In the House with Grant Dell
by Brett Abramson
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you've no doubt heard some of Grant Dell's infectious tracks out at the clubs. Being caned by DJs from John Digweed to Terry Francis, his music crosses boundaries and classifications. Once you get past all of the labels and subgenres, in the end he just spins and produces great dance music. At Lunar Magazine we are committed to promoting quality artists, without all the hype and flashiness. Grant Dell epitomizes these qualities as well as any other artist. That is why we felt Grant would be the perfect headliner for the upcoming Lunar Magazine party at eleven50 on Friday, July 5than up and coming artist with integrity and talent that you may or may not have heard of yet. After DJing throughout the world for 12 years now, Grant's status as a heavy hitter in the dance music industry is only growing faster and faster with each gig he plays and each track he produces with partner Gareth Oxby under the Tribalation moniker. I had a chance to talk to Grant before he embarked on a U.S. tour to get his thoughts on music and his upcoming Atlanta appearance.
Lunar: You have been coming out with a slew of production work as of late. Is this going to continue in the coming months?
Grant Dell: I'm really busy. I've just done some remixes for Hooj Choons. They're not so tribally a bit more techno-y. The remix is for a guy from New York named Danny Sutherland, and the track is called "Snake Charmer." It was a big room prog number, and it had this Led Zeppelin sample. We'd done the remix, totally changed it and only used some of the parts, put a new bassline, put a new vocal sample in there.
Lunar: Where do you see your sound and the tech-house sound in general heading?
Grant Dell: I see it getting really big with bigger named jocks. I see them starting to warm to the deeper sound and the funkiness of it, because it is really funky music at the end of the day. It's not techno; it's not house; it's tech-house. There's a bit of everything in there. I see it getting bigger because it's a global sound as well. All of the other DJs and I that are involved with this scene get a lot of recognition outside of England, in America, South America, Canada, Australia. A lot of us have been playing all over the place, and all over Europe as well. So I see it as a real global sound.
Lunar: And it's definitely one that won't be dated any time soon
Grant Dell: Yeah, it started off as a real London thing. It's such an easy rhythm and an easy groove to get into. I think that's why people all over the world have gotten into it. The girls like it-it's got something for everybody.
Lunar: Why do you think that so many "progressive" DJs have locked onto your more house oriented sound?
Grant Dell: I think because the sounds that are used in tech-house they can familiarize with because a lot of those spooky sounds are there. I mean, the only difference between prog house and tech-house are the basslines. In tech-house the basslines are more minimal, more stripped down, more funky. Progressive house has got that mid-range, repetitive riff. But that's what I like about people like John Digweed, who has been playing my music ever since I started putting it out. He's been playing a lot, and it's been alongside progressive house. It just shows that it's versatile.
Lunar: Anyone who has listened to your tracks can easily identify that unique Grant Dell sound. But how would you describe your sound to those who may not have heard it yet?
Grant Dell: Basically it's a dubby sort of house music. I'm a big reggae fan. I'm a big dub fan. I was before I even got into house music. So anything with a lot of space in it, taking bits from everything really. Taking skippy beats from house music, and incorporating a lot of vocals. I always end up putting vocals, or some vocal reference in my track because I think that a lot of house music and tech-house music lacks that-the tracks are good, but there's no sort of definition for people to relate to. All of the Tribalation stuff that I do with Gareth [Oxby], we always use the same bass sounds because it's just a winning formula. What we have between us is something we can't get on our own or working with others.
Lunar: Now when you're in the studio, what equipment, both hardware and software, do you use the most?
Grant Dell: We both run Pro Logic. A lot of producers tend to rely on the computer a lot, but we still use a lot of outboard stuff. We use Virus B Sound Module, which is a German synth module that gives you all the old synth and analog sounds. For basslines, all of the Tribalation stuff is a Juno 106. Gareth has definitely got it tweaked to how we like it. I use the Proteus 2000 for drum sounds. We sample a lot-we borrow from other people. For a mixing desk I've got an Allen and Heath, which has a real, nice, warm sound to it. We use Logic. I love all the plug ins in Logic. It's really easy to use.
Lunar: Who have been your major influences throughout the years?
Grant Dell: The first big influence on me music wise was from punk. Sex Pistols, The Clash were very big influences on my life and my music. Also, Bob Marley and the Wailers, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo. Once I started getting into house music, I was really influenced my Andy Weatherall, Terry Farley and the Junior Boys Own thing. Andy Waetherall more than anyone. I just liked the way he was different, the way he played different. He's an ex-punk as well, so I liked his attitude and the way he dressed. He didn't give any interviews, and if he did he wouldn't do photos. I love all that sort of thing. Then the first time I heard Eddie Richards and Terry Francis play was about '93, and they really inspired me. What I was hearing was something that I was already aware of, but I wasn't really that into it. They just changed my mind and have been a big inspiration ever since.
Lunar: Do you find producing or DJing more rewarding personally?
Grant Dell: I still find DJing more rewarding. You can't beat that buzz. Also, being in a club and someone dropping your tune-that's a buzz.
Lunar: So do you think your sound as a DJ differs from your sound as a producer?
Grant Dell: Yes, very much so. I lean towards more of a housier groove [when DJing] than my productions. My production, especially with Tribalation, is more tribally. To be quite honest with you, I very rarely play my own records. I try and play a bit different than everyone else. I don't play a lot of London tech-house. I lean towards America more for my music. I'm known for playing vocals as well. I do go between the two; I try not to keep it to two hours of pure tech-house.
Lunar: Is the scene in England really as shitty as people portray it right now?
Grant Dell: You're correct. Well, I think not so much shitty. The underground has gone underground again, and the overground has spiraled out of control. I think for our sort of music it's a good time. You've got The End. You've got Fabric. Fabric is kicking ass. Every week you've got Terry [Francis] and Craig [Richards] as residents and you look at the lineup they have every week. The music policy is outstanding. And there's a lot of other little underground nights going on as well. Personally I think for our sound, it's healthy. Club wise in general, it has gone a bit stale. There's a lot of super clubs.
Lunar: Has playing and producing in America always been something you have wanted to do?
Grant Dell: Yeah, I've had this fixation with America from when I was really young, especially San Francisco. American house music has always been a part of my musical style. I just love the scene that you guys have got there, and everyone appreciates what you do. People that are actually into it are really into it. They know about the producers. They know about the labels. I love all that. I love those type of people. I'm that type of person…it's really inspirational. I get emails from people out there all the time-just genuine.
Lunar: What's right and what's wrong with the dance music industry currently?
Grant Dell: I think there's a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon, throwing obscene amounts of money around just to get certain people to do certain mixes. I don't really agree with that. There's a lot of producers out there that deserve to be heard and deserve to be given a chance. A lot of labels always go for the same person to do a remix. It's all good, but it's all for the money, isn't it? It's all for turnaround. I mean, what's wrong with giving someone on the up a chance to mix it? I'm really inspiring by how the sound that we're making is being picked up by a lot of jocks that weren't really into it before. When you go to clubs like Fabric, that inspires me because it's a massive club, it's a really overground club, and they've got a really underground policy. It is crammed to the rafters every week of young people that are really appreciating the music. There's not many things that piss me off about the dance scene. At the end of the day, it's giving people like myself the chance to actually make a living out of dance music. Who could have said in 1988 when it all started that someone was going to be a producer, someone was going to be a DJ, someone was going to be a graphic designer that designed artwork for record labels, someone was going to be an A&R man. There's loads and loads of people out there that didn't know it was going to happen to them. I just think that's phenomenal. It's given people the chance to do a job that they really love and really appreciate doing. I was in the construction business from when I was in school. Up until three years ago I was still having to go to work, I was still DJing…I was getting up at half past six in the morning to go to work with everyone else. But I had this passion for music. Three years ago I was actually starting to make a living at what I was doing [musically], and it was just such an excellent feeling to actually do something that you love doing. You get appreciated, and you get so much satisfaction out of it.
Lunar: So do you have any advice for aspiring DJs/producers?
Grant Dell: For DJs, gone are the days where you can give a mix tape to a promoter and he'll go and ring you up. Get into production as well as getting into DJing. If you are serious about your DJing, the only way in nowadays is to have some sort of production out there so people can recognize. Because there's so many DJs, the people that make the records will get in and get the bookings. Believe in yourself really. Take it serious, but not too serious. Also have fun while you're doing it.
Lunar: What can we expect from your upcoming Atlanta appearance?
Grant Dell: You can expect some really funky tech-house music. A bit for everyone really-vocals, tribally stuff, dubby stuff, harder edged stuff.
For more info on Grant Dell please contact Hands on Deck at 718/349.9525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't miss Grant Dell at Lunar Magazine's blowout event this Friday, July 5th at eleven50 in Atlanta. [more]
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