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:: Spotlight :: Simon Dunmore – House Is Where The Heart Is

By: Tim McNamara

As credit crunches, economic crises and rollercoaster stock market fluctuations dominate world headlines, people are looking for an escape. In times of uncertainty, stress or hardship, music perhaps more than anything else soothes the soul and provides a release from the perils of day-to-day life. Unfortunately the music industry – and club land in particular – has not been immune from current conditions and has taken a few – at time major - hits in recent months. It’s reassuring, however, to see that one label and event brand – Defected - is bucking the trend and only getting stronger.

The London-based House label has enjoyed a hugely-successful 2008. As competitors fall by the wayside, move to digital-only releases or shut up shop altogether, Defected has evolved into a truly global House music brand, successfully transcending House genres without bandwagon-jumping or compromising its commitment to forward-facing soul and disco-inspired House. ‘Credibility’ is a word now synonymous with the label and, throughout it all, standing tall, has been its chief Simon Dunmore.

The one time A&R man at AM:PM now presides over a veritable powerhouse brand approaching its tenth anniversary in 2009. As he explains from Defected HQ in London, this year has been all about pushing the boundaries in terms of both releases and events, a step that has further cemented Defected’s reputation as one of few truly international flag bearers for House music.

He said, ‘I think we more than most labels have a real definite strategy of working things across the globe.The house music community is globally a really strong community; people interact with eachother so if you do good work anywhere then it’s a good springboard for you to go to another territory. It’s just not about focusing on the UK or Europe which are really easy targets for us in terms of selling music. We want to tell people about what do everywhere [and] we’re constantly trying to push the boundaries and meet new people. It’s a pretty clichéd thing to say but if you look at our activities and our touring I think you can see that it’s a reality for us.’

Defected In The House events now wing their way around the globe and 2008 has seen the Defected pack out clubs in several new territories for the first time. From tried and tested parties and residencies at Ministry Of Sound in London and Pacha in Ibiza to dates and tours in India, Brazil, across Europe, Japan, Egypt, Indonesia and even South Africa, Defected has actively sought out local DJ-producers in new territories, signed their singles and then invited them to contribute mixes to locally-released compilations, all spawning new opportunities for Defected In The House events.

‘Defected In The House: Goa ’09’ is the latest success story; the three CD compilation reflects the current flavours of House on the sub-continent and is mixed by Dunmore, ATFC and India’s own Pearl. ‘On my travels I get to meet people and get presented with new opportunities,’ Dunmore said of Defected’s recent tour to India with headliners Copyright. ‘India and particularly Goa has an association or reputation for being a little bit more trancey but actually the House scene in India is pretty vibrant.’

Defected will further broaden their Indian reach through hosting their own stage at the upcoming Sunburn Festival in Goa. The three-day event will match local Indian DJ-Producers with a raft of internationals including The Shapeshifters, ATFC and percussionist Shovell. Dunmore said, ‘There’s definitely a scene there and it’s no secret that India is a very fast-growing and emerging market so to get in there really early is key for us. It’s not a case of us going ‘here we are, this is what we do’; it’s a case of working with local talent and local people as well.’

This strategy holds true too of Australia, with the imminent release of ‘Alumbra Present Defected In The House’, a three CD compilation mixed by Dunmore, Melbourne emerging DJ-Producer Wei-Shen (of Those Usual Suspects)and Alumbra owner Simon Digby. Its release follows the first ‘Alumbra In The House’ - mixed by UK duo Copyright and DJ Jorge - released earlier this year and, as Dunmore explains, signals an increasingly close relationship with Australia, further evident through Defected’s four date tour of Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast and Melbourne kicking off this Friday and which he is headlining.

Dunmore added, ‘Sometimes you can sit there and you can wait for things to happen. Whilst I think that our brand has merit in most places the world over, you guys have got your own thing going on down there in Australia. Sometimes it’s really hard to expect people to see the same vision as you do. [And] things weren’t really happening as fast as I’d like and the only way to combat something like that is to get off your arse and do something yourself. We’ve got music that we’ve got the rights to down there and we obviously know how to put a record out, release and market it – albeit from a bit of a distance - so we thought we’d put our own release out locally and see how it went. We were pretty happy with the result so we’re going to give it another go.’

It has been these locally-released compilations that are adding to Defected’s global appeal. Defected and its many off-shoots including Strictly Rhythm, Code Red, Sub Urban, ITH, Bargrooves and 4th Floor have pursued an adventurous and at times risky release schedule this year but one that has, by all accounts, paid off handsomely.
Seamus Haji’s ‘Big Love Sessions’, Andy Cato’s ‘Café Mambo’ and, most recently, the sixth installment of ‘Mezzanine De L’Alcazar’ have all embraced sounds not typically associated with Defected’s bread and butter House releases.

Far from turning purists away, however, these releases have offered music lovers a crash course in where a lot of today’s best find their inspiration. Defected’s famous ‘In The House’ series is testament to this. Critically acclaimed efforts released this year by Gilles Peterson, The Shapeshifters and Charles Webster featured - in addition to the freshest club tracks doing the rounds – tracks by the likes of Al Green, Tears For Fears, Black Sabbath, Earth Wind & Fire, The Cranberries, Kate Bush, Angela Bofill and many more, opening up Defected’s appeal to a whole new demographic.

Preparing to toast ten years at the top of the House heap in 2009, Dunmore assures us the best is yet to come. He said, ‘We are rightly proud of the fact that, with the music industry having the time that it’s had, for us to navigate through that and be ten years old is quite an achievement. We’re going to get some releases together and do some tours around the fact that we’ve been going for a decade and I think that gives us a really good opportunity to highlight what we’ve achieved. In the heat of things sometimes it’s really hard to press pause and look back at what you’ve done; it’s always about pushing for the future and not really resting on your laurels. Ten years gives you the opportunity to do that and we’re going to enjoy it; I’m looking forward to it.’

So are we.

Catch Simon Dunmore and Defected as they wing their way around Australia this week.

Friday, October 31 – Defected In The House @ Vegasmode, Perth
Saturday, November 1 – Defected In The House @ Favela, Sydney
Sunday, November 2 – Defected In The House @ Bedroom, Gold Coast (W/ Wei-Shen)
Monday, November 3 – Defected In The House @ Alumbra, Melbourne (W/ Wei-Shen)