We catch up with the hard-working Dutch duo as they head off on a tour of Asia and the Far East
Detroit Swindle are Dutch DJ/producer duo Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets. Since their first release in 2011 they have produced an impressive body of house music, mostly on their Heist imprint, which has also released music from artists such as Pépé Bradock, Matthew Herbert and Fouk. They’ve also put out tunes on Freerange, Tsuba and Dirt Crew, and remixed artists like Kerri Chandler, Hercules & Love Affair and Matrix. The pair keep up an enviable international DJ schedule, and last year also held down DJ residencies at London’s Phonox and Berlin's Prince Charles.
Purveyors of a precisely produced style of house, Detroit Swindle draw on the light of disco and the shade of techno while also taking inspiration from plenty of other dancefloor influences, from Afro to electronica and beyond. Lars and Marteen’s productions are clean, tight and highly effective, full of attention to texture and surface, and with plenty of that all-important low-end heft.
It’s an approach that has won them fans around the world, and this month sees the duo head out on an extensive world tour, taking in Singapore, Australia, Indonesia and India, promoting their sparkling 2018 album High Life. iDJ chatted to Maarten about life on tour and rocking all over the world...
You’ve been hard at work promoting High Life this year – how’s it been going down with audiences?
"It’s been great to see how well the record has been received in both the clubbing environment as well as the home listening market. People have really responded well to our collaborations and it’s fun to see fans of Tom Misch or Jungle By Night discovering our music, and vice versa.
"We’ve played a lot of live shows during our album tour. and it was great to present these new tracks on stage. A track like Ketama Gold would seem out of place in a nightclub during a house night, but it has got some of the best reactions from the crowd and we’ve seen people really get absorbed by the ambient textures of the song – people clapping along and genuinely losing themselves in the dreamy vibe of the track."
So you’re off now to play gigs in Australia, India and Asia. This is your first time playing in India – looking forward to it?
"It is the first time playing, and actually for both of us also the first time visiting. That’s super exciting! It’s such a special country in many ways, with a really diverse population and a rich culture. We’re curious to see what the clubbing scene is like and we hope to have a bit of extra time to absorb some local culture and enjoy the local cuisine. I’m sure it’s gonna be a special trip."
House music is a global unifying force, but now that you’ve played all over the world, have you noticed any differences DJing in different continents?
"For sure, there are slightly different nuances in each country, or even in each city! Rotterdam and Amsterdam are different and Utrecht is different again. Not in terms of music per se, but in terms of crowd and how they approach a party. And that’s just in Holland, so if you look at differences across countries or continents, there’s loads of differences.
"South Africa for instance, is really focused on classic deep house. They love that over there, whereas a place like Melbourne, and especially Revolvers where we’re playing on this tour, is far more experimental and will let you navigate across genres. Raving and the appropriate high-energy music is gaining lots of attention for the younger crowd in the UK, and perhaps there’s also a global trend towards the darker, harder side of music, with techno and electro taking over main stages more than ever."
So do you think that different cultural mores, manners and etiquette affect how people rave all over the world?
"Different crowds work in different ways. It also depends a lot on the promoter and what kind of audience they attract. If it's an older crowd, with a party that has been running for a long time, then you’ll see a totally different vibe on the dancefloor than you'd have with a party run by young enthusiastic ravers.
"It’s fun for us that we get to experience a lot of different vibes, because we attract both younger and older people so we get to play at a lot of different parties, playing disco and Afro at one party and going from electronic house to techno at the next, or playing just about everything on an all-nighter in a market where we know we have a lot of fans."
How do you approach a DJ set in a country you’ve never been to before?
"We try to pack our record bags with enough variation to take side steps into disco, Afro, techno, acid, etc. We would always pack a few sure-shots that aren’t particularly well known records, but good records to build a vibe that represents our sound. And we’d just bring whatever we’ve gotten new from the shops recently.
"On the night, we always try to come in a bit early to feel the vibe, hear what the DJ before us is playing and form an idea of the first few tracks. From there, we just wing it and that usually goes rather well."
What are the best and worst things about touring?
"Touring is fun and hard work, at the same time. We try to do as many shows as possible since we’re on the road anyway, but recently, we’ve noticed that we need time off as well to let our mind and body recover a bit. This tour, we’re gonna play a show in Bali and take a few days off there to go surfing, which for me, is the ultimate form of relaxation for the mind.
"The toughest thing about touring – apart from being away from home and really missing my family – is the completely messed-up rhythm you get into, and the crazy amount of time you spend not sleeping, and sitting in airplanes. That really destroys you after a while, but it’s all worth it. Meeting new people, seeing old friends from across the globe, playing all these different parties and the great exotic food are so, so worth it. Plus, going on tour to the other side of the world during the Dutch winter is never a bad idea!"
After playing all over the world, do you feel you have anything left to learn about DJing?
"There’s always something to learn. You always find new records that go together perfectly with another record, and there’s all these little nuances in tracks you keep discovering that will let you mix them better next time, or play them at an even better moment."
We hear that there are remixes of High Life on the way, but can we expect any new Detroit Swindle music any time soon?
"We’ve made loads of sketches recently, and have gotten into the studio with some friends and inspiring artists we’ve wanted to work with. We’ve got some more electronic stuff coming up soon on a label we both really love.
"We also decided a few months back we really wanted to make a few classic house tracks, so that’s what we did. We’re finishing those at the moment and we’ll turn that into a Heist EP later on in the year. There are also a couple of remixes and edits we’ve got in the making, and another really fun project with a label we both hold in high regard that’s more focused on world music."
…and are there any other Detroit Swindle plans we should know about?
"There's loads of stuff happening. We’re gonna start our live show again this summer, playing some really nice festivals and doing a club tour later on in the year, with a lot of these new tracks added to the setlist. We’re working on some great releases for Heist and in the meantime, Lars is finishing his new house and I’m preparing for my third baby!"
Words: Harold Heath Pic: Lauren Murphy
Detroit Swindle's upcoming tour dates can be found here