Recently, arguably one of the best and most prolific House music labels in the world, Defected Records, announced it was taking a year’s hiatus from Ibiza, having run their events on the island for a dozen years. From more humble beginnings at the now defunct El Divino, to some epic times at Pacha, a short lived few years at Booom and last year’s fleeting relationship with Amnesia.
Instead, Defected are trying something different for them and holding a five day festival to celebrate all things House, at the Garden Resort, Tisno, Croatia from the 11th-15th August. We caught up with the Defected boss Simon Dunmore to discuss the new moves and even whether he has any dance moves.
Hello Simon, thanks for finding the time to chat with us at Decoded Magazine. I think its fair to say Defected was one of the most reliable nights in Ibiza over the years. I’m sure pretty much any club in Ibiza would be happy to host Defected, but you’ve decided to take this season off, does this reflect on your feelings for how Ibiza is at the moment?
We’ve moved around clubs the past 4/5 years and we enjoyed our times at all the venues, but there were a few things that we weren’t 100%, and certain things didn’t feel right. The opportunity to do Croatia came around and we wanted to try and leave our comfort zone and do something different.
We thought the move to Amnesia was perhaps leaving your comfort zone a little, and would appeal to an even wider audience?
Our crowd has evolved over those 4/5 years. It’s become a lot younger and that has been down to the commercial success we’ve had with Always, Oliver Dollar and Storm Queen. That success has come from that crowd avidly wanting to listen to house music, and eventually lead us to Amnesia and more people knowing about Defected. I haven’t fallen out of love with Ibiza, it’s an amazing place, it does have issues it needs to address. I believe the political situation is not good, but it’s finding the right balance. I’m not saying we won’t be back!
So rather than focus on Ibiza, you are holding a very special 5 day event in Tisno, Croatia in August. The area has been growing exponentially over the years. I first went to Croatia 10 years ago but back then the venues were scarce and it didn’t really have the infrastructure it does now. Do you think its ready to be a serious contender to Ibiza now?
Once the realisation that the investment can lead to business being better for all, it can and will continue to grow. When we announced our event to our community it was extremely well received and for good reason. People are looking for something different. They may still go to Ibiza? They may alternate? The competition between both places is healthy in my opinion. If Croatia is the alternative, then maybe it works out better for the clubber because of that competition?
It’s funny you say about the competition. The dance industry tends to not embrace healthy competition quite so much though does it?
It’s a very territorial business! hehe
Keeping with the business theme, am I right in saying you once re-mortgaged your house to help finance the label. With the way that labels are these days, if Defected was a newer label, like it was then, would you take that huge risk now?
Well no, not technically. I put my house up as a guarantee against various deals I was working on. Thinking back on that now, I do think ‘what was I thinking?’ I had young children when I did that. I don’t think it was reckless, but a calculated decision. When you start a business, you often realise you don’t know that much about business.
There are so many things you don’t always think about. So many things you have to learn on the fly. We’ve made many mistakes. We try to not repeat them. We’ve sailed close to the wind sometimes. I believe in karma and treating people the right way. Would I do it again? The music industry is in a very radical transitional moment in time. I’m not convinced with streaming. Creatives deserve to be rewarded for their creativity. Artists get paid for their paintings. Designers get paid for their clothes. I don’t understand why people feel they can have music for nothing?
That is primarily down to the new generation that we were talking about earlier that don’t pay money for music as there are a variety of options for them to stream or even just get music illegally?
Ultimately we all suffer. People that make music don’t take the chances they used to. They don’t use bands, they cut corners. So the standard of the music is really deteriorating and we all suffer by not being surrounded by great music.
Can I ask your opinion on something like Bandcamp then? Not necessarily something a record label would actively encourage, but do you think more artists may be taking this route to put out their music independently in the future?
I do understand it. I think that labels and management are still a big part of the music industry. People still need to be given guidance. There is still expertise out there for things like getting on to radio and you don’t get that with Bandcamp.
It does seem that artists these days need to be able to do it all though. From creating the music to creating your own website…
The thing is that your time as a musician should ideally be spend in the studio making music. But like I say, I totally understand it. The direct sales totally make sense. For someone to get 100% of a sale, that will be obviously be more attractive over other download sites.
You obviously have the ability to do the same with your releases via your own website, but have the business relationships and also responsibilities to your artists, to have a strong presence and promotion on iTunes, Beatport etc
Our artists need profiling. They want to be profiled on iTunes, Beatport, Traxsource and we can do that on our own site, but we push people to the most appropriate platform that we feel is right with each release. It is a fine balance, but we have a responsibility to our artists and various other elements to consider.
Before starting up Defected you worked at the legendary label AM:PM. Can you tell us a bit about your time there as it was definitely a glory period for house music?
If I didn’t go through my time at AM:PM I wouldn’t be here now. It was a great education and it was a successful label that had a huge number of crossover hits. I got to meet a lot of people. My network and my reputation was all built back then. Ultimately though, it was not my company. When I left, it gave me great confidence and there was a lot of good will to me.
It was a great era. A golden era of crossover tracks. I did have a barren period in my first 18 months but after that I tried to sign DeLacy ‘Hideaway’ and I was having a tough negotiation, it eventually went to Deconstruction and went on to be a Top 10 hit, but what it did for me, they knew that when I said to go after a record they had faith me. The next record I went after was Mousse T ‘Horny’ and then tracks like Alcatraz ‘Give Me Luv’ and others that had no right to be in the Top10 in the pop charts and it culminated in Ultra Nate ‘Free’ getting to Number 2.
Is there any way that you could get the back catalogue to re-release, like you did with Strictly Rhythm or am I holding on too tight here?
No. It’s owned by Universal. The situation with Strictly was due to it being owned by an independent label and someone I knew, that I have a great relationship with. The back catalogue is in the digital dungeons somewhere.
Let’s talk about Sam Divine, as I interviewed her last year for Decoded. She is going great guns with her own label now. She has cited you guys as being a big part of her development within the industry. Do you have like a slight paternal feeling towards her?
The first time I met her I could see how hard working and passionate she was. She had real hunger. You can employ people that are qualified, but if they don’t have hunger they don’t have anything in my opinion.
Sam has drive, passion, enthusiasm. She has a good ear for music, a real connection with people in front of her in a club, and I think she is an exceptionally good DJ. She can dark it out or she can play a commercial record if the crowd needs it. A lot of DJs these days are preoccupied with being upfront or obscure or don’t want to leave the techno lane.
Do you think some DJs need to lighten up a bit really as Sam, irrespective of her passion, is light hearted and you can see she enjoys playing?
I think DJing is like snooker, you need to think 5 shots ahead, when DJing you need to think several tracks ahead and Sam just gets that. She’s a great DJ.
Somebody else who has been part of the Defected family in the past, Guy Robin, has musically diversified with his Jonas Blue alias and had it right off with his Fast Car cover. Did you see that coming?
Guy has always wanted to make pop records. It’s hard to make pop records by definition. Pop records have videos, they are on the radio, those kind of opportunities aren’t really that easy to come by, so the easier alternative is make club records. Grow your profile, grow your career and then just see what happens and I think that’s exactly what Guy’s done. Guy is exactly where he wants to be and that’s making pop records.
So that’s not really that contrived when you think about it that way…
I try not to be cynical about these things. People’s tastes are personal to them. It’s not my place to tell them what records they can like. If it makes them feel good that’s fine. Music makes me feel good. It can change my mood. Even when I’m down in the dumps I can put a record on and it can lift my mood. If someone likes Ed Sheeren or Justin Bieber then they can just lose themselves and feel good.
Are you saying you like Justin Bieber there?!
Erm, you know what, he’s definitely more palatable now then he used to be. Some people have more acquired tastes than others, I think that’s best to say!
Let me ask you about your own musical tastes then, as you’re obviously an old soul boy and big disco fan and even though Defected won’t be in Ibiza this season you will DJing over on the white isle with your Glitterbox event at Space?
Ultimately I’m a soul boy and that led in to disco and then in to house. I was always a terrible dancer, so the DJing came along as it was a cooler way of meeting girls, really. The progression in my music comes from the fact I initially went to jazz funk clubs back in the day, then in to disco and collectible soul music. I still have the vast majority of that collection. Glitterbox was born out of the fact Ibiza seems to be obsessed with Techno or EDM and we’ve identified a gap in the market. People need to have a bit more fun and people have lost sight of that a little bit. People don’t go out on a Saturday night to be musically educated, they go out to have a great time.
Before we go I’ve gotta ask you a little question about Grant Nelson. He’s one of the UKs most prolific house artists and DJs, but he’s never had a release on Defected as himself only featuring on a remix of the infamous Bump n Flex remix of Cleptomaniacs ‘All I do’, what’s the deal there?
I’ve got nothing but love for Grant Nelson, love him as a person, love him as a producer. He’s a good business man. Many a time I’ve tried to get him to do remixes or sign a record. He knows his value. I have tried, but after a while you know it’s possibly not worth asking again. I hope he has a respect for what we do at Defected and for me personally. I have absolute respect for him as a person. He’s done pretty well without us. Like I say, nothing but love and respect for Mr G.