November 28, 2023

Interview: Chuckie on the state of electronic dance music

Known to his millions of fans as the master of Dirty Dutch, DJ and producer Clyde Narain or better known as Chuckie, has been the face of the electronic music subgenre.

The cultural movement behind Dirty Dutch combines all the different elements in EDM. One of the earliest and most notable producers in electronic music Chuckie has laid out groundwork for many artists like Fedde le Grand, Afrojack and Hardwell.

In Chuckie’s long career he’s worked with a who’s who list of notable electronic and other music genre artists. He first began his career before the high rise in popularity in EDM.

As the popularity increased in electronic music, Chuckie stayed the same. His signature style has evolved to other artists of today for it’s combination of different electronic elements. Chuckie is a jack of all trades: hosting his own Dirty Dutch themed music festival, record label, and continuing collaborations cement Chuckie’s future legacy.

We catch up with the Dirty Dutch legend after his set at the fifth annual Spring Awakening Music Festival.

I noticed before you got on stage earlier you were waiting patiently on the side of the stage. How do you prepare yourself before your set?  

When I DJ I just don’t’ go on stage and play 12 of my songs in an hour set. I like to play all kinds of songs to get the crowd going. To me it’s important to see the DJ that played before me to make sure I don’t play the same thing. I like seeing the crowd and how they respond to the music.

Since EDM main stream growth have you ever needed to take a step back?

It’s hard because of travelling. At all times you try to balance. There’s not really a point where I haven’t said I need to slow it down because I’ve really tried to balance it out as much as I could.

Of course sometimes I really want to go home but it’s hard because of the traveling you don’t sit in the studio anymore.

You were one of the first international DJ’s. You’ve been traveling around the world for quite some time for DJing. When if ever have you had to put the brakes?

I started going international in 2008, so I would say in 2011 is when it hit me the hardest. I was like fuck time is flying by with all the traveling and touring. Eventually I was good, next I decided to move to Aruba but at the end of my day I think I’ve found my balance.

Even now finding the right balance with a diet. When you’re on tour man all the party and drinking can’t be healthy. You don’t pay attention to your health. Right now I’ve seen a lot of guys fall into accidents. Especially in the past three years. A lot of guys from the scene I wouldn’t like to mention any names but a lot people already know. Which is crazy. That’s not going to control my life.

You’ve welcomed other types of music and combined it into your Dirty Dutch style. DJ’s are now considered as “sellouts” when they branch off of their traditional sound. What’s your take on branching off into different styles of music?   

My whole idea behind that was yeah house music is just house music, but I wanted to add some fun elements to balance it all out. I just wanted to have fun with it.

When you’re trying to find your sound or style you’re always going to get criticized for it. Even when I started adding elements to my music I was criticized.

It’s not encouraging. I see it in the hard style scene for example. In Harlem the hard style scene, they have hard core fans. They don’t want anything to change. Matter of a fact all the songs had the same break and same timing. Everything is the same. All the structures are the same. How boring is that?

I don’t know. Music is music, sometimes you might want to add some elements to a song. My way of thinking it is if you’re not going to do it I’m going to do. I’m going to make an electric track with a 128 BPM with hard style. With me personally I don’t care. I’m on a mission. If you’re on a mission and you know exactly what your doing don’t even mind the criticism.

You’ve accomplished so much in your career. What’s next?

I’m going to continue to do more and more in music. Whatever I feel like now. I don’t even feel like dropping EDM tracks. I don’t want to say it’s boring or anything it’s just the same old things. If you want to have a top charting track you have to have something that sounds like what’s popular now.

It’s also important to have fun with it because to me at this point it’s starting to get more of a joke. It’s not even about the music anymore. Now a days you have to pop champagne, you got to give away t-shirts, you got to have a hype man, you got to throw out cakes. To me I’m taking things way more back to basics but that works for me.

Portrait shot with Chuckie after our interview at Spring Awakening Music Festival.

You’re involved with your music, label, and production. Why do you see that as important when you can at this point in your career just release music, sit back and collect checks?

I’m kind of a purist. This is where I draw the line. We did all the mosh pits, sit downs, and all the gimmicks. So then what’s next? Are you going to bring a clown up on stage? I’m just on of those guys that wants to take it back to the basics. So less Co2, less streamers, and special effects I just want people to appreciated the music because if we don’t do it were slowly killing the scene.

These kids go out to raves and get bored 30 seconds into the drop and are already asking, “Okay what’s next?”. For example, if you release a song today next week people are going to ask next week when you’re going to release a new song. It’s going into that culture. I don’t want that I want to take it to basics.

Especially in Djing, at a festival we have a line of guys performing doing gimmicks and then the next guy coming up is playing house music but doesn’t use the special effects. At the end of the day that guy is going to sound boring. It’s crazy right now. There’s too much stuff going on right now.