ALEX Arnout over the years has exulted us with his excellent Dogmatik label and continues to push boundaries alongside the likes of DC10 stalwart Clive Henry, Ibiza veteran Clara Da Costa and a myriad of like minded taste makers.
We had the opportunity to speak to him ahead of his back to back set with Clive Henry at The Cause & Infinity presents Mind & Calm Zone Charity Party in London earlier this month to find out why raising awareness and the issues surrounding mental health in dance music must be kept on the agenda.
You can also listen to a mix Alex has given us for The Night Bazaar Sessions below.
You are playing at The Cause tonight alongside Clive Henry and Saytek to raise money for mental health charities Mind and The CALMzone. Can you tell us a bit more about the event and how you got involved?
The gig was brought to me by a good friend of mine, Clive Henry, who I’m playing back to back with. It’s always great to get involved in events like this when I can. You’ve got DJs, producers and other industry players making real efforts to continue raising awareness for the issues that can affect all of us, and it’s positive to see that more people are getting creative and pulling together to put on these charity gigs. It’s important to see us talking about it, but it’s equally important to just get together as a community and have a dance…that’s what it’s all about after all.
Mental health is such an important topic and has been overlooked for too long. Why is it so important to keep the conversation going?
Clubbing culture has been going for thirty years, but only in the last few years have we really seen mental health becoming a big talking point within it. I’ve had friends of mine take their own lives, and it’s a silent killer. You’re out with them one week, it seems nothing is wrong and the next they’re gone. You have no clue, and then you get the phone call. People hide it so well, and I think that’s because we’ve been conditioned to hide depression, which can be more pronounced in the scene we’re in because pressure is there to have a good time.
The thing is, club culture certainly isn’t going anywhere and neither is the need to better understand and improve our emotional wellbeing. We need to be more open with each other and look for the signs. This is something that affects all ages, so we need to see that the same messages of support and help are there for anyone who needs it at any point in their lives.
You played for a party called Remember for a number of years and we hear it will be brought back soon. Can you share any more detail on this?
It’s basically the same message but it was set up by James Harley. He brought a group of friends together, he had DJs, artists and vintage clothes sellers. It was a mini festival in itself, and we put on parties in clubs around London and festivals like Secret Garden Party. This was closer to home for us, we’d all lost a close friend through mental illness, so it directly affected all of us. It drove us to get that message out there when no one at the time was addressing the topic. It’s been dormant for a couple of years, but we’ve been talking about bringing it all back recently because these were great parties.
This week I’ve got things rolling for an event in August with Peter Barnard – he’s the founder of Slow Fire London which caters for Grow in Hackney Wick. It’s a bar, restaurant and creative space, and my studio is above there so we’ve decided to throw an event. More details coming soon.
You are also involved in other charity work through music, can you tell us more about it?
Yeah I also play for charities like Groove School which run by Richie Littler. He brings music, arts and technology to youths and adults that are socially excluded. In my experience people need a focus to grow, so people like Richie and James will always get my help.
I’ve heard you are starting up a new label called Modern Explorer. Tell me more!
Yes! I’m really excited about this one. I’m going to be running this with my good friend Terence Terry, of La Vie En Rose label fame. I’m still involved in my imprints Dogmatik and DMK – both labels are firing on all cylinders with a great stable of artists. I just wanted an outlet for the hundreds of tracks my friends and I have stuck on hard drives, as well as using it as an excuse for getting in the studio together and doing a few collaborations. So I asked Terry to get involved as we were having the same kind of conversations about the evolution of electronic music and where it was going. There’s been an explosion of great producers and sounds over the last 2-3 years, so we wanted to explore that as well as showcasing our own evolutions in music.
I’m really excited to learn more about your collaboration with the lovely Alex Jann as Surface Level Intelligence. I’ve heard this is a purely modular project?
Yes! Lots to be excited about. Alex and I have been great friends for years, we both have our own studios and are both engineers, so it’s always nice to jam with someone that can teach you something. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years but recently we started to gel on a sound we were both happy with. We have a couple of EPs already which I’ll release through Modern Explorer.
You have a great working relationship with Ibiza queen, Clara Da Costa and her Jack’s House label. How did you guys hook up and what else do you have on the horizon together?
Another great friend, probably one of my oldest. We were thrown together in the studio around ’98. I was fresh out of sound engineering school and Clara was just getting into production, so we were both newbies. The friendship has lasted to this day. Clara was and is a great supporter of Dogmatik Records, she always pushes our content, out of genuine love for the music on her award-winning radio show from the island. So when she started Jack’s House, I was only too happy to work with her. I’ve already had two EPs out with Clara, with a third coming, Sync Jam EP, over the summer.
What other music should we be looking out for from you? Your ‘Afrofuturism’ EP on Cassy’s Kwench is superb!
I’ve wanted to work with Cassy like for ever, so to be asked to release on her label Kwench Records was an honour! Would still love a cheeky vocal from her for my album though. I have releases on La Vie En Rose, Freaking 303, Jack’s House, Dogmatik Records, OutTheBox and loads of new content for Modern Explorer.
Alex Arnout’s Afrofuturism EP is out now on Kwench, CLICK HERE to grab a copy.