Each week we take an artist, pull apart the threads that make them who they are and build a Spotify playlist from those influences. This week: Disclosure
“We’re music nerds,” Disclosure’s Guy Lawrence insisted earlier this year. “We wanted to learn everything about house music.” 21-year-old Guy and his 18-year-old brother Howard grew up in a house full of instruments and were encouraged to pick up and play whatever they fancied. Both their parents had been professional musicians (mum worked on cruise ships while dad had been in a touring rock band) and both boys were deeply involved with music by the time they started primary school. Guy sat behind a set of drums by the age of three, while Howard took up the bass and piano at the age of six.
As they grew up the pair developed obsessions with J Dilla, 80s soul, indie rock, fabulously sensitive singer-songwriters and Kate Bush, but by 18 Guy was one of those, um, guys you’d see with their hoods up peering over the decks at dubstep nights. “I’d see DJs like Skream and Benga, Mala, Loefah,” he says, “but none of them ever really inspired me to make music,” he said later. Then, one night, he heard a record by Joy Orbison that would change both their lives forever. Earlier this year Howard said, “When I was younger I thought dance music was shit. All of it.” But now, as Disclosure, the brothers have become one of the biggest names in dance music – their shows sell out in hours, they’re offered thousands of pounds a night to DJ and their debut album – Settle – has been one of the defining records of 2013. But how did they get to this point?
In The Beginning
According to Guy, the boy’s mum played “pop and musicals, which I hate”, in the house, while their dad was into more progressive rock like Genesis and Rush. From an early age he responded well to this “weird and complex music”, and as a small child he would play along to these “incredible” pieces. “I learned a lot of Genesis songs early on and it made me into a pretty decent drummer,” Guy insists.
Detroit Soul City
“The best pop songs are from the classic Motown era,” Guy said earlier this year, nominating Marvin Gaye, plus Stevie Wonder’s ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’ and ‘Superstition’ as two of his favourite songs ever. Former Motown star Michael Jackson (and particularly ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’), taught Guy “everything about the structure of a pop song.” From the same city came the incredibly potent sound of techno pioneers like Juan Atkins and Derrick May. “Most of the time,” Guy has said, “when I’m listening to anyone I’ll think, ‘I’d rather just be listening to Juan Atkins or Derrick May right now’, because they’re just the shit.”
The Boom, The Bap, The Boom Bap
Hip-hop formed the core of Guy’s listening for years, in particular, Detroit’s own J Dilla, Gang Starr, Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest. That sharp, snapping snare sound on Disclosure records? That’s a direct result of his obsession. “Funnily enough, that’s all my brother listens to now,” Guy has said, “which is odd, as he couldn’t stand it at the time.” As young teenagers the boys both liked the Beach Boys and Beyonce, while Howard developed a powerful thirst for 70s and 80s soul and funk, Peter Gabriel and the debut album by Seal. “I couldn’t understand it at the time,” Guy says. “But I’d love to work with him now.”
During 2008-2008 Guy was going out and watching a lot of DJs – initially at dubstep nights – but one night in early 2009 he saw Joy Orbison, Ben UFO and Jackmaster and DJ Oneman on the same bill. One particular track that night – Joy Orbison’s Hyph Mngo – became his total “game changing” tune. “The drums, the chords, that vocal sample,” he said. “It all just blew my mind.” So in came James Blake and Burial, Mount Kimbie, Chicago house and “perfect garage tracks” like Neighbourhood by Zed Bias. Fully inspired, Guy and Howard began to write, “pop songs structured in the style of house and garage”, which, ultimately, is Disclosure in an appealingly warm-toned, future-vintage nutshell.
More in this series