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Club Quarantine and The Future of EDM: An Interview with Dave Dresden

by Fresh Music Freaks Staff

Over the last several months, I’ve joined thousands of other Anjuna fans in tuning into Gabriel & Dresden’s Club Quarantine live stream on Twitch three times per week. The live stream, which has sometimes consisted of sets lasting more than 13 hours, has been a light in the darkness for many who have found solace from these crazy times in the music. 

Busy as he may be preparing mixes for each new installment of Club Quarantine, Dave Dresden took the time to sit down with me via Skype to chat about Electronic Dance Music in the pandemic and post-pandemic eras. 

Getting right down to business, Dresden and I talk about the wide-spread popularity of DJ live streams, which have sprung up in the wake of the pandemic. While I am quick to credit him for pioneering the trend, he humbly dismisses this claim, but he does tell me that he has felt fortunate to have had the pleasure of helping other Anjuna artists get set up to do their own live streams at home. Humility, I quickly learn, is a defining trait of Dresden who seemingly has no idea how important he and his partner Josh Gabriel are to the scene. 

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FMF: Everyone always talks about how you are finding tracks that no one else can find. I see so many DJs salivating over all this music you’re able to find. Where do you find the music you use on Club Quarantine?

Dresden: All say that one of my super talents is my ability to pick music. It’s funny, half the time Josh sends me these tracks and then I go to buy them on Beatport and it’s like ‘sorry you’ve already bought these songs.’ I’m a really good picker too. That’s always been my talent. Even in Gabriel & Dresden, using my A&R skills to determine many things about a song. And I have an amazing collection of music spanning 30 years. I’ve been able to slowly go through all that and find the gems. I try to do that a little each week so I have more music to utilize.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same track twice on Club Quarantine.

I’m trying to add 100-200 new songs each week in order to do 25 hours of programming.

It’s really fun because I’ve actually always dreamed of playing these types of sets and having people listen. I used to practice in my house all the time and mix weird shit together. But they never were broadcasted and I didn’t get to feel the energy of what people liked and didn’t like. This is the first time I have ever been able to DJ these long types of sets and get feedback.

Do you think you’re going to miss it if and when things go back to normal?

Well, I think streaming is here to stay, to what degree remains to be seen. I’d say, if I’m making a huge amount of money streaming, it would probably be crazy for me to tour as much because it’s actually way easier for me than getting on an airplane and flying around the world and playing shows. That really tears your body apart.

And tears you apart mentally too? 

Oh yeah, it’s not good for you. Usually, it takes a few days to recover from an average touring weekend. Then again it takes a couple of days to recover from a Club Quarantine weekend too. But it’s less dangerous on the body from not traveling and having my kitchen right next to me so I can get a snack if I’m hungry.

How Many Club Quarantines have there been so far?

I think tonight will be the 50th.

For the first couple of weeks, it wasn’t just three times a week like it is now, you were doing it every day?

It was every day for the first 14 days. Josh was like, “You’ve done two weeks, I think you can take tonight off.” 

You know what was weird, after doing that streak, I felt empty not streaming.

Dave Dresden at Club Quarantine
Dave Dresden at Club Quarantine | Image Via Twitch

Your daughter Charlotte has been on a couple of Club Quarantines. Has this been a bonding experience for you as a parent to share your music with her?

Yes, I really enjoyed doing the two shows with her, but I’ve decided I don’t really want to publicize her face so much. My ex wife and I have decided that she is going to be there when I’m broadcasting, so I don’t have to feel obligated to put her on the show or not.

But she still gets to be a part of it and see her dad doing something exciting.

She actually takes a huge role in decorating the DJ booth and I think she actually kind of misses the whole broadcast thing and I’m an idiot because I didn’t download those shows. 

What I loved about it was that there was no plan. I’m like, “do you want to watch daddy DJ?” And she said “I’d love to watch daddy DJ tonight!” But I had no plan and I didn’t know how it was going to work or if she was going to freak out or how she was going to take it. But she really dug it. 

In one broadcast, she was singing the lyrics to one of our songs, the one that she really loved when we were making it and it was really sweet. That was actually the peak moment for me. I had left the booth to go get a snack and I came back and there she was dancing and singing the words to the song.

What song?

Remember

I keep thinking about the album name “Remedy” and how it seems aptly named for our current era, when we are all in need of a remedy of some sort. Has the name taken on new for you meaning in the wake of COVID and all the craziness of 2020?

I mean, “Remedy” is something that we tried to put out there beyond naming an album. We want to make people feel good and inspire people with music and positivity. We haven’t really capitalized or tried to capitalize on that just because it seems cheap. But it’s there and hopefully, people find that meaning in the songs that we intended.

Given how drastically our world has changed over the last few months, where do you see dance music heading in the future? Will clubs and festivals become a thing of the past?

Who knows? It’s a big question mark. When will it be safe to go out? I think these protests are really going to tell a story about how much going out there, even with a mask on, is safe. And I think from that we are going to learn a little bit about what we can do to mitigate the risks going forward. I personally feel, and I felt basically since quarantine started, that this isn’t going to end for live music until everybody gets the vaccine.

Do you think the “Remedy” Tour will still happen?

I think that depends on when it’s safe to go back. I would probably say no. It probably won’t be the Remedy tour, it will probably be some sort of Club Quarantine tour. But we don’t know. All the shows that were cancelled have been rebooked. But we aren’t promoting it until it seems right.

I don’t want to put promoters in a position where they are going to have to refund money again.

I’m really happy that somehow or another we’ve found a way to maintain a connection with the people who like our music. Ten years ago we couldn’t have done this shit.

Why is that? 

The idea of livestreaming wasn’t there yet, or the ability to connect your mixer to your computer. Maybe it was, I don’t know. But there weren’t all these platforms. I think there was maybe U Stream which took computer audio. But it wasn’t until Facebook and Twitch that livestreaming, I think, really became the norm. We are very lucky to have livestreaming as musicians. There are a lot of us who would be in serious trouble right now.

There are a lot of fans who would also be in serious trouble as well. So many of us are relying on this for a mental health remedy. 

Honestly, I think it’s strengthened the fan/artist relationship. There is something very personal about being in somebody’s home, that makes them feel connected to you. And the chatrooms, I never in a million years thought about how having people be able to chat while you are playing was helping to build a community. I think the chat is a huge function of streaming.

Echostage_Gabriel and Dresden
Gabriel and Dresden at Echostage

You and Josh have been around the scene for a long time. What do you miss the most about the old school dance music days and what, if anything, do you think has gotten better?

Production of music has gotten way better. I’ve been playing all classics on the weekend and sonically, they just aren’t as good as today’s music. They don’t pound as good, they don’t have the bass as good. But what I do miss about the older music is the realness of it.

All the early Trance records were made on real synthesizers with real compressors and real reverbs and real analog gear. It has a sound quality that makes it sound richer and I miss that. But you know, conversely, the sonic quality wasn’t there. I think that is a thing that today’s music has. I also think that digital distribution is just way better. The fact that we have all this music at our disposal means that everybody has a chance to be heard. And that wasn’t the case 15 years ago really.

Name a few artists who inspired you early on in your career?

Sasha and John Digweed, Pete Tong, Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto, Dave Seaman, Hybrid, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Kölsch, and Slacker.

Any newer artists?

There is just so much music right now. It’s been about 10-15 years since I have handled music in the way that I’m handling it now, like track-hunting, these are things that I used to do. I used to call up producers and say ‘yo you got any new shit?’ Now I am doing that again and I am actually opening promo emails and things that I didn’t do. 

A few years ago, the promo emails got so overwhelming that I just made a blanket decision to ignore them and only play the music that I found on Beatport. But now that I have a reason to listen to everything, I have been opening promo emails a lot more. And reaching out to producers to get new shit. That also helps make your streams better, having exclusive material.

What is your favorite Gabriel & Dresden original track?

I always feel that the answer to this question is “Beautiful Things”, which technically is a remix, but there is no original version. I consider that an original production. And there’s just no other track like it, and there has never been a track since it, and there wasn’t one before it either that was quite like it. It’s a great song. It was always poignant, anyone can relate to it. It sounds amazing, it’s got bass guitars and a nice big loud funky kick. Martians made it, it wasn’t me. I must have been a martian for that week we made it.

Some new Trance music is starting to sound like old Techno, some new Techno music is starting to sound like old Trance. Where do you see these genres headed over the next few years?

You know what, the history of Techno actually involves Trance all along the way, at least since 1991. It’s sort of like people went back to the 90’s and listened to the Techno music and were like “wow, okay.” A guy like Oliver Lieb who is now a well-known Techno producer used to make these Trance-Techno crossover tracks that were as hard as Techno and as beautiful as Trance. And a lot of these DJs have been playing these classics in their sets.

I think people want to hear melody. Even if you played 45 minutes of banging pots and pans, you want to bring it around with something that captures people’s imagination and I think that is a universal club feeling, no matter how underground. I mean, people call it Progressive House, people call it Progressive Trance, they call it Minimal Techno, they call it Melodic Techno. I call it Trance, it’s all fucking Trance, all of it!

Gabriel & Dresden at Dreamstate 2019
Gabriel and Dresden | via Rukes.com

When you and Josh start working on an album, is there a process or is it unstructured creative chaos?

Each album has been different. The first one was a different set of circumstances, which yielded a different result. And the second album was sort of a like, we had a Plan A and a Plan B, and Plan A didn’t work out so we went with Plan B, which was working with Subteal. And it developed into a whole thing that carried over into this new record even more. 

I think that she was ready and she delivered, first with her voice and then with her songs and I think that there’s a large future in us working with her again. We had been looking for the perfect voice for Gabriel & Dresden for many years and I think that Jan Burton might be that on the male vocal side. And we’ve experimented with a lot of different singers on the female side but none that we could call our own.

A lot of these singers would go out and work with a lot of different people and so Brittany (Subteal) is sort of that voice that we have been looking for all these years. She’s a little bit of goth, a little bit of androgyny, but she can also hit the high notes and sing beautifully and ethereally and I think she just keeps getting better. And I think we’re going to be working with her for a long time to come.

How does it feel to know that your music has such a deep, personal influence on the listener? 

I felt for many years that we weren’t doing that and it feels nice to be doing that again. I think that joining the Anjuna family with “Only Road” was a great step in the right direction of putting us in the spaces of people who would like our music. We worked with other labels before that didn’t quite understand what we were doing or they didn’t necessarily support our vision. And Anjunabeats supports our vision and has never questioned us once and they’ve done a great job delivering the music.

Our world is a little broken right now. What role does music play in healing the world and how can artists like yourself help unite?

I think it really depends on the artist. The music is there for people to hear, and it just depends on what the artist is saying and what the people are looking for. Music has the power to connect and unite people and I think that is what we are seeing with these streams is that people want to be connected and they want to be united right now.

There has never been a time that I haven’t competed with sports. Before I was famous, I used to DJ in local clubs in Connecticut, and whenever there was a major sporting event, like a boxing match, the club was going to be empty until the boxing match was over or you know during the Superbowl or hockey playoffs, attendance was down. 

For the first time ever there are no sports being played anywhere in the world right now, and so I think people are starving for entertainment and music is serving that and connection through the streaming world is serving that.

Is there anything else you want to say or add?

I hope that things get better for the world soon. I hope things get better.

Listen to this and all FreakShow interviews HERE

Remedy Album Cover
Click to Listen to Remedy – Out Now

*Featured Image Via EDM Identity

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