If It Works, It Works: Dj Haus Talks
DJ Haus is a man who goes about his business without any of the overblown hype and pretension that so often accompanies the record industry. Formely one half of rave duo Hot City, with his pair of labels Unknown To The Unknown and Hot Haus Recs he has since been responsible for putting out some of the best underground house music of the decade. And that's not even taking into account his own production output for labels including Clone and Rinse, or his raucous collaborations with the likes of DJ Q.
His latest project is a stellar entry in Defected's long-running In The House compilation series. Rooted firmly in house but drawing techno, trance, electro and garage into its orbit, the mix is a fiercely contemporary affair, calling on many of the young producers who are pushing the scene forwards such as Marlon Hoffstadt, Mall Grab, Project Pablo and Big Miz. It also contains exclusives from the likes of Deadboy, Ejeca and DJ Octopus, as well as a number of tracks that are seeing their first vinyl release. I caught up with DJ Haus on the phone to chat about the compilation, the power of radio, and the importance of keeping things easy-going.
Let’s talk about the new Defected compilation first. When did you get the call to do it?
I’d already been speaking to Andy their A&R guy – he’s really nice so we were just in touch to talk about music – so anyway we met up for a few drinks in the pub and by the end of that it seemed like we were doing a compilation! It all happened naturally from there. I decided I wanted to get some exclusive tracks, but also use loads of tracks that had only been out on vinyl and do them on digital for the first time. I didn’t want it to be a compilation of ‘just tunes’, you know what I mean?
What were you thinking about when trying to choose the exclusives?
We got eight exclusive tracks done, completely brand new. Defected own loads of catalogues like Nu Groove and Fourth Floor Records. So I emailed a ton of my friends who I work with a lot, and asked if anyone had any particular tracks that they really wanted to remix. One of DJ Steaw’s favourite tracks is ‘4 You’ by 4th Measure Men, so he was really excited to remix that. DJ Octopus is a massive Slip ‘n’ Slide fan so he chose that Djaimin track ‘Open The Door’. I actually chose one for Hugo Massien [N.Y. House’n Authority’s ‘APT. 2A’] because I could hear in my head what his remix was gonna sound like, and yeah, it came out just as I thought. Same with Mak & Pasteman, I just sent them The Utopia Project’s ‘File #3’ and they worked on it in the studio for half a day.
It’s nice having those remixes in there because it’s a very contemporary mix otherwise, but you’re bringing these older tracks into the same space.
Before, people were always obsessed with calling stuff ‘old school’ or ‘90s house’, but now it seems like that doesn’t need to be a genre any more. People now are making new records that sound older than records that were made in the ‘90s! I don’t really think you can say ‘old school’ or ‘new school’ anymore, it all just blends.
I feel as though it’s good when music goes through one of those periods when people aren’t so hung up on genres and categorisations.
Yeah exactly. I mean, this doesn’t go through loads of genres – it’s a house mix – but it does cover a wide range of music from techno to trance to ghetto house.
Almost everyone on the compilation are friends of yours and people you’ve worked with – obviously with the label you have this close group that you’ve built up. I know you’ve said in the past that the label is sort of like a hobby for you, so if it stopped being fun would you stop doing it?
Totally, but I mean, things have progressed since I said that, so I’m doing the label full time now. I never really wanted that before, but actually there’s not been any hassle to do things differently, so it all seems to be working fine at the moment. I can play the music I wanna play and release the music I wanna release, it’s all business as usual.
Has there ever been a point where you could feel the label heading in a direction you weren’t so happy with, and you had to pull it back a bit?
Uhh… well, it takes quite a long time to put a record out these days because of the pressing plants and everything. Sometimes it can take three months to come out, and by the time it’s out you’ve already had it for six months. So what’s quite nice is that even if you’ve started to have second thoughts about a record, when it comes out people’s reactions give you a new perspective, and you start hearing it in a different light. I mean, I’m happy with everything we’ve done!
I just wanted to chat about radio a bit – obviously you’ve got your monthly Rinse show, and you did a station takeover recently to celebrate the release of the Defected compilation. Could you tell us about the importance of radio to you as a DJ, and also more generally how you see its importance in the current climate?
I think radio’s great. We’re at a point now where anyone can make music, anyone can have a record made, anyone can have a radio show – anyone can get involved, that why I love it! Because I release so much music, [having a radio show] means that people can actually hear what sort of music I play – ‘cos it changes so much – and people can know what to expect when they see you DJ. If it wasn’t for radio, people would have to listen to my last mix which was a year and a half ago, so it’s good for keeping people up to date.
Do you spend time before a show planning it out, or do you make it up on the fly?
When I first started my radio show I’d practice it beforehand, make sure all my mixes were tight and the blends were good, stuff like that. Back then I probably put as much work into the show as I did into this compilation, but unfortunately now I don’t have as much time so it’s just a case of dragging everything onto my USB stick, playing it and chatting shit over the top! But now I’m able to do a two hour show of just back to back exclusives and new stuff I’m involved in, so that’s really exciting.
Since you started out in music do you feel as though your approach has changed at all?
I just do what I’m interested in and what I find fun, and I try and keep it as easy-going as possible. I don’t really seem to have an approach, I just crack on with it basically! If it works then it works. I’m just seeing where it goes next. Music’s a hard thing to do, and I’m doing it because I love it… if I was in it for the money then I’d be working somewhere else!
When you’re putting a record out, do you find it hard to predict what sort of reception it’s going to get?
What I’ve learned is that no matter how much work you put in, sometimes you’ve just got no control over how it does. Some of the biggest records I’ve had have actually been ones I’ve put no effort into at all. And then other times you’ll pay PR companies to do stuff and nothing happens. Waste of time! When I’m DJing I’m mostly playing new music from the label so I can see what gets a reaction, but yeah, you never really know.
What are you working on right now then?
We only finished putting the compilation together a couple of months ago, Defected have been super fast at getting it out. It’s exceeded a lot of my expectations for how it was gonna do, so I’m just enjoying that at the moment really! After that we’ve got non-stop releases – a new 12” from Crystal Clear on Hot Haus, new Shadow Child and Benny Rodrigues on Dance Trax, and new FRAK on Unknown To The Unknown. Good times!
Lead image: Netti Hurley