It’s a normal Wednesday afternoon in Silverlake, LA and, in a minute, says DJ/ producer Martin Doorly, Idris Elba is “popping over” to record some vocals.
When that’s done, says Doorly, Switch, who lives just down the road, will be coming over to help him produce the tune to go with them. And Switch’s brother, the Hollywood screenwriter Danny Taylor, was “just here a minute ago”, because he wrote the lyrics that The Wire star Elba is putting his “spoken word-style vocal” to.
“It’s going to end up being a Roland Clark-style tune,” says 33-year-old Doorly, who moved to LA from the UK in 2012.
“I’m not sure what label it’ll be on but it’s coming out at the end of the summer, I think.”
By the time that comes out, we’ll already have our hands on Doorly’s new album project, a half-production-half-DJ-mix ‘Toolroom Knights Mixed by Doorly’ LP, out now on Toolroom Records.
The album is a 32-track chunk of good, solid house music, including his own exclusives, some of his more recent releases and tunes from house stalwarts such as Steve “Silk” Hurley, Green Velvet and Breach. Doorly’s own ‘Jazz Rascal’ is on there, alongside his mix of Jesse Rose & Brillstein’s ‘Shuffle the Paper’ alongside timeless tidbits such as the acapella of Blaze’s ‘My Beat’ and Doorly’s own mix of Claude Von Stroke’s ‘Clapping Track’.
“After I did my first EP for Toolroom I sent them a batch of demos that were quite different and they suggested I do a whole album of my releases, but that didn’t feel right,” says Doorly. “I never like it when people play all of their own tunes when they DJ anyway, so this is an album that includes some of my new stuff, some older stuff and also things I’m playing in my sets at the moment.”
What’s not on the album is the new tune Doorly’s been working on with Chicago house star DJ Pierre. “I sent him an idea, he sent me an acid bassline for it, but when I heard it I thought it was so good I had to write a completely different tune around it,” says Doorly. “Now I’m thinking of releasing that as part of an EP that will include a track I’m making with Harry Choo Choo Romero.”
Also not on the Toolroom album is a track Doorly finished in July, made as a collaboration with another Chicago stalwart; Cajmere. “That’s a housey-groovy type thing, very Cajmere,” he says. “That will come out on a three-track EP that’s also going to include two of my original tracks.”
Working with Cajmere has been a long-nurtured dream come true. “He’s taught me so much, like how to simplify a track. When I send an idea to him the most important thing he always does is take out three or four things: usually some synth noises. It makes the track a lot more simple. He also always tells me to leave more room for vocals. Because I’m not really very good at making tracks without a vocal already there, so I put too much in. I tend to over-complicate my tracks.”
As well as working with Pierre, Cajmere and Harry Choo Choo, Doorly’s also hatched a plan to produce music with Roger Sanchez, as part of a plot that invol
ves the re-launch of the American producer’s S-Man entity. All these artists, says Doorly, are the producers whose records he first started buying nearly 20 years ago, when he was in his final year at school, living in Warrington, eagerly collecting vinyl and dreaming of being a DJ.
“I’d started going out clubbing by then and our favourite thing at the time was going to hear Erick Morillo play at Sankeys in Manchester. It was the late-1990s and that was our mecca back then,” he says. “I just loved all the stuff that came out on Erick’s Subliminal label and Defected at that time. A lot of the music I’m making at the moment is directly influenced by the house sound I loved from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s.”
Thing is, Doorly might be hot property on the US house music market right now, but this isn’t the first time he’s enjoyed a flicker of fame in the strobe-light of success. Before he was known for crafting the tidy, tasty 4/4-driven tunes we all know him for now — such as ‘I Want You To Dance’ and ‘Don’t Worry About It’ — Doorly was famed for his dubstep productions.
It all started, he says, back in 2009, when he was working as a DJ, surfing the crest of the mash-up era — made popular on Radio 1 by Annie Mac — by playing “all kinds of genres”. It was after he played a gig alongside dubstep impresario Rusko, says Doorly, that he decided to remix Dizzee Rascal feat Armand Van Helden’s ‘Bonkers’.
“I remember it was one of the first big gigs I’d done,” says Doorly, who started his career filling in for the absent DJ at the bar he worked at collecting glasses, at the tender age of 16. “I didn’t really get dubstep at that time, but I played a couple of shows with Rusko and I saw how mental the crowd went for the kind of music he played. I was DJing quite a lot of d&b at that time but I thought, 'I really need to make some of this music Rusko is playing'. So I made a couple of edits of tracks, just for my sets and the ‘Bonkers’ remix was one of those.”
If that monster ‘Bonkers’ remix didn’t change everything, it was his 2010-released dubstep version of Basement Jaxx’s ‘Raindrops’ that really got Doorly noticed, especially Stateside. On home turf, Doorly started getting booked to play more gigs on line-ups that included the likes of Skream and Rusko and, he says, it was around that time that dubstep “got Americanised and became all noisy”.
“I remember getting booked for a gig in America with Skrillex as my support DJ,” remembers Doorly. “That was just before he blew up — the year he had that release on Deadmaus’s label that exploded his career. So, I played this show with him, he was on before me, and I couldn’t believe the noise and speed of what he was playing. The atmosphere was incredible but it just left me feeling ‘how do I follow that?’, because I don’t play that kind of music. It was like going on after a metal band.”
It was then that he knew he had to make a career change. Luckily, he’d already made lots of music contacts during his career, first of all doing after-hours parties in Huddersfield — 1,500-strong events where DJs including Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Calvin Harris and Jon Carter would play — and, more significantly, working as a promoter for Ibiza Rocks, something he still does. “I got that job totally by accident,” says Doorly. “I was invited out to play at the after-party for the opening party. I’d just done an essential mix for Pete Tong that year.”
That night, Doorly remembers, he was “playing everything, kind of like a 2ManyDJs thing”. Halfway through his set Andy McKay, who runs Ibiza Rocks (and formerly co-ran Manumission) came over and said, ‘Can you clear your diary and play for us for the summer, as our resident’.
“I had two gigs a week in the UK at that time,” states Doorly. “But I just cancelled those and moved to Ibiza for the summer. I became the booker. From there we went on to do Reclaim the Dancefloor at Eden and now we’re doing the Monday nights at Pacha. And we’re also in the middle of a new season at Ibiza Rocks where we’re going for a really electronic edge.”
FEEL THE RUSH
Doorly recently moved to LA. As soon as he got there, he made a big room-style, piano house tune called ‘Rush’, that he signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label. The tune got picked up on by Mark Knight, who approached Doorly’s management and said “That release he’s done on Mad Decent, we’d like to do it for the world”.
Toolroom re-released ‘Rush’ on Toolroom and asked Doorly for more. Next, Doorly released explosive house tune ‘Don’t Worry About It’ on Southern Fried (he went on to mix the fourth installment of that label’s 'Fried & Tested' compilation series with that tune included on it). ‘Don’t Worry About It’ was immediately picked up by Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin, who seemed to play it in every set they did at that time.
“Claude VonStroke said ‘any time you have tracks, send them over to me’, and he started playing everything,” says Doorly. “I had thought of changing my production name, to get away from the dubstep thing, but Doorly is my real name, so I wanted to keep it. Luckily people seemed to like the new tunes I made.”
Rather than work on a solo production album, Doorly is enjoying putting out singles and EPs, collaborating with lots of producers. “I DJ a lot but, because I make music on my laptop, I get the chance to work on tunes when I’m travelling between gigs,” says Doorly. “Then I finish them off in my home studio in LA that I’m slowly building up again, after selling everything for my move. I now have the new Roland TB3 and TR8, but I do most of my production on my laptop.”
When Doorly first got into house music, it was David Morales’ rolling, summery, piano house tune ‘Needin’ U’, released in 1998, that summed up everything that was great about the genre, for him. “I remember playing that loud in my car, windows down,” says Doorly. “It was the ultimate uplifting house tune. That’s how I like house music to be.”