Rising Dutch house duo Detroit Swindle — Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets — have forged their fair share of unforgettable productions and remixes since emerging out of Amsterdam only a few years ago. But getting soul singer extraordinaire Mayer Hawthorne to lend his golden voice to “64 Ways” on their recently released debut album, Boxed Out, could be their crowning achievement to date. With Hawthorne, an Ann Arbor, Michigan native known as DJ Haircut in the Detroit club scene, publicly espousing his love of house music while doing press for his 2013 album Where Does This Door Go, the stars indeed aligned for this incredible musical union. In this exclusive meeting of the minds, Detroit Swindle and Mayer Hawthorne trade questions with each other about their collaboration, the Motor City and why not having a formula is the key to success. Detroit is in the house!
Detroit Swindle’s Boxed Out is out now on Dirt Crew Recordings.
Mayer Hawthorne Interviews Detroit Swindle
Being from Detroit, I must admit I was skeptical when I first heard your name. Have you guys ever been to Detroit? And, if so, what was your impression?
Maarten: Yes, we have been there. We’ve played at Grasshopper twice. Last January we got some proper Detroit loving: the temperature outside was insane, something like minus 30. The city looked even rougher with that weather. We really wanna go back to Detroit for DEMF though, that’s probably gonna be amazing.
What was the first Detroit/Chicago house record you heard that made you say, “Yeah, I want to do this”?
Lars: That’s gotta be Paperclip People. When I heard (and bought) that vinyl and played “Throw” over and over again, I was sold.
You guys have released a lot of tracks but only now decided to release an album. Is the album still important as a format in 2014?
Maarten: Yes we have, and yes it is. Electronic music, or more specifically house music, is really a singles market. Put a few tracks that work well together on a slice of vinyl and you’ve got an EP. The whole reason why we wanted to do an album was to see if we could push ourselves into new territories and to see if we could produce a bundle of songs that present a coherent story that’s bigger than just releasing a few singles. Furthermore, an album attracts more attention, ’cause you’re saying, “Hey listen, we’ve created a large musical package that represents us and what we believe in musically.” So there’s more to win, and I guess also more to loose.
“Last January we got some proper Detroit loving: the temperature outside was insane, something like minus 30. The city looked even rougher with that weather.”
When you DJ together as a duo, how does that work? Who does what?
Lars: I primarily touch a lot of buttons. [Laughs] We play one on, one off. So each set is quite intense because you’re always trying to figure out what works best after the other guy’s move. It works best for us, because in this way we decide on the direction together, rather than giving one of us 15 or 20 minutes and switch. It also keeps both of us focused on the dance floor and that’s how we like it.
What’s your favorite pancake spot in Amsterdam?
Maarten: My place on Sunday morning used to be great. I’d always do pancake breakfasts on Sunday as a result of a habit I picked up when I lived in Costa Rica. Nowadays, I spend most of my Sunday mornings either still playing music or sleeping. There’s a cool boat across ‘het IJ’ in Amsterdam Noord which is called the Pancake Boat. That’s a great place to enjoy a bacon and syrup pancake, floating around Amsterdam.
Detroit Swindle Interviews Mayer Hawthorne
You’re a busy guy these days with all your tours, especially considering the fact you started this just for fun. What was the moment for you when you realized it had become more than that?
Mayer Hawthorne: Fun is still the most important aspect of it! There’s been so many memorable moments but a big one was headlining at First Avenue in Minneapolis where Prince shot all the club scenes from Purple Rain.
If we take a look at your presentation, your videos seem to have quite some focus on cute girls. Is Mayer Hawthorne a real ladies man, or is it just a front for someone who’s actually quite shy?
Beautiful women are definitely my inspiration. It’s what makes the whole world go ’round. I think anyone who thinks they know anything about women is an idiot.
“The formula is not having a formula. I didn’t have a plan when I started recording my latest album. I just knew it had to be different from my last one. The next music will be different again.”
If we may say so ourselves, the Mayer Hawthorne/Detroit Swindle collaboration ended up a great track. So since you’re a big Detroit and Chicago house fan, are there any plans for more work in this genre?
Definitely! My new group Jaded Incorporated with producer 14KT is heavily influenced by Detroit and Chicago ghetto-house music.
Your latest album really shows a lot of different influences and it’s quite different from your earlier work. Was that a planned effort, or are you just going with the flow? What can we expect next from you?
The formula is not having a formula. I didn’t have a plan when I started recording my latest album. I just knew it had to be different from my last one. The next music will be different again. I have to keep growing and evolving and trying new things.
Which 5 tracks are currently on repeat on your phone?
Gabriel Garzon-Montano – “6 8”
Todd Terje – “Swing Star Part 2”
Carly Simon – “Why”
Betty Ford Boys – “Till The Wheels Fall Off”
The Ohio Players – “Pride & Vanity”