Creating the Perfect Balance with My Digital Enemy
The UK duo has mastered the art of combining commercial success with underground prestige.
Today's electronic music space is very much a game. What seems like weekly, the blogosphere and various social media pages conduct thorough witch hunts to see which artists have "sold out," publically trying to humiliate artists through a form of social crucifixion.
Something that I have always personally respected in the industry are artists who have the ability to ride a fine line between succeeding commercially, and earning the respect of the underground. They exist, I promise!
One of the best examples of such a specimen is My Digital Enemy, the UK chart-toppers who command respect from the underground while being known to dabble in the world of pop. It's a talent many have attempted but few have mastered.
"It's actually really difficult," the duo explained. "We have a lot of tracks we finish, but we just think they might be too commercial, so they get shelved." Yet they do play their hand in pop, having being regularly asked to remix the worlds biggest artists including Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Ke$ha, Britney Spears, Usher, and even Lady Gaga.
It's a necessary selective approach producers need to take when trying to still earn gigs in respectful clubs. "We try really hard not to do the whole sell-out thing because it's important to be getting gigs at the club level," they explained. "You've got guys like Carl Cox, who can make a career through DJing, but he doesn't really have any tracks that are too big."
"The difference is that we started off as producers and then became DJs, so it's quite difficult sometimes because we might make five records and some won't even see the light of day. If we feel they are too underground, or on the other hand, too commercial, we scrap them."
This selective approach to releases works well for their repertoire in the industry. "We basically work Monday to Friday in the studio. One of us will start something, the other tweaks it, and it molds the track," they explained. "It's literally writing a load of records and then picking which ones best suit our brand."
It's clear that they like to bounce ideas off each other a few times before decisions are made. "Sometimes you think you have something really good, but once you get a second opinion you can sort of tone it down a bit and can begin to truly shape the track."
As selective as they are in the studio, the duo makes sure not to neglect their weekend lifestyle—gigging at clubs. "We play half our own stuff generally, or stuff on our labels" the two commented. "But it depends on the club and the country we're in. It's different around the world - when we're in London we know what sound people like, yet in other countries you need tons of other tracks, which are usually a bit more commercial than what we play close to home."
With selection comes variety and the ability to adapt to their crowd. "We would rather everyone have a good time than have us stick to just one style. We vary quite a bit in our sets, but not to the point that we play progressive or anything," they said.
Our conversation began to move more towards the realm of record labels, both their own, and world famous labels they've worked with. We've covered Toolroom Records before, but their particular relationship with one of the UK's most sought after electronic labels has yet to be delved into.
"We're close with Toolroom, we always do tracks for their compilations and we've recently done a couple of gigs for them too. We played them in Croatia, and with Mark in Ibiza. Miami was crazy with them too, but we didn't even play. Messy night that was," they said as they trailed off. "But their #RESET campaign is keeping it all about the music, which is a good thing really."
The two work with a dual-imprint approach, where they run two separate record labels simultaneously, while most DJs stick to one. "We started with Zulu Records as our main label, which is more mainroom house," they explained. "We decided to start Vudu Records so we could do some deeper and more techy stuff. Our track Shamen kicked it off and actually went #1 on the Tech House chart. Everyone was playing it, from Pete Tong to Tiesto." They explained that Zulu is their main label and if they make a track that's more experimental, and aren't sure if it can be a big hit, they use Vudu.
Since at the time of our conversation we were just a week into the New Year, we discussed some predictions for the next twelve months.
"It will likely be a decline of the noisy festival music and the rise of the deeper material. It's happened in England already and I think it will happen in North America as well," they said. "More festivals will go into deep house and house. For example, we played a festival in England this summer and the headliners were guys like MK, Hot Since 82, and those types of artists. We think this will happen in the US too."
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