Dave Clarke is a DJ with an anarchist streak a mile wide and punk in his soul. Technologically, he’s an early adopter with the studio to prove it, but he also embraces sounds outside the staunch electronic dance remit, from Nick Cave to Savages to old favourites Bauhaus. Such music informs his attitude as, using Serato on a 13” Macbook Pro Retina for his ruthlessly effective, fat-free club sets, he pushes the worldwide boundaries of what techno and electro can be. After a break , recent years have seen him make his presence as a producer felt again, working with Dutch partner Mr Jones (Jonas Uittenbosch) as _Unsubscribe_ and dropping remixes ranging from John Foxx’s seminal synth-pop gem ‘Underpass’ to Gesaffelstein, Detroit Grand Pubas and Octave One. Not a week passes when he doesn’t live up to his nickname, the Baron of Techno, a moniker given him by the late, great BBC Radio DJ John Peel.
“I still love DJing with a passion,” Clarke enthuses, “Keeping a balance with technology so it doesn’t take over. Anything in a DJ set-up has to provide something extra, as opposed to being there as smoke and mirrors. There’s too much of that sort of thing going on, especially since the American EDM explosion…”
Dave Clarke was born and raised in Brighton, England, but currently resides in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The offspring of a technology loving father and a disco-soul loving mother, it was always evident that Clarke would cut a swathe through music. As a youth he ran away from home, sleeping in car parks and on beaches. He took lousy jobs in shoe shops, living off £5 a day, to subsidise his income from badly paid local DJ gigs – anything to further his involvement with music.
“I didn’t really engage at all with the outside world,” he recalls, “I was your typical disenfranchised JD Salinger-inspired young adult that used to hide in and behind music.”
Clarke’s debut release was in 1990 on XL, around the time the label was launching The Prodigy. He used the name Hardcore, a guise he then took to the legendary Belgian techno-rave imprint R&S where he released various EPs (some as Directional Force). By 1992 Clarke’s own label, Magnetic North, was on the rise and he unveiled the classic ‘Alkaline 3dh’ (as Fly By Wire), among others. A next level career boost was round the corner when his ‘Red’ trilogy were unleashed in 1994. These catapulted Clarke into a different league and he suddenly found himself remixing the likes of Kevin Saunderson’s Inner City, The Chemical Brothers, New Order, Depeche Mode, Moby, Leftfield and Underworld. Undisputed landmarks in techno, DJ Mag rightly incorporated ‘Red’ in its All Time Techno Top 100 list.
Clarke’s debut album ‘Archive One’ followed, flecked with hints of breakbeat and electronica, a novelty in the puritanical techno scene of the time. Clarke’s mix CDs include the techno/electro double ‘World Service’ outings, one of which sold nearly 100,000 and made it into Resident Advisor’s top ten mix compilations of the 21st century. He briefly signed to Skint Records resulting in 2004’s ‘Devil’s Advocate’ album, jammed with dark techno energy but laced with hip hop beats. When his production pace ebbed, Music Man Records gathered together ‘Remixes & Rarities’ in 2007, making Album Of The Month in Mixmag and receiving critical plaudits all over.
As a DJ, Clarke plays out most weekends across Europe and the world. There’s the same attention to detail each time, his sets swooping whip-smart along the cutting blade of techno and electro, backed up by a seasoned bag of DJ tricks in which his early hip hop roots clearly show. Aptly nicknamed The Man In Black, Clarke blends into the background upon arrival and lets his music do the talking. That’s where he comes alive, where skills honed for years blow venues apart. It might seem from appearances that Clarke is not enjoying what he does but don’t let the grumpy image fool you. He loves every minute of it and feels humbled and blessed he’s able to do what he does.
Whatever the scale of the venue, from small, sweaty clubs to venues such as Fabric, Fuse or Berghain, Clarke nurtures an extraordinary relationship with the crowd. It’s the same with festivals. He’s played Awakenings, I Love Techno, Lowlands, Pukkelpop, Glastonbury and Nature One, and developed a special relationship with Tomorrowland where he has his own stage. Here he has showcased names such as Green Velvet, Chris Liebing, Jeff Mills and Ben Klock. Clarke also continues to be an absolutely key player in the Amsterdam Dance Event where his Dave Clarke Presents event at Melkweg has sold out consecutive years running.
As well as _Unsubscribe_ , whose debut single ‘Spek Hondje’, featuring vocals from Chicago house b-boy Bear Who, appeared in 2013 on Rob Booth’s Houndstooth label, Dave Clarke also reappeared as a solo producer, electro-revamping ‘These Days Are Mine’ by Manchester band I Am Kloot. The year also saw a re-release for ‘Red 2’’s ‘Wisdom To The Wise’ on Boysnoize Records, with remixes by Boys Noize, Marcel Dettman, Steve Rachmad and A.Mochi. Early 2014 sees Dave remix of Marcel Fengler coming out on the legendary Ostgut Ton label.
And then there’s White Noise, Clarke’s weekly radio show, a global institution and an indicator of where the scene is headed, going out on 40 stations worldwide (this year he celebrated his 400th edition live in the 2fm Studio in Dublin). Here Clarke casts light on aspiring producers he discovers in his Soundcloud Dropbox alongside more established artists.
“I’ve never been interested in what’s trendy and what’s not,” Clarke explains, “but the best music comes to me every single day and I want to share it.”
His affiliation with technology makes him the perfect ambassador for brands such as Denon, Oyaide, Soundtoys and French gear manufacturer Arturia, as these are the tools of his trade. Deep down, however, Dave Clarke continues to buck predictability and to do his own thing. He flies the flag for true techno spirit, pushing cutting edge sounds alongside a consistency of vision and purpose rare in the ever-changing world of dance music.
In short, Dave Clarke might be established, but he will never be establishment.