Harold Heath looks into the science of dance music duos…
From big-hitters like Overmono or Leftfield to uncompromising underground techno acts like Phats & Small or Chaka Demus & Pliers, club culture has produced many dance music duos (DMDs). Whether it’s The Polemical Brothers, Displeasure, Deep Fish, Pavement Craxx, or other ones I can’t think of a joke for like The Aphex Twins, dance music is full of production double acts.
I have a theory about them. I think that the two members of most dance music duos exist in a symbiotic relationship with each other (obviously I’ve used ‘most’ as a get-out-clause for any gaping holes in my argument). By symbiotic relationship, I mean that each member of the DMD is necessary to the success of the other and they would be unlikely to achieve anything near the level of success they currently have were they working alone.
This is because most dance music duos consist of two specific person types: the Raging Party Beast (RPB) and the Geeky Studio Nerd (GSN), and the failings of one are made up for by the strengths of the other.
The GSN is the quiet one with studio skills. They’re a don at programming and making the final mix slap. In the studio, they’re the kind of people who can translate the incoherent ramblings of the RPB, so that when the beast proclaims “Can you make it more orange, but like, sad orange yeh?”, they can actually render that into cool sounds. GSNs tend to eat crisps a lot, they might be a little musty, and aside from flashes of studio brilliance are generally uneventful, mostly harmless folk with no idea of how to network or what might work on the dance floor.
In contrast, the RPB knows exactly what works on the dance floor because that’s their second home. Which is lucky because their first home was repossessed after they blew their label advance on specially imported one-off NFT embossed gak. While the RPB has a good grasp of what might make a decent tune, they have never bothered to learn how to use studio gear properly “because learning things really interferes with the process and like, the energy flow”.
Luckily what they lack in talent and dedication they make up for by barking orders at their Nerd until together they manage to construct a track. At which point the Beast, who is as gregarious and well-connected as the Nerd is socially inept and musty, can distribute the new tune to their wide range of industry contacts before swanning off to several parties to hassle DJs to play it.