Simon Dunmore: Managing Director of Defected lable/A&R Director/DJ
How would you describe yourself? DJ, A&R Head, or Promoter?
I guess to explain it, I’m in the music industry, and that encompasses a multitude of tasks, and it’s classic for someone that oversees a dance label as such. Defected Records allows me to enjoy a career DJing and travelling the world, but I don’t think any one thing is prominent I think they all interact and make up the jigsaw basically.
So what were your initial ambitions for the label originally, and has it over the years met your expectations?
My initial ambitions were simply to emulate labels that I admire, primarily Strictly Rhythm at the time as it was a classic house label, but its difficult to emulate labels like Salsoul because those labels existed in a different time when music was made in a completely different way. It was all very live, and it was all very studio based produced, you know big productions, with strings, guitars and real drums, background singing, you know massively arranged tracks. I should think even at the time it was a pretty expensive business to be in. House music is a lot more kind of, well you get an instant gage, you know some kid makes a record in a bedroom and presses it up on white label at the time or on acetate. You go out you test the market you’d listen to it, you’d sign it or whatever, and as an independent it’s a good level of business to operate at. So I just wanted to put out good house records and just try and get as close to as being like Strictly Rhythm as we possibly could, and I think we’ve come pretty close actually.
So your quite happy with the way it’s going right now?
Yeah, I mean when you go to places like Miami, and you’ve been making incredible records, and you meet people that at various times of your career you’ve looked up to or admired and they come up to you and say ‘yo dude love what your doing at the moment, I want to work with you’, you know its kind of hard to take on board.
So how do you stay on top of musical trends, or do you see it as your role to create them rather than to pick them up?
You just have to evolve as music evolves. I don’t think if you have an eye on a trend, there’s always going to be someone who’s creating that trend, and by definition of you following them you’re never going to be the first. So at the moment the electro scene is apparently massive on the dance floors. It’s not massive in our world, as its not somewhere that we particularly want to go. People say to us that we need to do electro mixes and that we need to sign electro records, but that would be a terrible thing for us to do that at a considerable time after other labels created that niche, and its also musically not where we want to go as well. Electro is very cold, and I think our music is a lot warmer and emotional than a lot of records that are being made at the moment. Trends are trends, they come and they go, but good music is good music and that’s the bottom line really.
So what would you say the philosophy of Defected is overall at the moment?
We have a disco philosophy, and disco and house music in its most genuine kind of definition just means people having a good time on a dance floor on a Saturday night. So the music that can make that happen can be pretty varied. So we put out some pretty obscure underground track type records, and we put out some overtly commercial disco type records and everything that is kind of in-between. As long as DJ’s play it and people smile and dance when it’s played it works for us really. I mean we have to have longevity, and that means we can’t go to overtly commercial etc, but again I feel we get the balance right.
So moving on, you’ve just been to Miami. There’s been a lot of activity out there. For all those up front house heads, what would you say are this year’s hottest tip?
I heard a lot of varied types of sounds out in Miami as you always do. There was an underground techno record by a German duo called Ame who are from the Sonar Collective stable with a track called ‘Rej’ on the inner visions label, and that and that was played pretty extensively. Not commercial in any way shape or form, but a big favourite with the DJ’s and it sounds great on the dance floor. There’s also a bootleg mix of a track by Moloko called ‘Forever more’ that’s been kicking around for several months now, and the guys who have done the remix are called Balearic Soul from Spain, and I heard Danny Krivit, Louis Vega and a couple of other people play that record. Martin Solvieg also played it. We enjoyed some success. Danny Tenaglia’s favourite record of the conference was a track by fish go deep called ‘the cure and the cause’, Dennis Ferrer on the mix there. Dennis Ferrer also mixed a Copyright record called ‘He Is’ that got played. Mr V ‘the bump’, which is our big tip for the summer. That was smashed pretty extensively by Louis Vega everywhere he played. Roger Sanchez hotly tipped Bob Sinclar’s ‘World Hold O a track by DJamin called ‘Give You’, so there was a whole heap of records.
So moving onto Ibiza, you’ve been there for many years now. How many years consecutively do you think you’ve been there, because I reckon it’s probably around 17?
I actually went for the first time in 85 or 86, so that’s about 20, but I did miss a few years. I missed some years between 91 and 95, I remember it kind of got a bit rave like and it wasn’t really what I was about. Its almost like its re-discovered itself a few years later, and so I started to go back, and also as a record label and DJ its important to go there. You get a real good snap-shot of what people are up to, what records are being played and future sounds. So a lot of it is enjoyment, but there’s a considerable amount of work done as well when I’m out there.
Do you think that Ibiza has changed at all recently, and do you still feel that clubbing culture is still as important?
Even more so I think. It’s possibly a little more sophisticated than it has been in recent years. The island is very conscious of the San Antonio West End pub crawl, people throwing up that it had, and got unfairly tagged with after the Ibiza uncovered series that was extensively shown on TV, and it was offended by that image it was given, so as a result a lot of the bars and the clubs and restaurants raised their prices, they didn’t want that sort of clientele to go to the island. So the island as a whole has got more and more exclusive, primarily because it’s an expensive place to go to. So I think that only people that are a little bit serious and possibly a little bit older and a little more affluent can afford to frequent the island. Not to say that young clubbers can’t or shouldn’t go, it just means that it’s become a little more sophisticated I feel.
So you’ve mixed the next in the ITH series, which is Eivissa 06. Would you say you’ve reflected that in the mix that you’ve done? Is it aimed at the older slightly more sophisticated clubber?
Generally the output of Defected is aimed at an older sophisticated more demographic, and I think that’s been true of house music and disco throughout the ages. If you look at classic clubs like studio 54, if you look at the pictures, they weren’t kids in those clubs; they are models, artists, and people at the top of their tree, and a little bit older. I think when your under 22 years of age you’ve still got that invincible type of attitude that your never going to die and your going to take on the world, and so your music is a little bit more raw, harder and faster, and probably a little more aggressive. As you get older your tastes mellow, and you want a different sort of quality to your clubbing, and I feel that Defected reflects that, and certainly our nights at reflects that. Pacha to me is the equivalent of studio 54 because you will see the paparazzi there trying to hook up with Elle McPherson, a grand prix driver, or some pretty wealthy people that frequent the place. So musically the album reflects that. There’s a lot of soul content there’s some deep stuff on there, but also it reflects the clubbing element of what we do as well, so it’s a good snap-shot of Defected, and a Defected night out.
Did you arrange all the mixing on the Defected CD, or was there another contributing artist?
There are three CD’s on this album. The first two of which are selected and mixed by myself, and they are primarily current records, and records that we feel are going to be big through the current season, alongside a few records that are favourites of mine from the jazz funk days and early house days, as I feel its good to have references to the past, so they’re included as well. So you can kind of predict what tunes are going to be big this summer. The first CD is a reflection of the sun setting and people kicking back and getting ready for the big night out, while the second CD the reflects the big night out, the sort of records you’d hear in the club starting off with some good solid grooves, going into tougher slightly more tech elements, exactly as one of our nights would be.
And is there a mix of nostalgic tracks on there?
The third CD is selected by DJ Pippi, one of the original pioneers of the Balearic scene, and its 12 tracks that have influenced him that have given him a lot of joy over the last 20 years, so that gives us a little bit of diversity. We always try to give a little bit extra on our CD’s and that’s the bonus this time.
You do a lot of activity in Ibiza, you’ve been known to have some of the best parties there over the last couple of years, and now your doing Pacha Tuesdays. What is your objective with your club night over there this year? And also can you tell me about the residencies you’ve chosen to play there?
The thing about our nights is that we use them to profile and support our artists that make records and release records on Defected. We don’t go outside of our artist roster, because we feel that in the same way that a band performs its and music and promotes its music and philosophies by going out on the road and performing live, we do the same thing but in the clubbing environment with our DJ’s. So musically it reflects the people that we work with, so we have Martin Solveig, Bob Sinclar, Junior Jack and Kid Crème, Sandy Rivera, Dimiti from Paris, MAW, all performing. It’s pretty spectacular and in terms of house music it’s up there. The only people we can’t use are people that don’t release records on our label, and that’s normally because they have their own label, people like Morillo and Sanchez. If they didn’t have their own output we’d probably be trying to work with them as well, but it’s a great line up, and we also have some kids that are going to be playing there for the first time, Dixon and Sonar Collective. He has his project called Wahoo and he’s been making records for us, and he’s a great kid. DJ Spen is going to be playing for the first time, and we have people like Copyright who we are gradually bringing through and their profile is growing almost by the week so its going to be a pretty exciting season.
So we all know there’s 100’s of club nights out there every night of the week, how are you going to make your night particularly stand out?
I think it’s a combination of the performer, the artist who will be appearing and the music that they are going to play and what we stand for musically. Also the fact that it’s at Pacha, which is arguably the most glamorous disco in the world, and when you put all those factors together we can compete with anyone.
Rumour has it that your artwork and décor has been inspired by the god’s? Can you elaborate on that?
There is an ancient god of Ibiza called Tannit, and we’ve kind of tagged her as a goddess of dance, and we have artwork to reflect that, and she is going to be quite central in the production of the night at Pacha.
Theme wise inside its going to be all Moroccan I hear?
Yeah, we’re actually going to use some of the decor from last year, which was a multitude of disco balls, something like over 120 disco balls, strategically placed around the club in clusters and it was an amazing effect. So we’re going to use that, but around that we’re going to try and create a mystical dance floor heaven and we’re going to use and ancient kind of Sheaver/Moroccan look to get that effect and hopefully it will look super stylish. It will be super chilled and give a fantastic ambience, and also once you hit the dance floor you can let loose as well, and that’s a great thing about Pacha, you will see people chilling around all around the periphery of the club, around the VIP, or some of the lounge areas and upstairs at the terrace. Here you can kick back, you can socialise and take 5 away from it, but if you want to get in the thick of it just go down onto the dance floor – bang.
Last question here to wrap up. Has Simon Dunmore reached a peak of his career now, now that he has a label, he’s signed some ultimately great records. Where is there to go from here?
I think you just have to move on. Whatever your career may be, whether you’re a singer, a football player or whatever, there are certain points where at that stage with what your doing, your going to hit a peak and at various times I may have done as well as I’m ever going to do, certainly when I was at a major I felt I had two really fantastic years at A&M, and that it was time for me to move on, and set up an independent label and try and do it for myself, and the first couple of years when we started Defected to have a number one record, you can’t get any bigger than a number one record, and doing it as an independent as well. You have to look at that and go, well where do I go from here. Dance music had a bit of a kick in for a couple of years and wasn’t so popular, and so we had to change our business model, and change the way that we worked with people and we had to re-evolve, and that itself has meant that we have grown in a different way. We are bigger now but in a different way. Now we don’t have one big number one record, we work with seven or eight artists that I actually think the sum of which is better than having a number one record. What I need now is to develop new people so that they come through and challenge people like Junior Jack and Sandy Rivera and Bob Sinclar, the next generation of producers, the next generation of DJ’s, and I need succession within the people I work with so that they can do what I’m doing now in 10 years time, and I can lend the benefit of my experience, because I’m not going to have the ears of a young person when I’m 50. I need the ears of someone who’s out on the dance floor, maybe DJ’ing still, and hopefully I can oversee everything with the benefit of the knowledge I’ve gained working in the industry for 15 years.
Well that’s great, and let it be known that Simon Dunmore is looking for a prodigy!