Nightwaves (Fredericton NB Canada) August 1999

I recently got in touch with a chap by the name of Andrew Duke, a Halifax based DJ and musician with over twelve years experience under his belt. It's no secret that the Maritime electronic music scene has lately been in a constant state of expansion, and Duke is a prime representative of this fresh, exciting movement. I asked him a few questions on the subjects of the local and national scene, what his predictions for the future are, and what life is like for a Maritime based DJ and artist. I found his responses very interesting, and I think you will too.

Gary Flanagan, Nightwaves: What style of music do you usually DJ?
Andrew Duke: I try to be as openminded as possible and just play what I like, what I consider 'good quality' electronic music. These days there are so many different styles of electronic music, but, though I try to listen to as many different styles as possible and keep up on things, it's impossible to try and fit everything into a DJ set, so I usually concentrate on house, tech house, techno, electro, and IDM. The live radio show I do here in Halifax on CKDU is more mixing oriented, so I'll be playing the more dance oriented things, while the syndicated show I do gets a bit more experimental, so I'll play more experimental and introspective things on there because the focus is on playing new music (with a few classics thrown in) as opposed to just mixing up new stuff in a DJ set.

NW: Is there a vibrant dance scene in Halifax?
AD: Yes, absolutely, but we shouldn't rest on our laurels. House music is very popular in Halifax, as is hip hop and drum n bass. It would be good to get more representation of more experimental forms of music, though. Techno seemed to be more popular in Halifax back in the mid nineties; though you'll hear DJs playing tech house and trance out, you don't really hear much techno these days. And there's even fewer people playing electro. I was talking to someone about this the other day, actually, how it would be good for people to be playing dub sets, for example, trying new things like that. Phil Walling does the Halifax Experimental Music Festival every year--which is growing--but we need more of this kind of thing. In some ways, house is a very 'easy', accessible type of music. I love house music, so I'm certainly not knocking it, but we have to keep moving on and not be content with what we have.

NW: Of all the Maritime cities, which one, in your opinion, has the best dance scene?
AD: I'm biased in favor of Halifax on this question, not just because I live here, but also because I spend more time here than anywhere else, so I'm most familiar with Halifax. Scenes continue to build in New Brunswick in Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, and smaller cities, too. There's a growing scene in Prince Edward Island, and here in Nova Scotia in places like Bridgewater and the Annapolis Valley and Sydney more people are getting into electronic music. I wouldn't want to say Halifax has the best scene, but it certainly seems to be growing at a faster pace than elsewhere.

NW: Some people have said that the DJ scene is now more popular than the indierock scene. Would you agree?
AD: I can't say that I agree that the DJ scene is now more popular, but I can say from experience that 'DJ culture' has grown exponentially. Back in the late eighties when I first started DJing, the DJ was sort of the person in the background that everyone forgot about. There weren't any events like 'raves' or parties until that started in the mid 90s. Sure, people danced all night at parties, but you'd be hearing disco and funk and early house, nothing like what is played at parties today. DJs are getting more and more exposure now, and gaining more prominence to the point that DJs often get marketed and promoted and publicized more than the artists themselves. DJing can certainly be an artform--look at turntablism, for example--but we can't forget that artists are recording the music the DJs are buying on record and CD to play. I'd like to see more use of live musicians in electronic music, not just relying so much on samplers and sequencing; I'd like to see more live electronic music acts performing. While there are more and more DJs out there spinning now, the number of electronic music based acts hasn't grown at the same rate, which I find frustrating. Personally, I think we should have as many electronic music based bands performing as we do indie guitar/rock based acts. Turntables are becoming more of a 'first purchase' (where before the guitar was often the first instrument purchased by/for young people), but I think we need to get people buying more keyboards, buying samplers, buying drum machines, too--we need more live electronic music. There are some acts, certainly, but we need more.

NW: Can you forsee a time when vinyl will be obsolete, even in the club community?
AD: When Canada stopped producing vinyl for major label acts and started doing almost solely CDs (back in the early 90s), many discussions came up that vinyl would eventually die out. But now, almost ten years later, people seem to agree, in the electronic music community, at least, that vinyl will continue to be pressed, but on a smaller scale than in the past.

NW: What do you think will be the next 'big thing' in the dance world? Any predictions?
AD: The press, especially in the UK and the States, tends to like to create 'next big thing's, which I don't think really help out the music scene in the long run. I don't have any predictions, but I'd like to see more use of live instrumentation in electronic music compositions. People should try to stay openminded and just see what the possibilities lead to.

NW: The eighties seem to be making a fierce comeback. Do you notice a resurgence in the popularity of eighties dance movements?
AD: Many things in life, music included, tend to revolve in cycles. So many artists of today are sampling music from the 70s and 80s in the music they're doing and have been doing in the 90s. Will artists in the 2010s and 2020s be sampling music from the 1990s? Who knows, but it certainly is a possibility. I've always been of the opinion that things like 'classic rock' and 'oldies' radio stations catered to people who wanted to be comfortable with what they already know, who didn't want to move forward into the future and were content to hear the same familiar material over and over. I'm hoping that people who play and listen to a lot of classic and older material are doing so not for these reasons (to 'relive the past'), but simply because some of that music is good and they don't want it to be forgotten. It's fine to play some classic and older material here and there, but it shouldn't be all a person plays and listens to. Personally, I try to always play a few classics and older tracks in my sets (at parties, on the radio, and on the syndicated show) as a way of saying 'this is an important piece of musical history, please don't forget about music like this.' So it's sort of education with the entertainment. And I've done sets of just old school material at parties (when I've been asked to do such a style of set), for example. But I certainly wouldn't want to just play old school exclusively. So I think it's important to remember the past and stay in touch with it, but certainly don't stay stuck in the past--keep moving forward.

To get in touch with Andrew Duke and learn more about his website, syndicated show, and music, here's how to reach him:

Andrew Duke
Cognition/In The Mix
1096 Queen St #123
Halifax NS Canada B3H 2R9

[feature written by Gary Flanagan]

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