Detroit Swindle have become a staple name within the house music scene.
From their break-out single, The Break Up the Dutch duo haven’t looked back, amassing huge accomplishments from such a short amount of time in the industry. From placing in Resident Advisor’s Top 100 DJs every year since 2012, impeccable productions with every release, and starting up their own label, Heist Recordings – Detroit Swindle are certainly here to stay.
Stoney Roads were lucky enough to have a chat to Maarten and Lars ahead of their Australian tour about the pro’s and con’s of being a duo, the impact Amsterdam’s nightlife had on their careers, and eating cheeseburger spring rolls.
Henry (HR):What made you first start making music as a duo? Have there been many difficulties working together?
Lars: I think we ran into the same problems every bedroom producer has when he starts to work with someone else: “how the hell do you get a vibe when you’re fighting over who gets to control the trackpad?” I think we got into a good vibe working together on the computer by just aiming at having a good time, and accidentally produce some music together…” With some beers, and switching seats, shouting ideas at each other, we managed to have a lot of fun and produce our first couple of records. The bigger problem we have working together is not something related to begin, or another period, but more one of opposites. We both have a very strong opinion and more often than not, it’s not the same one. Our biggest challenge of finding middle ground is in many ways also our strongest point, cause we really have to fight for our opinion and in that, get the best of both Maarten and me.
HR: I saw you guys met because Maarten was playing at a club that Lars was programming and Maarten was asked to stop playing underground music. Have you guys ever revisited that club as Detroit Swindle? What has become of that club since?
Maarten: We had actually met before, but this particular moment was the starting point for us to get into the studio together, so in all its weird aspects, an important time and place for us. It’s still the same gay bar, but now with really really terrible programming.
HR: When you first started making tracks, was there ever any difficult circumstances where you thought, “I don’t think this is going to work”? How did you manage to overcome that?
Maarten: As Lars mentioned in the first question, we both really speak our mind. Sometimes, that leads to ditching a project, or shelving it for a while to give our minds some space and perhaps, give it a try another time.
HR: What kind of music first inspired you to begin producing? In what ways did it inspire you, and do you think it’s allowed you to refine your own music and sound?
Lars: We both really liked to play a lot of music coming out of Australia actually, from producers like Mic Newman, Francis Inferno Orchestra and Tornado Wallace, but the real inspiration for producing that type of music that we got known for, came from old disco, funk and soul from Detroit and a lot of Hip Hop from the 90’s, also from the Midwest. It felt like a logical thing for us to not look at contemporary electronic music, but to the music our genre was inspired on. That did a lot for us, cause with our music, we always looked for a certain “hook”, a catchy element that, in repetition, could really be the building block of a track. Especially disco, but also the way hip hop producers work their samples, is a real inspiration for this.
HR: How would you describe the Detroit Swindle sound? Why do you think it has been so successful?
Maarten: I think our music has a really strong groove and swing, and breathes a lot of energy and positivity. One of the reasons why we’ve gotten to where we are now, I think is that there was a vibe coming up at parties where people got tired of the repetition and energy of deep-house at that time, and were ready for something a bit happier or energetic. I also think that our music can be surprising in a way, cause we combine so many disco and electronic influences, old and new. People suddenly heard samples they perhaps recognized, but had never heard them used in the way we did. The resurge of old school house disco and generally the growth of eclectic music has also really helped a lot, cause it was exactly that energy and variation we were looking for in our music.
HR: Amsterdam obviously has a large electronic music culture. How did growing up there influence your own take on electronic music, or more specifically, house music? Was there a specific night or event you could tell us about?
Lars: I was a real rave kid back in the days. Funnily enough, I was crazy about hardhouse. Tom Harding, resident and all time hero JP and parties like HQ in ‘De Melkweg’ were my life. I got up early to be at the records store before opening on shipment day and spent nights and nights dancing, using drugs, and dancing some more. I had the whole hardhouse clothing set as well, up to the round sunglasses. I looked ridiculous but had such a great time. Of course, it wasn’t a really healthy period for me, but I’m really glad that I’ve lived the life I lived back then.
HR: What are some of your all time favourite records/tracks that never leave your catalog or record bag? Why don’t they?
Maarten: Ouch, that’s difficult. There’s so many favourite records and sometimes you just want to keep them for the really special parties. One record that hasn’t left our bags since we’ve got it is Underground Resistance – Hardlife. The A side is one of their few almost diva’ish house anthem and the Aaron-Carl mix on the flip is an amazing piece of minimalist techno funk.
There’s also always a Soundstream record in my bag. He’s made so many good ones it’s almost shameful for other producers. I’ve had his Sound Sampler vol.1 in my bag for at least 2 years. There’s 4 tracks on it and there’s one for each moment of the night.
There’s also this one disco record I’ve carried with me for ages: Lamar Thomas with Feels so good inside, Waxist’s version. Both the original as well as the Waxist edit are so amazingly warm and sexy that they really set a great vibe, at any moment in a party.
I guess it’s always a hard choice to decide what to bring with you, and what to leave at home, especially on a tour where you’re playing a bunch of different countries. So I always take a few sure shots, and mix the bag with whatever new stuff we’ve gotten and a good mix of house, acid, afro and disco.
HR: What was the electronic music scene like in Amsterdam for you guys when you first began playing shows? Did it nurture your career? Or did it give you a few difficulties to overcome?
Lars: Amsterdam, or Holland in general, has been a bit of a weird market for us cause from the beginning, because of our success with our records in England, Germany and France, we’ve played way more shows abroad than at home. We’re still playing catchup in Holland, although I have to say the we always have a great crowd wherever we play now: Utrecht, Rotterdam and of course our hometown Amsterdam. But to say it nurtured our career? Not really. Amsterdam has a special place in our hearts and we love to put some extra effort in our shows or parties we host so we’re sure that we’re giving people a great great show.
HR: What would be some of your favourite clubs (past or present) in Amsterdam?
Maarten: We’ve had a few really special nights in Studio 80, which has now closed down, but there’s an exciting new spot coming in its place, so we’re anxious to see that spot. Trouw of course has been great, especially in the last year with a lot of great DJ’s coming by and an altogether unique vibe for Amsterdam or Holland for that matter.
HR: You guys are about to come out for an Australian tour. What’s it like travelling and touring as a duo? What do you guys get up to when you’re not DJing?
Lars: It beats the hell out of traveling alone. We’re good friends and we’ve always got something to talk about, whether its work or private, so killing time is way more fun. And to be honest, one of the most important qualities a DJ needs to have is the ability to wait. Cause that’s what you’re doing a lot. Waiting on a taxi, on a plane, standing in line for a coffee, waiting at the hotel, waiting for your set to start, waiting on that moment where you can finally sleep, etc.And waiting together is way easier when you’ve got someone you know really well to talk to.
Maarten: And when we’re not waiting or playing, we always have a few midweeks days off, where we really like to explore the city we’re at, visiting local record stores, going to a museum and looking for great places to eat. That time during a tour is really worth a lot, cause it’s pretty much the only time we really have ‘’off’’, and can catch up on some sleep and let the mind rest for a bit.
HR: Any favourite moments from your past visits to Australia?
Maarten: We played an 8 hour set at Revolver and I don’t think I’ll forget that one any time soon. Such a great place and a lovely place that really lets you believe the rest of the world is switched off until further notice. I remember putting on Skinnerbox’ theme de yoyo and dancing like crazy with the crowd.
Lars: I also remember eating at one place in Sydney where they had cheeseburger spring rolls. That was a weird experience. Last time we stayed a midweek near Perth in a little shack close to the beach. That was some great downtime with some surfing, bbq’s and beers every day.
HR: Any tips for other aspiring producers?
Maarten: Work hard, and focus on a sound that is really really true to yourself, and not just produce something cause you think it will work. Do a lot of reading, and above all, listen to as much and as diverse music as possible. It’s the best training for both the brain and the ear there is.
HR: Plans for the future?
Lars: For the not so distant future. We’re gonna take some time to finish the gazillion projects we’ve got ready to work out. Apart from that, we’ve got a bunch of live shows coming up this summer on big festivals, so we’ve got a lot of time planned with Lorenz, our key player, to work on new songs for the live shows and refine the set we played on our latest tour in the US. Hopefully we can bring that show to Australia as well some time…
You can catch Detroit Swindle in the next couple of days in Melbourne, Wollongong, and Sydney. Tour dates are below.
Friday 27th May: smalltown @ Brown Alley, Melbourne
Saturday 28th May: The Grand, Wollongong (Day)
Saturday 28th May: Chinese Laundry, Sydney (Night)