Dennis Ferrer: Hear the call

The Sfere Recordings co-owner lets slip on this year’s ‘thuggish’ WMC, new releases and THAT ‘Drumstick And A Light Fixture’ track.

There are DJs, and then there are DJs. Similarly, there are producers, and then there’s Dennis Ferrer. The New Jersey-based DJ, producer, remixer and innovator has been described as ‘the face of hope for a new generation of soulful house producers’ and is the real deal, having released a stream of high-quality and boundary-pushing releases on labels including Ibadan, Large, King Street, Defected, Basic Recordings, Madhouse and Chillifunk. As co-owner of acclaimed Sfere Recordings alongside Kerri Chandler, Ferrer is one of the most consistent and in-demand personalities on the global house music scene and one who, once seen or heard, will never be forgotten.

Having only just recovered from last month’s Miami Winter Music Conference, Ferrer is now Australia bound for the first time where he will play the ‘Everybody’s House’ event at The Metro in Sydney this Saturday followed by an after-hours set at the ‘Everybody’s House Afloat’ harbour cruise, a double header Ferrer is looking forward to. ‘I find Australian house-heads the same as anyone!’, he says. ‘If you like good soulful house music, then is doesn’t matter where ya come from! I think the information age has just about brought everyone up to a level playing field these days.’

This information age has seen Ferrer’s original productions and remixes find fans across the globe. 2003’s ‘Sandcastles’ remains one of his greatest successes and is a crossover track of the highest order. The Ibadan-released ‘Son Of Raw’ was one of the biggest underground tracks of last year while Ferrer’s uplifting ‘Grateful’ featuring Kenny Bobien similarly lit up dance floors following its release on Sfere. ‘Change The World’, Ferrer’s latest offering on King Street Sounds, is now being hammered by the best in the business and is positive, spiritual house music at its finest. Despite the spiritual connotations within many of his tracks, Ferrer admits he is not an overly religious person. ‘Somehow spirituality gets channeled through me’, he explains. ‘I can’t explain why I have this uncanny ability to write these records. I get asked this all the time and people believe that I must be a practicing member of some sort of religion; nope! I guess that it’s just some part of me that calls out; it’s natural and it comes out without me trying.’

On the remix tip, Ferrer has put his veritable ‘golden touch’ to tracks by Martin Solveig, Reel People, Blaze and Barbara Tucker, Fish Go Deep and many others both under his own name and alongside long-time collaborators Kerri Chandler and Jerome Sydenham. ‘Drumstick And A Light Fixture’, Dennis’s recent release on UK Promotions under his Son Of Raw moniker, is currently winning praise across the board. As Dennis explains, the track came about after a night on the town in France. ‘Kerri Chandler and I played a festival together in the south of France’, he explains. ‘Afterwards all of us went down to a bar called ‘Bar-A-Thym’ and jammed. We were getting properly lit up with drinks and while he was spinning I grabbed a drumstick that was behind the DJ booth and started banging on a light fixture in the bar! It was pure nuts! Kerri went back home and did ‘Bar-A-Thym’ as an ode to that night; I took it one step further!’

Taking things ‘one step further’ is Ferrer’s biggest strength. Not content to churn our records for bill money, he takes his time and leaves nothing to chance. His ability to craft soulful, intricate melodies with beautiful vocals and banging basslines have made him a crowd favourite, not least in Miami where Ferrer rocked several parties during this year’s ‘interesting’ WMC. ‘Although there were some great parties it seems this year’s seminar coincided with Spring Bling, a hip-hop affair, which brought in an element that many from the world over were not familiar with; very thuggish to say the least,’ Ferrer explains. ‘Top that off with crappy weather and you get the idea but having a chance to see all your friends and acquaintances kind of makes up for the drama.’

While many high-profile DJ-producers have spoken out on the crass commercialization of WMC in recent years, Ferrer remains a vocal supporter of the conference, despite admitting it has changed. ‘It used to be a more serious affair’, he laments. ‘There were seminars aimed at businesses and creative issues. Most of the events were held to showcase labels and their talent but now it’s more of an ‘unspoken’ vacation for DJ-producers. It’s become a commercial endeavor and the clubs have gotten hip to this. If you look at it from a producer/songwriter/business end then yes, it’s become completely overshadowed. If you look at it from the normal Joe and Jill point of view however, then it’s a great time in the sun hearing your favourite music being played by your favourite or highly acclaimed DJs. All in all any exposure that dance music gets is good exposure, so people can complain but in the end you have to figure that 1000 more people who didn’t know who DJ ‘so and so’ was now do. It can’t be all that bad!’

And what are the plans for the rest of 2006? While he admits he is ‘not into predicting’, Ferrer can let slip that he and Kerri Chandler will release a new Soul Heaven mix compilation in May which will be followed by his own debut album, to be released on King Street Sounds. Despite the dooms-dayers heralding the imminent demise of vinyl, Ferrer remains upbeat and ever the optimist. ‘Dance music has been around because people always need a reason to let loose, to identify and to live vicariously through the music’, he explains. ‘It will always evolve but one thing stays the same – I wanna feel that kick of death and that bass move me!’

House-heads of Australia, hear the call of Dennis Ferrer.

Dennis Ferrer will play The Metro, Sydney, this Saturday and afterwards aboard the Lady Rose from 4am. Tickets are available HERE.