Exclusive Interview: Delano Smith

2010 has already been quite a year for Delano Smith. With regular DJ appearances at some of the finest clubs in the world, the growing strength of his own label, Mixmode, and well received remixes on Sushitech and Kolour, Delano continues to cement his place as one of the finest House DJs and producers around. As he embarks on the start of a six date European tour, The Secret Agency caught up with the main man himself for an exclusive chat...

Starting off with secretsundaze NYE party with Wbeeza, you have played at a number of well respected clubs around the world in 2010, such as Robert Johnson, Watergate, Zukunft, Trouw. How do you think this year been in terms of touring and can you pinpoint any highlights?

Since joining the Secret Agency, I've had the privilege and honor of performing at clubs I can only dream of. I've definitely learned a lot about myself musically. It's been a great year, the more I'm in Europe, the more I learn and absorb. Trouw, Sub-club and Zukunft were definitely tops in terms of turn out and crowd response.  Would like to get back to Panorama though.

Delano Smith Deep House Mix October 2010 by mixmodedetroit 

Fabric were one of the first promoters to bring you over to Europe when you started touring again. Any particular club / promoter / crowds that you always would like to go back and play for and why is that the case? 

I would definitely like to get back to Sub Club, Zukunft and Trouw - very enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowds there.  Always have fun at Fabric and Panorama Bar...those are DJ dream gigs.  You can really get deep and the crowd goes right with you. The sound systems are great also.  I have close friends in Berlin and London, so I guess that's why I'm particularly fond of those cities

Photo courtesy of Ian Ramsey (Soonnight.com)
When you were out of the game you must have had music on your mind, were you constantly composing tracks in your head? 
Not really, when I was out of the game, I was out! I'd been djing since I was a kid and since I wasn’t producing after my hiatus, I didn’t see how I could go further in the game. The DJ game had become overcrowded in Detroit, everybody was a frickin' DJ, after I caught the bug again in the early 90's it still took me a while to shape my DJ sets to what they are today.

The D25 series of events has bought back together many of the Detroit greats, do you feel that large events like this and DEMF help to raise the profile of talented guys and has shown more Detroit unity?

I think it’s cool to have the Detroit cats performing under one roof; a good display of Unity from the guys. As for the DEMF, it has grown into a more international event now, only a few Detroit DJs have had the honor of performing there, so I don’t think it's an event that showcases "Detroit Unity"

Is there a DJ that you set as role model when you play? Who do you respect the most as a DJ? 

That is a tough question, I think I'm a little old to have a role model, but if you were to ask me whom I'd admire and respect I would have to say Derrick May, Carl Craig, Osunlade, Ricardo Villalobos, Chez Damier, Mike Huckey and Ritchie Hawtin.

Delano Smith @ Louche, Leeds. Photo courtesy of Ian Ramsey (Soonnight.com)
Releases from you often have a warm vibe, how have your influences changed over the years and what is your inspiration to these tracks? 

I do a lot of producing at home and I think my tracks definitely reflect my mood. After a tour, I think my tracks are more pumping, probably because I'm still amped from the tour.  I know my sound is somewhat melancholy...don’t know why that is.  I try not to sound too "electronic" and like a lot of other stuff that's out there.  Good thing my friends over at Third-Ear, Kolour,/Undertones and Sushitech are feeling me.

Tell us about some of the unsung heroes of Detroit music…we know Ken Collier was a big influence on many of the early Detroit artists, anyone else you care to mention?

When I was a kid there was Ken Collier and a few others in the late 70's early 80's.  A sound Company in Detroit called "Duncan Sound" had a stable of notables: Dale Willis (Jeff Mills mentor), Stacy Hale and Felton Howard.  Ken's Brother Greg was also good as well as Duane Bradley (RIP) and Elton Weathers.  But Ken was king. Detroit would be a lot different if it hadn’t been for him.

Mike Huckaby said in a recent interview that many of the Detroit heads share production secrets that take their music to the next level, do you agree with this and do you have your own secrets?

I share secrets with Keith Worthy and Patrice Scott  all the time. Of course I have secrets that I share with my close friends, it's part of the camaraderie that comes with my DJ brothers. A show of support and respect.
I would like to know a little more about your very own Mixmode label, what was the reason to set up your own imprint? Has it turned out how you initially wanted?

I've always wanted to own my own business and I couldn’t get anyone to release what I wanted to release, so the label was the way to go. I don’t think people realize that a label (like any other business) is risky.  Especially if you're financing everything yourself, it's had its highs and lows, but I'm glad that things are about to finally pick up. It took me a while to really shape the sound I want and I think you guys will like what’s coming out in the future on Mix mode.

You are looking to move away from the Beatdown Moniker, what are the reasons for this?

I think me and the guys have grown apart musically-in terms of our styles and production. Don’t get me wrong, I love both Mike and Norm like brothers - and the first Third-Ear album kinda got me out there. I thank God for Eddie Fowlkes and Norm introducing me to Guy McCreery. If he hadn’t released the "Sunrise" and "Midnite" EPs for me, things would probably be a little different.  I've always been the type of person that prefers to run on his own steam. I never want to hear "well if it wasn’t for this, you wouldn’t be..."  I would rather determine my own success and failures. I don’t particularly like being part of something that I am not in complete control of and when you're with a group, you have to compromise. There are very fickle listeners out there that listen carefully to production styles and DJ sets. I'm not the same DJ I was 3-5 years ago, the music and the game has changed.

Mike Brown, Eddie Fowlkes, Norm Talley and Delano Smith
In all genres of music there has always been a trading of ideas across the Atlantic. A lot is made of the US impact on European house but what impact have the European cats have on you over in the US?

I respect and know a lot of European producers and like a lot of music that they produce.  So I would say they’ve made a big impact on me.  I still try to remain true to me and what I do in my DJ sets and production though.

Finally The Secret Agency party at Fabric in Room 3 is on this Saturday, how has your approach to gigs changed over the last 20 years and also how have the audiences?

I always look forward to performing at Fabric, This will be my first time performing there without Mike and Norm and my DJ sets have changed a bit since then. Looking forward to performing with my Secret Agency / secretsundaze brethren. Should be a great night!

Words: Giles Smith, Kojun Shimoyama and Ben Start

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