The ‘Baron of Techno’ Dave Clarke opens up in ADE interview
Known as the ‘Baron of Techno’ Dave Clarke flies the flag for true techno spirit with a consistency of vision and purpose rare in the ever-changing world of dance music. Clarke is a veteran of the industry with the star’s debut release being back in 1990 on XL, around the time the label was launching The Prodigy. As a DJ, Clarke’s attention to detail is evident each time. His sets linger on the cutting blade of techno and electro, backed up by a seasoned bag of DJ tricks expected of a star with so much experience in the industry. And then there’s White Noise, Clarke’s weekly radio show, a global institution and an indicator of where the scene is headed, going out on 100 stations worldwide. Aptly nicknamed ‘The Man In Black’, behind the DJ decks Clarke blends into the background and lets his music do the talking. In person, ‘The Man In Black’ is a unique combination of charismatic, smart and funny while his presence borders on intimidating. It’s quite a challenge to ignore the fact that you are in the presence of one of the greatest techno masters in the music industry.
Dave Clarke calls Amsterdam his home and continues to be an absolutely key player in Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) where his ‘Dave Clarke Presents‘ event at Melkweg has sold out consecutive years running. He also gets involved in various panels, ADE Cook-Off and the famous Demolition Panel where top artists listen to music demos and critique them live.
We Rave You had a chance to sit down with the ‘Baron of Techno’ at this year’s ADE and find out what he got up to in his home city. He explains:
“ADE has been a day at a time and each day has been very positive and busy. I’ve been meeting a lot of good people. The thing about ADE that always gets me is that you bump into people in the most random places that you see around the world and you can’t remember who they are in this context so you try and sneak a look down at their badge to find out who they are and it’s embarrassing because you saw them last week somewhere. I did the opening debate for ADE and a few other panels and some meetings with a record label, my agent and some festival promoters as well as doing interviews. Tonight is ‘Dirty Dozen’ – my 12th anniversary of playing at ADE at the Melkweg hosting parties and then I’ve got ‘Whip It’ directly afterwards which is electro. Tomorrow I am doing the Demolition Panel.”
ADE is known to include an abundance of content related to many layers of the music industry. Clarke is often involved in the panel which looks at the business side of the industry: the tax side of music. He explains:
“For some reason I am always the one that always gets to do the Tax Panel but actually I enjoy it because I do understand a little bit about it and it’s always fun. It’s good to get people to have a fair chance of getting through life without paying too much tax and learning about their deductions and things like that. We had an agent in from Germany that was representing another techno DJ and she wasn’t sure of the VAT rules of how you’re supposed to charge VAT if the other person doesn’t have a VAT number in Europe and things like that. There’s always interesting things to learn from tax panels. They gave us a disadvantage because they shoved us at the very top of the Felix Meritis which most people can do on the first day, sort of reluctantly do on the second day, and on the third day need help to get up there but it was actually quite busy for a panel that’s on the top floor of a building without an elevator – it was a good turnout.”
The ADE DJ Cook-Off is intended as a small get together event with a tasty twist on ADE’s kick-off day. We discovered that quite a lot of DJ’s and artists are just as good in the kitchen as in the booth. Clarke was once again involved in this year’s festivities:
“The Cook-Off was fun. Very smokey though. Kolsch won again. He’s such an amazing cook and next year we are going to have the battle of the Cook-Off kings which is going to be Seth Troxler vs Kolsch so that’s going to be really interesting to see what happens there. I love Kolsch. I saw him in France and he’d just been away for about 3 months in Ibiza and I bump into him every now and then. I’m always friendly with him and he’s always really friendly with me which is always a real pleasure but we don’t phone each other every week. I try and keep a distance from the dance music industry and almost all my friends have nothing to do with the dance music industry. It doesn’t mean it’s not a pleasure to see people. Kolsch is a lovely guy.”
There is no denying the fact that the electronic music industry is a fickle one and Clarke isn’t shy in presenting why he keeps to himself in such a superficial environment:
“I like to keep things separate because sometimes it’s a matter of ‘What can you do for me and what can I do for you?’ I think it’s healthier to not be surrounded by the industry in every single part of your life because then you’re not going to be a well rounded person. My friends are not involved in my industry exactly as my industry is. Sometimes they do videos for other artists – EDM artists even but they’re not getting anything from me, I’m not getting anything from them. I’m quite private.”
The mainstream and underground music often come head-to-head and the views of the two sides certainly differ on the subject of music quality. Always one to speak his mind, Clarke explains :
“From a positive perspective, the explosion of EDM does allow large amounts of money to be raised for charity. I noticed that when I was part of a panel where they got Hardwell involved and he gave a day free and it raised a large amount of money for kids to be educated. From that perspective, it’s great because there is a power of marketing which can be used for some good. Musically it upsets me. Seeing these people on stage upsets me. The technical ability that some of them might posses upsets me but it’s here and it’s the way it is. My being upset isn’t going to change anything. But I’m still upset.”
As a veteran of the techno industry Clarke has seen the many changes in the scene, both musically as well as the changes in music production and events. The issue the techno veteran has is the misrepresentation of the genre:
“It’s nice but it’s also a little bit annoying because when I was doing my techno parties here at ADE there were maybe one or two or three of the techno parties at the whole event and now everyone is booking techno. Some of these people that are booking techno are claiming it’s techno but it’s tech house. I find that really annoying. If the DJ is doing hard signs and pushing their hands up all the time then generally it’s tech house. If they’re looking moody then generally it’s techno. If you see a guy or girl that’s moody you should be in good hands and if you see someone who’s smiling way too much then you’re in tech house and you should move.”
So does that mean that the techno genre is heading in the wrong direction? Is techno losing its underground appeal and heading into the mainstream – the direction it ironically criticizes? The baron delves into the topic:
“It’s better that techno is more popular now then it was but it’s becoming formulaic with the line-ups. There’s not a whole lot of imagination with some of the line-ups. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an appeal. Fans will always follow these artists but I am happy that it’s doing well. I just wish it was a little bit more underground again and you didn’t have people talking about it on ‘Ellen’ for example. I also wish that clubs weren’t trying to emulate a bad atmosphere by basically telling people that they look bad and that they’re not going to get in. I don’t want that sort of stuff involved in my industry at all. But it’s here at the moment and I hope that at some point it returns to a more underground. I wish for everyone that’s a part of it to have success with that because I don’t want them to be poverty stricken or anything. At the moment it’s a bit too obvious.”
Musically the techno veteran has a lot in store for the future including some huge remixes, an album and even contemplating starting his own band:
“I’ve done a couple of remixes with Mr Jones on Unsubscribe. I also have a remix for Kenny Glasgow and a remix for Justin Robertson. I think I’m going to be remixing a Dutch group called De Staat very soon. I’m working on an album and making music for that and probably going to start a band next year as well.”
One thing is for certain – even with a career that spans back decades, Dave Clarke is synonymous with quality and has taught his fans to always expect the unexpected from the star. With an outspoken personality and focus on good music, Clarke continues to hold the respect of his fans and his colleagues – a commodity that’s hard to come by in today’s music industry.