Dusky has been a name synonymous with the recent new wave of UK bass-driven deep house and techno. Formed in 2011, the duo made up of Nick Harriman and Alfie Grainger-Howell have risen rapidly through the ranks by releasing music on prolific labels such as Aus Music, Simple Records and Anjunadeep. Cementing their signature deep grooves in the house scene with modern day classics such as Careless and their new release, Yoohoo, Dusky show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. ARI YEUNG catches up with the boys before their forthcoming show at Ambar.
Dusky’s musical influences are evident in their vast hybrid sound encompassing elements of techno, bass heavy deep house and garage.
“Classic house producers such as Larry Heard have been a huge influence on our sounds, as have techno pioneers like Underground Resistance,” says Nick. Jungle and drum and bass have also been a major source of inspiration. “Producers like Omni Trio and Calibre along with the label Renegade Hardware and garage producers such as MJ Cole and like have been an influence too,” adds Alfie.
The establishment of their record label, 17 Steps, in July this year was a natural progression for Dusky, who were keen to push the unique sounds they were enjoying, but on their own terms. “It’s been very smooth for us so far,” says Alfie. “We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve got a team onboard that deal with all the backend and business side of the set-up, leaving us free to focus on the creative and A&R side.” When asked what they think the future holds for electronic music, Alfie says, “Electronic dance music has always about constant evolution and experimentation, and it’s in a very healthy place at the moment. Who knows what weird and wonderful sounds we might hear in the coming years.”
The upcoming Australian and NZ tour is the third time Dusky have graced our shores, but with a jam-packed agenda don’t expect them to be doing too much chilling on the beach working on their tans. “It’s a pretty punishing schedule,” says Nick. “11 shows in 13 days, so we don’t have much time to sightsee, sadly. We have some time off in Tasmania though which should be really cool as we’ve never been before. We’re going to rent a car and try and visit some places off the beaten track.”
With four hour sets planned at most venues, Alfie and Nick definitely plan to take the crowd on a journey. “We usually start deeper, and then build up the energy over the night. It can go in different directions – sometimes we go a bit more techno-y if the crowd are feeling it, or more garage-y,” says Alfie. “It depends on people’s reactions a lot of the time. We enjoy playing back to back – sometimes one of us can throw a curveball into the mix which keeps us both on our toes.”
You can expect to hear some of Dusky’s current favourite releases at Ambar – the biggest at the moment being KiNK’s remix of Avery’s Knowing We’ll Be Here. “We love Daniel Avery’s music and KiNK’s music too, so this is a match made in heaven. We’ve played this a lot earlier in the year and it often gets people asking after the track at the end of the set,” says Alfie. “Also [Scuba’s Warehouse Mix of] Locked Groove’s Enigma has been massive for us recently. It’s somehow reminiscent of both classic progressive and grime, which is quite a combination,” adds Nick. “Dense & Pika’s Lazy Wayne is another great record, it’s totally bonkers and never fails to get the dancefloor going.”
Dusky’s fingers are never too far from the pulse when it comes to artists they recommend keeping our eyes and ears on – “Maison Sky have been putting out some cool stuff. Lorca’s releases have been wicked too” – but tthey’vegot a healthy respect for the greats. In terms of dream collaborations, Herbie Hancock is at the top of Dusky’s list: “He’s one of our biggest heroes and he’s done so many different things in terms of style.”
With such a busy tour schedule and high music output, Dusky could be forgiven for splitting their talents across the globe with members playing multiples shows simultaneously in different cities or having the other half spending time in the studio. According to Alfie, “Yeah, we feel like we’re short changing the crowd if there’s only one of us there, as we’re known as a duo when we perform. We manage to keep the production up by laying ideas down on our laptops while on the go.” Dusky’s portable studio includes Logic and software plugins for making tunes on the road, then they leave the mixing to when they can access proper monitors back in the studio.
From playing Berghain’s exclusive Panorama Bar to Arctic Discos in igloos perched on the edge of the Austrian Alps, Dusky are never short of memorable shows. “Glastonbury this year was amazing, as well as Warung in Brazil. Playing the Space Terrace for the first time a year or two ago was an incredible experience as well,” says Alfie.
Obviously, being highly sought after DJs and producers does get tiring after a while. A question was posed: “If Dusky could have any super power, what would it be?”. Nick laughs. “Being able to teleport. Would save so much time travelling between gigs!”
“Does being able to play every instrument in the world count? That would be pretty amazing,” Alfie says.
THE NEXT STEP TOUR
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14 @ AMBAR