Dennis Ferrer chats to Brian Murphy about his new album ‘Paranoia Aftermath’ and top tips to new artists. He also talks about his sound and how he first began as an artist.
Where did you wake up this morning? Where are you right now?
“I am in New Jersey right now, I just got home from this weekends gigs and I have a few days off”
How did it all start for you then, what was it that created who you are today?
“I think it really started back in the early – mid 80’s when I lived in the Bronx and had friends who DJ’d and who started making Hip-Hop on drum machines and really simple things. And I fell in love with music at that point. I would always buy records when I was a kid you know, going into the record shops and buying vinyl but for me it all began when Hip-Hop started. I grew up on 167th[St] and Jerome and across the street from Fever where Hip-Hop all started basically. And I grew up across the street from this place. Thats when it started for me, you know my love for music”
When you started off with Hip-Hop did you think you would go over to house music or at first did you think you would be a Hip-Hop DJ?
“Well no, I mean I was always into writing music. My first thing was always that I wanted to make that kind of music. I wanted to make Hip-Hop or House. At that time everything came under the umbrella of dance music, the genres weren’t so specific. It wasn’t techno, tech soul, it was just dance music at that point, you know. And when I used to buy the vinyl I was like ‘yeah I wanna make something like this’. so it was just something that never went away, I had this weird hunger for it.”
How could you describe your current sound?
“I don’t know how to describe it. My sound is constantly changing. Some people kinda stay within their tracks, I’m not content to really do that, you know. I’ve always wanted to make records that are current, so whatever the current scene was thats where I wanted to be. Everybody wants to be cool, who wants not to be cool? My thing was that I wanted to be where the cool kids were and I wanted to make records for my friends who at the time when I was younger were cool kids. And just because I’ve gotten older it doesn’t mean I don’t wanna be cool no more. You just gotta pay attention to the people around you who inspire the youthful vigour and who knows whats going on in the new scene because there’s always the underground. The underground wasn’t just back then, it is now. So always be underground. The music just changes in the underground so you gotta go with the flow and keep yourself educated. Thats something I do, so my current sound reflects that. My sound kinda reflects that I give respect to where I come from, but with adding a new twist.”
Are you happy with the sound today? Do you feel that this is the Dennis Ferrer sound, this is it, this is you?
“This is Dennis Ferrer now but i’m never happy. I think if you’re satisfied then thats the end of it. You should’t be making music anymore. I’m never satisfied! I always hear a record and go ‘wow, how did they think of that?’. I still have that hunger and desire to be on top, I still wanna be the man. I think that when that ceases to motivate you then you gotta find another profession”
Been on the top for so long, what is it like juggling your life along with a heavy touring schedule, creating new music / Managing a record label?
“I have a very good team behind me. Everything is because of the team that I have. If I didn’t have them then I wouldn’t be able to make it possible, it just wouldn’t happen. My label manager is also an artist in his own right has been with me since day 1. Since before Objektivity. So he’s a very integral part of the label. He keeps the wheels moving when it comes to the label. And my manager keeps us all in check! It’s a team effort here, I can’t take credit for it because it’s just not reality. Everybody needs help sometimes and thats how everything is kept moving. You share and then everybody gets to enjoy the fruits of their labour”.
You’ve just released a brand new single with Ben Westbeech – ‘’Right Thing’’, Which is also the first release from your new Album Paranoia Aftermath. Tell us about the collaboration with Ben and how that came about?
“When my style was a bit more different, a bit more soulful, at that time that was what was jumping off for us, that was popular. Ben has a voice that I’ve always loved and he was in town with his band. I asked him if he could come over and collaborate and sit down to write something together. He came by and it went off without a hitch, He’s an amazing writer. The original track I had was a bit dated and i was going through my hard drive a couple of months ago to see if i had any vocals that i had forgotten about and mind you, this vocal was recorded 10 years ago. I was going through my hard drive and i came across the record and i go ‘wow, i never did anything with this, its just sitting here’. This is why I’m a very big advocate of not putting out everything you make because sometimes to doesn’t make sense at the time. Because you constantly go back to it and realise it doesn’t make sense in this atmosphere and whats going on in our scene today. So you put it away a little longer. Thats what i kept doing to this record and maybe a year later i come across my hard drive. it went through three different hard drives, you know how you transfer drives? so i mean i backed up all my sings on three different hard drives in 10 years. And i came across it and freaked out, i said ‘yo, i shipped out all the old music because it was all soulful stuff, but what if we updated it and did it modern?’ i was pretty shocked about it but it just worked. This was the right time to do something like this. It had a vocal in it that not everybody is doing right now, and it made sense to me because of that. Nobody has done that in a while, it came out ok!
Tell us about the new album Paranoia Aftermath, where did the name come from what does it mean?
“Every now and then i have to re educate myself to whats happening in the scene and the paranoia aftermath thing is me being scared of not being good enough to make records. Producers are a very sensitive, fickle bunch. Anything throws us off. And so for me a big thing in making music, you have to have some kind of confidence. you kinda have to be a little bit of a diva. Not a diva to everybody else, but in your own mind when you’re working on a record you kinda have to think you’re the shit. You do because you have to have that confidence level to do thing that some people might not do. And thats how innovation is brought about, by being bold, creative. You just tone it down when you’re around everyone else, but in the studio with the closed doors, I’m dancing and throwing my hand up in the air! i lost that confidence for a little while because i was doing soulful music for a while and then gradually doing techy, but i hadn’t really made many techy records. i come from techy don’t get me wrong but not the same techno from 1992! It just isn’t, its just different techno. You have to stay educated and sometimes that is really scary. so i would make this record and go ‘is this record good enough? nah’. Then i would put it on the hard drive and leave it there. And this was a constant battle with myself, and even to this day it’s a constant battle. So i believe that the title to this album was my paranoia aftermath. This is the result of my paranoid self!”
What made you start a new album, what else can we see from the album?
“There is this crazy record that i have been playing out lately called maniac 3000. And that is a hands up in the air thing I’ve been testing out. Its an amazing instrumental. there is a whole bunch of other stuff Bubbletop, will we get out alive? theres so many! The titles to me are almost as important as the quality of the music, they need to be memorable so it takes me a minute to figure out titles for my records”
Album plug (Release dates / Other artists featured / What else to expect / Album tour)?
“I don’t do that, every time i do i look bad because I’ve been touting this album for 2, 3 years now so i’m gonna pass on this question! Im just gonna surprise everybody!
Tell me about the London Grammar remix you did, was it true the band didn’t approve the remix but then went on to be an BBC Radio 1 essential new tune which is now a classic?
“That happens doesn’t it. i totally understood where they were coming from! They’re a band and i can respect that because I’m a musician myself. I was playing with the record and i really didn’t think about paying it too much attention but then i messed around with the vocals and it seemed to me that the song was a 3/4 (time signature). So when i made it into 4/4 i realised it was interesting and simplistic but it works. when i sent it in they said they were’t digging it too much. Its one of those records you have to play out to really understand, unless you’ve heard it in a club, When i first played it out, i think it was at cafe mambo in ibiza and it was danny howard that heard it first. somebody gave it to him. I knew i had something with this record so i just crossed my fingers. And then i would see the crowd going crazy and realise it does work! By september/october towards the end of the season, it had gained momentum. I thought that the band might not approve but they’re getting out voted right now! and theres nothing you can say about that, if the record is working then it’s working. it has become one of my classics now! In this business you never know, you think you have all the answers, because you’ve seen it all once before and something similar to this happens and it shoots that theory right out the window and that’s been happening a lot lately.
What are your top 3 most inspirational tracks?
“Man, you’re putting me on the spot. That’s not easy man, that’s not even fair quite honestly, cause you’re talking about 40 years of records. Dude, I can’t. Really what made me want to get into music was when I heard this record, it was by Information Society, it was called Running, believe it or not. At this time, all the New York DJ’s, were kind of into Dance, but it was Information Society – Running, it was a huge record. And when I first heard that, I was a young kid and I was like “I wanna make that!” And then when I heard Heartbeat on West End, I wanted to make stuff like that and then Hip Hop, when I heard Brand Nubian, I wanted records like Brand Nubian. I mean I’ve got years of, “I wanna make records like that”, I don’t think it’s fair for me to sit here and say my most inspirational records, cause that’s doing disservice to every record I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Not only DJ/ Producer also run the record label Objektivity, tell us about this label, what made you want to get into managing a record label, what made you get into this? I’m sure it must be a lot of work on top of your already busy schedule?
“Because it was an outlet, I feel confident. I’ve been doing records for people for quite some time; I’ve had basically three careers. When I did Hip Hop at first and then when I did an album on Beachwood music, EMI, when I was doing Techno. I did full on Techno with Damian Wilde and I did an Ambient album. So I wasn’t wet behind the ears when it came to making albums, I just got kind of tired of not being able to control things a bit and it was an outlet for me. It was an outlet where I could feel comfortable and say “you know what, this is kind of weird, but I think it’ll work, I’m not quite sure. But hey, lets try it!” And what better way better way to try it than something you own. I always figured, as long as it was quality, and it wasn’t just something I had on my hard drive and decided to throw out. Cause my biggest fear with my label has always been, look people pay their hard earned money to buy my records, you don’t have to spend your money on my records, I mean you could buy some food for the night to eat, which is way more important than listening to me. So my feeling is if you’re gonna spend your money on me, at least let me work hard and show you that I’ve worked hard, by bringing you a quality product. Not just something I slapped together in Ableton in five hours. I’ve always believed in giving quality, so as long as it was different and there was a high quality to it, screw it, lets try it. It was an outlet.”
What is your key role within the label?
“Well I own Objektivity, in the current time, but Andre’s a partial owner also now. He paid his dues, he deserves that. And we’re both equal partners basically, so we both make decisions. I ask him, I say “Do you think this is cool?” he’s “Like yeah” and then I’ll go “Nah”. Sometimes he’s right and sometimes I’m wrong and it goes vice versa, I think it works. He takes great pride in the label, as do I. I was full 100% owner, but I believe that when people are with you for a long time and they’ve shown their loyalty, then they’re deserving and if anybody is deserving of owning a piece of Ojektivity, it’s Andre. He’s done his job.”
If you could have any artist dead or alive release a track on Objektivity who would it be?
“Any artist? I mean Prince; I would’ve loved to do something with Prince, that would’ve been an insane record. A vocal record with Prince, a Dennis Ferrer house record with Prince! Dude, that’d been outrageous. That’d just been stupid, I’d just buy it just cause it says Prince on it. But alive, I don’t know man. I really don’t know, that’s a really tough question. I’m just thinking, you’ve put me in a weird spot. Actually remember Yazoo – Situation? Well the chick from Yazoo, if forgot what her name was. She sung that record Don’t Go. Alison Moyet, that’s who it is! Yeah Alison Moyet, she had this crazy vox. She did the record with Vince Clarke I think. That or you know who else, who was the chick who did Herbie Hancock – Possibilities. Annie Lennox! Yeah, Annie Lennox, hell yeah. Annie Lennox is old school, but the thing is that those vocals just are timeless, you know. I don’t know man, it’s just crazy. I could sit here all day and tell you who I’d like to work with honestly.”
How’s your schedule been over the past 6 months, how many countries do you reckon you have visited?
“Insane, intense, mind numbing. I can’t remember that, I can’t remember what I ate yesterday. That’s the million dollar question, somebody asked me where I was last week and I don’t even know. I had to ask my wife like “where was I”, she had to tell me like wow; I don’t even know where I am.”
What’s your schedule looking like for the rest of the summer?
“Equally as packed and intense. I’ve got the Greek tour coming on, we’re doing Space, we’re doing like eight dates at Space, we just did the opening at Space also, which was insane.”
You played the final ever Opening party for Space, 27 years on the island and it now comes to an end how was it?
“Scary. You know, it was such a great honour, to even be asked to do the Opening Party and to play in the parking lot was insane. The parking lot was insane, it was packed. I may look like I’m having fun, but inside it’s all butterflies, you know. I mean even after all these years, I still get nervous, so when I saw that I was like “oh hey”. You can’t prepare for that, you can prepare until you’re blue in the face, but I still get nervous and I think that’s a good thing. I think getting nervous shows me that I still kind of care about it, that I actually want to bring about something good to the people who’ve paid to come see me play. So it was crazy, and the fact that I’m playing there, seven or eight more times, on Sundays, that’s like whew, I don’t even know what to say, I’m so happy.”
Resident for Sundays at Space, How’s that going?
“That was intense also, it was a lot of fun with Heidi and Tiga and that was crazy. It’s Ibiza, there’s not enough words for this freakin’ place. You can try to explain it to somebody, but you’re never gonna get the point across, until they see it and they go “Oh, I get it.” When I was a kid, we were in New York. Since House was more centralised, by region, it was more regional. You know, you had Chicago, you had New York House and we really, as New Yorkers, didn’t really go to Ibiza too much. There was only one or two of us from the New York scene that were consistently there. Maybe three big DJ’s that consistently worked there. So when I first went there, I was like “Ok, I heard about this place. Alright, whatever.” Then I got there and I was like “Wait, hey, woah. Wait a minute; this is not what was being advertised.” This is a whole new level of debauchery! Well Hello! You can’t explain it, you need to experience it and when you do. Even though they ‘ve said its changed and I’ve seen it change from all the years that I’ve been going there, that place is still magical. It’s magical; it’s still a magical place.”
What are your thoughts on space closing this summer?
“You know, it’s an institution, it’s sad quite honestly, but that’s life unfortunately. I’m just really happy to have gone there and been part of the history. That’s crazy, it’s something that people are gonna remember. I don’t even know how to think about it right now, cause you know you hear about the Paradise Garage closing or places like that and this is one of those places, this is one of those iconic places that you talk about to your grandkids and tell them stories. To think that I saw that, I was alive to see it and not only see it, I was allowed to participate. That’s crazy, I hadn’t thought about that, till you just asked this question. So, it’s sad, but then again, it isn’t. Because it was part of our history.”
Best Ibiza moment
“I think the best moments are probably the funny moments. Passing out on the beach. Like totally ripped out of my brain cells, passed out on the beach at Blue Marlin and not waking up till the late afternoon, straight from the club and nobody turned me over. So I laid on my left hand side, so when I got up, one side of me was completely lobster red and this side was regular. So I looked like somebody had painted me right down the right side of my body all red, it looked completely weird. I had to go to the airport that night, weird. So everybody was looking and laughing. Dude, looked like a candy stripe, like you know the candy cane. Straight up, I got candy caned. I mean it was funny, I can look back and laugh at that now and say “wow that was crazy.” I mean there’s been a lot, the party at Pipe that I played at, that was fun that was insane. I think maybe the first time I played on Ibiza might have been when El Divino was still around, so that always holds a special thing for me. The first time I played Pascha. I mean there’s so many memories there that it’s insane. I think every year we go, there’s always a new memory. I think it was last year, or the year before. The guy who drove his Porsche Carrera, his brand new Carrera into one of the canals near Talamanca. He ran the stop sign and got off-roaded and just drove it right into the side off the swamp. Dude, that was hilarious. There goes 100 grand right down the drain, literally.”
What top 3 tips would you give for first timers?
“Eating at Passion, is a wonderful place to eat. The one in Talamanca by Pascha, that’s just an amazing place to eat, very healthy food and its amazing tasting. Whoever goes to Ibiza, you gotta do Cala Bassa, that’s an amazing spot. I think you’ve gotta do Pikes, I think if you really wanna do a bit of history about Ibiza’s party scene, then you need to go to Pike’s on at least one night. It’s not very big, but the debauchery in that place. The history in those rooms, I’m telling you. Pikes, Cala Bassa and Passion.”
Out of music what do you like to do in your spare time?
“That’s a loaded question. Well, I like marksmanship, so I do a lot of that. It’s a way to blow off some steam and I like doing it, I’ve always enjoyed doing it for years. I just like being normal, I don’t like being Dennis Ferrer too much when I’m home, I just like being me. When I’m home, home is my vacation, I’m quite boring. I’m like “hey, I’m home yes, give me the remote control”. Straight up Nandos, a Corona beer and a remote.”
What 3 things can you not live without?
“Love, of course my keyboards, like just shoot me if something ever happens just get rid of it, just get it over with, if something happens to my babies. Love, Keyboards and Pork! I mean like Pork shoulder, like ham, I know it sounds crazy. Sounds insane, you know like ribs, spare rib tips from the Chinese place, Pork chops. Yeah its hereditary, I’m sorry.”
What was the best advice you have ever been given?
“Are you sure you wanna do that?” That’s the best advice I’ve ever been given, that’s exactly the best advice, “Are you sure you wanna do that?” This is the story behind that quote, I was working on of the early Sphere releases and because I used to do techno, I had to learn how to do house, in a different way. And Kerri Chandler, I used to basically live in his house, so every time he heard me working on a record, he’d come upstairs and stand by the mixing board, by my keyboard and wouldn’t say anything. If it was good he’d be like “nice”, and he’d walk away, but if there was something wrong, the first thing out of his mouth was “are you sure you wanna do that”. He wouldn’t say “Yo D, the bassline is jacked”, or the “keyboards are jacked”, or “the kick is jacked”, he’d be like “hmm, are you sure you wanna do that” and that would drive me absolutely freakin’ bonkers. I would hear that quote and tear my whole record down and I always remembered that, always to this day I remember that, and even when I’m making a record, in the back of my head, he’s behind me going “are you sure you wanna do that”. And I just did it to Nasser, I caught myself saying the same thing and passing along what he told me to Nasser Baker. When Nasser Baker was here, Nasser would be working on a record and I’d be like “are you sure you wanna do that”, and Nasser would be like “ah man”. Like his whole thing would be crushed for a minute. So that’s the best advice, basically listen to yourself, don’t think your shit don’t stink and ask yourself that question when you’re making a record, “are you sure you wanna do that”, it keeps you in check. It’s a sort of checks and balances and everybody needs that, whether you’re making records, whether you’re DJing, sometimes you need to check yourself cause nobody else will do it.”
What’s your best advice for those coming up in the industry now, what key advice could you say to help boost their careers?
“I’m gonna be different today, cause normally I’d be like “be humble”, “be nice”, but I’m gonna be a little bit opinionated today. You ever seen the Rolling Stones make a record with The Beatles? No. You didn’t get it did you? Collaborations. So what is everybody doing nowadays? If the records were hits, I’d give it to you, but they’re making crap records. Focus on yourself being an artist, that’s the best advice I could give somebody, be you! This is a highly competitive business, this ain’t let me be your best friend today. This is, this is my art, listen to my amazing record, that’s what this is. That’s what we live in. Ever saw the Rolling Stones make a record with The Beatles, you crazy, that’d never happen.”