Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets’ rapid rise through the ranks has been fuelled by their soulful approach to house. We find out how it happened.
In just two years, Detroit Swindle have racked up releases on labels including Tsuba, Huxley’s Saints & Sonnets, Freerange and Heist. They’ve toured the world for DJ sets, set up their own Heist imprint and turned out a series of classy remixes. It’s a sizeable chunk of any producer’s bucket list in such a short space of time, made all the more impressive by the fact that the duo weren’t even sure their music was any good until a friend took it upon himself to submit some demos for them.
We spoke to Lars and Maarten by email to find out more about their approach and discover why people might be a little surprised about the way they make their music.
Attack: We heard that you started releasing music almost by accident. Your friend sent some tracks to Huxley, right?
Detroit Swindle: The thing is, we were quite happy with what we were producing at that time considering the short amount of time we’d been spending in the studio together, but we just thought it wasn’t good enough yet. When our friend Immer heard the tracks, he was like, ‘Ooooh yeah this shit is good’… So he just sent it over to Huxley as a demo for his new label and suddenly there was an email in our inbox from Huxley saying he really wanted to put out our first records.
How long had you been making music up to that point?
We’d been making music together for about nine months or so. Before that, we’d both been messing around with edits and stuff like that, but this was the first serious effort to producing originals.
Suddenly there was an email in our inbox from Huxley saying he really wanted to put out our first records.
So you didn’t think your music was ready to release or you weren’t really sure?
We weren’t really sure. We liked what we were producing, but all beginnings are difficult and it’s tough to say if you’re good or not. It’s not like we’re Derek Zoolander and we’re absolutely sure we’re the hottest model around.
So how do you rate yourselves as producers and artists now, a couple of years in? Do you think you’re at your peak or do you feel like you’re still learning?
Oh man, we’re learning every day. We’ve spend loads of time improving our mixing the last year and we’re really keen to learn more. We’re also really enjoying ourselves in discovering analogue gear and that’s something you never grow tired of. It’s an everyday challenge to get a synth to produce just that sound that you’ve got ringing in your head…
Tell us about your music-making process. Is the focus exclusively on the dancefloor when you sit down to make a track?
It varies. We’re working on our album right now, and we definitely want to broaden the perspective. But most of the times, no matter how mellow or deep we start, we usually end up making a club track. It’s just in our DNA.
How do you typically work? Is it about going into the studio with a set idea of what you want to make, or is it about playing around until you find the right kind of vibe and developing an idea as you go?
Our best work is typically the outcome of messing around; working with samples, toying around with our synths and VSTs and staying away from any predetermined plan. When we’ve got a hook that we like, it gets a bit more organised.
You’re both big soul music fans, right? What do you think it takes to blend that soul element into house music?
Soul, disco, old-school hip-hop – that’s what we grew up with. Making edits helps, because you really have to listen to the original and pinpoint the best elements. We definitely sample a lot, but try to steer clear from the obvious loops or overused vocals, and we’re always looking for an exciting way to reinterpret the stuff we sample. It’s all about creating something fresh and at the same time respecting the original artist. That’s something people tend to forget and just use whatever hip-hop or soul sample they can find and use easily.