Music Interviews

Interview: Dave Seaman

Dave SeamanIn the age of the globetrotting DJ it’s easy to forget that Dave Seaman was one of the prime movers in bringing modern electronic dance music to the wider world.

The seventh in the Renaissance Masters series bears all the hallmarks of a good Seaman compilation – steadily building breaks, kicking off into tougher house music. Recently however, Dave has become something of aweekend DJ.

But this particular weekend finds him busy with other things. “I’ve got the weekend off – it’s my wife’s birthday. It’s nice timing actually, as with the Masters album coming out it’s a bit of a calm before the storm. I have a little baby, too, so that’s why I’m only doing weekends. It’s all good though, very exciting, and we’re really lucky, although the first couple of months were tough. Now I’m loving every minute!”

The new double mix has garnered some enthusiastic reviews. “I’ve been getting a really good response, it’s one of those where you never know quite how people are gonna react to it and it seems to get increasingly more difficult to do mix CDs these days, with all the various red tapes and licensing problems, and it was a difficult one, or a challenging one shall we say, to put together.”

There are many sceptics who would see the mix album as a cash cow rather than a form of expression. Seaman explains otherwise. “For me, the art of mixing, especially when it comes to a mix CD, is a form of collage really. It’s also an art form with the technology – after all, this whole house music thing was built on technology, and with what’s available to us these days you can do so much, make a musical statement, and it’s the way you blend them, the way you present them if you like, that’s the important thing.

“I like to take great care and attention to make one flow into the next one as subtly as possible – or maybe not as subtly sometimes, to jolt people out of their ease. It’s something I really enjoy doing and obviously as a DJ it’s an art form, it’s far more than just two turntables and a mixer. When you’ve got all this technology available to you and you’re doing mix CDs that’s when you can flex your muscles and challenge yourself, and the listeners hopefully.”

“I still don’t think we’re quite strong enough for the premiership.” – Dave Seaman, Leeds Utd fan, offers a realistic perspective

When it comes to compilations Seaman is an old hand, and was indeed the second in the groundbreaking Back To Mine series in 1999. He saw the potential there and then. “Yeah, for sure. I was actually working for DMC (the Back to Mine label) at the time, I worked there from 1987-1999 doing various things. Before that I was working at Mixmag where I was the editor, and then I was at Stress Records.

“But the Back to Mine thing, I was at DMC when the idea was formulated, and it was obvious it was gonna be a series. I suppose by definition I just put my favourite records on it, so from time to time I dig it out and put it on when my mates come round – which is the whole idea I guess, if it doesn’t work in that context there’s obviously a problem! I was quietly surprised by it, and I’d love to do another one, a kind of part two.”

When it comes to his peers, Seaman clearly enjoys mutual respect with his fellow DJs. “I admire people like Anthony Pappa and James Zabiela, I think they’re amazing technical DJs, and then John Digweed, obviously, Sasha, Hernan Cattaneo, Sander Kleinenberg, Nick Warren – there are so many people out there who have obviously been plying their trade and have become very good at what they do. And so they should be after all this time! If they’ve not mastered it by now there’s serious problems, you know?! There’s lots of people I really admire in the business and look up to and pay particular attention to what they’re doing, what their output is.”

“Genres just don’t disappear, they go back underground, and we’ll still be here when they come back!” – Dave Seaman heads off dance music’s deriders

Renaissance is Dave Seaman’s natural home, and he admires their achievements thus far in dance music. “It’s always been strong since the word go, and credit to them for never letting that slip when several people have gone by the wayside. Their compilations are never thrown together, there’s always a lot of time, thought and effort that goes in, a lot of attention to detail on the music and the packaging. I admire their A&R policy also, and with the artists they choose I’m proud to be on their roster.”

Warm words indeed, and as a parallel to his DJ work with the label Seaman has his own Audio Therapy imprint to look after. “It’s been tough, as I think it has been for a lot of record labels at the moment, there’s been the big transitional period with vinyl sales through to digital sales, so we’ve been cutting our cloth accordingly, but I’m really pleased with the roster we’ve got on there, we’ve got some exciting things coming up this year and a few mix CDs coming up ourselves. Last year we started the ‘Across Borders’ series, which takes artists from a particular country, say like 10 different artists. We did Greece first and this year we’re doing Holland.”

The international outlook doesn’t stop there. Seaman doesn’t claim to have been anywhere new this year, but that’s because most countries have already been stamped on his passport. “I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Greece, Paris, Germany. Actually I was meant to be doing Serbia and that would have been a new one, but it got cancelled. There’s not many places I haven’t been to, but I’d love to do India and Hawaii sometime.”

“There’s not manyplaces I haven’t been to, but I’d love to do India and Hawaii sometime.” – Dave Seaman on the life of the international globetrotting superstar DJ

So how did his travelling take hold? “Well a lot of DJs in the early 1990s were doing a lot of gigs over here, two or three on a Friday and two or three on a Saturday and obviously financially that was very appealing, but when I was getting offered to go to certain places I was like ‘oh, sod it, sod the money, I’m just gonna take the opportunity to go and see the world’ really, and it was no grand business plan but it’s worked in my favour as I’ve been travelling for so long and gone to so many places. And once thescene did have a dip over here I’d already been everywhere and made contacts and laid foundations in different territories, so it really workedin my favour.”

All of which leads us neatly on to dance music’s current state of health. “I think it’s good. People are always gonna go out and dance, after all. It’s nice too to see there’s a lot of territories that are fresh, open and underground – Eastern Europe, South Africa and Japan to name a few. I think people who’ve got a downer on it don’t realise that it’s not just a UK phenomenon. Genres just don’t disappear, they go back underground, and we’ll still be here when they come back.”

Elsewhere Dave’s main worry is football – he’s a Leeds United fan, and in his spare time (whatever that is) he tries to catch a game or two. Concern is evident in his voice though when he says that “I still don’t think we’re quite strong enough for the premiership”. Time will tell – but he can at least bask in the knowledge that his own premier league status seems pretty much sealed for some time yet.

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Interview: Dave Seaman
Dave Seaman – Renaissance: The Masters Series Vol 7