Legendary tech-house DJ Darren Emerson tells Henry Northmore why he’s dusting down his old techno 12-inches.
Even with the remarkable success of his Underwater label it’s hard to think of Darren Emerson without thinking of Underworld. The deep tech-dub that Emerson brought to Underworld took them from indie-pop almost rans to festival slaying beat contortionists. The rich multi-layered electronica of their breakthrough, 1993’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman, still stands the test of time as a dark, intelligent record filled with warped ideas and deep hypnotic grooves. And of course there was the insistent ‘Born Slippy’ that pounded through the final moments of Trainspotting -" Darren is the first to admit, ‘It still rocks when I play it.’ This true classic, also includes ‘Rez’, ‘Cowgirl’ and ‘Dark and Long’, all still spun by DJs across the globe.
However Emerson left the band in 2000 after their third album Beaucoup Fish. ‘I don’t remember it being unpleasant at all, just suddenly there being no conversation,’ remembers Underworld cohort Karl Hyde, ‘but some people just like to deal with things that way and you have to respect that and let everyone live their lives.’ Since then Emerson has concentrated on his DJing, solo productions, remixing, and of course his Underwater label. ‘Underworld and Underwater are two completely different projects really,’ explains Emerson. ‘I was a DJ before I started Underworld so was heavily into the Chicago House scene. When I first started Underwater records in the early 90s my idea was to put out just good quality dance music, whether that be house tracks or techno.’
It’s a strategy that has worked well for Underwater, encompassing such huge chart hits as Tim Deluxe’s ‘It Just Won’t Do’ to the gentle house-infused electronica of Iceland’s Gus Gus. ‘It was just an idea when I was younger, that I wanted to put out good music,’ says Emerson. ‘I didn’t imagine that it would still be going 12 years later.’
It’s also good to see No Strings Attached making a return to Edinburgh’s clubland. ‘We chose Darren as a guest because he has been a massive influence on us since the early days of Lemon Interrupt,’ explains promoter Steve Cass. ‘He is also a huge crowd favourite.’ And NSA has its sights set on the future: ‘We have a few dates planned for next year in Edinburgh and we are currently organising our first outdoor event to be held next summer in Galashiels where we are looking to attract producers like Felix Da Housecat and David Holmes.’
But what can we expect on the night and how has a DJ such as Emerson, a man who has been at the forefront of dance culture since near its inception, managed to stay current though all the changes in clubland over the years. ‘I play house, tech-house, electro based music and techno,’ says Emerson. ‘Basically anything that floats my boat. I don’t like sticking to one kind of music it gets boring. You always have to keep your ear to the ground and keep your eyes open to what’s going on, whilst always staying true to what you like. But I’m also finding, dusting off and loading up some of the old techno 12s I used to play ten - even 15 - years ago. They still sound good now and people don’t know what they are. Adds a little bit of magic.’
Darren Emerson guests at No Strings Attached, the Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Sat 9 Dec.