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Interview: Howard Lawrence of Disclosure

"I feel like once you’ve done one thing, it’s not fun doing it again"

Born to a deeply musical family, brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, who make up the two halves of Disclosure, were exposed to a variety of genres before stumbling upon dubstep in 2007. From there, the siblings unearthed Joy Orbison, James Blake and Burial, before going further back and discovering gems of the past like Chicago house, Detroit techno and UK garage, elements of which are still evident in their continually evolving sound. 

The duo found commercial success with this formula in 2012. Their immensely successful debut album Settle featured a collaboration with then little-known UK singer Sam Smith, Latch. Disclosure hit the big time soon thereafter with AlunaGeorge collab White Noise. Last year’s album Caracal led to the duo’s first Grammy nomination and now the group’s sound is in more demand than ever. We speak with Howard about the act’s influences, Prince and what it means to be creative ahead of their first Asia tour.

Hey Howard! What is it about the UK garage and house sounds that inspires you the most?

We grew up with disco and funk, so that felt very comfortable for us. I think it was the experimental nature of what was going on in 2009 that really inspired us to try something new. People like Flying Lotus, actually, they were sounds that we’ve never heard before. They were completely amazing and very creative. I think that’s what inspired us to start anew but we did get a lot of influence from a lot of other stuff. I think it’s probably because
it’s so far away from what we grew up listening to.

What did you grow up listening to?

It was mostly from our parents. They’re musicians. Our whole family are musicians. We grew up listening to a lot of Motown, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Our dad introduced us to stuff in the rock world, like Rush and Genesis and a whole lot of classics, jazz and funk. I grew up learning bass, so we grew up kind of learning to play all those songs. That’s why it’s
close to our hearts.

And they have that melodic-centred mentality that you guys have as well...

Yeah. People like Genesis, they are really trying to put new stuff out melodically as well as harmonically and that’s what we look for. Especially me, I’ve always been interested in chords more than anything else because I play bass and keys. It’s what excites me the most on records like that. The drumming is also incredible because of the time signatures and that’s what music is about, in a sense. It’s about impressing other musicians all of the time.

In that sense, there’s a huge blending of genres, too, even in your own work, where your albums and EPs are all so different...

I think for Guy and I, all of our favourite artists have never done the same thing twice. I think a really good modern example is he Foals. Every album is different and we wanted to replicate that, in a way, because I feel like once you’ve done one thing, it’s not fun doing it again. Take Prince also. He’s gone everywhere in his career and done so many different things and I think that’s what being creative is all about. It’s not about trying to please your audience. It’s about trying to please your own creative mind. I don’t think you can put a genre on Prince. I don’t feel like we can put Purple Rain in the same category as 1999. That’s why he’s so brilliant because he can carry himself across all those different styles of music. We’re trying to replicate that, in a sense, and also just follow what we love. We make music because we want to, not because we have to. Sometimes we want to make a pop record and sometimes we want to make a techno record. We just make whatever we feel like.

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