Photo: Lauren Murphy (Detroit Swindle)
In a city brimming with productive house producers, Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets are still two of the busiest. The Amsterdam-based Detroit Swindle have released more than a dozen EPs, two albums and more than 30 remixes in the past six years alone, all while taking care of their own Heist label and touring the world, occasionally stopping for long-term residencies. They did however find the time to contribute a mix to our Groove podcast, in their words “a mini journey into the sound of Detroit Swindle”.
For your recent High Life LP, you’ve collaborated with artists like Seven Davis Jr. and the brass band Jungle by Night. Why did you bring so many different people into the studio?
Maarten: Our idea for this album was to let our creativity flow in any direction that felt natural. Before we started recording, we spoke about our approach a lot and we both really felt like challenging ourselves and bringing in new ideas, new minds, and new people into the studio with us, of whom we know they make amazing music and in one way or another, are close to us. Musically, we feel such a strong connection with for instance Tom Misch, because of his laid back funk, lazy grooves and offbeat vibes. Lorenz Rhode is a close friend who’s been playing with us on our live show for a while and we’ve been in touch with Seven Davis Jr. for a long time ever since we remixed him. All these people feel close to us and made it a logical step to “expand” our sound, so to speak. In the process of doing all the recordings, it always felt as something that made complete sense. It felt like a natural step for us as producers, but also for our “sound”. We’ve sampled a lot and have worked with samples on this album as well, but the main focus while writing the songs was all the live elements and you really feel that live element when you listen to the album. That’s why we really wanted to go into this direction and we both feel that this has been a really fun and inspiring process.
Apart from collaborating with singers and other musicians, samples play an important role in your work. How do you seek out samples to use in your music and what’s important for you when you work with them?
Lars: As we’ve said in many interviews before, we don’t really have a straightforward process of producing a track. It can come to life in so many different ways and the same is true for the samples we use. Sometimes, it’s the very first thing you pick when working on a sketch, just because you found this amazing hook that you want to use. Sometimes, a track is almost finished but just needs to come alive a little bit. That’s when samples can do real magic as well. I guess with the samples you use, it’s all about how you use them. You need to bring something unique when you’re working with a well known sample and always, always, you need to be respectful with the source material. That’s a very subjective thing, so there’s no universal truth in sampling. Some people like it, some people say it’s stealing. We both love sampling, and when you do something with the sample that transcends the original work, or shows a different view on it, then you’re doing it right, according to our standards. But hey, people should do whatever they want and just be proud of whatever it is they made – as long as it good.
Through your own Heist label, you’ve so far released more than 30 releases in five years, some by Dutch producers and most by people from all over the world. How do you do your A&R work?
Maarten: A&R is actually along with the visual and textual identity the only thing Lars and me focus on for the label. The business side and production side are well taken care of by people far more skilled in this than we are. Finding new artists is such a weird and inspiring activity. One day, you’re finding an amazing new artist who turns out to be a Heist fan, the next day you get a bunch of demos from people you’ve already worked with, and the next 6 months, you’re going mad because you just don’t like any of the demos you’re getting. It takes energy to find that needle in the haystack, but when you do find it, it’s an amazing experience. Social media is a great tool at the moment, where everyone is pretty much instantly available to chat with, so that’s great. It’s also nice that we’re doing Heist events throughout the years where we get to catch up personally with our artists, talk with them about new music, artistic directions, etc. Choosing remixers is always fun and exciting. It’s really nice to have the original music, think about the profile of the artist, and brainstorm about cool collaborations. I’ve really enjoyed all the remixes we’ve had on Heist so far and it’s nice to see our family expand as well through this.
As DJs, you’re well-known for your residencies at Berlin’s Prince Charles, amongst others. What is so appealing to that format for you and how do you approach the curation of such events?
Lars: The fun thing about a residency is that you suddenly have full creative control. Not just over two hours of DJing, but over the whole night. Moreover, you get to choose directions for the different nights. For DJs with a broad sonic palette like us, it’s great to be able to curate different nights and have a focus on different parts of our musical spectrum throughout the residency. Apart from that, we both really enjoy coming back to places where we’ve had great parties (obviously), but it’s also a journey of really getting to know a club. The people that work there, the sound, the regulars, etc. All the little details that you might overlook when you’re just there for one DJ show, you get to really take in during a residency. You’re becoming the local, the regular and it’s a really cool way to show the people what you’ve got.
Your contribution to our Groove is stylistically very varied. What was your idea behind it?
Lars: Our mixes are always a combination of music that we recently discovered, whether it’s newly found by us but super old, or a new release. The aim for our mixes is always to invite people into a mini journey into the sound of Detroit Swindle. For this mix, we’ve started a bit slower and pick up the pace until the end, moving from tropical vibes with a few edits into the more electronic realm. It’s also always nice to support our friends wherever we can, so you’ll hear some music from artists and labels that are close to us. We hope you like it!
Last but not least: Where can we see you live or behind the decks in the near future, and what are your plans as producers and label owners?
Maarten: We’ve actually got a few weeks with a little less shows coming up to catch our breath after a crazy first half year and album tour. Mid-August is the start of a next run of live shows with DGTL Festival in Barcelona, live shows in London (Jazz Café) and Berlin (Gretchen), as well as DJ shows in Paris (Rex) and a special beach party with the team from PIP, where we’ve had some of our best shows ever. After that we’re touring in Georgia and Morocco for festivals, to Japan for a mini-tour and loads of stuff in Europe, including our label night during the Saturday of ADE with a crazy cool line-up. With Heist, we’ve just released the EP from Pitto, and we’ve got a great new EP from Alma Negra coming up, as well as releases by two new Heist Signees from the UK: Kassian and Books. At the end of the year, we’ll also release a Round remix EP again, where every artist from that year on Heist remixes another artist and the combo’s get made by the luck of the draw. It’s looking to be a really cool second part of 2018!
Stream: Detroit Swindle – Groove Podcast 168
01. Jayda G & Laylay – Monroe Bumpa
02. Disco Sole – Carvery Acetate Dig
03. Daniel T – Penguin Vacation
04. Cuthead – Can’t You See
05. Jad – The Disco Hold Down
06. Against All Logic – Some Kind Of Game
07. Uniile – This Must Be Illegal
08. Orange Tree Edits – Dorian (Jimmy Rouge Edit)
09. JEX – Last Loft
10. Solar – S.I.S.
11. Panthera Krause – Heppy
12. Jim Lok – Still Fukkin With It (Thee J Johanz Intergalactic Rabbits Rmx)