Canadian house duo Art Department is not shy when it comes to their disdain for what's going on with house music today. We took the opportunity to sit down with Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White before their Coachella performance to discuss where electronic music is going and how it got where it is today.
THUMP: You guys have been working together for almost five years…how's life changed since you guys started the project?
Jonny: We've been working together a lot longer than five years, Art Department has been around four, maybe four and half years. We've been working together for about nine to ten years now. It's been getting bigger and bigger since we started, but that being said the project caught pretty quickly and we've just been riding the wave.
Kenny you've been in the scene for nearly 20 years and Johnny somewhere around 15, how's dance music changed since you guys got into the scene.
Kenny: I would say it's changed from how it was before, like when I first started it was smaller parties and the music itself. House music, techno and electronic music in general has gotten a lot bigger and it's reaching more masses than it was before. It was strictly underground when I started but now there's a lot of other people listening to it, older and younger, and it's become a lot more commercial. Well maybe commercial isn't the right word, but accepted by more people than it was before.
EDM has definitely reached new levels in its popularity; have you guys seen EDM catch on to the masses like this in the past?
J: Fuck, it's like, what everyone calls EDM right now is I don't even know… it's like a genre of music and it'sdefinitely not what we do.
K: It's a lifestyle too, though.The way people are dressing and the mass amount of people that are coming out is different. Before, there was no real term for it; it was just underground dance music.
J: Now there's pop music. There was the late '90s when house was getting really big and there was a new commercial appeal with Basement Jaxx, Fats & Smalls, and there were big records. There was a backlash to what was then commercial house music, and that's even kind of the same thing that happened to disco in the '70s. People started hearing that and thinking it was bullshit music and the backlash pushed disco down into underground parties. EDM just got through the backlash, and now it's straight up the biggest music on the planet.
That being said, for us it doesn't really make a difference because we do something different, we do underground music and it stays that way. Now we have an opportunity to play at big music festivals and do our thing, but we're not changing the kind of music we play.
Speaking of festivals, how do you guys like playing festival shows compared to your traditional more intimate and underground gigs.
K: To be honest I personally prefer playing the smaller more personal events where we're more in contact and in touch with our audience as opposed to playing the one and a half or one hour sets where there are a lot of other artists that people want to see. When it's just your show and you're playing for a small club, people are there to specifically see you so the energy is different than coming to something like Coachella where there are so many different bands and artists that people are excited to see.
J: I feel the people at your stage or in your tent staring at you are still there to see you, there are so many other options that if they weren't fans they wouldn't be there. But there's definitely a real detachment from the audience when you're on a big stage 100 feet away from the front row…. you're definitely not as connected.
August Brown of the LA Times recently said: "Whenever the idea of EDM crawls off and dies this is probably the sound that's coming next." How does that make you feel? Do you see fans of EDM progressing into your sound?
J: I like that quote from the LA Times, it's nice to see people of that stature recognizing that this is possibly the next wave. It's nice having members of the industry hopeful that fans will eventually wake up or dig deeper and get more educated on the kind of music they like. I don't know if you can really draw any parallels between that EDM shit and what we do. I don't know if somebody who likes Skrillex will ever necessarily like Art Department just because we eventually get bigger.
Have you guys seen any good shows this weekend?
J: I came in yesterday so I saw Nas last night, which was amazing. He did the whole Illmatic album and then "One Mic" at the end—I think that made my whole weekend. I also saw Queens of the Stone Age and The Pixies for a bit.
K: Wow you did some shit, [laughs] those guys are sick.
J: Yeah I made an effort…
So what's next for Art Department?
K: We have an album!
J: We just finished our next full-length album and we should be releasing that in fall and we're really excited about it. The project's been a long time in the making and we haven't put out a ton of music recently, so it's a big thing for us.
And that's coming out on No.19?
J: I mean it's looking that way [laughs].
Art Department Tour Dates:
April 24 Asheville, NC @ Moogfest: No. 19 Social Experiment
April 25 Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
April 26 San Juan, PR @ One Club
May 10 London, United Kingdom @ Troupe at iCan Studios
May 16 Barcelona, Spain @ Ker: No 19. Social Experiment
May 17 Marseille, France @ DOCK DES SUDS
May 23 Boston, MA @ Bijou
May 24 East Rutherford, NJ @ EDC New York
May 30 Buenos Aires, Argentina @ Timewarp
May 31 Lima, Peru @ Superclub
June 6 Moscow, Russia @ Trokya: No. 19
June 7 Kiev, Ukraine @ Ostrov Festival
June 8 Manchester, United Kingdom @ Parklife
June 9 Ibiza, Spain @ DC10: Circoloco
June 14 Barcelona, Spain @ SONAR: No. 19 Social Experiment
June 16 Ibiza, Spain @ DC10: Circoloco
June 20 Paris, France @ Festival The Tribes
June 21 Los Angeles, CA @ Exchange: No. 19 Social Experiment
June 28 Rothbury, MI @ Electric Forest
June 29 Toronto, Canada @ Digital Dreams: No. 19 Social Experiment