From his first track with Armand Van Helden ‘U Don’t Even Know Me’ to his collaborations as a singer, songwriter and producer with Erick Morillo, Axwell, Dirty South, Laidback Luke, Bob Sinclar, Todd Terry, Kenny Dope, David Morales, Louie Vega (to namedrop just a few!) and more, Duane Harden has played a part in many of the greatest vocal tracks in house music. With many of the world’s top DJs and producers in his little black book Duane brings the NYC house sound to Ibiza this summer, starting with the White Ibiza Summer Launch Party followed by Strictly Nassau… Here, he gives Kitt Proudfoot the lowdown…
Have there been any major turning points in your career? ‘U Don’t Even Know Me’ was such huge hit.
Well, ‘U Don’t…’ was actually my first track. I used to go out partying at the Loft in NYC in the ‘90s and Armand was playing there at the time. I’d always be dancing, going crazy and any time a song would come on that I loved I would sing over the top of it. I’d sing the lyrics or if I didn’t know them I would make up my own. One night Armand came over and asked who I was. We became friends, sat down and wrote the track. It was new for me and opened a whole different chapter in my life. I ended up performing for the first time. The third performance I ever did was on Top of the Pops in the UK!
You’re hosting and performing at the Strictly Nassau party on Friday, tell us about how your relationship with Strictly Rhythm came about?
I started my music career with Strictly Rhythm when I did the Powerhouse ‘What You Need’ track. I was signed on an exclusive artist deal with the label. Shortly thereafter they were out of business, so I focused on songwriting and co-wrote such hits as Bob Sinclar’s ‘Love Generation’ and many more. Now Strictly Rhythm has reopened and I have a joint venture for my own dance label called SolTrenz. We have a wonderful relationship, so of course I said yes when they ask me to host their Strictly Nassau party in Ibiza. I’m excited and looking forward to having some great fun under the sun.
What is about partying on the beach with an ocean view that is so special? Was it a conscious decision to take your ‘Duane Harden and Friends’ party out of a club setting?
There’s nothing more beautiful to watch than the sunset as you look out on the horizon of the glistening ocean. No matter how crazy your day was, there’s just something so tranquil about that experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love clubs with the amazing light shows and sound systems but you can have that anytime you want. Lets leave clubbing indoors to those cold winters and get some fresh air during the blazin’ summers!
What sort of sound are you bringing… a little birdie tells me ‘90s house may be involved somewhere along the way?
I find a lot of DJs today play less vocals in the club and pure instrumental tracks dominate the dance floor. It’s kinda like ‘electro killed the singer’ syndrome. An important part of a musical journey is the lyrics as they complement the instrumental tracks and to me, the healing is in the lyrics. I want to provide people with a place to escape and even have an opportunity to get on the mic with me and sing along. My party will be just that… about the people… about the music… and not about the DJ. In fact, the requirement for all of my DJs that are playing this summer is that half of the tracks they play must have vocals. I don’t care if it’s old school, commercial, underground or even deep just as long as it’s a vocal that gets the crowd having a good time. And yes, your little birdie is correct. The ‘90’s house sound is one of my favorite times in history when dance music was great so you’ll hear a lot of vocals from this era.