Ever since his debut album The World as I See It came out in 2006, Dennis Ferrer’s name has been synonymous with sounds that are innovative, fresh and borderline risky, reaching success via a slow burn. His music has Tech and Deep House lovers grooving to the same beat, which is no easy feat in today’s uber-divisive House genre. In November of this year his song “Hey Hey” was officially released on his own label Objektivity, serving as a teaser for his upcoming album The More Things Change.
You’re known for breaking new ground with your style, and turned a lot of people on to a unique sound which a few years ago many purists probably wouldn’t have listened to!
You’ve got to evolve. Your crowd is young and there’s a new influx of kids coming in. You’ve got to kind of go with what’s happening – otherwise you fall the way of the dinosaur. You get old and you stay wishing you had those previous days back. Keep it moving – that’s my motto. There are future anthems to be made.
Given that there is no longer radio airplay for our genre and they’re still too young to get into clubs, how do you think we can get the youth exposed to House?
The younger generation is exposed to House, it’s just that most people think it’s not the House they want them to be exposed to. Hence the reason why I say you kind of have to walk the middle and show them. These kids just don’t want to hear sleepy shit. I mean c’mon – when you were 18, did you want to hear your father’s music? No – you wanted to hear some jumpoff! Three reasons you go to the club: get laid, get drunk and hang out with your friends! It’s really a basic thing when you’re that young. So how do I keep that crowd happy and how do I keep my older crowd happy?
That’s a hard line to walk.
Regardless if it’s hard or not, the fact is it must be done, or you don’t work. What are kids into and how do you bring where you come from into that without sacrificing too much of yourself? That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Most people, they’re still stuck on Gospel House. I mean that was relevant in the ’90s, but try and get some 18-year old kid to listen to it now!
Do you find the younger kids are more open?
It’s all in presentation. You give somebody a little something of what they want and also introduce something new to them. You just don’t go in there and say, “Okay this is what I’m playing whether you like it or not, and screw you!” That’s an elitist attitude. That’s cool if you want to be a purist and play to a hundred people and think you’re cool. But if you want to reach the masses and maintain some respectability, you’ve got to walk that fine line.
I was curious about your take on mix CDs, as I was looking at your Discogs page I noticed that you have only one DJ mix amidst all the hundreds of productions you’ve done!
There are a few actually but I’m not big on the CD kind of thing. I’m a party kind of guy. My thing is I invite everybody to come on down, have a couple of drinks and have fun. You can’t really translate a party atmosphere to a CD. It’s never the same! I live to see everybody losing their minds, drunk as skunks and screaming, “One more tune!” and no one wants to go home! I live for that.
Let’s talk about your latest song “Hey Hey” which I’m sure every DJ has in their book by now. Was that based on a personal experience?
I was just thinking about when you used to hang out with your friends back in the day and some guy would call on some girl, and most of the time she wouldn’t give him the time of day. But on occasion you get that one shot where somebody would pay you some mind. Then a couple of years later you go, “Damn I hate this bitch!” or “Screw this fucking guy!” [laughs] That’s where that record comes from. We’ve all been at a certain point where you sit there and regret what you’ve done. “And I heard you say, I knew I should have walked away…”
I love the singer – good choice! I understand you had a hard time finding a singer, you were being very particular about it?
Yeah, I had to be. Because at this moment in time you just can’t get a Gospel singer to do something, there are just too many of them. It’s been a disaster for our business lately. No creativity – just the same old singers and really lame songwriting. I’m sorry to say that, but that’s the truth and that’s why they look at our genre as a joke.
I know you definitely like to push boundaries a lot. Are there ever moments where you say, “Ooh… I’m not sure about that.”
Hell yeah! I think all my big records have been, “Ooh…” [laughs] “Cure and the Cause” was one major one, I thought I went too far with that. “Touched the Sky” was the same way. I thought people were never going to go for it.
What is your take on this year’s DJ Mag Top 100 DJs list, with not one House DJ listed? There’s a bit of an uproar amongst our community.
It’s a popularity contest! You haven’t been judged by your peers, so why is everybody taking it so seriously? Your peers didn’t vote for you – it’s an Average Joe poll! It’s so an average consumer can look at it and say, “Wow, Tiesto’s #1!” Why? As a DJ who plays to 500 people, do you expect to be up there? No, because it’s not being voted on the merits of your technicality or your selections. When you’ve got 15,000 people showing up at your gig, that’s a lot of votes!
We’re not owed anything. You’re only as good as your last damn record and the last damn height of a genre. When soulful House was on the radio nonstop in the early ’90s, well… guess what? We were up there! Look back at DJ Mag in the ’90s. Well, it’s not like that now because it’s not a popular genre. We have a small niche in dance music.
So get off your ass and do something about it! There’s a way to do things with a respect to where you came from, and it’s not selling out. You gotta have an open mind! If you’re really that concerned about our industry and our genre, then you should embrace the future.