Dusky on '90s House Influences and the Best Way to Find New Music

Growing up in the U.K. rave scene while simultaneously devoting themselves to the study of music composition and production, it seemed fated that deep house duo Dusky were destined to become guardians of the temple of house music. Coming onto the scene in 2011 and immediately catching the attention of Pete Tong, the young producers Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman found success quickly after being frequently featured on BBC Radio 1. Since then, they have developed a unique aesthetic of music-making, which pays tribute to the deep history of house. Their meticulously crafted tracks explore the range of house music's many sub-genres — from ‘90s vocal house to U.K. garage. We caught up with Alfie and Nick about DJ charts, how they dig for new sounds, and playing four-hour sets. They play with Eats Everything and Benoit and Sergio for Lights Down Low at Mezzanine this Friday, Oct. 31. 

[jump] As down-to-earth guys who make great music, what do you make of all these Top 100 DJ charts?
Alfie (A): Ha, well the bigger ones are good to read for a laugh, put it that way!

You guys started Dusky Presents this year, a party where you choose your own lineups. What has been the most fulfilling aspect in being able to control your own events?
Nick (N): It’s been awesome being able to handpick the lineups. I guess the best thing is being able to get some of our heroes down to play, which is something we could only dream about growing up.

There's also your label, 17 Steps. What's the name of the label mean in significance to your music?
It’s a reference to the “Monomyth”’ which is a theory of there being a basic pattern of 17 steps or stages that appears in many narratives from around the world – myths and legends, etc. It fit with our aesthetic, as we are keen for the music on the label to have a strong sense of musical narrative.

Your newest single, “Yoohoo,” features a sample from Kosheen. How did that come about?
N: It was pretty simple really, we had the acapella, we tried out the vocal snippet over the rest of the track and it worked well, so we licensed it from the Kosheen guys. It’s great to hark back to such a classic track.
What direction are you guys going with for this new album? From “Yoohoo,” there seems to be lots of '90s house.
Yeah, there are definite throwbacks to classic rave culture. We’re working on a few different styles and tempos too — including some vocal stuff that's quite different from our previous tracks. Really excited about those ones.

You guys are house experts and America has a rich history of house music that the younger generations don't know too much about. Of places like New York, Chicago, and Detroit, which has had the biggest influence on the the music you're making?
A: That’s a really hard one. I think both the classic Chicago and Detroit sounds had the greatest influence on us. People like Underground Resistance and the so-called Belleville 3 from Detroit and guys like Larry Heard from Chicago.

With the influx of digital releases, what's the most effective routine for you guys to find and dig new music?
N: Well, we get sent a lot of promos from labels and other DJs, but then we just go through trawling through the download stores like Beatport a lot too, as well as going to our local record shop.

Which tool has been essential in making your upcoming album?
A: We use Reaktor a lot, it has a lot of user-generated content that is quite different from the more generic soft-synths out there.

Lastly, you'll be playing a four-hour set this Friday. What's special about that?
N: It gives us the chance to play a more varied set that still feels cohesive. Depending on what the crowd is feeling, at different points we can go more techno-y, or deeper, or more garage-y. It allows us to cover more bases essentially.

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