Interview Simon Dunmore

WHO: Simon Dunmore
WHEN: 11th Jun 2004

The Interview Simon Dunmore

Album: Eivissa 04 (Defected Records)

You've just mixed the Eivissa 04 album. What have you tried to do with this particular compilation?

[Simon Dunmore] I feel that if house music is to move forward then we have to look back at what made it so great to start with. So what I've done is chosen some tracks that I think that I'm going to be playing over the coming months, but also some tracks I really love that first got me into house music and some tracks that have obviously been an inspiration to other people because they've been widely sampled. There's a Salsoul Orchestra track on there, there's a Patricia Ruston track on there that has been sampled by several people who don't even realise its a Patrice Rushen track. We managed to fit it into the mix and people will know it because they'll recognise it from samples, so now they'll get the chance to appreciate the original. There's also something from Roger Sanchez, the first record I ever heard him do actually and it's a track called 'Love Dancing' on Strictly Rhythm. I think these tracks still sound pretty good even thought they're twelve or thirteen years old. You take it for granted - because I grew up with these tracks I assumed that everybody would know it, but for kids this is a new track. Everyone associates Roger Sanchez with 'Another Chance' but actually if there was one record to own by Roger Sanchez it's 'Underground Solution - Love dancing'. It's an incredible record.

You've got your nostalgic tracks on there what about the upfront tracks - are there enough on there for you?

[Simon Dunmore] The compilation is not aimed at DJ's who want to own everything super upfront. It's aimed at the connoisseur of house music who appreciates the mix for what is on there, I think that the balance is right. There are some old school tracks, some current tracks and some yet to be released tracks. I don't think it will date and I reckon it will still sound good in twelve month's time.

Could you say that you've achieved what you wanted with the compilation?

[Simon Dunmore] To me, if I was to go into a club and heard that mixture to me it would translate very well. There are a couple of moments in there where its steps up from being very musical to quite down and funky to where it really, really picks up. If a DJ made that transition in a club I'd be punching the air saying "this is great!" So I think I've captured what I wanted on this compilation.

Lets move onto Ibiza - Is it as good as it used to be?

[Simon Dunmore] For me, ABSOLUTELY not because I've been going there since 1986, so when you've been going somewhere for the last 18 years its never as good as the first time. But if you're a kid and you're going out there for the first time then its definitely still a magical thing, to go through the doors at Pacha for the first time, to go through the doors of Space or DC10 or wherever. You read about these things and get a massive anticipation of going, but I think that in most instances people are not disappointed and it's still an incredible experience. But as for me, I was there when Pacha and Amnesia and Ku - as it was called before it was Privilege - were open-air clubs and putting a roof on has changed it a little for me. But I'm not going to be one of those people who says it's not as good as it used to be... My big downer about Ibiza is that people have to pay too much to eat and drink and to stay there generally. I do think that people are getting ripped off a bit. Sixty euros is a lot of money to pay to get into a club out there, but it's still a great place to go to for sure.

What plans for the year do you have over there?

[Simon Dunmore] We have our night at El Divino on Friday evenings. We have taken the decision to go up against Pacha on Friday nights, which is some 800 meters from El Divino, but we feel that there will be enough people in Ibiza to go to Pacha and El Divino. People go between clubs so they will visit El Divino as well. I think we will give them what they want musically and we will get them to stay, we had a lot of success last year on a Sunday which is a much more difficult night to fill. This year we are in a better position to rock Ibiza to a greater level.

How about your residents?

[Simon Dunmore] For us its not about "lets book Eric Morillo, he'll fill our club". It's about promoting our records and releases, and our residents are based around the records that we have got coming out this year. We have a Junior Jack Album, which we are working, a Martin Solveig album that is just about to release and a Sandy Rivera album coming out, therefore they are the residents for our club. If they weren't great DJ's they wouldn't be residents anyway. They all know how to rock the house and based around that are the people that are involved in our 'In The House' series, people like Brian Tappert and John Julius Knight, Jay J Hernandez, Miguel Migs and Dimitri from Paris, and it's a fantastic line-up. If you like quality soulful funky house then El Divino is the place to be.

Do you see much truth in the general adage that the dance music industry is in decline?

[Simon Dunmore] Dance music is certainly in decline from the levels that it used to enjoy. It was so gargantuan that it had to decline, there was no other way for it to go - it was all conquering. But with the fact that it was so massive it lost all of its soul. It was all about numbers and money and it was becoming less and less to do with music. As a result dance music became safe and boring. It was a natural thing because it was so huge people just shied away from it and it had to go back underground and re-invent itself. There is definitely still a dance music scene especially if you're putting out good music and doing good events. There is still a scene there but not on the level that it used to be so it has definitely declined. And the reason that there is so much hype about it is that people aren't making the money that they used to. People didn't identify the change quickly enough and as a result a lot of people have gone out of business. That's what people are writing about really.

As a label head, have you found that the advent of downloading poses any particular threat to Defected?

[Simon Dunmore] Downloading has been really mismanaged by the whole music industry. They complained about it and said it would be the death of the industry as we know it, and it is certainly going to change. I think that people downloaded music illegally because they did not have the chance to do it legitimately and pay for it. But now that opportunity has presented itself people are more than willing to do it. The industry did not react quick enough to downloading, and that's the bottom line but now they are getting to grips with it and it is a very economical way to sell records.

There are a lot of middle men that will suffer because of downloads. People like production and distribution are going to be cut out of the equation, they are just as worried as the record industry was a couple of years ago. The internet has also made it really cheap for us to get to our audience - we have our website and 40 000 people come to see what we are about every month. This doesn't cost us anything apart from the upkeep of the site whereas before it would cost us a phenomenal amount of money to get that information out there. While there's no doubt that it put a dent in one aspect of our business, the internet has made the marketing and information of our records a lot more cost effective, so I think that it has more than balanced itself out.

Has Defected turned out the way you thought it would?

[Simon Dunmore] No, absolutely not. There have been so many twists and turns in how Defected has developed. When we started off we had phenomenal success but we spent so much time enjoying the success that we had that we didn't take care of the business and because of that, all of a sudden twelve months down the line we had to stop enjoying the success and actually focus on running the company. Then because we concentrated on that, we weren't signing the records…I mean it was an absolute rollercoster. Then we were tumbling along having reached a level where we got the business levels right and the record levels right, then the industry changed, downloads happened and magazines started to write about the death of dance music. It was self-fulfilling in a way because those magazines were saying "you are buying a dance magazine but actually no one's really listening to dance", so people stopped buying the magazines and they all went out of business. But we identified that really early and it caused a lot of angst within Defected. We had to change our staff and downgrade, we changed out entire business model, which was really difficult to do. We felt the pain when we were doing that but at least it put us on a level where we were able to survive and move our business forward. Thankfully spotting that early was a key factor for us because other people who didn't spot that early on are no longer trading, so we're kinda lucky. Ultimately we have got to a point where I would like to have been at when we started, but getting to that point was not what I foresaw. It has been strange.

What is it like working at an independent in comparison to your previous experience of working at a major?

[Simon Dunmore] As an independent, the business side of it is really consuming, you don't worry about that when you are at a major - you just worry about signing the records, putting them into the machine and then being able to deliver them. You never worry about cash flow and advances and if your staff are going to get paid or if you are you going be able to pay your artist because it is all taken care of for you. So in a way you are little bit freer to do your job as an A&R person, but you are restricted by the fact that they expect you to deliver hits all the time, so that puts a different kind of pressure on you. Now as an indy you just have to sign a record because it's going make you money. It doesn't matter if it's a hit, the criteria is completely different, you can have a hit and lose money when you are at a major quite easily. As an indy, as long as you are signing records that are good for the label and they're making money; and it could be that they only sell 3000 records and make money, then that's okay; as long as it works for your business model and they're taking the label forward. That would never work within a major, so I can indulge myself as long as it fits into the budgets that we decide at the beginning of the year. And if it also means that we are adding further solid foundations to the reputation of our label then it's a good thing to do, so it's completely different. There are pressures, but there are different pressures.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to break into the industry?

[Simon Dunmore] Try and nurture your own style and be yourself. If trance becomes the next big thing all of a sudden, or mutant house breaks come along, or whatever - if it's not something that you naturally evolve into, don't just jump ship because you'll always be a follower you'll never be a leader, and being a leader is really important. I don't want to sign the next DJ Gregory, I want to sign DJ Gregory, I don't want to sign the "next" whoever. It's always about being the person and that's the key, be true to yourself.

So looking back, would you change anything about the way your career has gone?

[Simon Dunmore] No, I've made mistakes but you learn from your mistakes and I have had a great time. So yeah, it's all good!

Interview by Toni

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