who would have expected that a record that sounds as 80’s as Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” would do as well as it did? Another UK number 1 record and why was it so successful? 2 reasons, it’s got a great sound/feel to it and it’s different!
Now I’m not for one moment here suggesting that DJs are some kind of mistreated noble profession, if you want that you need to look at nurses, teachers or social workers, but I am suggesting that there is maybe a little more than meets the eye, it’s not just turning up, putting a CD on for the evening and putting your feet up. So next time you go out to a club or a bar, make sure you pay some attention to the DJ. He or she is most likely working really hard to make sure they play the right record for you, at the right time and in the right order, so they don’t mess your night up and so maybe you find some new music that you like and it opens a door for you. And that doesn’t even take into account the countless hours they have spent at home, online or in record shops looking for new music, checking the remixes, buying it, organizing it making sure it’s in 100% the best condition it can be for you to hear it and hoping you find it as exciting as we did when we heard it.
With that in mind, let me bring you a few suggestions of records from 2014 that you may not have heard that still sound beautiful and fresh.
Hot Skin – Sam Feldt & Kav Verhouzer
I’m praying this doesn’t go mainstream like “When The Beat Drops Out” by Marlon Roudette has just done. I got those two records at the same time and I absolutely love this. I’ve played it loads of times in the second half of 2014. It’s my still underground version of “My Love” by Route 94. It’s sexy, it’s moody, it’s a great opener or a great track to slow the floor down and let people catch their breath from the harder tunes in a set.
I’ll Tell You – Secondcity
So everyone has definitely heard of Second City but this second release didn’t quite get the same commercial exposure. Released on DFTD (part of Defected Records) this instantly took me back to the late end of UK Garage. It’s twisted and dirty bass line reminded me of the UK sound circa 2004 when grime started to emerge out of London. I was very, very excited by this record and I have really enjoyed playing it, probably more so than “I Wanna Feel.”
We All Do – Tommy Vercetti
The first time I heard this record, I tweeted Tommy and told him that this was one of the most exciting house music records I had heard in years and I still stand by that. It just felt so fresh to me, but also from the strings and the sample, gave me a feeling of the early 90’s. The build from the break and the way the bass trembles as the track restarts is a thing of beauty for me. If you haven’t heard this record yet, go and listen to it. You won’t be disappointed.
Let’s Go – Sonny Fodera & Cervendos
Taken from Sonny’s Deep Down and Defected records release this year, for me this was the standout track even though when I first saw the track list I was more interested by new remixes of older tracks like “Finally” by the Kings of Tomorrow. This for me about the amazing warm sound that comes before the breakdown’s in the track. That feeling could almost be the sun rising on a night time house session, or just the middle of the night on the floor when you look up from some serious raving and see the entire crowd around you flexing in unity. Then the bass comes back in and surges you back into the raving. The really dirty bass chord that runs through this track almost like distortion also gives it a great edge. A very powerful record.
The Way To Go – Gene Farris
I can’t claim any responsibility for the find on this record. I first heard a DJ and friend of mine, Damian Wells play this and whilst this is more towards funky house rather than new deep house, genre labels should never put us off good music. This holds great memories for me as Damian asked me to do a guest mix on his radio show “Let There Be House” on Kemet FM (8-10pm Saturday evening in the UK) and he played it whilst I was there. He did ask me if I knew it on air, and I was so nervous I said no, even though I’d heard him play it the few weeks previous. This is a record that is made up from a sample of “Show You The Way To Go” by The Jackson’s. I probably needn’t say a great deal more than that. A great record and as yet, not too much commercial exposure which I love as it still surprises people.
Get It Right – Harry Romero & Joeski
This record has a great vibe to it. I first heard it on a Defected Radio mix but wasn’t able pin point what the track was called. The having got one of the Defected compilations later in the year I was able to identify it. I love the vocals on this track; it reminds me of the older more soulful handbag house days but with one of those infectious grooves that Harry Romero has become known for. Riva Starr’s remix of Harry’s Tania was also a huge tune for me this year.
I Can See (Konstantin Silbold Remix) – Jazzanova Feat Ben Westbeech
Most people don’t know Ben Westbeech’s history in electronic music. He’s been making music for years and most recently under the name Breach. Last year his tracks “Jack” and “Everything We Had” whilst going mainstream, kept their underground vibe which is a hard thing to do (Ben Pearce also managed it with the deep house track “What I Might Do”.) So when I saw Ben’s name, naturally my curiosity peaked. And I wasn’t disappointed. The vocals at times are almost close to that of a motown or soul record and when you add to that the moody feel of the record, the often repeated vocal “Silently… Suffering….” that gives this record a feeling of melancholy or desperation but doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the record, it fact it makes the appeal more intriguing and satisfying.
Hit Me Hard – Endor
At the time of writing this, as far as I know, Endor is still unsigned. And it’s a real shame to be fair to him! Some of his catalogue is new deep house style remixes of RnB tunes and some is almost garage from its bass heavy approach, both of which he does extremely well. I have no doubt that this guy has a very bright future in front of him. From all of the tunes I have got from him this year (and it’s a lot, so it’s been a hard choice although I’m not 100% sure that all of them were originally released this year) this is my favourite, and I’ve played this the most times. It’s a re-work of Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath.” If you haven’t yet checked out Endor, get over to his Facebook or Soundcloud page and check out his stuff.
Yoohoo – Dusky
Dusky’s tracks are always a treat to listen to. I’m not sure I’ve heard one yet that has disappointed me. That’s probably why in 2013 DJ Mag named them best British producers. The piano on this track is the thing I really like about it. It reminds me of the early rave days and when I first got into electronic music/house music. When you add that piano to Dusky’s superb production techniques it makes a great match. Add to this a throwback video which clearly draws inspiration from the flyers from early rave parties in the UK like Helter Skelter and Dreamscape it makes a great package.
Frontin’ (Disclosure Re-work) Pharrell Feat Jay-Z
This track doesn’t need much said about it. I love the original track and both Pharrell and Jay-Z. I also love Disclosure. This track couldn’t really miss on that basis. The rising keys that have been given that Disclosure touch, added to Pharrell’s vocal’s (which following Happy’s success last year sound even fresher than when the track was released in 2003) and the slight distortion and wobble of the new bass line mean at times it’s even possible to forget you still have vocals yet to come from Hov. As a re-make this was a huge risk for Disclosure. A risk that paid off exceptionally well.
Stay With Me (Wilfred Giroux Remix) – Sam Smith
Another track where I loved the original and most of the remixes but I felt like Wilfred Giroux really hit the nail on the head with this track. The build into the track is moody but clear enough to know what the original track was and then straight into something I love from my garage days which is the Todd Edwards style vocal chop. I love records with this kind of chopped sample in. The almost Xylophone sound which rounds the breakdown as well just rounds this record off very nicely.
– A note from Dirty Disco Radio.
A big-up to Ian Skeavington for writing this in-depth article about our shared passion, we love it and definately would love to see more from Ian, you can listen to his FunkySexyCoolDeep sound on Mixcloud.
Perhaps you are a DJ too and you would like to give your perspective on the subject, you can always share your thoughts emotions, suggestions or story with us in the comment section down below on the page.