Dave Clarke on new album The Desecration Of Desire

The Baron of Techno Dave Clarke opens up about his first album in 14 years

Feature by Donald Shields | 11 Oct 2017
  • Dave Clarke

We’re lucky enough to catch Dave Clarke on the afternoon of his birthday, before he heads out to continue the celebrations. “I’m having a quiet dinner with friends today,” he says, “I’ve already been given some birthday cake and about 50 Belgian beers as well – it’s been a good day”.

With a career lasting over three decades – from emerging as a hip-hop DJ in the late 80s, to acid house, rave and then of course techno – Dave Clarke is a household name when it comes to dance music and has constantly been at the forefront of both emerging genres and technology. He is a DJ known for his accomplished techno sets at the likes of Glastonbury, Awakenings and Berghain, pioneering new music from up-and-coming producers on his weekly radio show, White Noise. Clarke also curates his own night at ADE and has released EPs and albums to critical acclaim, also working with some of the biggest names in electronic music including The Chemical Brothers, New Order, Depeche Mode, Moby, Leftfield and Underworld.

His forthcoming album The Desecration of Desire has been hotly anticipated and the first single release Charcoal Eyes (Glass Tears) has already garnered a lot of support. With the record being two-and-a-half years in the making, and 14 years since his last, we ask Clarke about the catalyst behind the album and his return to the studio. He muses: “It had to be the right time, I had to rebuild my life after leaving the UK, and build my own studio. Getting back into recording bit by bit and ensuring I had complete creative control meant I felt comfortable getting back to recording another album.”

Clarke uses his own custom-built, floating studio, which he says is “just a small little thing in Amsterdam,” and it's there that he harnessed the talents of many artists he enjoys and counts as friends. One of these contributors is Mark Lanegan, formerly of Queens of The Stone Age. Clarke elaborates: “I’ve been a fan of [Lanegan] in his various different guises for many years, I just came up with the idea and it came around really quickly. I wrote the lyrics for Charcoal Eyes (Glass Tears) which he sang and he wrote the lyrics for Monochrome Sun which he also sings on. We got on really well, really easily and it was a real pleasure having Mark in the studio.” He explains it can sometimes be hard working with artists when thrown together at a label’s request but when it came to The Desecration of Desire, “with everyone, I really enjoyed working with them, and hopefully they can say the same about me.”

The breadth of talent which peppers Clarke's expertly-constructed electronica on the album enhances the diverse sounds throughout, showing a different perspective of the man with breakbeat, electro, house and even hip-hop elements making an appearance.

Clarke expands on the diverse themes, saying, “I’m just trying to be me, I didn’t want to second guess who I was or what people would expect from me. I just went along to the studio and sat down – sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I made this album under my own artistic control. Every track was made in the order that you hear it and I was enjoying that whole process. The album was about me being left to my own devices and it represents me.”

He adds: “Releases in the past, of singles and a few fillers on albums means that this feels, and I would go as far to say this, like my first true album.” An enlightened Dave Clarke may be coming into a point of musical self-realisation with his most recent work, which shies away from the techno that he is renowned for. Not to be mistaken for a different approach altogether, he has been quoted as saying “I live and breathe techno.”

Highlighting this fact, the conversation turns to the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) which is where Clarke has curated his night at the Melkweg for 13 years. As well as a host of talent such as Gary Beck, Boys Noize and a headlining set from himself, he also has an electro night called Whip It which is in its third year with the likes of The Egyptian Lover. He details his contribution to ADE: “I’ve been a consultant for seven years now, [this year] I’ll be holding a panel on Brexit and having an interview with Gary Numan. It’s a very busy period that doesn’t just involve DJing. Last year I held a panel on international taxation.

"I think it’s a good thing to keep your mind busy doing other things. I tried to get the Brexit panel on last year but I don’t think a lot of Europeans felt it was real but this year there’s a lot more of an interest and I want to find out people’s perspectives on Brexit. Most of us don’t want it. Especially in the music industry.”

Being kept busy seems to be a habit of Clarke’s. We ask, how exactly does the DJ relax in between a hectic schedule which involves travelling all over the world playing clubs and festivals? “I’m very good at cleaning, and I’m starting a few interesting hobbies. Ever since the car accident last year (Clarke was involved in a serious car accident after DJing at Exit Festival in Serbia) I decided to take more time off for myself, so I don’t play every single weekend. Which has done me a lot of good health wise, I can feel it. I’ve been working every weekend for 20 years and it can be tough to relax sometimes.”

We’re interested to know his thoughts on current affairs within dance music and the role of social media within the industry, notably a story involving house DJ Jeremy Underground, whose agent's leaked threat to 'bite' a promoter who wouldn't agree to his demands prompted a swift backlash. “I don’t request a sauna, that’s one thing. I do think social media is very quick to judge now, and [most] people who are quick to judge wouldn’t be able to stand up to the same amount of scrutiny in some areas of their own life.”

He continues, “One thing that I hate about social media, and we all do this, I go to concerts myself too and I’ve done it, we look at our phones. What the fuck are we looking at our phones for?! We’ve paid money to be there and we’re there filming it and we're never going to watch it again but we feel we should be archiving this important information”.

Clarke touches on the point of a lot of people attending dance events purely for the right to proclaim, “I was there” with perhaps no heartfelt interest in the genre of music and the ethos that it encompasses. “We should just experience it, dance music was always about meeting someone that you might fall in love with, maybe for the night or maybe longer, if you’re lucky, and it’s about escaping the mundanity of general life. Unfortunately, drugs have that effect too. I don’t judge anyone who takes drugs but music was always my drug and I don’t know if I was growing up now I’d even give music the chance to be that drug because I’d be so distracted by everything that’s going on with social media. I don’t think I’d really be getting deep into stuff, which is a shame, people are losing the ability of escapism and replacing it with FOMO.”

A theme which can be noted within the dance community of anti-phone and embracing the moment, it shows Clarke's finger is on the pulse. Embracing the forward thinking and left-leaning views of the music community, Brexit talks by The Baron would be worthy of note if attending ADE this year. It’s important to keep your mind busy doing different things after all. We let an insightful Dave Clarke go to continue his birthday celebrations.

The Desecration Of Desire is released 27 Oct via Skint Records