Chuckie is a man of exacting standards and surprising sentiments. Arguably the original pioneer of the Dutch house movement, Clyde Sergio Narain has made an indelible mark on dance music, creating one of the globe’s most recognisable party brands with his imprint-cum-club-tour, Dirty Dutch.
The origins and influences of the DD phenomenon stretch far beyond Holland’s borders however, from South America, to the UK and into the underground, proving that Dirty Dutch is no location-specific club fodder. Affable and razor-sharp in equal measure, Chuckie is one of dance music's biggest names.
“I started this thing called Dirty Dutch, just so I could have my own thing, I could decide what I wanted to do and wherever I wanted to DJ, I could,” he says.
Chuckie, like so many others, started his life as a tour DJ. Describing himself as a “local hero”, Clyde Narain kicked off his career as any DJ does — running tours, playing events (for a pittance) and bowing to the whim of promoters. His technical nous made him stand out almost immediately and soon he was playing shows to 15,000 fans across 300 club dates without ever stepping foot outside Holland. A savvy businessman to boot, Chuckie quickly clocked that bigger, better marketed events were the way to go (particularly ones where he kept all his own tour fee at the end), eventually throwing his purpose-created Dirty Dutch parties to 5000, before moving to 20,000-capacity events by the end of ’08.
His international extension came from global hit ‘Let the Bass Kick’; the powder keg that would push — or rather shove — him into the mainstream, with the then-anthem peaking at No.9 in the UK chart. He staunchly insists that he never produced the cut with chart success in mind, though a mash-up with obnoxious US party boys LMFAO (‘Let the Bass Kick in Miami Bitch’) proved an even more popular interpretation than the original — Chuckie knows a clever collab opportunity when he sees one.
“[In the beginning] I didn’t have one Top 40 record in Holland, but I was still selling out these massive expo halls. [Commercial music] is not what my dancefloor really represents, it’s always been about these hard pounding beats!” he muses, as his thick Dutch accent crackles down the line from his home in sunny Aruba. “[The Dirty Dutch brand] wasn’t built for a global dancefloor, it came from what I know, that’s why it’s called Dirty Dutch.”
Despite Chuckie’s early and strictly regional intentions, Dirty Dutch took off in a way never anticipated by the producer, skyrocketing faster than you can say “sold out stadium tour”. Infecting party playlists worldwide — thanks to a post-trance slump that saw cashed-up club kids looking for the next big thing — it was Chuckie’s ability to stay ahead of the curve that would prove essential to his longevity, as DD was spearheaded by the DJ’s commitment to his quickly expanding vision.
Fast forward to 2015 and Chuckie is set to play another season in Las Vegas. One of the fresh residents set to open new super club Omnia in March, Chuckie is happy to highlight Vegas’s virtues. Rather than the sterile, plastic-wrapped paradise purist dance fans might associate with the world’s gambling capital, Chuckie maintains that the home of “fear and loathing” is more than just a neon lit land of champagne-soaked excess. “I truly believe Vegas has the right outlets to become — and already has started to become — a very important place for dance music. All the big DJs sign contracts there so you can literally see any big DJ on any random weekend.”
Indeed, Vegas is home to many of Chuckie’s original DJ contemporaries — think Dutch acts like Hardwell, Afrojack et al — many of whom released tracks on Chuckie’s DD imprint during the mid-naughties Dutch house genesis. Household name Hardwell went on to win DJ Mag’s Top 100 (twice!) and Afrojack is probably best known for dating Paris Hilton and lounging on the bonnets of sports cars, whilst Chuckie has remained consistently successful yet somewhat separate from America’s “Superstar DJ” bubble.
It’s Chuckie’s pragmatism towards his brand that has worked in his favour, constantly looking forward to what’s coming next. His crystal ball tells him the underground will quickly follow EDM into Vegas’s nightclubs, a trend by which another breed of European DJ — Richie Hawtin, Carl Cox or Sven Väth, for example — are soon set to make serious bank. “Vegas is also the kind of place where people like to have after-hours (parties), and what’s better for after-hours than underground music? It’s already happening!”
Starting out at Marquee in 2012 and now moving on to Omnia, Chuckie has had a front row seat in the development of Vegas club culture and, in turn, the rapid explosion of dance music in America. Said explosion has no doubt bolstered Chuckie’s own career as well as the DD label itself, opening doors to America’s next gen, fluoro painted youth and solidifying lucrative festival slots for the DJ.
“The EDM part — at the moment — is saturated, but that makes people think ‘Hey, wait, maybe there’s more’. Dance music now is big enough to keep going. We’ve scratched the surface and can top the charts, but there’s enough space left for the underground to grow as well.”
There’s no doubt that Dutch house and American EDM share a common root in Big Room, with distinct similarities between Dirty Dutch’s tectonic bass riffs and EDM’s synthetic, smash-and-dash appeal. Chuckie couldn’t be more magnanimous about EDM’s role in dance’s current evolution though, and the influence that the US boom has had on his own personal musicality and production style.
“Going to America and playing a lot in America, even if I didn’t want it to, it’s definitely influenced my way of producing music.”
RULE OF THREE
Chuckie has always been open about his far-reaching influences. The sound of his label describes itself as “Latin rhythms fused with big room grooves and livewire synths” — apt considering Chuckie’s personal heritage. The DJ and producer moved from South America to the Netherlands as a child, first picking up a set of decks at 15.
“The foundation of Dirty Dutch was always about embracing different genres of music, I mean, I’m built that way.”
It’s this pluralism that Chuckie is now embracing more than ever, offering up three vastly different releases at the beginning of 2015. Eyebrows were raised when he turned his hand to techno in January, releasing the muted and chunky ‘Abu Dhabi Joint’, destined to find a home on Martin Buttrich and Loco Dice’s Desolat. Chuckie’s surprise foray into techno had, in fact, been in the works for over a year, spurred on after a wild night on the White Isle following Dirty Dutch’s Monday residency at Pacha. “I wasn’t trying to get the record signed, I had no intention of putting out a techno record, I mean, why should I?”
Why should he, is the question. Particularly since the track — that is out on Desolat’s 2015 sampler now alongside cuts from Jon Rundell and Santé — would seem somewhat isolating for Chuckie’s loyal legion of bass-bleeding fans. It was Chuckie who suggested the use of a pseudonym on the release, but for the benefit of Desolat’s devotees, not his own. “So I said, ‘I don’t want your fans to get mad… should I put it under a different name?’” he laments. “And he [Loco Dice] was like ‘Nah man, you’re Chuckie you can do whatever you want’, and I said ‘okay, whatever you say!’”
Ballsy? Yes. Permanent? No. Despite reactions to ‘Abu Dhabi Joint’ being largely positive, Chuckie has no plans to rebrand himself as a techno kingpin. Instead, he’s gone back to his roots with a remix of Deadmau5’s classic 'Ghosts and Stuff' — a filthy, Euro-dance thumper that hit a perfect bullseye with his laser-soaked target market. Next, he’ll drop an EP of trap bootlegs called ‘Traphall’ — a high-octane (if somewhat abrasive) sub genre of dance that he’s always been particularly passionate about. Curiously, tracks like 'Traphall' seem a more natural progression to Chuckie’s global audience:
“No one is surprised when I produce trap or hip-hop”.
Like so many business moguls, Chuckie is — at his core — pedantic. Following his meteoritic rise with hits like ‘Let the Bass Kick’ and ‘Aftershock’ as well as more pop star production credits than you can poke a stick at (Kesha, Alexis Jordan, P Diddy, Akon to name but a few), Chuckie has found it difficult, at times, to relinquish control of his bubbling empire. And who can blame him? With a brand so fundamentally built on his own unique aura and forensic DJ ability, Chuckie has tried to instill his way of working and exacting standards into the Dirty Dutch entity as a whole.
Momentary techno forays aside, Chuckie will continue to drop the majority of his original material on DD this year, most recently releasing the hard-hitting electro club slayer, ‘Rock Da Scene’ with label newcomer Vice. There’s little doubt that keeping things “in house” is clever, but it’s Chuckie’s collectivist attitude towards the label as a family that really warms hearts.
“We always found it very, very important to have up-and-coming artists on the label. We’ve had a lot of artists who we offered our stage to, long before they got big and that’s how we always did it. It’s important to find new talent, important to keep your brand fresh. “
Keeping it fresh is exactly what Chuckie so blatantly excels at, launching a new tour series in 2015 to — once again — revitalise his Dirty Dutch brand. 'Metamorphosism' is Chuckie’s latest global tour concept that will see the DJ’s DJ play NYC, Western Europe and London. Relishing the chance to get back to his roots in turntablism, hip-hop and electro, the crux of the tour is long, genre-spanning sets — lasting between a whopping five to nine hours — allowing Chuckie to really flex his muscles. “DJing is a different craft from producing music. On the DJ side of things, I want to show what I’m made of. I want to show people there’s so much more [to DJing] than a one hour pre-recorded set, I like the journey.
“The Dutch have the ability to adapt, and we love to adapt, we love to please our dancefloors.”
With adaptation in mind, the title of Chuckie’s next chapter “Metamorphasism” couldn’t be more appropriate, with the DJ and producer morphing from local hero to chart-topper to techno tinkerer across his impressive career. From trance’s golden years to the rise of Stateside EDM, Chuckie has remained staunchly in the game, thanks to his innate ability to navigate dance music’s constantly shifting goal posts. Personally endearing and professionally uncompromising, Chuckie remains one of electronic music’s most crafty and consistent big room entertainers.
CHUCKIE’S NEXT WAVE
Chuckie tells us his top four acts carrying the torch for Dirty Dutch in 2015...
"If there's one thing ChildsPlay and I know, it's that traphall is our core business. We're just trying to spread the traphall sound as far and wide as possible. Believe me when I say we're just getting started!"
"There's a reason why 'Chiefin'' was the first Dirty Dutch track released this year. Dirty Audio knows how to make em' count! There's plenty more to come, including a remix with the king of Melbourne Bounce himself…"
"Promise Land was an easy choice when producing 'Burn'. I wanted to make the anthem for Metamorphosism perfect. As soon as 'Breaking Up' popped up in my mind, I knew exactly who to contact."
"If you dig Melbourne Bounce like I do, then Landis is the man to look out for. He has a unique brand of Miami Bounce and a fast work rate, which is always great! Look out for Landis on Dirty Dutch Digital. All I can say about that is stand by, it's coming soon!"
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