About this Playlist
Looking back at the interview with Amy Douglas I caught up with Amy in 2019 to tell us all about her break out track ‘Never Saw It Coming’ and her future plans and dreams.
“Never Saw it Coming” when I wrote it with Tim Wagner of 33Hz, it was one of our fun musical experiments and it was the last track that we worked on….remotely in two different cities before I moved home to Brooklyn. Tim and I work on many many things together (more on that to come) and we wanted to do something on the darker edge, something dare I say “bluesy” in nature and we wanted a song that also hearkened back to some of the new wave and synthpop influences that we both genuinely love and seeing about knocking those influences back onto the dance floor with more purpose.
Lyrically speaking, I went to one of the tasty nugget core subjects of the blues, this being revenge. I wanted to write something with a long drawn out malevolence factor. I recalled something Hitchcock said about the distinction between shock and suspense, I’m paraphrasing here but it’s something akin to shock is “two people having a discussion across a table, suddenly a bomb goes off under a table, and the audience unprepared has a horrible shock.” Suspense is the same scenario, the same two people having said discussion across the table, but now it’s been revealed to the audience that there is said bomb ticking away under the table and watch them all squirm in their chairs, because they now realize there is a ticking bomb, and someone has to get rid of it!” So I wanted that long….slow…drawn out…….snake in the grass…the long patient plotting, the lyrics are an evolution of that sentiment.
Justin Strauss’s remix manages to accomplish something truly inventive and unique in that, this is a dark dramatic brood of a song, rooted in revenge and the blues, and somehow by leaning on even more of those Synthpop and New Wave British influences that were definitely a part of the palette when Tim and I went in and did the original, it brings an insouciant buoyancy to it. It’s not so much that it’s “lighter” so much as it’s much more playful and has so much bounce and funkiness to it, not to mention the incredible way he’s rhythmically reshaped the chorus and how it’s felt, it’s got this Pop Dance Anthem quality to it now. It never loses the dance floor of course, I think Justin being so incredible at what he does, not to mention Max Pask’s contributions to this as well, he already trusted that this would be felt on the dance floor and both of them sort of allowed themselves to treat it with this great New Wave Pop gloss that makes the song have a whole new life. I’ve had so many great discussions about music with Justin, and I know how much he loves Talk Talk. That they were putting so much of that spirit into this remix, and what with the unfortunate and untimely passing of Mark Hollis, I’d like to think that in many ways Justin pays homage to Mark with this remix, it’s almost a bit like a musical eulogy”
If you’re a true fan of Dance Music, you’ve seen Amy Douglas’ name over and over again. DFA Records’s “Boogie Chanteuse” is a rising star, crushing as of late with a solo single “Never Saw It Coming” that took the world at large by storm, most notably in the UK where in addition to burning up dance floors, the Crooked Man Remix was selected as the #2 pick of Bill Brewster’s Furtive 50 of 2018.
This was followed up with the Mammoth single Let’s Go Dancing the first of three collaborations Amy has in the works with London’s Disco Superheroes Horse Meat Disco with a stunning remix effort from the one and only Disco King Dimitri From Paris.
With follow up singles in the works, a full on Michael The Lion X Amy Douglas EP and remix package coming out on Soul Clap Records, a new Peach Melba- her project with DFA legend Juan MacLean effort coming soon on DFA, and collaborations coming with The Blessed Madonna, Man Power LA Riots and more with Horse Meat Disco, not to mention penning a semi monthly column in online dance music magazine “Le Visiteur” it’s safe to say that Amy Douglas has announced her very punky opinionated presence with authority and as she puts it, she aims to be a “rock and roll frontman superhero in the world of dance music.”
The Hoof caught up with Amy for a chat.
Hi Amy, you currently find yourself working with ‘Horse Meat Disco’ with a remix from disco don producer ‘Dimitri From Paris’ when in your own words: “I never intended to be a dance music artist. I always envisioned myself in some version of Led Zeppelin or something extremely loud and heavy”
“Indeed! My life was spent fronting rock bands and/or singing/playing in jazz combos and funk bands. In my mind I was supposed to have some sort of Robert Plant cum Freddie Mercury like position to helm. As I love writing songs so much, there’s also a distinct degree of that 70’s singer/songwriter vibe on my palette”
So tell us, how did you end up working within dance music ?
“I wound up in dance music because ultimately enough people leaned on me to try to do it. I’m quasi ashamed to admit that at the time my last band had broken up, we’d just spent our whole summer in a van and all the toil that came with that screwed us, and I was looking for a “change.” I was actually quite against being on dance records, because…..it wasn’t my life, and as a songwriter and performer I feared it would read as inauthentic, that it wouldn’t feel organic or genuine to be using my big ole voice, not for filling a stadium, but for singing on dance records.
“It was also hard initially to really get footing where I wanted it most, which was, in addition to be being visible and not just “this voice hanging in the air usually chopped to bits,” to write (being someone known for writing) amazing songs that would stand the test of time.” I’d turn in songs and the people I’d be sending them to, would write back and say “this is a pop song, we didn’t want that we just wanted some oohs and aahhhhs, and you know….you wailing and stuff.” So I’d get frustrated and stop for a bit and focus on whatever project I had of my own at the time and I definitely compartmentalized the newfangled “diva” thing as being somehow not a part of me or my artistry which was obviously….silly. To be fair, I also really had little to no knowledge of the playing field and what was involved and WHY some of the DJ’s in question might have wanted something minimal. It just turned me off to think I was making what felt to me like disposable placeholder music that wouldn’t be remembered the way juggernaut songs like “Don’t Leave Me This Way” or “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” or any Patrick Cowley masterpiece or “Finally” or “insert Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte masterpiece.” I think once I started to conceptualize a place where I could bring the pieces of what I like to do in the all around as a musician and a writer, the process of being honest and real and happy within the world of dance music became more applicable. I just had to find a way to bring myself into it, and it into me in a way that felt like a fit. I’m still working on this process even NOW”
As a songwriter in your early career you had hoped to be performing centre stage with a rock band, did dance music’s more electronic sound, with sampling, drum machines and more often the lack of real instrumentation in the music make it more difficult for you to enter the genre.
“That said, despite everything I value, I, don’t care HOW a great song is made. I care THAT a great song is made. I would never lie and tell anyone that there’s always more appeal for me in hearing machine made music as opposed to hand on organic instrumentation but, as someone who loves hard industrial music, Brian Eno, and Depeche Mode, I’m not here to discount all electronic music and computers as NOT being a viable source of making great songs”
You’ve worked with lots of artists over the last ten years from KON, Luke Solomon, Eli Escobar and more recently with Crooked Man on both of his LP’s, but the success of your first solo single “Never Saw It Coming” must have exceeded your expectations, are you satisfied with how well it went and what can we expect next from you.
“Good heavens I am NEVER satisfied. I have always and continue to grind hard so as to perpetuate what I feel I’m best at doing, and I think every project I’ve done has been not a means to an end, but a pedagogical step to where I am now and where I’m headed. Peach Melba are back in production mode, Juan MacLean and I are making a ton of music to release on DFA, that project is ever forward which I really like. As my first solo single did well, there is now the numerous questionings of what will follow it, and I’m hard at work right now trying to best myself with every new song and video that will be coming out with my name on it”
Tell us about the new single with Horse Meat Disco and Luke Solomon “Let’s Go Dancing” interestingly the sound seems more original disco than nudisco.
“Well first and foremost, Luke Solomon, Darren Morris, Lance Desardi, James Duncan, Martin Radford, Moodymanc- all the great players Luke works with, for this and for the Powerdance Project and the HMD brothers went ahead and produced fantastic tracks, and when I heard them they were so satisfying that it sparked a creative flame very quickly. “Let’s Go Dancing” is the first of three collaborations and writing to those tracks was incredibly satisfying, and really tapped into the things I love doing most. There was so much musicianship put into the track that it felt like just…having a jam with a great band, that thing you do as a band when you’re warming up and you just start making stuff up, sometimes those moments become fully realized compositions like…..Zep’s “The Crunge” and sometimes they do not, but when I heard for example the Let’s Go Dancing track, I decided to treat it very much in that headspace. So rather than sit at my piano and write it organically, I decided to forgo “writing” anything at all. I went into the booth and just improvised every section bit by bit, knowing that everything I had to do would have to be INSANELY disco with a capital D. It was like thinking in terms of “Fly Robin Fly.” The second track to be released at a TBD date is called Spacebound and where that one is concerned, having heard the track I knew it would be different, I definitely had to fully sit on down at the piano and really write it out in a much more traditional way, which admittedly is how I’m used to working. I really enjoy working on music with this team and only hope to continue to do it again and again in different iterations. I hope Luke will continue to challenge me and push me to do my best work possible. It’s been great thus far, but I always want to do more”
Dave Lee recently questioned why we don’t see the types of bands we saw in the mid to late seventies anymore. “Let’s Go Dancing” features full instrumentation by some very talented session musicians, great producers and of course a quality singer, the ingredients are there, why don’t we see more live bands in dance music.
“It’s EXPENSE pure and simple. We’re in the era where no one buys music, and to keep a band with multiple members going is really pricey. This phenomena doesn’t even start with soul/disco etc…it starts well before this with the big bands of the 1940’s and why suddenly the 50’s and 60’s save for Duke Ellington and a couple of others, strip down to trios, quartets, etc.. Bands that want to be like Dr. Savannah’s Buzzard Band or Chic or Odyssey or Slave etc, have a lot of bodies to keep paid, and that can be very difficult to sustain. Full on retro dance bands with horn sections and the whole shebang also rely on players that can really cut it, and material that solidly bangs, because the only way to sustain something so purposefully retro for a long period of time, you need catalog that constantly bangs, or you become a novelty act. Done well, it’s fabulous and speaking of fabulous Escort are coming back out with new music, and Midnight Magic with my homegirl Tiffany Roth are still out there kicking booty. I know that where my own live situation is concerned, I plan to use a band as well, but…..we definitely will not be a retro disco band. My own sound…..I really actually am very invested in getting to the Post Disco realm where you can musically stretch out a touch and incorporate from other genres. I’m evolving to a “dance rock” sound, single to single”
You are now working with Horse Meat Disco and the Glitterbox label, both started as parties in London and Ibiza, have you visited Europe to work yet, I would imagine a large part of your audience will be overseas based.
“Nope. Not yet. Looking forward to coming on over and beginning that process however in a big way”
EDM still seems the dominant dance music in your home country, at least for a young crowd, I’ve read numerous times from DJ’s that they hope that the sound would be an entry point and later the youth might get into the rich source of dance music that has come out of the U.S.
“Kids today have access to EVERYTHING, so I’ve noticed their tastes are all over the place in a GOOD way, I just really hope that artists continue to challenge them and take them to new places while delivering them songs to remember for a lifetime. The EDM generation is listening to something in my opinion that really has less to do with dance music and much more to do with something more about sounds, more about sonics….it’s still more connected to Electronica and focused on bitchsmacking its listeners with new sounds and that’s great, exploration of new sounds is crucial but…what about great songs that make those great sounds really last forever all the more. This seems still to me like the kernel of what’s important there”
How is the dance music scene coping in New York, for a city rich in the heritage of disco and dance music, thinking about Mancuso’s Loft parties and all the great clubs from the 70’s right up to more recent times, the DJ’s and characters, it’s current history seems to be of external sources attempting to crush it.
“New York, coming up in it, performing in it my whole life, I’m only ever cognizant about watching the powers that be attempt to squash us like grapes. (But we always come back mwuh hahahahah). It’s great to know that The Loft Parties continue to this day and that Guiliani/9-11 and them (then) Bloomberg didn’t get to take everything away from us!!! It’s no secret that NYC had a lot of kicks to the guts where venues and nightlife is concerned in the last 20 or so years and this year in particular with the closure of Output, Cielo and more. I think it’s worth examining that gentrification has socioeconomically hurt nightlife, making it less democratic, making it a segregated affair more and more, you don’t see a rainbow of types at one party up inside the club like you used to and more about whoever has enough shekels at the end of the week to even make it happen, It’s also incredibly difficult to keep venues open, some of this is gentrification and some of it is a new era wherein fees paid to DJ and agent are so exorbitant that it doesn’t allow for the money to return to the house so it can continue to build, pay the staff better, and of course just stay afloat!
“I’ve learned more and more through some very keen sharp eyes and people who I truly trust their opinions on, that the current model of where the focus of money is put has to change, or everything is going to fall apart. When you have any act, no less a DJ who is commanding a fee that is outsized, your venues….are going to close. They won’t be able to sustain anything having to payout fees that large. This is why we have festival season, festival culture and why it’s so all consuming, it’s because it’s the only time kids can see and react to music en masse and afford hopefully to be able to do so, but if things don’t change, you’ll ONLY have Festivals and that sucks frankly. Festival culture exists as a replacement model against what used to be venue culture because festivals are backed by those who can pay out fees to the DJ and their agents. The only way many people are able to see artists they love, DJ’s that they love is on Festival bills where they’ll pay ONE whopping ticket price and get to see everyone they love for one whole year and boom, you can’t create a network of culture this way, no less a scene.
“Chalk it up AGAIN to no one buying music, I think there might have to be something akin to a “blow it all up, start fresh.” The mid sized venue has taken a HUGE hit. Meanwhile those were the houses of the holy (pardon the Zep pun) that were incremental in building a scene and community. I think the artists who will be the most crucial are the ones who can work with their agents who really do pull the strings and say “when I play these types of venues, it’s fair to ask for X, but I have to stay one foot grounded to building something that might last for a while and keep the audience that wants this building.”
Here at musicto we use streaming sites to share out the music and promote new artists. I personally always add the artist bandcamp page and encourage physical purchases but many of us are pretty convinced that streaming is certainly a future artists are going to have to get used to, if the artist’s learn more about how Spotify and its algorithms work, we think it can help them in many ways, what’s your thoughts on streaming, the downturn in downloads and upturn in vinyl sales.
“Sigh. It’s like Dickens and a Tale of Two Cities. One thing is a sign showing that music purchasers want to own something they can hold in their hands again, the rise of vinyl is such a positive in that way, and it’s great to see it extend beyond DJ’s and DJ Culture. Call me old or old school but, nothing will ever replace the sensation of paying for music and then being able to hold it, and really let it become a part of your life, and a quickie DL just…..doesn’t really cut it for that sensory experience. So when I see trends like an upturn in vinyl, it shows me that music fans want to actually be in physical possession of their purchases which is POSITIVE. The flip side of this, sadly is music streaming, which save for gaining new fans, I’m not a huge fan of it devalues the art greatly as it pays the artists pennies on the dollar, and really strips their music of monetary value, which I’m not for. It’s disheartening to see streaming gaining so much ground because it’s a sign that while there are die hard music fans who want a return to the purchasing of physical products, it’s not a large enough population by comparison of most listeners/purchasers who are only too content to stream their music every day and not care about purchasing any of it, amassing a collection, etc. The silver lining is that Spotify can be remarkable for carving out a fanbase if you, as you mention, “work the algorithms.” That worked for Greta Van Fleet very well for example. The hope is that streaming will help an artist corral a fanbase that said artist can market/sell directly to the new base he’s amassed. The “Soundcloud Rappers” are a good example of this new mentality if you will”
Communicating with artists on musicto, I’m surprised how much they are personally involved in the social media side of the promotional side of the business rather than the labels themselves, for any new artist actively trying to build their career it would be more about establishing a profile on social media as much as making music.
“Absolutely. New artists absolutely have to be 100% in control of their destinies. If you are signed to a label, and you expect that the label is going to do all the heavy lifting in this day and age, it’s a huge fallacy, most of them are just trying to stay afloat to begin with. It’s a lot of humping and a lot of work, but the reward is that the artist can absolutely steer thei
r careers in the directions they see fit, with no one trying to change their vision”
Some might say soul and disco lacks social commentary, occasionally some artist’s have politicised the genre to great effect, you yourself seem socially and politically aware so is this a direction you hope to take your music.
“Absolutely, especially in my own solo work. I think it’s crucial that what with the disasters of our world right now, “stand up and be counted” has to be the mission statement”
Wouldn’t be a proper interview without some magic wish questions, so here goes, if you could have been involved in any song, any era or genre, which song would it be.
“Oh FUCK! That’s a good one. (pardon mon francais). Can I pleeeeeease have 5? I’m a songwriter, to ask me bout only ONE song???? It hurts to think bout it. Okay! The songs!
A Day In The Life- The Beatles.
Lush Life- Billy Strayhorn
As – Stevie Wonder
Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Life on Mars – David Bowie
Era- Either the Roaring Twenties or the 70’s, cliche as it sounds- but the 1970’s are the decade we keep returning to culturally for good reason, it was a cornucopia of modern ideas. Genre? Ooof. That’s harder. I’d have loved to have been maybe there crushing it at the birth of Be-Bop, because my whole life has been hanging with the boys in the boys club and that initial group was THE boys club! That and of course, anything that required taking a Gibson and putting it through a Marshall Stack!!! LOL!”
If you could work with any current artists or producers who would it be.
(deep breath) “Nile Rodgers (for me, that man is always current), Jeff Bhasker, Dev Hynes, Missy Elliott, Roisin Murphy* – I want desperately to do an evil Disco Twin project with her and I am so grateful for the last year bringing us in contact, she fucking rules. Lizzo (don’t get me started, I’m fucking obsessed with her). Mark Ronson, Dave Stewart, Rick Rubin, Bok Bok, Jack White, Peaches, Bjork, Kelela, there’s so many**”
* This collaboration actually happened on the LP Roisin Machine
** One of the ‘so many’ would of undoubtedly have been Joe Goddard from Hot Chip and that also happened with the Hard Feelings project
Musically where would you like to be in five years time.
“Making full LP’s for me, hits for others, and invited to Jimmy Page’s Tower House”