From progressive to techno and everything in between, John Dousk is one of the few artists who can boast hits in nearly every genre of underground dance music.
John! How are you today? Thanks so much for giving us the chance to catch up with you. Let’s talk a little about your beginnings in writing underground dance music. Your background in music actually began in classical piano and jazz correct? What drew you into electronic music and production?
Hey! I’m neat-o, thanks for having me!
It’s true that I have a classical training in piano & jazz. But that same truth revealed I kinda sucked as a straight up piano performer. Fortunately though, it helped me discover I had a passion for writing music. Now, being just one dude and not playing in a band, sort of shoehorns me into electronic in some sense. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I hear it’s a decent excuse!
Did you begin performing around the same time you started writing electronic music as well? Can you tell us about your first gig, where it was, and what it was like DJing as opposed to live music?
I started writing stuff very young, dabbling with computers and music for at least 5 years before attempting to amuse others, hence sparing them the agony for quite some time. I like to think it’s for the better. My first gig was at a local house music club, where I performed with 2 desktop computers running antiquated (by now) music tracking software.
I guess you could say it was ‘live’ since I tried to make stuff happen on the fly. People seemed to be genuinely curious about some dude playing music with 2 desktop PC’s back in 1997.
Your first credited release is actually listed as an Original EP under Bedrock Records. It’s very rare to see an artist’s first credit with one of the biggest labels in the industry like that: it must have been a dream! Tell us what it was like to release with them and how this changed your career moving forward.
Actually there’s a stealth release on now defunct Blaq Velvet of a two-track vinyl that preceded the Bedrock release. Still, when I found out that Bedrock has signed my tunes, oh boy, let’s just say it felt pretty damn amazing! I can’t talk about all the stuff that happens when you sign with Bedrock, but there is some secrecy involved, and you can’t go around telling everybody what you are doing for Bedrock until the stuff is out there.
One of the most noticeable traits of your productions is that you are able to span a wide variety of genres and always make it sound “cool.” It’s not common you find artists who are able to capture so many different styles. What has inspired you to produce different styles at different times?
I just like music I guess, trying not to be too hung up on this or that style. I think this is why many of my tracks are hybrids/crossovers. That same love however, is also the bane of my existence. It makes it hard to acquire the critical mass of fans an artist needs to be successful these days. If I release tech house or techno, prog house fans are pissed and vice versa. This also means that I love to play house, proggy and techno in the same set, depending on mood. Unfortunately, it clashes with some peoples expectation that I should play one style from start to end. I’m trying to open peoples minds on that front (career be damned!) and I’m happy to report it’s getting better lately, people are becoming more receptive.
Do you still incorporate a lot of your classical training and background in your productions? How do you feel different genres, both electronic and traditional, influence and mingle with each other in the modern era?
Well, sometimes it can be handy. Transforming a single melody into a musical question and answer can be fun. There’s tons of fusion going on at the moment. Mostly between traditional and electronic music in the pop, rock & hip hop genres. Many mainstream hits these days are born inside a computer with an added touch of vocals. Interesting times.
Your performance career has similarly seen you actively touring and performing at some of the premier hotspots for underground dance music. Can you tell us a little about some of your favorite places to play? Have you had any particularly crazy or fun adventures during any of your travels you can share with us?
Clubs sometimes change but people usually don’t, so in that sense, my favorite countries/places so far are Japan, Argentina, Australia & Mexico. People there are just crazy fun to perform for.
As for strange stuff that happened while touring let’s just say, what happens there stays there! -looks awkwardly around the room
Your home nation of Greece has an impressive resume of underground artists regularly producing top quality work these days, can you tell us a little about the Greek scene, what it’s culture is like in relation to dance music, and what Greek artists these days really have you excited?
Oh man, Greece is the capital of suck for dance music. It’s like living in bizarro world here. There is no culture whatsoever and you only get cred when catering to dimwits by posting faux-glam infested photos of you on Facebook. Couple that with dog-eat-dog mentality and you have the perfect recipe for a 5-star turd sandwich.
I got the good feels for 12 Tones, Elias Tzikas, Lee Burton, dPen, Alex Dimou, Nikko Z & Stelios Vasiloudis at the moment.
Time to talk about the good old studio! What is your current studio setup? Do you have any hardware and software that are your particular favorites to use? Have you had any “go-to” gear that throughout your career has been something you’ve always used?
I have quit using convoluted/analog gear for a while now. For me, it’s all hype. Maybe 10 years ago, when computing power wasn’t enough for proper software modeling you could make a case for analog gear, but these days I have seen the light and it’s all digital. A couple notable exceptions are analog treatment (if needed) for mastering purposes and recording the occasional natural instrument or voice. So I haven’t completely turned into a cyborg yet.
What is your advice to young and up-and-coming producers? Is there anything you’re seeing stylewise that’s trending these days you really like from a lot of the new blood? Alternatively, what you recommend young producers NEVER do?
My only advice is that they should strive to keep a balance between the social aspects and the actual music. There is a point where you hit a hard wall of diminishing returns if you’re
all about the social nets and the music is sub par. Unless you live in Greece, in that case ignore my advice.
I love listening to young artists try new sounds and motifs without a care in the world. It’s refreshing and while most of the times it’s just concept after concept, every once in a while a shiny diamond comes out and keeps the fire going for everyone.
As for what young producers should never do, well, it’s more of a personal thing, but I despise attitude. Acting like a self-important douchebag can leave a long lasting impression that might negatively affect your aspiring career in the future. Unless you live in Greece, in that case ignore my advice.
Any new gigs, releases, and other fun news in the works for you right now? What does the rest of 2014 hold for John Dousk?
There’s a couple of tours this summer, South America & India, a handful of remixes in the making and a few that should be coming out pretty soon. Walks of Life EP Part II is also coming out next month, still exploring some housey mannerisms on that one. There should be some brand new originals on the horizon somewhere in Q4. Lastly, work on the third album has begun, but I’m taking my sweet time with this one, no need to rush.