Replicating the freedom and spontaneity of his live performances, Graeme Clark aka The Revenge produces music with flexibility and versatility, enabling his tracks to translate seamlessly from the dance floor to every day listening.
His unique style, one which began on his Commodore Amiga as a teenager and currently features a combination of synths, drum machines and outboard gear, has continued to develop while his passion for transmitting emotion and catching the ear of his audience has fueled his creative drive for decades.
Having control over that creativity has been an important mission for Graeme as he aims to maintain his artistic aesthetic through his own label Roar Groove. From the selections, to the artwork, to the delivery, the values he expects in his own music are represented through his work on the imprint. Finding a collaboration with Dirt Crew to be enabling rather than restricting of this creative spirit, the combo returns for their now annual tradition with the release of “Roar Groove meets Dirt Crew Vol. 4.” Featuring 4 tracks that travel from light and trippy to dark and dubby, the EP takes the listener across various vibes for a complete and well-rounded electronic music experience that embodies “The Revenge sound.”
Through his music, The Revenge mixes looseness and restraint, keeping the feel of his live performances alive in the studio while simultaneously focusing on how he can use less elements do to more. Balancing different aspects is vital to Graeme, as he appreciates the past while embracing the future, always making forward-thinking music while giving tribute to house music history. While happy with the current state of his sound, Graeme Clark is still striving to find new ways to improve and best transmit his emotions through a means of communication that works unlike any other. His love for the music shines through in his productions and performances, and whether as The Revenge, a part of 6th Borough Project, or the leader of Roar Groove, his signature expression continues to thrive around the scene.
Catching up with him for an exclusive 5 Mag interview and mix, we dive into his life and discover what keeps his drive alive.
Listen: The Revenge – A 5 Mag Mix #85
It’s a pleasure to meet you Graeme! What’s going on in your world that you’re excited about lately?
Nice to meet you and thanks for the invite! I’ve been visiting family out in the woods in Sweden for a few days which was lovely and chilled. Now I’m back home in Copenhagen with a fresh head and working on some new music and design projects.
What were the most important factors when it came to setting up your new “live” studio space? What is your favorite thing about it?
I made a conscious decision a few years ago to use my equipment standing up. I had been sitting down all my life at my computer and equipment and I came to the realization that it wasn’t representative of the live situation or DJ’ing. It’s really body music we’re making, and it seems to go against that idea to be strapped into a chair. It meant that when I did go out to do live performances, it wasn’t a jolt to my muscle memory; it was familiar and natural and consequently I felt less nervous. Also sitting down all day was definitely not good for my posture.
The idea of creating something that exists in the real world out of something that doesn’t is still like magic to me.
How does it relate to your live performance setup? Can you share more about what that setup is like and why you decided to start using it?
It’s basically identical. I’ve had many iterations over the years, but I’ve narrowed down my studio setup to a couple of synths and drum machines sequenced via Ableton with Push. I currently run a Moog Voyager rack and a Dave Smith Prophet 6 rack into a Roland MX1 with a Roland TR8 providing the rhythm. I have a Moogerfooger MF-104M for delays and Keyfax Phatboy as a midi controller for filters. I play live with my friend Paul who helps with some parts, and to be honest, it’s more than enough equipment for what we need to do. I would actually rather have less on stage, but each piece has an important part to play for now.
I’ve read a lot of comments in regard to “The Revenge sound” which your tracks are known for. Was there a point in your career when you felt you had found a sound that was definitively yourself? How did you know?
When I was making music as a teenager on my Commodore Amiga I used to drop my tracks onto cassettes between other people’s music on them to get honest reactions from my friends. If they perked up their ears, I would know I was on the right path. But I only really started to feel satisfied in general around 10 years ago. By that point I’d been making music for 15 years and had spent so much time in the studio that it felt natural and I was more consistently happy with the results. I would also test my stuff out in bars I was playing in at the time and give it to guys like Harri from Sub Club or Craig Smith and they would let me know if they’d played it and what the reactions were.
How did the idea behind the “Roar Groove Meets Dirt Crew” releases first get started? What is the main concept behind the series?
I did a remix for Dirt Crew a few years ago and Peter was such an easy guy to deal with that it seemed like a no-brainer when he asked about putting something out. At the time I wanted to work on some collaborations between my label and others, but I was keen to keep my aesthetic in mind when it came to artwork and presentation. Roar Groove was also becoming more album-focused at the time as I had the 6th Borough Project album in production and a new Revenge one in the pipeline. Peter was really open to ideas and had a solid distribution setup, so it was perfect timing to do something different with him. Now it’s become a yearly tradition for us.
What is the underlying message or purpose of Roar Groove? What do you most enjoy about running the label?
It’s a cliche but it’s really about artistic control of my own music. The ability to make all the decisions about releases, artwork and delivery is the most attractive aspect of having your own label.
The downside is that if it doesn’t work then there’s nobody else to blame.
Roar Groove is a labor of love for me and I’ve been thinking a lot about what the next phase should be. I’ve enjoyed exploring the more considered album format in the last few years, but it’s not really conducive to the way I work. I’m moving towards a more fluid and direct means of making music and releasing it via the label’s subscribers at the moment. I hope this will allow me more scope for experimentation and also a freshness which is hard to achieve with the traditional way of releasing music.
I love the balance in track selections of Volume 4 – how important is it to you to represent a variety of styles within the release? What are other key factors that go into the track selection?
Thanks, that’s nice to know. It’s definitely important to myself and Peter that there’s a balance of styles on each EP. It’s still all within the framework of house music, but there’s a lot of space to play around within that. I think there still has to be a cohesion in the whole package and in this case, that comes from the tracks being based around live jams initially, with some post production to refine certain things.
Are there any stories or special significances for you behind these tracks?
Peter came along to the live show I did at Panorama Bar in Berlin last summer and was encouraging about developing some of those tracks into finished works. That show was really the seed for this EP. There was a looseness that we wanted to preserve from the performance without over-engineering the tracks into something too polished. It’s like taking a photograph; you capture a moment that you can easily manipulate in Photoshop but ultimately lose something with every layer you add or subtract.
What do you most care about communicating or sharing through your music?
The most important for me is emotion. It’s rarely about communicating a message, but I think I’ve always subconsciously translated my emotions and feelings into music or art in some way. The idea of creating something that exists in the real world out of something that doesn’t is still like magic to me. It’s been a great outlet for me throughout my life and still provides a release that other forms of communication cannot.
How does your creative process change between your work as The Revenge and as a part of 6th Borough Project?
The creative process is different for 6th Borough Project mainly because it’s a collaborative one with Craig Smith. Usually we would begin with listening to some records Craig would bring over to my place, then roll a joint, then start sampling and knocking out beats. Now we work remotely with me in Copenhagen and Craig in Edinburgh, but largely the process is the same; Craig would send over some ideas, then I would do some work and send them back and repeat until we are happy. We’ve never argued or competed in the studio and that’s probably why we’ve been able to work together for 20 years.
Where do you see the future of your music, and your projects, going?
I’m trying to be more restrained in my productions and use less elements to do the same thing. I also enjoy just jamming live in the studio away from the screen to get the thing flowing, before mixing things down later. I guess being a bit more structured in some aspects, but loose in others. Creativity emerges from the limits of form, and as I get older, I realize more and more that it’s ok to have structure as a foundation – then you can play around within that frame and still have something exciting.
Can you share with us your thoughts on the mix you have made for 5 Mag?
I wanted to do something that incorporates a lot of different sounds I love within the 60 minutes. I did an initial mix but wasn’t happy with it so decided to a new one which flowed much better. Hope you dig it!
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about?
My new EP is out on Dirt Crew and it’s nice.
Roar Groove meets Dirt Crew Vol 4 is out now on Dirt Crew. And it is nice.