Exclusive Interview with Detroit Swindle
Even though Maarten Smeets was in advertising and Lars Dales in the kitchen, the duo, also known as Detroit Swindle, had been active in Amsterdam’s local scene individually before their big break as a collaborative.
Back then, Lars has been working as a DJ for quite some time, mostly playing hiphop and nu disco. As fate willed, he was also programming at a club where Maarten occasionally played. It all started when the club;s owners wanted Lars to fire Maarten for playing music considered “too underground”.
The two got to talking and soon decided to get in the studio every on a weekly basis and the rest is history. With releases on renowned labels like Dirt Crew, Freerange and Tsuba Detroit Swindle made their mark within the house scene shortly after starting their fruitful collaboration. The duo is praised for their productions featuring their signature shuffle, carefully designed drops and performances, which are as good and energetic as their music. The last handful of years saw Detroit Swindle release their first LP ‘Boxed Out’ and establishing their imprint Heist Recordings.
Apparently the fun loving duo puts as much energy into their music as they do into their choice of garment, because as they say a performance at Panorama Bar, Fabric or Social Club without a nifty little leopard print is after all, a missed opportunity to look awesome.
Make sure you catch Detroit Swindle in Amsterdam this Friday, May 29, as they take over Studio 80 with their The Great Escape party concept with Dan Shake, Max Abysmal, and Daan Alvering.
“…it’s great to have a night like The Great Escape where we can book artists to our own taste, and really design the night in a way visually and musically that represents what we stand for.”
How did Detroit Swindle come to exist in the first place?
Maarten: Lars was programming a club where I’d DJ every now and then. I was playing a lot of underground stuff, and the owners told Lars to get rid of me because of that. We got talking about music, and after a few drinks, decided to get in the studio every Wednesday evening. That kinda got out of control to where we are right now.
Was there ever a moment in your career as Detroit Swindle when you both realised that things were going well for you? Meaning, was there ever a moment of clarity, so to speak, where you knew you were on the right track and Detroit Swindle was a project that was here to stay?
Lars: It all went so fast for us. I know stories of DJs trying to make it for years and years, and not making it, or getting a break through after 15 years of working on different projects. In our case, we had a few EP’s ready to go, so we released something like 4 or 5 Ep’s within 1 year. That helped a lot. I guess the moment we really realised that we were on a roll, was when we played Panorama Bar with our live show. That was only a few months after our first release. We couldn’t believe that it was happening…
What are some of your longterm goals you have yet to achieve?
M: We’re doing a lot of work on our live set, and we really want to see just how “live” we can actually make it. A performance where we’re on stage with a whole band is something we both really really want to work towards. We’ve also just started to work with vocalists, and that’s quite a different approach coming from a sample oriented way of working. After having worked with Mayer Hawthorne, we can say that it’s a great process and something we really want to do more, There’s a few amazing vocalists we’d love to work with in time, but there’s no rush. We’ve got so many projects on our hand that we have to choose wisely, and don’t do too many things at the same time.
When following you on Instagram, it seems like you’re collecting more and more gear. How do you find time to work with it and get used to it? I mean, you’re also touring a lot, taking care of Heist Recordings and there are rumours you also have private lives, how has your approach to production evolved? What is a piece of gear you can’t live without?
L: Private life? What’s that?
M: Yeah, we’re quite busy, that’s true. But even though we’re away every weekend, we always try to find time during the week to work in the studio. Either to work on remixes, or jam away for new material on Heist. Working together in the studio is way more fun than sending a fully digital project back on forth on the laptop. you’ve literarily got more space for ideas. We’re really picky on what kind of gear we buy and before we go and buy something, we do a lot of research to see if the sound fits with what we’re looking for, if we can fit it into our live set, stuff like that. But yeah, we’re running out of space to put it all at the moment. We just got in some new Elektron gear (Analog Rytm, Analog Keys) for our live set. Since we’ve started, more and more productions are results of recordings of our jam sessions. Still though, there’s plenty of tracks we start with just a few samples as a basis and only on the laptop when we’re on the road. It’s hard to decide on piece of equipment we can’t do without, but if i’d have to choose, I’d say its our Korg Mono/Poly. An amazing machine that blends so well with so many different sounds, has the best ‘noise’ I’ve ever heard in a synth and sounds so good.
Your first album ‘Boxed Out’ was a success, but working on an LP can also be a lot of stress. As a duo, how do you approach collaboration? What aspects of creating the LP did you find most frustrating? What was most satisfying?
L: We’re really flexible with our projects, so even though there’s usually one of us really ‘owning’ the project file, we really work together on everything. Plus, we’re both ruthless with feedback. We’ve got one basic rule that we’ll never break: We only put out music that we’re both 100% happy with. That means we’ve got a lot of sketches that might be good, but aren’t good enough for the both of us and with that rule in mind, will never be released.
M: That’s also how we chose the tracks for ‘Boxed Out’. We had a clear idea on what kind of tracks and what kind of diversity we wanted on the record, so we took a period of about 7 or 8 months to make the tracks and decide on the projects that we wanted to work out into album tracks. I think the toughest thing was to stay focused till the very end and still be brutally honest when you’re down to the final selection, or mix down number 4 of a certain track.
Your party ‘The Great Escape’ went global this year but is coming back to Amsterdam on May 29. What makes the Amsterdam audience special?
L: It’s a bit weird to say about your own party, but we always feel really welcome when we’re playing in Amsterdam. It’s probably different for us to play here then for instance guys like Tom Trago or the Rush Hour crew in general, cause their physical home was the basis for their musical home as well. In our case, we really jumpstarted into the scene and started out playing in the UK, Germany and France way before we were able to really do our thing in Amsterdam. We’re still building our name and still ‘educating’ people on what kind of music we play. To that extent, it’s great to have a night like TGE where we can book artists to our own taste, and really design the night in a way visually and musically that represents what we stand for.