One of the first dance songs I ever heard was ‘It’s My Turn’ by Angelic. The artist, however, was a pseudonym for two people: Amanda O'Riordan (Judge Jules’s wife) and someone I came to know as Darren Tate. Over the following years, I continued to hear many of Darren’s songs, and these were often through various pseudonyms.
Two of such aliases were Jurgen Vries and DT8. I remember listening to the radio when the Song ‘The Theme’ came on, and I was shocked upon hearing that it was actually produced by Darren Tate. Judging by the name of the song, it sounded like a German or Dutch production, and its style was nothing like his other songs.
I have greatly appreciated listening to Darren’s songs over the years, and his musical diversity means that his songs can just as easily be found in a club as they can on a chill-out CD, all without being remixed. With his recent foray into film scores, his productions can now even be found on films.
Throughout the time Darren has been producing music, he has managed to consistently create high quality songs, as well as to remain flexible with his own sound. Furthermore, I would say that this ability to adapt and flow with the musical times is one of the reasons why Darren has remained one of the top producers in the world.
After decades of not only hearing Darren’s music, but also enjoying it, Darren was certainly one of the first people to come to mind for Interviews With Successful People. In 2006, I was fortunate enough to connect with Darren via the Internet and ask for his advice on producing music, an encounter which led me to believe he would be open to me conducting an interview.
Darren Tate is a classically trained composer and record producer born in London, England. From an early age, Darren studied piano and clarinet to an advanced level and later in life trained in orchestration and composition under leading British composer Phillip Venables.
Darren's first major success came with the dance project entitled “Angelic” back in 2000 with BBC Radio 1's Judge Jules. Since then, he has written and produced over a dozen top 40 singles in the UK alone and worked with many leading international writers and artists across the globe, including the likes of Charlotte Church, Boy George, Gavin Rossdale, Mory Kante, Roxanne Wilde, Amanda O'Riordan, My Digital Enemy, Estelle, Lisa Scott Lee, Shena McSwee, Kate Ryan, Above & Beyond, Lee John, Pippa Fulton, Ayumi Hamasaki, Andrew Britton, Mike Koglin, Victoria Horn, Rob Davis and many others. Darren's music has also appeared in numerous films, in video games and on television worldwide, such as the film Brothers (2002), the Darren Star production The Street, and in major advertising campaigns and on major networks across the world (MTV Europe, FTL, ITV and the BBC). His music has also appeared in leading video games like in Electronic Arts’ FIFA 2006 and for Sony's Playstation Eye. He has been personally featured numerous times in leading journals pertaining to music production including Sound on Sound, Future Music, Computer Music and Keyboard, thanks to his cutting-edge production techniques. On the stage Darren has worked in the West End and across the UK. Production credits include Shame, The Musical at Saddlers Wells in 1995 (Musical Director, Orchestration & Arrangements), and the Scottish Premier of Chess, The Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe (Musical Director). Darren also gained a distinguished musician award by the IBLA foundation for his work “Dark Skies” with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
Additionally, Darren has an ever-growing reputation as one of the world’s premiere DJs, and he has performed alongside globally recognised actsl like Tiesto, Amin Van Buuren, Paul Van Dyk, Pete Tong, Ferry Corsten and many more. As well as headlining major international events and touring across the globe, he also finds time to host the monthly ‘Mondo Sessions' which is internationally syndicated across radio station networks from Ministry of Sound Radio, DI.FM, ETN, AH.FM, Slink FM, Rise FM to Fresh FM. On top of all these accomplishments, he has received rave reviews for his mix duties on the albums Beyond Euphoria (MOS), Trance Republic (with John Askew and Agnelli & Nelson) and the hugely popular Mondo Sessions series (co-mixed by Mike Koglin and Dale Corderoy).
Q: How Did Your Life Begin?
A: Well, I was born and raised in London. My mother separated from my dad. He left when I was quite young. I started doing music because of my great grandfather. Because I used to mess around with his piano, he probably thought, ‘god let’s get him some lessons because I can’t bear to listen to him hit just the thing’. Then I went off to boarding school for ten years, and then I went off to university. So that’s pretty much my background, and through all that time I was studying music.
Q: Your Background Is In Classical Music, What Attracted You To Classical Music In Your Younger Years?
A: Classical music was kind of the foundation to my learning about music, because I learnt through playing instruments. Taking the classical approach is the traditional approach to learning those instruments. So piano, clarinet and guitar are three instruments I learned classically in the first instance. Classical music is fundamentally the root of all music, and you see that through the development of various established classical names: how music progressed through Mozart, sonata allegro form, and then Beethoven, Bach. You can see the development of music, and it’s the building blocks. Knowing about those building blocks is quit an important part—understanding how that works—because it gives you a wider understanding of the tools that went into making music. That helps you then express yourself later on when it comes to your own ideas.
Q: What Motivated You To Become A DJ?
A: DJing was really a side line to what I did and respect to the fact that I was first, and foremost, a composer and record producer. It was a thing wasn’t it? A lot of producers would try their hands at DJing because it was part of the branding exercise. I did it, and I enjoyed it a lot, and then I started professionally doing it every weekend for years and years and years. I developed my skills over the time, and it became another thing: another entity of expressing myself musically.
Q: Tell Us About How You Feel The Moment Before You DJ?
A: When I started I used to be nervous, but that was a long time ago. Now I just like to get on there and do it basically. It’s one of those things. I don’t like hanging around clubs before. I don’t mind hanging around them afterwards, but beforehand I like to get up there and do the job.
Q: How Would You Describe The Experience Of DJing In Front Of Thousands Of People?
A: Well, when I first did it, it was a little daunting, but it’s like anything. You just get used to it. I have played in front of huge amounts of people. I do remember one of my earliest gigs, back in the days when we were all playing vinyl, and looking at the little needle. Watching, like, a hundred thousand people in front of me and thinking, ‘If this stupid thing goes wrong, there’s going to be a lot of people there, not knowing what to do with themselves’. But it’s just something you get used to. It’s good, but it’s not always the best thing when you play in front of a huge audience. Sometimes it’s intimate crowds that provide the more satisfying response.
Q: How Did You Get Into Producing Dance Music?
A: When I was at university, I had a friend who was quite into dance music. He listened to Pete Tong and Radio One. He would bring ‘round cassettes with shows and stuff, and he kind of got me into the sound. The thing is, of course, trance happened, and I liked the fact that it kind of combined those simple principles of classical music. It was a very uplifting form of music, and I enjoyed the challenges involved in writing that kind of music at the time. But I was doing everything! I wasn’t just doing trance; I was doing drum and bass, jungle and everything back in the day. I just became established through the trance acts that I had back in the late nineties/early two thousands.
Q: When You Produce A Song, What Is Your First Step?
A: I would say that there isn’t always an exact first step. Most of the time these days, I will have a concept in mind before I attack it. So, I will have… Say, for example: I did one recently called ‘Kiss My Trombone’, which is under one of my house pseudonyms (8 Ball). By the title, you can derive at least what musical element will be in the song. I will tend to just conceptualize early on the style of the music—the ideas that I want to have going into it. Then I will start exploring musical ideas, in terms of the development of the actual tonality of the music. That’s what I will start doing on the keyboard, but I will have an idea to begin with.
Q: How Did You Go About Getting Your First Song Signed?
A: I was doing music for many years, and I was working full time as well. It was a struggle. It was very frustrating because I knew I had good music, but I was dealing with this one guy in the business who kept knocking me back, and I took that as the ‘be and end it’ response. Then one day I went and saw him again, and I played him this track, under the name of Angelic. Again, he knocked me back, but he left it there and played it to this guy called Kevin Parkinson, who was a relatively unknown manager. He [Parkinson] couldn’t wait to get out of there with it. He phoned me up the next day and went, ‘We have got to put this record out’ and this and that… and I will give him credit because he saw the potential. It’s funny; had I met him earlier, things might have been different. The first major signing for me was, funnily enough, under the Angelic name. It was ‘It’s My Turn’, and that was with Serious. There is a whole story behind that I won’t go into, but that was the first major step for me.
Q: In 2009 You Were Given A Special Mention And A Distinguished Musician Award By The IBLA Foundation For Your Classical Work "Dark Skies". What Did This Mean To You?
A: It was good to be recognised for something significant which was purely classical, rather than the dance and the electronic productions stuff that I have been known for before. In 2007, when I went back to school, I started re-studying classical music with a very good teacher called Philip Venables (‘slash composer’, I should say). I spent years doing advanced orchestration, recording orchestras. The combination of that and winning the awards and all of that, kind of then lead onto the next stage: film composition, which is something I have been doing a lot of recently.
Q: In The Last Few Years You Have Started Scoring Films. How Did This Come About?
A: The main driving force behind me getting into the films was that I got contacted. I did a computer music magazine front cover DVD/CD kind of thing, where they interviewed me and saw me build a track. Also, there was an American called Kenneth Lampl, who is a genius professional composer who studies at the Juilliard School in New York. He has done stuff with John Williams and has done 35 odd film scores. He contacted me and said, ‘Would you be interested in doing some work on something for a film I’m doing?’ because he was a fan on the back of seeing this magazine tutorial. I said, ‘How about I build this website and we start developing a bigger relationship than that, and I can bring in certain things that you might not be able to and vice versa?’ That was really how it started off and kicked off this thing Brainstorm Music (www.brainstormmusic.net). Since then, we have just been doing lots of scores. I mean, there’s stuff coming in all over the place. It’s been great.
Q: You Have Produced Many Different Styles Of Music, Including House, Trance and Classical. Where Does Your Creativity Come From?
A: I think that everyone is different. For me, I just have a love for writing music. I mean, It’s my passion. It always has been. I used to be the kid that didn’t practice piano like he should; he went to music rooms and just started playing whatever he wanted and making his own music. I also hijacked my own piano lessons, because my piano teacher was a writer/composer himself. Some people just have it. Some people are technical musicians and can play brilliantly, but not have a passion for that. My passion is to write. I get an emotional stimulus from writing music and listening to music. So that’s my driving force.
Q: At The Beginning Of Your Career, Who Were The Most Supportive People Around You At The Time?
A: From a dance perspective, my family have always been supportive in regards to my development (as I said, Kevin Parkinson could recognise what I could do), which was great. Friends were always very encouraging. Judge Jules saw the potential in that first record I did, and he helped establish the act when we signed it to Serious. So there’ve been different people along the way. Then I have had management over time. I would say there have been people there along the way who have helped.
Q: What Has Kept You Going When You Have Experienced Setbacks?
A: It comes back down to the drive. I love writing music, but part of that is you have to accept that sometimes things don’t work out to plan: records don’t necessarily hit the spot you think they’re going to and albums can fall apart. Generally speaking, most of the music I have done has been positively received over my life, but you always get critics. Sometimes it can be for malicious reasons, sometimes people don’t like things. At the end of the day, that’s just part of the parcel. That’s the nature of the business, but I love doing what I do. That’s why I will keep doing it and not worry about them.
Q: Where Does Your Drive And Passion Come From?
A: My drive and passion comes form the fact I love doing what I do. If you like writing music and you have a drive to do it, then you’re passionate about it. I’m passionate about being involved in the music business. Doing films right now is great for me, because I get to do so many different things. It’s all a challenge, and I love the new challenge. Experiencing that new challenge and taking it on and fulfilling it is great. Along the way, there are other things too. The first time I recorded with a symphony orchestra was an experience, and it was amazing. I went to a film premier last week, and the film I was involved with won best film at this prestigious London film festival. Stuff like that. There is always these wonderful, new highlights that happen, and so that helps. All of those things help as well.
Q: Do You Believe In A Higher Power?
A: I believe that… it’s such an incredibly hard question there. I like to think that there was a higher power and a greater purpose, or whatever we postulate as the start of the universe…the big bang. As humans, we need to try and validate that. I definitely think there is something to be said for good energy and good karma. I think that there is a ‘higher power’ quality to that aspect of humanity, but I wouldn’t say I’m specific to a deity. I’d like to believe that there is a higher power or something, definitely. I certainly hope so.
Q: Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
A: My inspiration comes from everywhere. Whenever I hear things I like, I’m inspired. There is not one specific artist that has inspired me; there are lots. I mean, let’s face it, if we’re doing a dance record, it’s not like it’s the first time it’s been done. So somewhere along the line, I must have been inspired to do this. I would say it’s an ‘across the board’ thing. Great, moving music, to me, is inspirational. Composers like Ravel and Debussy, the impressionists and then you have people like Richard Strauss… amazing composers. If ever, there is a greater source of inspiration in terms of what we can achieve musically.
You saw the development of music over that time period and how, for that time, people were trying to move it forward. That’s what they did when they had the technology. There was this period where the music that was being written was so amazing, and so, for me, that’s why I’m now enjoying doing the film stuff, because I’m be able to re-explore all of that, again. It’s not so easy to do with something like dance music. Because, of course, it’s relatively simple, not necessarily to produce—the production side can be quite complicated—but in terms of the sonic developments; It’s common times 4/4. The chordal motions are relatively simple. You’re talking mainly, most of the time, a four-chord progression.
Q: What Do You Think Are The Most Important Elements To Being Successful?
A: You have to believe in yourself. I think you have to be talented, and I think you have to have a degree of business acumen. You really need all of that, and that’s the key. And as you have said before in your previous question, you need to be driven. So: passionate, driven, business acumen, and talent. Those are the key things.
Q: What Are Your Future Plans?
A: Well I have got a lot of things in the pipeline now. I have got about four films I am currently scoring or about to score. I am continuing to develop that relationship, and I’m looking forward to taking on bigger and better projects all the time. I am still doing dance records and other styles, from house to even a trance album (Horizons 3). So I am still doing those records under different names, and I am continuing to put them out. We’re also developing the record label Mondo (www.mondorecords.com). We have a new sub-brand Mondolicious (www.mondolicious.com) on the house side. Primarily those things I would say right now.
Interview by Oliver J R Cooper
When it came to meeting Darren, I had no idea what to expect, and the only thing I had to go by was his music and what I had read about him. This did fill my mind with some ideas, of course, and I was open to meeting the man behind the music. Upon meeting him, I could soon see that he was down to earth, well spoken and clearly very intelligent.
In order to make it in any area of the music industry, one has to be able to handle setbacks, and Darren is an example of this. He has experienced the ups and downs. As he says, he is doing what he loves. This is one of the reasons I believe he has achieved the success he has, in addition to the fact that he is very good at what he does, because if he was doing what he did for anyone apart from himself, it is unlikely that he would have kept going through the challenging times.
The sense I got was that Darren’s heart lies in composing music for films, and this is where his focus will be for many years to come. Perhaps, his producing all the other types of music has created the opportunity for scoring films. I have been inspired by this interview, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to have met Darren.
Views from Darren Tate
It was a pleasure to meet Oliver and it made for a pleasant change not just being asked questions about what it was like to work with Charlotte Church! He seems like a great guy and wish him all the best in his future journalistic endeavours.
Oliver JR Cooper - Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant - With Over 2,000,000 Article Views Online..
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