DUSKY 'til dawn; EMMA JOHNSON talks lights, lasers and running a record label with alfie granger-howell and nick harriman, aka dusky.
iN THE space of six years or so, London-based producers Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman, better known as Dusky, have built quite the reputation for themselves, not to mention a solid base of high-profile musical supporters. In 2011, their debut LP, Stick By This was hailed as "one of the albums of the year" by Radio 1's Pete Tong and just two years later the pair picked up Best British producers by DJ Magazine.
A year later, Dusky launched their 17 Steps record label and the first release on the imprint, the Love Taking Over EP, was a smash hit.
Last weekend, the guys kicked off their 17 Steps tour which calls in at Liverpool's Invisible Wind Factory next month. I caught up with Alfie and Nick for a chat first.
How has your year been so far? Alfie: It's been nice and relaxing! We've actually just had our first extended break of a couple of months since we started touring in 2011. It's been great to have a proper rest and recharge.
This tour is pretty intense, lots of dates. How did you choose where you wanted to play? Nick: We wanted to keep the clubs small and create a more intimate vibe, so that was the main prerequisite for choosing the venues. Then we just went with cities where we've had good experiences before and that have strong scenes for house and techno music.
You have some incredible artists joining you, too. Are they all on the label? A: Pretty much, yes, most have done either an original release with 17 Steps or remixed tracks for us, so the sound of the label is being really well represented across the tour. There are a couple of exceptions, but they are artists that are friends of ours and share a similar musical vision.
How did you choose who to bring along? N: We chose acts whose music we felt would be appropriate to each club and location. It was tricky to work out the exact logistics as everyone is busy with their own touring schedule, but we're really happy with how it's panned out.
Who's the biggest party person out of them? A: Ah ha, wouldn't want to call anyone out To be honest, though, we're probably the worst!
What can people who come along expect? Will there be lights and lasers? N: A proper party with all the usual flashing lights you would expect, and some very loud house and techno music!
The label is four years old now. How is it going? A: Really well, we've built it slowly and naturally, not rushing to put out music for the sake of it and it's exciting seeing the artists involved develop over time.
It feels like 17 Steps is starting to form its own identity separate from ourselves which we always wanted to achieve so that's been really rewarding.
Is it tough juggling live work, production and managing the label? N: It's hard to find enough time for just the live work and production without all the label stuff. Luckily, we've got a really great manager who helps us to run the label so we don't need to worry about the admin side of things too much.
We get to concentrate on the creative aspects of 17 Steps.
How did you guys get started as a music duo? A: We met at sixth-form college. At the time, we were both experimenting with production so we started making tracks and found we worked well together and haven't stopped since.
Do you both have musical backgrounds? N: Yes, we both studied music at University but in different disciplines. Alfie is trained in composition and I studied music production. Though the lines have become more blurred in the way we work as we've both developed our skills. It's definitely a big part of the reason we work well together.
Where does the name Dusky come from? A: It's a really uninteresting story. We were working on our first album and needed a name for the project that sounded good and hadn't been used before, so we spent what felt like an age coming up with random names. Eventually, Dusky came up and it hadn't been used before, so we went with that.
Told you it was boring!
Was it music or nothing for you both, or did you ever consider other career paths? N: Before doing music full-time, I had a business called Kigu that I started with a friend when I left uni. We imported animal fancy dress costumes from Japan. It was a great experience but music was always my passion, so as soon as I was able to go full-time with it I did.
Where do you make most of your music and where does the inspiration come from? A: We generally start ideas on our laptops when we're on the road, as we travel so much. When we get back to London and have time in the studio, we flesh out the ideas into full tracks. Inspiration comes from everywhere: it's amazing to be able to have a mobile studio on your laptop these days. If you've got an idea, you can record it.
On your album, Outer, you had synth-pop god Gary Numan on the track, Swansea, and the godfather of grime Wiley on Sort it Out Sharon. Two very different artists. How did they come about? N: We wanted to have some featured artists on the album and Gary Numan and Wiley were both on our wish-list. We're big fans of both, so fortunately throughout the writing process we created a couple of tracks that we felt would be appropriate for their voices. We reached out and they were both up for getting involved, which was a great honour.
After the tour, what else have you got coming up - or will you just be dying for a rest? N: We'll be continuing to tour and play DJ shows as well as writing new music. We've just made some changes to our studio set-up and it will take some time get used to the new work flow, so that will be a big focus for the rest of the year.
| ENRG pres. Dusky and more, at Invisible Wind Factory, on March 2.
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|Publication:||Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Feb 22, 2018|
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