Artist To Artist: Chez Damier & Huxley
Despite coming from different sides of the globe, Chez Damier and Huxley have got plenty in common. Fans of deep, underground music shot through with bass, rhythm and soul, they have spread the house gospel everywhere from darkened concrete sweatboxes to sunswept main stages. It's the latter that brings them together today – both are booked for this year's instalment of Croatia's Hideout Festival and it seemed a perfect excuse for us to get them to quiz each other on studio trickery, the way to build a festival set, and just how to get ahead in the game;
Huxley: Hi Chez, how’s it going?
Chez: I am doing great my friend, life is going well and what else can I ask for. How are you doing these days?
H: I’m very well, thanks! I’m currently sat in another airport but I’m finally finding time to get back in the studio over the next few weeks and have time to try out some new styles and ideas. with the constant touring, moving house and life getting in the way, it’s something i haven’t really had time to do in the last 3 months!
C: Can you tell me what inspires you as a producer and DJ?
H: My inspiration comes from everything around me. whether it’s listening to music at home, in the car or hearing a great DJ play, they all affect my mood and inspire me to try new things in the studio. I use to try and force it sometimes when i sat in the studio but I’ve learnt that if it isn’t working that day, then it’s better to step back and take a break than try to make something out of a bad idea.
H: One thing that’s always amazed me in your history is the fact that you started The Music Institute with Alton and George when you were just 21 – that must have took some determination and guts at that age and point in time?
C: Well I think most of us have so much ambition when we are young, and we do not realize what we are creating until after its done. I still have the determination, but in a different way. Now its no so much about me, but about those coming after me.
H: There’s a quote from an interview with you from a few years back where you say your greatest fear is not growing as an artist – how have you managed to constantly grow and push yourself over all of this time?
C: Yes, this was always my fear because when people or an industry puts you in the spotlight or put hype on you then you find yourself trying to live up to the standards that are set for you. What I find is always the next level, is to invest in other artists or other people, I call it the replacement act, where you learn how to replace yourself, while being inspired by your replacement.
C: When you are djing what is the connection you feel with the audience you are playing for?
H: It depends on the club for me. If the booth is on the floor, right in the crowd, I feel a lot more connected with the vibe of the crowd than if it’s miles away on a stage. I think it’s easier to get into it if you feel more part of the crowd than some guy standing on their own raised above them. However, it’s not to say that sometimes that feeling can give you more freedom to get into your own headspace.
C: If there were 3 things that you could obtain or be in the music business at the next level of your life and career what would they be?
H: There’s not really three things in particular. I think I always try to strive to get to the next level, whether it’s in my productions, DJing or just trying maintain and build on my career. I try not to stand still for too long or i get bored and stagnate. I feel all artists need to change, grow, mature, whatever you want to call it. i’m always trying to push myself a little bit harder.
H: We’re both playing Hideout, hence this interview – how does the different dynamic of playing these bigger festivals sit with you?
C: Yes there are very different dynamics, but a good student is always learning and making a study of it as I am now. Its not how big or small an event is, its about never losing who you are in the process.
H: If you had to name a favourite festival experience, what would it be?
C: I have not played enough to have a best one, but I can say the most amazing one I have been a part of for the last few years is the “Nomads Festival” in Amsterdam.
C: What are your thoughts on doing festivals verses clubs and does this make you program music differently one from another?
H: I love doing festivals but I love doing clubs too. I think when it’s festival season after a while I just want to do smaller clubs and when it’s winter I’m itching to get back to festivals again. The fact I get to do both is a blessing for sure. Musically, I do program things a bit differently. I think at clubs you have a bit more scope to play a bit more across the board, but at a festival I think people want to mainly hear party music. Well I guess it’s all party music really, but you know what I mean.
H: I’m fascinated to know what your studio set up is like these days – can you give me an insight into how you’re working or is a secret lab type of affair?
C: Well my friend, the studio has not been my focus for many years and I am learning how to work in a digital world. Well as far as a secret its always my belief that you only need a few good tools, and the Mpc 3000 is still one of my friends. The real insight is believing in what you are doing, dance to your creations, laugh, cry, and whatever you like when you are recording, the end results is that there are people who will understand and get what you do, thus being the proof of moving yourself in the right direction.
C: What is your approach to doing a remix or collaboration with someone?
H: I think it’s different every time and depends on the person or the track. When I’m collaborating with someone I think it’s important to sit down and chat first to see what both people want to achieve from the track, be it a vibe or whatever. I also think it’s good to listen to other music and to try and get on the same wave length as each other. Saying that, not all the collabs I’ve done have worked, sometimes you can sit there for hours and nothing at all comes out. Sometimes it’s better to know when to throw in the towel. You can be great friends but when you get in the studio something just doesn’t click. When it comes to a remix, normally I like to listen to the original track a few times, try and get an idea in my own head, and then strip back all the parts I don’t want (normally most of it) and take one or two elements from the original and build a new track around it. I don’t like to just do beefed up edits, I try and impress as much as I can of myself on the remix, after all that’s why they asked me to do it.
H: You’ve shared the studio with some heavyweights – who have you learnt the most from?
C: I am still learning and every one I have had the pleasure of working with has given me something special, so there no one with the most, just those who have the missing pieces that I don’t have in talents and music. Understanding what each person brings to the table is so important.
H: I love DJing with a passion but all of the other stuff that goes with it, namely travelling, can make life tough – what’s your secret to dealing with that?
C: My secret is understanding what my purpose is in life and to just simply keep walking in it. Yes, it’s a wear and tear on our lives, body, and family, but there is no gain with out pain, so its all about what you are will to sacrifice for others. If this means my time and life is a mess, then its worth it when I see the joy and smiles on the faces of those who choose to follow my message in the music.
C: When you are traveling and doing so many events and people tell you that you are great, what are your thoughts at that time, and what are you feeling at the moment?
H: To be honest with you, I find it hard to accept compliments. I’m my own biggest critic. I think it must be easy to get caught up in people telling you your great, but when people start to believe they let things slip, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong it’s nice to hear sometimes, but everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. People’s negative comments definitely stay with me longer than any compliments.
C: If I was an aspiring producer or DJ , what advice could you share with me that you think is very important and would be a great help to me?
H: Patience, perseverance and hard work are three things that every aspiring dj or producer should be willing to adopt. I think you still need talent obviously but these three things are what separates people who succeed from the people who could have. You could be the best dj/producer in the world but if you won’t put the time in no one is going to hand it to you on a plate (or very rarely anyway!!). These days, as there is so much music released and so many labels, I think people need to be patient and work out where you want to be (be-it label, group of people style etc) and work towards that. Some labels don’t care what they put out and just want to quantity over quality. it’s better to wait until a label feels as passionate as you do about your work.
C: Are you willing to give anything up in your personal life in order to keep being a DJ?
H: I think any touring DJ already has, really. anyone who spends large majority of their year in airports or in other countries or whatever has already given up a “normal life”. Not seeing your friends and being away from loved ones can be hard, but it’s a small price to pay when you get to do what you are passionate about for your job.
See Chez Damier, Huxley and many more at this year's Hideout Festival – click here for more information.