Darren Emerson

The Detone main man makes his Bedrock debut – exclusive interview

Darren Emerson is unquestionably one of the most influential figures dance music has ever seen. From smashing some of London’s finest clubs in the erly 90s, bringing us Underworld with the 1993 ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’ classic album and perhaps the greatest dance music record ever in ‘Born Slippy’, unforgettable remixes for The Chemical Brothers and Björk plus dancefloor anthem ‘Scorchio’ with Sasha – these are just a few examples of key creations that have captured so many people’s imaginations over the decades. Now, fresh from a brilliant remix of Paul Rutherford’s Acid House classic ‘Get Real’, he makes his debut on Bedrock. Dan Prince gets the world exclusive with the Detone main man…

Darren welcome back to DMCWORLD, where in the world are you right now?

“Hi Dan. I’m back in the UK, back in the studio and it’s nice and warm in here!”

It seems impossible for a dance music legend who has spent over 25 years in the industry selling millions of records and entertaining thousands of clubbers every weekend…to have never have had a release on the mighty Bedrock! Amazing eh?

“Yeah! It’s about time haha! John (Digweed) and me are good ol’ mates, and Bedrock’s still going strong and it’s great to be a part of it. Eventually.”

‘Hotdog’ is most certainly a big room beast, a hypnotic groove that builds and develops before bursting with energy. Tell us about the history of the tune and Florian Meindl’s take on the rework of the track?

“I thought it was time to get back in the studio and work on some of my own club vibes as I’d been working on a couple of different projects in the lead up to this. It was nice to let loose, get the machines out and write something with a bit of energy – throbbing bass-lines, Jupiter 8 etc. Playing with my toys. I’ve been enjoying what Florian’s been doing over the past few years so I approached him to see if he’d be interested, and he was, which was great, and of course he did a sterling job! I’m very happy with the final package.”

I know you are one of our producers who doesn’t like looking back with rose tinted spectacles, but an interview with Darren Emerson wouldn’t be complete without a quick look back at a remarkable career. You fell in love with dance music at the start of your teenage years, spending hours in your bedroom practicing your mixing and scratching and listening to the likes of Arika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. DMC are of course the company behind The World DJ Championships, the competition that has brought us the likes of A-Trak, Craze and Cash Q-Bert. Did the world of turntablism ever interest you, your good pals Carl Cox and Norman Cook had a go once upon a time…

“Of course! That’s exactly why I was into cutting and scratching. People like Chad Jackson, DJ Undercover and CJ Mackintosh inspired me in the late 80’s – I was a big fan! I always had two of the same record, practicing the art form. I was actually pretty good, if I may say so myself, haha. And before technology developed allowing you to loop, I’d be doing that with two of the same record in the clubs as a bit of a trademark. So to answer your question – yes I was REALLY into it!”

FACT OR FICTION: You used to babysit for Andy C?

“Haha, yeah, that’s Fact! I was good friends with Andy’s older sister, Sarah, and I can recall being round the house a few times whilst we were all a lot younger!”

Your first adventures into London’s clubland from your hometown Hornchurch were real eye openers. Never before had you heard such a diverse mix of records, open drug taking or transvestites running around a club. But it didn’t faze you at all it excited you. What can you remember about those first forays into the capital’s club dens?

“I was just really into the music and even before House I was into the Electro sound. It always excited me to hear new music (still does), regardless of how seedy some of these places were – a big eye-opener at the time for this Essex boy! I remember going to Heaven for the Spectrum all-dayer and there were a few crazy types in there, but it all added to the madness and great atmosphere.”

You exploded overnight, a Monday residency at Nicky Holloway’s Milk Bar, DJ of the month in some of London’s style mags and very quickly became flavour of the month. Was there ever anything else you wanted to do with your life, were your family happy with the path you wanted to take?

“To be honest, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I was working on the Futures Money Market at the time to pay for my records, but I just wanted to do something I was really passionate about. I remember my mum being a bit like “are you sure you really want to do this?” but she was very supportive – both parents and my family always have been. I even used to make tapes for my dad (and still do!). After all, its kind of their fault having given me a record deck at about 4 years old!”

FACT OR FICTION: You introduced Norman Cook to house music?

“Fact – I was lucky enough to have been asked by Andrew Weatherall to stand in for him at the Boys Own Bognor Weekender back in the early 90’s using my two-record-deck skills, suckered Norman right in and he still mentions it to this day.”

As you mentioned, Paul Oakenfold was one of the first DJs that caught your attention down at Spectrum as was Colin Faver and Jazzy M. These guys are now playing well into their 50s – do you think new kids on the block such as Avicii, Hardwell and Nicky Romero will all be still entertaining the masses as their bus pass year approaches?

“It seems they’re certainly doing something right for the kids at the moment. Avicii in particular is musical, which if he continues there’s no reason why he can’t have a long career ahead of him. He’s definitely doing something right, but I don’t have a crystal ball so can’t really tell how the scene will pan out for them, or anyone.”

The whole Underworld trip started when you were 18. Rick Smith’s brother- in-law Martin Prudence introduced you to Rick Smith and you began writing music. How difficult was it a few months later when Karl Hyde returned from doing session work in Los Angeles, there must have been some tension in the air with you suddenly in the frame – plus the tracks you’d been making were instrumentals!

“Karl was away doing session work as Karl and Rick had been dropped from their original record deal and they were trying to make ends meet. Rick had a studio and was looking for a DJ, someone who had their ear to the ground, who had knowledge of dance music, as I think they’ll agree they didn’t really know anything about dance music back then. Of course, I wanted to move on and progress so the next step for me after making my name as a DJ was studio work, and the rest is history. When Karl came back, there were no bad vibes. The question was figuring out how to get his excellent vocals on our instrumentals, and I think we did a good job doing that!”

It has been a decade since you left what was at the time the biggest dance band in the world. What are some of your favourite memories from that magical era?

“I always get asked questions like this and I think sometimes people think I deliberately swerve it, but there’s just so many to remember. Gigs in Japan and Holland were always amazing, some great memories there. Performing in Big Bear Mountains (California), Iceland, Denmark & Ireland, working with Bjork, U2 in the studio, all the remixes me and Rick done. Videos in Australia, The Big Day Out, Mercury Awards, Brit Awards…the list is endless!”

FACT OR FICTION: Liam Howlett once had a pop at you in Miami because ‘Born Slippy’ had beaten ‘Charly’ to the top of NME’s Best Dance Records of all time?

“I had to think about this, but you’ve jogged my memory! Liam and me have always been, and still are, good friends. We were in Miami in his dressing room before or after he went on, and we were having a laugh and he did bring this up. I have no idea how you got this info? Haha! It was a joke, and we’re still good pals, so yeah, maybe it’s Fact but not in a serious way.”

You left the band in 2000. You recalled the time with the words “people were just pissed off all of the time” whilst Karl said “suddenly there was no conversation between us”. Was this inevitable from the outset – were you two always going to be a ‘forced friendship’ that was one day going to run out of steam?

“It was in no way a forced friendship. I had two very good friends. It’s just that sometimes, spending so much time together, people can get like that. I was very young, it all happened really young for me. There was a 13-14 year age gap between us and those guys had been great friends long before I was involved. There’s no hard feelings, all good things come to an end, hey? I still talk to Karl regularly, and am still in touch with Rick from time to time.”

How long was it before you spoke to the band after the split?

“To be honest, we were all really busy straight away. I was cracking on with the Global Underground stuff, getting Underwater off the ground and starting a family, and as far as I can recall there was never a time we weren’t speaking, just work kept us busy.”

You left to concentrate on doing what you loved best, DJing. I remember seeing you at Fuji Rock in Japan a few years back, a country you hold very dear to your heart. Indeed, your new label Detone has just released your new compilation over there. What is it about this country you adore?

“I think the Japanese people have been very loyal. I’ve been going there since I was 19. I was one of the first DJ’s to take Techno over there – Tomo from Loud Magazine always said that to me. They are really into their music and have supported me from day one – through DJing, Underworld, Underwater and now Detone. It’s a fantastic place – it’s crazy, it’s fun and I just love being there. I have made some really good Japanese friends too, and I love catching up with them while I’m over there.”

Running your own label is nothing new of course for you, you ran the mighty Underwater Records with hit after hit coming out. You once said however… “I’ve slowly found myself trying to be more like a businessman than a fucking artist! I’m an artist and a DJ and all of a sudden I’ve been running a record label” – so what is going to be different this time around with Detone?

“To be honest, the scene has changed now. The way people listen to and buy records, and the amount of money involved has all changed. As I said before, I found myself acting like a businessman with Underwater, but now with Detone and the current state of the industry I am able to focus on artists I really like, friends of mine, newcomers I want to bring through and enjoying the music. Detone is full of stuff I play and support, as was Underwater of course, but now I feel more like it’s an extension of my desires to be an artist, an outlet for me and my network rather than a business. This was the same with Underwater, but given the industry changes I feel that running Detone is more relaxed, less business-like and less stressful because of this. Let’s face it, it’s unlikely anyone is going to be a millionaire out of these sub-genres of House and Techno anymore, is it?”

You had everyone going loop the loop with your remix of Paul Rutherford’s Acid House classic ‘Get Real’ – how did that come about?

“I was always a big fan of ‘Get Real’, it was one of my favourite Acid House tracks. I even used it on my first Global Underground mix. Dave Seaman approached me to remix it for his Selador label, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse, because I love it so much. I hope I did the remix justice because it was a tough job, as I wanted to keep the main elements from the fantastic original, which is still very much in my head.”

FACT OR FICTION: You are a massive fan of Indian music, in particular the Sitar?

“Fact – Question for you – have you been snooping at other interviews? Haha! I’m a big fan of World Music – African, Indian, all over the place – but yes – I do like the Sitar.”

Hahaha! What can you tell us about The White Lamp, a big tip for 2014 we hear?

“Because I’d been quiet, people started to think I’d been a bit lazy, sitting on my arse doing bugger all. But the truth is I’d been working on this side project called The White Lamp which clocked up half-a-million Youtube views, and Mixmag/Resident Advisor Top Tunes of 2012 without anyone even knowing it was me. My agent had been talking to DJs who were saying “Darren needs to get stuff out” and here I was keeping The White Lamp quiet and people commenting how I’d not been doing anything, when the reality is that couldn’t have been further from the truth! Haha. I’m not shoving it down people’s throats, but of course worth a mention, particularly with an exciting year ahead for 2014 with our next release on Hotflush early next year, and our debut album. It’s exciting times.”

What is coming out next from Detone?

“Following on from recent chart success from John Tejada & Justin Maxwell, and Saytek, we’ve got something from top Japanese producer Yasuo Sato coming up next, and 2014’s looking good with more of my originals, some ace producers old and new and lots more. Watch this space.”

What is the current Top 10 you’re spinning?

01. Darren Emerson – Hot Dog (Original Mix) (Bedrock Records)

02. Deetron – Come Away Further (Original Mix) (Music Man Records)

03. Kaiserdisco – El Tiburon (Original Mix) (Drumcode)

04. Pig&Dan – Eagles from Space (Alt Mix) (Bulletdodge)

05. Noah Pred feat. Rosina – Circles and Circles (Joel Mull Hyno Mix) (Thoughtless Music)

06. Echonomist, Cosmic Cowboys – Need to Know (Dub Mix) (Restore Music)

07. Tuff City Kids – HFS (Original Mix) (Delsin Records)

08. Samuel L Session – Rhodes Ampy (Original Mix) (Klap Klap Records)

09. Paul Rutherford – Get Real (Darren Emerson Remix) (Selador)

10.John Tejada, Justin Maxwell – Razzle (Original Mix) (Detone)

I interviewed two big American EDM artists today, they were telling me how one of their nephew’s had been asking them about MIDI. He’s 9 years old! Has modern technology made it too easy for people to make records in 2013?

“I can’t answer any questions on EDM, I don’t know anything about it! To answer your question, the art of DJing has gone. Things have been made easy – even my nan could mix now! But when I’m in the studio, I do use MIDI, and I think that’s a good thing that 9 year olds are asking those questions rather than buying loop packs. It sounds to me like the young man wants to use his brain and know things about the past, and not just the present. MIDI has a great looseness.”

You obviously still have a huge appetite and enthusiasm for DJing, where have some of the stand out clubs and festivals of 2013 been for you?

“IMS was great. I DJ’d at Pacha during that time with a White Lamp set which made a change. Of course, Japan. India was an eye-opener, even if I did nearly die in a car crash! And there was also a good party in Bali.”

Loved a post on your Facebook site recently, “just having a little boogie and bum wiggle as I do a mix for John Digweed’s Transitions radio show”…when was the last time you let loose on a dancefloor?

“I had a little boogie when I was in Berlin doing The White Lamp live show at a Sonar Kollektiv party earlier this summer, but I always wiggle my arse when I’m DJing – I’m not afraid to shake my ass!”

Listen here : {http://soundcloud.com/darren-emerson/darren-emrson-dj-mix}

Are there any DJs around that you would actually pay to see?

“Pay? I always get in for nothing! Haha. Only joking, but to be serious there’s some great new DJ’s on the scene, like Danny Dyer, Lauren Pope and others from TOWIE and other quality reality TV shows. Haha. I am going to be serious though now – I can’t answer that as there’s so many quality DJ’s around it’d not be fair to mention any in particular.”

Anthems of the summer?

“Darren Emerson – ‘Hotdog’. The White Lamp – ‘Make It Good’. Plug, Plug.”

You used to live in Ibiza during the summer whilst Underwater ran at Pacha. Could your body take that anymore?!?!?!

“Did I? Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me. It was nice to have the break. I still pop in and out every year though, which suits me better.”

It’s your birthday – who are the 3 DJs you ask to come and play, and what singer dead or alive do you get to sing you Happy Birthday?

“I’d get the silky/smooth Marvin Gaye to sing. And to DJ, I’d get Andrew Weatherall, Larry Levan and Jeff Mills.”

FACT OR FICTION: One year at The Mercury Awards the waitresses couldn’t put the food plates down because there was so much booze on the table?

“Haha…Are you referring to the first or the second time we were nominated?”

It’s one thing to be photographed in Mixmag and DJ Mag, but how did you cope being papped by OK! and Hello Magazine when you were in a relationship with Kate Thornton?

“Papped? Not a nice thing. Not my bag I’m afraid.”

You have two wonderful children, what do they think of the music you make and play?

“Ben is a big White Lamp fan. He’s done some idents for mixes and he knows how to wiggle his arse too! Both of my kids love coming into the studio, and Robyn is doing fantastic with music at school.”

It must be great to travel the world with a USB stick instead of bags of records. With the current re-emergence of vinyl, are you ever tempted to take a few slabs with you to a gig?

“Sometimes I do. I have been known to dig a few classics out and take them with me, but travelling long haul is definitely easier with USB sticks, providing I don’t leave my headphones on the plane again!”

And finally, Christmas is around the corner, what does Darren Emerson want from Santa Claus this year?

“It’s all about the kids these days, but I can’t wait to see if Father Christmas brings Ben the new Skylanders or Disney Infinity game…

Great speaking to you Dan, here’s a couple of links to my sites…”



Darren Emerson’s debut Bedrock release ‘Hotdog’ complete with ace Florian Meindl remix is out now – check it!

Listen here: http://soundcloud.com/bedrock_rec

Beatport: http://www.beatport.com/release/hot-dog/1191462