Setting The Record Straight: Dave Clarke Talks
The Techno scene is often, and sometimes rightly, accused of being faceless. And then there’s Dave Clarke. Everything about Clarke is shot through with a personality that demands to be counted, from his choppy, aggressive DJ sets, to his pounding jack hammer productions, to his informed and out-spoken political views. Dave’s speaking at the forthcoming Brighton Music Conference, where he’ll be sharing knowledge from some 20+ years as a DJ. We thought we’d take a different tack with him though – knowing he’s got a serious interest in political and history, we thought we’d get his lowdown on the forthcoming election. Turns out he’s more than happy to chat about the state of the EU, why Nigel Farrage is “a complete cunt” and how mainstream politics is the same as tech-house…
You’re living in Amsterdam now- are you going to vote in the upcoming UK election?
So it says that I’ve registered online and that my vote matters and then it says that I don’t need to do anything now. Hopefully I’ll get a postal vote through. I’ve also finally got a letter through from Sussex District Council, it’s fucking ridiculous the amount of tax that I used to pay in the UK. They couldn’t even register me last time and I had to go to Paris. I just couldn’t stand it.
Are you not really a great believer in the Russell Brand idea of people not voting then?
I think Russell Brand votes for himself. I mean, don’t get me wrong, sometimes through all the twaddle he comes up with some interesting stuff but I don’t believe that he is one of our greatest thinkers – as he has recently been described. I can’t really understand how he could be number four. Anyway, he’s not thick. He has intelligence definitely- there is frustration; if I do get to vote, who do I vote for? That’s a very difficult thing to do because everyone fights and all the politicians aim for the middle ground. It’s like tech-house DJ’s, they don’t stand for fucking anything. They all aim for the middle ground and hope to get boats and money.
Haha! Where’s the hardcore techno crew? Is that what you’re saying?
Well, they’re out there. When you have this Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition it doesn’t really go anywhere and that’s the same problem in politics as it is in music. We lost our last conviction politician quite a while ago now, Tony Benn. I think Dennis Skinner is still going. The thing is, I’ve never actually seen eye to eye with these people yet they stand for something. They stand for something with a passion that is only for their own beliefs. We’ve lost that in politics.
Some people would argue that Farage and his lot are going for something that isn’t the middle ground.
Farage is going for the cunt vote.
Well that’s a succinct way of putting it.
Farage is jingostic, opportunistic, polarising and a complete cunt.
Yeah, I’m down with that. He’s actually going to be elected where my mum lives, down in Ramsgate, my mum lives in Broadstairs.
I hope she was one of the ones that went to the pub and gave him grief. Farage is just a eunuch, he’s ball-less. All his politicians are nutters. None of them actually have free reign to talk to the press because there’s such a tightly controlled whip in his party and that obviously means that they’re scared that the ghost will get out. Even just talking about Farage gives the guy space and oxygen in the political hemisphere.
Well in that case, we should stop talking about him now. The Green Party has sprung up but they don’t really get much coverage. Are they people that you’ve looked at and have an interest in?
I was from Brighton originally and the Green Party do actually interest me. I have a complicated relationship though, I love Brighton and I’m so proud that that is where I’m from, but I’m also so happy that I left. Brighton was one of the first places to have electricity and it’s quite a good socialist city.
Yeah, that’s true. It’s quite a good socialist city and it inspires that kind of energy. It also a larger gay population than most other places, and that’s for a reason other than the bad weather and the seaside. There’s just something there that makes it all work. So I’m proud of Brighton but I think Caroline Lucas from the Green Party… I like that she was on the front line against fracking as no-one really knows what it does. I mean, we only have one water supply and if you fuck that then you’ve fucked it for good, so until anyone fully understands what goes on during fracking I think it’s best to just completely avoid it. There are other ways of producing power that don’t just rely on Russia too.
I like the fact that she went on the march and got arrested but I get the impression with a lot of politicians, including her, that they’re very self-serving and egotistical. I even stopped following her because of her tweets that were like that. I remember seeing some guy gushing about Caroline Lucas on Twitter and whoever handles her account actually retweeted it. I just remember thinking, ‘hang on a minute, this isn’t what a politician should be doing.’
Do you never retweet if someone says that Dave Clarke is the God of Techno?
I’m not a politician. Politicians are a different breed, they have to be – and they should be paid more as well by the way. I’m not a politician, so whatever I do in that particular sphere is normal for my job.
I don’t have that standard. I believe a politician should be like Tony Benn.
I’m down with the Tony Benn comparisons. I find the Green Party have got some interesting policies and there’s one thing that loads of people have been outraged by, and that’s the idea of getting rid of all the military and turning the bases into nature reserves.
The thing that worries me about the Green Party is that something like that should be outside of the 5 year cycle. I think the Greens should be more of a think-tank that represents the people fully and then they present their opinions to Labour, Liberals, Conservatives, or whoever is in power and that everyone needs to have 10 or 15 year plan that agrees to the Green policies. That way they can’t be used in the electoral sphere; they’re just used for the general good.
That’s probably never going to happen though is it?
The trouble with the Green Party is that, whilst they may have great ideas about certain things, when it comes down to national and international things I don’t feel that they have the standing or the expertise. In many ways I’m a pacifist, however, with the way that Russia has been going recently, to drop everything is just asking for trouble.
I dunno. Germany doesn’t have a military.
Well I really do think so. If England dropped its dependency on Russian gas or Russian oil or whatever and didn’t bother to import anything so that it wasn’t a massive trading partner, then Russia wouldn’t need to be so friendly. They’re not even that friendly at the moment anyway.
No. But Germany and Japan didn’t have military capabilities after WWII.
Well, Japan is actually stepping up its capabilities now – it recently got a new helicopter carrier, which can also be converted into an aircraft carrier. It’s kind of contravening because China is also starting to flex its muscles in that part of the world as well.
I am of the opinion that you do have to have a military, but I’m also of the opinion that there is no way in hell that they should have gone to Iran or Iraq or Syria or any of those places. I do believe that you should have a military force that can be used at home and for things such as natural disasters – like Haiti.
Otherwise, I believe that Russia will just continue to take the piss more and more and more. They spend such a large amount of their money on the military. History shows that if you allow a military build up on the other side to happen they won’t just flex their muscles, they’ll use it.
What do you make of the recent events in Greece then? It seem they’re saying that they want a different approach to economics but they’re being told that they can’t have it.
The events in Greece are basically down to the fact that I think the auditor that allowed Greece to enter the EU basically just took the piss and faked the figures. This is now the direct result of faking the figures. I do believe in a central European Trading Block, and as a DJ I’m actually kind of at the front line of that and I would argue that it’s not actually self-serving to want that. To be able to go across boarders with ease and have a similar or the same currency everywhere helps me (and others) trade. As a businessperson I feel that the EU should be open for full trade everywhere. But with Greece itself; I don’t feel that they should ever have been allowed to join the EU because there are a variety of different things that are going on – the lack of ability to collect tax for example and their retirement age being earlier. If you’re going to have an EU that is federal, you have to have a +/-2% ability to change your own country’s budget that isn’t tied into the UCB. Spain, for example, has a totally different economic prospect to Portugal or Italy and you should be allowed to set your own interest rates to stem off and stop hyperinflation and stagnation.
I feel that such an approach to banking would actually solve a lot of issues because if you’ve got unemployment in Spain, but Germany is doing really well, you need to be able to actually do a few things, rather than just doff your cap to Germany. I think if you had some form of flexibility within the EU say in the first 30 or 40 years until everyone comes online – in a similar way to how America did, but not quite – then you can alter the flexibility. I think Greece are a perfect example of a country that should not have become part of the Euro at that stage but should have been in the trading block. I think they are in a really unfortunate position though and I’m quite intrigued on the whole war reparation that they’re claiming against Germany and it does make sense actually.
So moving on slightly, did you move to Amsterdam because of the ease of access to the rest of Europe? I’ve spoken to other DJ’s and they’ve said that that’s one of the main reasons why they want to be there.
It is a benefit, yeah. It was about 1990 when I first went to Amsterdam and I fell in love with the place. I don’t know why, I can’t really explain, it’s just bizarre really. It’s not because of the drugs either because I don’t like drugs and I actually hate that cliché that it gets presented with. It’s just a city that I fell in love with and I’ve always had in mind and circumstances in my life just enabled it to happen. Then, after that, it became very clear that living in a European country within the schegen district makes more sense than going from other countries. Sometimes when I fly to Spain I don’t even have to show my passport. I don’t have to queue up and go through the passport queue every single flight that I take.
Do you find that when you come back to England, your experience with the rest of Europe gives you a very different engagement with it to people that you might talk to at home?
Of course and I find that utterly frustrating. I think Easyjet may have done better for Europe than some of the governments have. It enables people to go out and experience Europe for small amounts of money, and from a social aspect that’s a good thing. When I was young we could only take a certain amount of money over to France and we would have our wallets checked. I was a kid at the time and I had maybe £50? I’d only been across for a day on the ferry, so you wouldn’t really know what Europe was actually about. Europe is much more integrated now, and even France is changing. I’ve been going there for a long time because of my line of work and it’s changed dramatically over the years. Its become far more open and European. England likes its cheap holidays and you don’t actually realise how much trade goes backwards and forwards in the EU. It’s out biggest trading partner. If they vote themselves out of the EU there will be ramifications. Why would the EU even bother to say that they’d keep them as a trading partner? I just don’t think it makes sense but England has always been complaining.
Do you ever feel frustrated at the fact that you’re in a scene where an interest in politics is in some ways frowned upon?
Yes. It really pisses me off. Every single artist is a human being and has the right to express themselves as a human being. Every single artist, every single person, has the right to express themselves in a political debate.
The dance music scene has always been so fucking self-serving. So based on ego. Margaret Thatcher would have been so happy with herself if she’d gone to Ibiza. Egotistical, commercial, lack of cultural weight that I think carries on – it’s Thatcher’s playground. She’d have been laughing her fucking tits off. The dance music community is so self-serving. I grew up through a period of different types of music, and they had lyrics. I actually learnt a lot from Hip-Hop, I learnt a lot from Ska, about politics, about different views and whether I believed them or not. But you don’t learn any of that from music now. That includes me as well; I don’t put anything like that in my lyrics. The art of songwriting for politics seems to have disappeared because people just don’t do it any more…
It is still there in hip-hop though. Kendrick Lamar just brought out the hardest mainstream Hip-hop album, lyric-wise, that I think I’ve heard in about a decade. He talks about full scale political insurgence. It was very surprising to hear and, even if I don’t fully believe in what he’s saying, it was heartening to hear someone actually talking about it.
Yeah, but it doesn’t happen very much unfortunately. In many ways you could blame ecstasy in as many ways as you could congratulate it. In the same way it creates apathy, it stops violence. Ketamine as well, Jesus. It just makes people apathetic. Dance music by its own nature, and I exclude Techno from this, sorry, but commercial dance music by it’s nature is self-serving and egotistical.
Is there a way that you think you could introduce these themes that are close to your heart into you music, without it seeming heavy handed?
Yeah, you can do it in a subtle way. Hopefully that’s what I did with the B-side of Red Three by using Francios Ravalez and reshaping it into a more modern context and then that way it gets to people subliminally. I’ve been very adverse about talking to the English press about anything deeper than light shit to be fair, because I’ve been quoted as being a Tory for fuck sake.
You just told me your political hero is Tony Benn, how is that in any way close to being Tory?
Maybe because at the time, I was talking about the EU and I was saying that we should have all the facts presented to us, unbiased so that we ourselves can decide. This was as long long time ago, maybe like 1998. That was then taken as a Tory perspective.
I think in England a lot of people have this notion where you’re either left wing or you’re right wing. That always strikes me as weird because you can’t just think in that one line and be a cohesive human at the same time. All your opinions are going to be made up from both sides of the spectrum.
Exactly. Some really great politicians have actually crossed the floor because of their beliefs. You can’t just be left or right. It’s quite sad if you are really.
I’m going ask you a more personal question now, and it’s something that had a big impact on me when I was growing up, it was the X Mix of Electro that you did. Is that a theme you’d return to?
It has always been there for me. Those people that pine for a mix CD are very, very sweet but it’s not going to happen any more. A mix CD was a step up from a mixtape, which to me always sounded really bad. Making a mix CD doesn’t really make sense anymore but electro on the other hand; it’s always been a massive part of my life. The last Fact mix that I did was electro and I play a lot of electro on my radio show, White Noise, it’s always there. I play it out less in clubs now because it doesn’t seem to be so popular, but then you have to have an incredible sound system for it to work well and so that people can understand it.
Being quite a hard techno fan, hearing I-F and Aux-88 for the first time, probably set me on a different musical path. That was always appreciated. So you’re out DJing in these big places right now, EDM has had a massive few years, do you think the time has come for it to be over? Does it feel like things are changing?
EDM is the Nigel Farage of dance music. I don’t want to give it any oxygen. I don’t care about it and I predicted that it is a load of bollocks 2 years ago. There’s nothing more to say about it.
When you play over in America, do you feel like your crowd has changed?
I don’t play in America.
Is that because you don’t want to or because you’re not allowed to?
I am allowed, I have a visa which is valid for another 2 years, but nothing really happens there. It’s 95% extremely commercial and I’m not going to change to an EDM tech house light guy to go over there. It’s music that I don’t believe in.
I always find it quite strange that there’s a whole generation of people that kept on doing their thing in America and they’re suddenly being ignored in this dance explosion. I was talking to Carl Craig last week and it’s odd because they’re just doing it for the same people, there’s not really been any change for them.
EDM itself is not the same scene. It’s like One Direction. Would you have Leonard Cohen doing a warm up for One Direction?
No. But then you’d think that some people would start their musical thing with One Direction and then move to Leonard Cohen after a few years.
Maybe, I doubt it though.
Kids can listen to pop, I don’t mind that.
I like pop. There’s nothing wrong with pop music at all.
So tell us what have you got coming up that’s good that people should know about then?
I’ve been doing loads of remixes, things like Amazing Snakeheads – who have sadly split up now – and John Gerd. My studio is working really well and hard at the moment. Although I did the stupid thing of upgrading my mac to Yosemite which has worked on my other computer but this one doesn’t seem to like it very much. I’m in the studio quite a lot now, White Noise is going to be 500 this year and I’m doing a big party in Dublin to celebrate the 500th edition. Just doing my thing really!
Dave, thank you
Dave Clarke will be speaking at Brighton Music Conference on Friday 5th & Saturday 6th June at the Brighton Dome, click here for more informaton.