Dam Swindle, aka Dutch duo Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets, first broke onto the electronic music scene in 2011 with killer tracks such as The Wrap Around and The Break Up, setting in motion a career that has seen them blend house, disco, soul and techno in their own inimitable fashion.
Formerly known as Detroit Swindle, the pair have also delivered an output for artists such as Nebraska, Orlando Voorn, Kassian, Demuir, Makèz, Max Graef, Adryiano, Pépé Bradock, Matthew Herbert and others via their Heist Recordings imprint, which was founded in 2013 and continues to provide a platform for both new and established artists.
Their latest release is the Keep On Swindling Pt. 1 EP, released on 10 June (click here to purchase), while a remix EP is due to follow shortly.
909originals caught up with them.
Hi Lars and Maarten. Tell us about your latest release, the Keep On Swindling Pt. 1 EP?
This is gonna be a special one for us. It’s the first release in a long time and it’s also the first of a series of three releases to celebrate 10 years of Dam Swindle. For this series, we’re revisiting some of our biggest tracks from the past with remixes or new versions from ourselves, and we’re also releasing new original material.
On this first one, we’ve got two new tracks that have some serious club energy. We’ve also added a new mix of 64 Ways and a really lovely live rework by rising UK jazz star Emma-Jean Thackray of our track The Break Up.
How do you think your sound has evolved since your early releases like the Wrap Around EP and Guess What EP?
The interesting thing is that even though we were really new to producing at that time, quite a few of these releases have something in them that I still really like. The Wrap Around EP has a kind of bluntness in it that makes it so special, even though this was not intentional. It just happened. That’s also what I like about these old tracks.
Perhaps our production skills were not as polished as they are now – we’re still improving every day, by the way – but these tracks have real character. We’re not too focused on making something that sounds like something we’ve already done, but sometimes it happens that a certain element of a new track resembles something of an old track.
Style-wise, I think what has happened is that we’ve broadened our sound.Our music has become varied in tempo, style and occasion, which I really like. There are some to listen to at home, real bangers, some more introverted songs… a bit of everything!
The new EP sees you revisit one of your early breakthrough tracks – The Break Up – with a new remix. Do you regularly revisit your back catalogue, for inspiration or otherwise?
We’ve never done that before. In part because it didn’t feel relevant or necessary before, but now that we’re looking back at 10 years of releasing music, we definitely see some songs that we want to revamp, put out on vinyl for the first time or finally release ourselves after being unavailable for a long time.
You put out a good few releases on Heist during the pandemic. Did this help to keep you busy during lockdown, and was that a productive time for you?
[Maarten] Keeping busy was never an issue for me, with three kids and being married to a nurse. In fact, it has been a super hectic time, but what it did do was take away the huge amount of time and fatigue that comes from touring.
This has definitely made it possible to focus a bit more on the label and planning ahead. Taking control of the label management a bit more also helped us streamline our vision of where we want to go with the label. There’s a lot of great music coming this year that we’re super happy to share.
As well as good tunes, Heist has been one of the most visually appealing labels of the past few years, through your work with Bas Koopmans. Was that always on your agenda, to create an artistic ‘aesthetic’ around the label?
For sure. Creating a solid identity in terms of look and feel is almost as important as the sonic identity, and Bas has really helped us visualise the aesthetic of the label. It’s clean, recognisable and with an arty nod, without trying to be too highbrow about things.
The collaborations we have had with famous photographers – such as Iwan Baan on the recent series – is also a part of our culture, where we try to build a bridge between different types of creative output.
You’ve remixed everyone from Jill Scott to Tom Misch to Hercules & Love Affair over the years. What, to you, makes a good remix?
A good remix is an interpretation of a song in such a way that it opens a new perspective on existing work. This is also always our criterion – does this new perspective exist, and can we make it a memorable one?
You’ve recently had the chance to remix a number of Salsoul Records tracks – with more no doubt on the way. That must have been exciting, I would say that label was a big influence on you?
It was. The amount of amazing disco that has come from Salsoul and the artists and vocalists that have released on the label is something else. This also made it one of the hardest projects to do, because the bar is so high.
This need that we have to create something memorable also has its challenges. How do you add something relevant, which is true to the original and true to ourselves, if you’ve got legends like Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles to look up to?
Tell us about your recent tie-up with a Dutch design agency on a range of record storage units. How did that come together?
The Robuust guys are really into house music and approached us to talk about how we could add something to the world of interior design, if we take DJ functionality and collecting vinyl as a starting point. We’re both really into interior design and we had an immediate click with them.
We brainstormed a lot, developed several prototypes and have now created three objects – the record cube01, the record frame01 and the booth01. The nice thing here is that functionality and design really come together in each without any compromise.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
We’ve got two releases that we’re finishing at the moment for the Keep on Swindling series and are working on so many different projects – from a Dam Swindle samplepack to an AI listening experience to a really special ADE event. There’s loads coming this year!
Thanks to Lars and Maarten for talking to us. Dam Swindle’s Keep On Swindling Pt. 1 EP is out now, for more information click here.