Will Clarke: New Bird On the Block
Dirtybird is well known for being an extremely tight-knit family of DJs, but the flock recently welcomed a new entry into its nest with open wings.
Armed with basslines as big as the beard on his chin, Will Clarke first joined the San Franciscan flock in 2014 when his track “Badness” was signed to its Dirtybird 10 compilation. Since then, he’s quickly risen through its ranks with a nonstop cavalcade of bouncy booty-tech productions that have seen support from both within the label’s roster and far beyond it.
Then, 2015 saw no shortage of success for the DJ/producer, with a hectic release schedule that included the Turn It Up EP on Dirtybird, “Spandex” on Defected, and even a remix of Hot Natured’s single “Off World Lover” on Emerald City.
Somehow 2016 has proven to be an even bigger year for Clarke, having dropped a new single on Dirtybird (“Give It To Me” with Shiba San), collaborated with Justin Martin on his Hello Clouds LP (“Back to the Jungle”), launched his The Barber Shop monthly radio show, and co-headlined an American tour with fellow up-and-comer Billy Kenny—all before the year’s halfway mark. We caught up with the British jock to catch a glimpse into what his whirlwind year has been like.
DJ Times: You relocated to L.A. earlier in the year and spent a few months out there. What were you up to?
Clarke: I’ve got a studio in LA, so between shows I’ve literally just been writing. I’ve been working on new music, so there’s a few collaborations with me and the Dirtybird guys, including “Back to the Jungle” on Justin Martin’s album [Hello Clouds]. Me and Shiba [did] two tracks, as well. It’s kind of a bit crazy, as [music] has only been my full-time job since this I moved to America this year.
DJ Times: When was that?
Clarke: December 26—the day after Christmas. That’s when I was doing the Get Real tour [with Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet]. I finished my job in the U.K. on the 20th of December, and over the past year I had been writing whilst working a full-time job as well. Now I actually get some free time to just write music.
DJ Times: You spent a few seasons in Ibiza and were a resident there.
Clarke: I was a resident at a few bars. I was a resident at Kanya.
DJ Times: Is that where you picked up how to work a crowd?
Clarke: I think Ibiza taught me how to be a DJ. Obviously, I was a DJ beforehand, but Ibiza taught me how to be a real DJ. I was DJing in lots of places there. Sometimes you’re not playing to anyone; people don’t realize that. People hear “Ibiza” and think you’re just playing to thousands of people all the time. You’re actually not. A lot of the time you’re just playing to a couple of people. You’re playing in a lot of bars, you’re playing a lot of sunsets, so you’re not just playing house, you’re playing hip-hop, you’re playing chill-out, you’re playing absolutely everything. It really opens your mind to music; it matures your music taste. I feel it turns you into a real DJ.
DJ Times: Your track “That Booty Percolatin’” has been making the rounds in a lot of DJ sets over the past year. Why do you think people latched onto that track well before its release?
Clarke: God knows, man. I get tweets on a daily basis about when it will come out. It’s weird, I was playing on Holy Ship! and I dropped it, and the whole crowd was singing along with it. I was thinking, “How the fuck do all these people know this track when it’s not even out yet?” It’s happened with another one of my tracks, as well. I just don’t get it. I know I’m playing out a lot, but nobody else had [this track]. It’s good—it’s a great sign!
DJ Times: A lot of your productions seem to lean toward “set weapon” rather than “DJ tool.” When you’re producing, are you trying to make these big moments?
Clarke: I don’t say that I’m an amazing producer—I’m the first to admit it. Technically, I wouldn’t say that I’m an amazing producer. I sit back and listen to other people’s productions and say, “How the fuck did they do that? These guys are geniuses.” The one thing I’d say that I am good at is simple ideas and making things that simply work in a club. I’ve always been a DJ, and I know what will work in a club, and I know what people will catch onto. I think that’s what I’m good at doing in the studio: writing something that people will go, “I remember that track.” That’s what I try and do in the studio: have an idea so that at the end of a night, people will go, “What was that track that went ‘That Booty Percolatin’?”
DJ Times: It really feels like the past year’s really been a “coming out” moment of sorts for your career. What’s that feel like?
Clarke: It’s amazing. I’m lucky. I feel very lucky to be in this situation. I’m still a very long way off from where I want to be, this is just the beginning. I’ve gone through my career and always thought, “This is where I’m going to get bigger—this is where it happens.” There have been different stages in my career where I always thought that, but I think this year (and toward the end of last year), was where I realized my career starts. It’s been like 12 years in the making; I don’t think people realize how long in the making it’s really, really been. I’ve been DJing for a long time.