Since joining forces as Art Department in 2009, veteran Toronto producers and DJs Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White have emerged as a true double threat. From enthralling fans with their trippy blend of deeper house and techno in marathon DJ sets across the globe to exploring more experimental fare on releases like 2011’s The Drawing Board, after three years Art Department is set to release their 14-track follow-up Natural Selection Nov. 18 on White’s No. 19 Music imprint. Natural Selection is available for pre-order now here.
At this point in their career, White says the duo is in a strange place where the music they play live is not reflective of the music they create.
“Aside from our first year, when we were touring and playing all our own music because it was all dance music, I don’t think too much about trying to work our music into our sets,” he says. “We play what the moment is asking for. You’re going to lose something when you’re forcing your own record into a set and it doesn’t necessarily fit.”
Billboard caught up with White in Barcelona to discuss the duo’s creative process on their sophomore album, and what inspired the conceptual departure from their beloved debut.
Billboard: Where did you write and record Natural Selection?
Jonny White: Late last year, we went to this space underneath this club called the Hoxton in Toronto and set up a studio in there for a month and a half so we could get back to that same vibe and find some of the inspiration we had for the first album. There’d be shows going on above us while we were working. It was kind of a hipster club, so they’d book acts from all over the place. One night it would be Matthew Dear, the next Pete Hook, so we’d be downstairs listening to New Order stuff like “Blue Monday,” you know? It was pretty cool.
Describe your creative process, and how did it differ from your first album?
The process for this album was a little bit different from the first one with regard to how we actually came up with the final product. In the beginning [on The Drawing Board], the process was more of an assembly line where Kenny would write vocals and a melody, with a synth or bass line to go along with that. He would ship off what he’d written to me, and I’d kind of turn it into a record by adding drums and doing the arrangement.
Even though we had decided to actually sit there in the studio and produce together side by side [on Natural Selection], once we started writing after the first two days we kind of automatically fell back into how we work — which is on our own and at our own pace. So Kenny was five blocks away and I was at my home studio that we rented, and we ended up writing a ton of music individually. We’d send it back and forth to each other and get each other’s opinion, but the writing was divided on this album. It’s more of a pace thing for me. … I prefer to write on my own and at my own pace; it works better for me.
How do you think Natural Selection reflects how you’ve changed since The Drawing Board?
It sounds a lot more mature because of the fact that there are no dance records on this album. It always gives a record a more mature sound when everything’s kind of slower and it’s more about what you can fit in the space you have to work with, rather than what you can fit within a four to the floor box. It’s naturally going to be more mature because four years have passed since we wrote the album, and we both matured musically and in our relationship with each other and to this music.
How did the collaboration with Seth Troxler on “Cruel Intentions” come together?
It was something we wanted to do to play homage to first album. Seth was a big part of the start of the project by being on the first single “Without You/Vampire Nightclub.” That collaboration was pretty exciting at that time and helped get the project off the ground. When we were writing the new album, we knew we wanted him to be a part of something. We sent him some bits, and it took a couple months. We didn’t hear anything because we were both busy on tour. Then one morning, I just got an email from him with this vocal he had laid down. It was a really awkward time of night, like first thing in the morning, so I don’t know what had been going on or had inspired it, but the lyrics are amazing. The whole thing is hilarious. It comes about really naturally. Anyone that we collaborate with is always a friend, it’s not like managers putting something together for us. It’s just us working with our crew.
You just wrapped up another season in Ibiza. Any good stories from the summer?
We actually did a cameo in the remake of Point Break. It was such madness the way this whole thing came together. We literally went from Circoloco to a private jet into Italy to wardrobe, and then onto set for 15 hours, then to an afterparty, then back on a private jet to a festival, and then back to Ibiza. That was definitely one of the crazier little stretches this summer. It’s not like we’re trying to be movie stars or anything, but it was a really funny, silly thing to do. It was cool to get involved with that. Edgar Ramirez, who’s actually playing the Patrick Swayze part Bodhi, ended up becoming a really close friend. It’s looking like some of the music from the album may end up in the movie now too.