Is it true that your first official release was a remix for Wall of Sound?
“Yeah, my first ever legit music industry-related release was a remix for an artist called Mekon, it was through an A&R called Alvin [Collis]. He reached out to me through MySpace. Basically, I got fired from my job cos I spent all my time updating my MySpace.
I was making ring-tones for a living, but what was hilarious was — completely illegally — I think the boss was monitoring my computer. You’re not allowed to do that, it was very Stasi-esque, although I probably should’ve got fired anyway.
But it was at a point in time when MySpace was good — it was actually the perfect model, but everyone got bored of it. You could message, you could listen to music in one place and communicate and all that, it was great.
“That was the point where it looked like reality, where I could start releasing music on record labels. Wall of Sound got in touch, and that set the ground for me, as the remix was played by Tiga, Justice, Pedro Winter and Erol Alkan — and this was the first remix I ever did. It got me on the radar, and my first-ever EP release — on Turbo — was because of that.”
Did Tiga get in touch with you?
“We had a mutual friend, and my friend just sent him some stuff via email. It’s often the way, it’s always good to get a personal touch so that something’s been filtered a little bit. It was the same with Dubsided, which was a UK label run by Switch.”
What happened there, then?
“Exactly the same, I got to know a guy called Sinden, Graham Sinden, from DJing at a few parties, and he put my music forward to Dave Taylor, aka Switch.”
So then you started making fidget stuff for Dubsided, didn’t you?
“I just tried to make what influenced me on the dancefloor at that time. I never consciously had the banner of trying to be in this genre or that genre, I just tried to be influenced by music I was DJing at the time and seeing what had a reaction.
Around that time, a lot of the Switch and Solid Groove remixes were so superior to a lot of the other stuff going around — we’re talking 2006, and house music had got a bit boring. It got a bit chin-stroking, a bit jazz chords and Rhodes piano, a bit too intellectual, and a lot of the Switch stuff just made kids start dancing again. And it crossed over to Europe — especially to Paris, and also Holland.
“I was on a plane a couple of months ago, flying back from Washington DC, and there’s Afrojack sitting on the other side of the plane. We got chatting about music, and he turned round to me and said ‘You know, Switch invented EDM?!’ If you think about it, the actual sonic in the sound of what he did inspired some of the EDM guys.
Not Tiësto, but certainly Afrojack and a lot of those guys spawned off it. The name fidget house, there may be a better name and whoever gave it that name maybe should’ve thought a bit harder about it, but it was a movement that even spawns today the likes of Chris Lorenzo and Hannah Wants. I don’t think there’s enough diligence paid to the guys involved in that scene. People were very dismissive of it, and actually a lot came out of it.”
If you told Switch that he birthed EDM, he’d be horrified, wouldn’t he?
“No, I think he’d love it! Dave’s got a strong taste in music, he’s quite easy-going, I don’t think he’d get really annoyed. I think with the Switch stuff you can still hear the roots within house music, especially the Solid Groove moniker. The Dutch stuff kind of took that out of it.”
Things have really changed for you in the last couple of years, going into the pop star world. Has that been a bit weird?
“I’ve embraced it. I think I’m the only guy from the dance world who’s crossed into it who thinks, ‘This is amazing’. I’ve just embraced it and want to keep the momentum going. The first song that got me there, ‘Need U (100%)’, got to No.1 in the UK — the first house track in 15 years to go to No.1. I don’t think anyone’s acknowledged it that much, in terms of that’s quite a milestone. Dance music wasn’t doing well in the charts, it was all manufactured pop acts.”
And you blazed a trail for Second City and all them other house guys…
“Yeah, after me MK had a No.1, Storm Queen, Route 94… Disclosure came before me, but if you’re physically talking about No.1 records in 20 years' time — there’s a countdown on Channel Four somewhere at Christmas — then those songs are gonna be on there.”
Do your mates make jokes to you now involving the expression ‘100%’?
[Resigned, deadpan] “Yeah. It’s completely out of my vocabulary now. Some people don’t know the record, but if they do they make a joke of it.”
What’s been the weirdest pop star moment you’ve had recently?
“Probably Coachella. There’s Katy Perry in the front row going mental, and there’s Beyoncé to the side of the stage dancing. It’s nice to have the respect of pop stars, but I know what I need to achieve now.
I’ve got a fairly strong idea of what I want to do with my music, and I think people simplify things too easily — such as, ‘Oh, his songs get played on the radio now, he must be a pop star’. That side of it I love, but at the same time I DJ every week, I love my music, I’ve been in the game way too long for my style and pace to be altered. I have really strong convictions in my taste in music and the stuff coming out on my label Blasé Boys Club.”
I guess as a DJ/producer, you can still go to Sainsburys and not get mobbed?
“Yeah, I think cos I’ve gone out of my way not to… I could very easily, if I appeared in all my videos, have had that. I haven’t, and I’m at this point where if people do recognise me, it’s because they know the music or they’ve been to a show. They don’t know me from Heat magazine. So the people who do recognise me already like the music — so I have the best of both worlds.”
Why did you pick the name Duke Dumont in the first place? You’re not an actual Duke, are you?
“Of course not. The real story is that I was trying to come up with a name, and I don’t really say this to a lot of publications because most of them are American-based or Australian and they don’t get the reference. But I remember I’d just been fired from my job and was working hard on my music. It was just after I’d done that remix for Wall of Sound, and I was going to go out of my way to try to make a living from music. I was watching daytime TV and… have you ever seen that programme Bargain Hunt?”
With David Dickinson?
“Yeah, do you remember him? The orange man — his nickname used to be David ‘The Duke’ Dickinson, he gave himself the nickname ‘The Duke’. At school if a kid’s got bulging eyes, they probably get called ‘Bug-Eyes’, but he wouldn’t call himself ‘Bug-Eyes’.
But David Dickinson called himself ‘The Duke’, and I just thought it was so outlandish and a little bit mental that it stuck with me and I thought, ‘Maybe I should call myself The Duke?’ So I did. It was basically being in awe of David Dickinson’s mentalness. I needed an artist alias around that time.”
Would you like to go on Bargain Hunt?
“I actually wouldn’t mind. I think I’d go on it with my dad, I think I’d be good at it. So David, if you’re reading this, or any researcher at the BBC... I think I could be quite good at Pointless too.”
Who’s your favourite Duke from history?
“I don’t know that many, you’ve got Duke of York, Duke of Edinburgh, Dukes of Hazzard… If you Google Duke Dumont in the UK in the Google search engine, Duke Dumont is actually the second or third most popular Duke.”
So you’re more popular than the Duke of Edinburgh?
“I’m not sure I’m more popular than the Duke of Edinburgh, but give it a try. [DJ Mag does, and Duke Dumont is indeed third].”
How does one become a Duke officially?
“I don’t know, isn’t it like counties — where you have to be the Duke of Wessex or something? I have no idea. Just call yourself one — it’s easier. It’s a state of mind.”