Duke Dumont, the British deep house sensation credited with ushering ’90s era club music back into the mainstream, is quickly becoming a household name thanks to his colossal hits “I Got U” featuring Jax Jones, and “Need U (100%) featuring AME.” But the softspoken DJ (real name: Adam Dyment) insists his success didn’t come overnight. Billboard sat down with Dyment during Miami Music Week to discuss his own experience as a producer trying to make ends meet, and got a few details about his forthcoming album, which is due out this fall on Astralwerks. As it turns out, fans will get to preview the LP this weekend: Dyment said his upcoming live performance at the Coachella Music Festival will be a “massive showcase” of the final work.
Billboard: There’s a lot of talk right now about the working musician, and whether that’s a viable career path for people who really have to make a living off of their art. You’ve spoken about your own struggles here and there. What was your experience like?
Duke Dumont: I think it’s very hard for people to build a career in music these days because you almost never make money off the bat. The bigshot DJs do with the crazy gigs, but that’s an exception. For the most part, it’s a struggle. Because of that, I’ve found music to be a field that’s quite full of people who come from affluent backgrounds. They can dedicate their time to pursuing music without having to go and get a regular job. As far as my experience goes, I don’t come from money. I’ve only ever taken one loan out in my life and it was when I was 17 and it was to buy a laptop. My parents didn’t quite throw me out of the house but… they were close. I took the loan out because I knew I could turn it around and, without injecting ego here, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.
Were you scared?
Yes, but it also felt make-or-break. Pushing into that next frontier where you’re actively pursuing this as your main profession takes courage. I was lucky to work with Switch, who is one-half of Major Lazer, and he was deeply influential. After I signed to his label in the UK, I dedicated myself to studying music day and night… learning production, exploring what it would sound like if I was at the wheel.
But there are thousands of young producers trying to get to exactly the place you’ve reached. What did you do differently? What set you apart?
To be honest, I think my work ethic helped me get off the ground, but I didn’t always have that. I got fired from my job when I was in my early twenties, making ringtones for a cell phone company. It was awful. I got fired because I spent too much time on my MySpace page digging through music. After I got fired I gave myself six months to try this full-time, basically wanting to see if those extra hours in the day would make a difference. That was about 10 years ago. In that time I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I’m a strong believer in ‘by any means necessary.’ That’s how I look at music. You realize that those low moments can be quite enlightening. They can turn you around. I feel like if you love something and you really want it, and I mean really want it, it doesn’t matter if you have the means because you’ll find a way.
What do you consider your big break?
It was the moment when I finally felt like maybe I wouldn’t have to go get a ‘real job.’ It was a few weeks after I had a No. 1 in the UK and I just had this second where I was like, ‘Ok, maybe this is going to work.’
What was the moment? Was it one of those first-time-you-heard-yourself-on-the-radio spooks?
Actually, that oddly didn’t freak me out, I was quite blasé about it. The first time I heard myself on the radio, I didn’t turn it up and tell all my friends, I listened to it technically, trying to hear how good it sounded on the radio, you know? I went into engineering mode.
You’re about to come out with an album. Did you have any particular fear or focus while you were recording?
I make sure that anything I create, I stand by 100 percent. I know artists say that all the time, but it’s important. I don’t touch anything I’m not captured by. Integrity and longevity go together.
I hear your performance at Coachella will be a live show that you’ve been working on it for months. Can you give us a hint about what to expect?
I’ve done live shows in the past, but for this, I went back to the drawing board and completely redid everything. And I’ve finally finished my album, so Coachella will be a massive showcase of the album.
Any artist spoilers for who will appear on the album?
Vic Mensa. He’s crazy, but it’s perfect. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with, and he was one of the first rappers I’d heard that really grasped house music. You know how I said I only work on things that capture me? He captured me.
Below is a behind-the-scenes look at Dyment and his crew conceptualizing the stage set-up for his Coachella performance.