Our Interview with Disclosure

Disclosure“Michael Jackson taught me everything about the structure of a pop song…”

Disclosure’s Guy (22) and Howard Lawrence (19) have – almost from nowhere – become the hottest production team in the country. Jessie Ware, SBTRKT and Radio One’s Annie Mac, among a million others, have all declared themselves fans, as, now, has TV’s favourite ivory-basher “Jools” Holland, who invited the brothers to appear on his long-running music show, Later, the very week their incredible album, Settle, was released. After the show they were straight off to a festival, then a video shoot, then, surely feeling a little frazzled, they headed to Ibiza to appear at Space with Groove Armada. And then, well, something else entirely…

“We had a few days off sometime in July,” Guy smiles.

What music was playing in the house when you were growing up?

Our mum played pop and musicals, which I hate, and our dad was into prog rock; stuff like Genesis and Rush. It was weird and complex music, but really good. I learned to play the drums from the age of three or four and I’d play along to these incredible pieces. I learned a lot of Genesis songs early on and it made me into a pretty decent drummer, I think.

You were an indie-kid in your teens, what made you take such a sharp turn towards making house music?

Going out and watching DJs – that’s really what made me want to get into production. I used to go and watch a lot of dubstep DJs, people like Skream and Benga, Mala, Loefah – but those people never really made me want to produce my own music. Then, one night in 2009, I saw Joy Orbison, Ben UFO and Jackmaster and DJ Oneman – what they played blew my mind. One particular track that night – Hyph Mngo by Joy Orbison – was a total game changing tune for me. And a lot of other people too, I think.

What was it about that specific track?

It just really stuck out, from the drums to the chords and that vocal sample – it all just blew my mind. I thought, ‘My god, dubstep can actually have a proper melody, it doesn’t have to be a moaning, groaning bassline with a big Rastafarian man talking all over it!” Hip hop was my thing when I was in my teens, so I was looking for something tight like that. That night I went straight home and started to make music seriously.

How do your collaborations with other artists work, do you give people a ready-made track to work to?

Well, it varies every time – there’s no formula – but with songs like White Noise, Voices and Help Me Lose My Mind we actually wrote the music on the day. I’ll make the basic chords patterns, bassline and beat, while Howard will sit with the singer and work on themes and lyrics. Over the day the whole track comes together. We’ve never said, “sing this!” All the people we work with are great writers, so we like to build something from nothing.

We’ve been trying – and failing – to place the vocal sample from When A Fire Starts To Burn…

Ah well, the guy in the video is the same guy we sampled. We wanted a rapper but just had no time to make it happen, so we downloaded a load of spoken word stuff and found this guy called ET, Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker. It’s mostly Americanised crap, really, but he sounded like a rapper, so we cut up a speech and it came out like that!

There’s a lot of talk about how “mature” your album sounds, what does that even mean?

Ha! I think it means we use a lot of warmer, more vintage sounds. But we’re not trying to do a revival of anything, not garage or house. I just like the sound of the 909 drum machine. A lot of people these days use stuff that’s so high quality it feels like it’s lost a bit of soul.

Does the perfect song exist?

A song can be perfect for a mood, then suddenly be not perfect when your mood changes! Some people have come definitely close – Stevie Wonder has a few times, Uptight, (Everything’s Alright) and Superstition are two of my favourite songs ever – they both make me happy and they’re fantastically written. So is Michael Jackson’s – Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. Marvin Gaye too. The best pop songs are from the classic Motown era and late 80s pop too, but sometimes even I hate that stuff. Then there’s the perfect deep house and garage tracks like the Stanton Warriors mix of Zak Toms’ Bring Me Down – that encapsulates everything you need to know about what garage was. Same goes for Saved My Life by Todd Edwards, or Neighbourhood by Zed Bias. Wookie too!

What five artists couldn’t Disclosure exist without?

That would be J Dilla, Joy Orbison, Burial – he’s very important for me – , D’Angelo, because I think Voodoo is the greatest album ever made – and Michael Jackson, who taught me an incredible amount about the structure of a pop song.

What song was playing in your head when you woke up this morning?

A song by Jai Paul called Vibin’. I asked him and that’s what it’s called! I think it’s Track 11 on that album that leaked a few weeks ago. I’m listening to a lot of Jai Paul at the moment. I love the house music coming from the Dirty Birds label too: Eats Everything, Shadow Child – I’m feeling all of their artists.

What music do you and Howard argue about?

There used to be a lot, but as we’ve got older we have mellowed! As a child Howard had an obsession with Seal. I couldn’t understand it at all at the time, but I’d love to work with him now. When I was growing up I was into Gang Starr, Busta Rhymes, Tribe Called Quest and now that’s all Howard listens to, which is odd, as he couldn’t stand it at the time.

There’s a houseparty round at yours tonight, what five records are we guaranteed to hear?

Definitely Zak Toms’ Bring Me Down, Tribe Called Quest’s Bonita Applebum too. I’d play Love Come Down by Evelyn “Champagne” King, Eats Everything’s version of Get-Up by Maxxi Soundsystem and we’d finish with Charles B’s acid classic Lack of Love. You know what? That’s a very mixed-up and confused playlist!