Defected boss Simon Dunmore is a fanatical collector of vinyl, with over 10,000 records organised by label, and with those he most loves and respects, Motown, Philly, Salsoul, Strictly Rhythm, taking centre-stage. Simon has always had a vision that his own label, Defected, will one day be as revered and respected as those other labels, and that the Defected section will have pride of place in the collection of any self-respecting dance music fan.
Simon began DJing in 1982 and has been working as an A&R man since 1989. This experience, along with an open mind and an ear for a hit go some way to explaining the massive success of Defected, the label he set up in 1999.
Simon’s soul-boy background in West London led inevitably to working in a record shop [the Soul & Disco Centre in Rayners Lane], DJing and promoting his own nights locally and around London, and into journalism, firstly for Blues & Soul, then with a self-produced fanzine, The London Soul Circular. Simon’s suggestion that CeCe Rogers’ Someday was a soul record that should get played on the Northern scene led to him being in receipt of a death threat! He laughs about it now, saying that ‘Whenever I dip into the modern soul scene these days those guys are still playing exactly the same records. I couldn’t ever imagine not being interested in new music.’ For Simon, house music was a natural progression from the jazz, soul and funk he’d grown up with, and he embraced the new era with open arms. It’s an attitude still with him today -always open to new sounds, new artists, and looking forward, not back, though never forgetting his musical roots.
His first A&R job came at Cooltempo, where Simon signed Juliet Roberts and much-loved tracks like River Ocean’s Love and Happiness and Alyus’ Follow Me, as well as working with a varied roster that included the likes of Arrested Development, Gangstarr, Adeva and Shara Nelson. At this time he also remixed the odd track for the label, along with colleagues including Gerald Elms [whose Guitarra G track Simon later signed for Defected, resulting in a massive club hit].
1995 saw a move to AM:PM, the dance division of A&M, where signings [and hits] included Ultra Nate, Mousse T, Alcatraz and Farley and Heller. When the Universal Corporation that took over A&M decided to pull the plug on the label despite its high profile and evident success, Simon and colleague Janet Bell decided the time was right to set up on their own. Defected was born on the 1st of January 1999 and a no.8 chart placing for its first release, Soul Searcher’s Can’t Get Enough, was initial confirmation that their gamble was about to pay off.
Six years or so later, no-one could doubt it, as Defected has become established as one of the premiere dance indies in the world, with a whole string of successes behind it, two sub-labels, probably the most recognizable branding in the dance music scene, and a virtual patent on the funky vocal house sound that dominates the clubs.
Simon still DJs, with a long-standing residency in Lausanne, regular appearances at Southport where he’s been playing since the event was launched, and of course at Defected nights, though he’s never been one to crave the limelight. A family man, he’s just at happy at home playing with his iPod these days, transferring the collection to yet another new format. Simon mixed the Eivissa 04 and 05 compilations for Defected, as a personal statement both of where the label’s roots lie and where it’s at right now, and as a taster for Defected’s residency in Ibiza, where the label is now ‘In The House’ at Pacha, probably the world’s best-loved nightclub, on Tuesday nights.
Ultimately though, Simon has become well respected as the consummate A&R man, happy to take a back seat and nurture success in the artists/producers he’s signed. ‘Whenever I’m trying to persuade someone to sign with us,’ he says, ‘I always ask them to have a look at the roster of people on our books already. There are people that I’ve been working with now since the A&M days. That doesn’t happen if you don’t treat them well.’
Ever the enthusiast, Simon describes ‘…the buzz of being one of the first people to hear a piece of music you love, and then helping to make it go all the way to become a club anthem,’ as being his prime motivation. It’s a journey he’s made with more than a few tracks now, and a knack that he shows no sign of losing.