Deadmau5 hand-picked 24-year-old British producer and DJ Burns to warm up for him at every show during a 30 date US tour last year. He’s also Calvin Harris’ go-to support DJ when he tours.
And yet not much was known about Burns, until recently, when his face appeared everywhere, in both high brow broadsheets like The Times, and dance bibles Mixmag and DJ Magazine. Even rock rag NME jumped on the Burns wagon.
Now big bands like the Black Eyed Peas, Wolfmother, Ladyhawke, and Franzmusik are asking for remixes, so we decided to get closer to the rising star of British electro house as his new EP ‘So Many Nights’ has just been released.
You recently returned from a 30 date tour with Deadmau5 in the States. How did that go?
Yeah it all finished at the beginning of December. It was hectic. We basically did a gig a day. We lived on a tour bus, after each gig, we got back on the tour bus and headed to the next city.
The response of the American crowd was great. Couldn’t ask for much from them really. It was a relief for me as my sound is quite different to Deadmau5’, but they seemed to like the contrast.
How did you two first hook up?
We met at a party in London actually. I DJed before him, and we got chatting. He said he was looking for someone to support him on his US tour so I chatted to his management and it got set up.
He wanted someone who played different to what he plays, because there was no point having somebody with the exact same sound play before him.
So what it your sound?
I guess I play more of the indie style of dance music. It’s a bit leftfield, and I play weirder stuff, rather than full on dance or trance. But it worked well as a warm up for his set. His music is more full on rave, whereas I play more poppy.
Did you open every gig from when the doors opened to the start of Deadmau5’ set?
Each gig was different. Sometimes I’d start and it would be an empty room, and then by the end a few thousand people would be there.
But then at other gigs, it was packed from the very beginning, like Terminal 5 in New York City. That was one of my best ever gigs. There was such a huge crowd there from the start.
How was the tour bus?
Most nights we slept on bus. I had a guy with me from back home, the guy that does all my viral videos. He documented the whole thing, right now he’s putting together a documentary of the tour.
The whole tour was pretty crazy actually. America is a completely different culture to the UK really, and we saw some strange things. Female stalkers, that sort of thing.
Yeah. I met this one gig at a gig in some city. And the next day she got a flight to the next gig just to meet me again. I won’t go too far into it, but it was interesting, shall we say?
And then you also joined Calvin Harris on a tour in the UK. How was that?
I met Calvin a long time ago now. It was just when he was beginning to get some recognition, and I was still trying to get recognition.
We got in contact over Myspace. We both have the same manager now, so it has worked out well. It’s good to have a friend who is into the same thing as you.
We’re similar people, with the same sense of humour, that sort of thing. We have a mates relationship. I always go to his studio to hear what he’s working on, and vice versa.
Do you both live in London?
He’s In london, I’m in Brighton right now. But it’s not too far to get to London.
Is your sound similar to Calvin’s?
I wouldn’t say so, no. He’s obviously quite poppy, whereas the stuff that I’ve released has been club orientated. It’s not commercial pop anyway.
Although my album will be quite poppy. None of my EPs will be on the album.
I guess the album will be a cross between what I’m doing currently and something more pop. It’ll be a crossover sort of sound I hope.
It’s quite odd that you write club music, but you’ve never really been into clubbing.
Even though I wasn’t into the whole club scene, I was still into that type of music. I still bought dance music.
I wasn’t into pop. I don’t know how I got into dance music in the beginning. I guess it was just through friends in school. In the ‘90s, there was so much good club music, like Daft Punk, and the whole french house scene.
The 1990s was my era. I was in my early teens, and that’s when you get most of your influence from I think.
But I’ve always been into everything really. My mum has huge collection of records. She handed them over to me.
What sort of music did she listen to?
A lot of disco, 80’s music, and some 70’s. And she was into dance stuff during the 90s, like acid house. I guess my path into dance music is half inherited, half from what I bought.
You were big in the blog world before anywhere else. Why do you think that is?
One of the most important things a new artist can do is build up a presence online. It’s the main tool to promote yourself these days. You have to get yourself out there.
A friend of mine is really good at viral videos so we did videos to try to boost awareness of the music without giving tracks away for free.
But in the beginning we also blogged quite a lot of tracks. Giving your music away is a good way to promote yourself in the beginning.
Now we’ve eased off on the blogs a bit, as don’t have to give it away for free any more! Giveaways is something everybody has to do these days. You have to embrace it, and use it to your advantage. When you first start out, you have to do it.
Even big pop acts are giving away free stuff.
Have you always been into DJing?
No, not really. I got into DJing only once I started building up a name for myself on the production side. I got thrown into the deep end. One of my first gigs was warming up for Calvin Harris, which was nerve-wracking.
When I was first started DJing, I couldn’t gauge the crowd and what they weren’t into. So I played stuff that was probably totally inappropriate. But over time I learnt how to warm up a crowd.
It’s worked out quite well. I wasn’t one of my aspirations, but when you make dance music it obviously comes with the territory. Now I really enjoy it and it’s one of my favourite things to do.
What’s your DJ set up like?
I use three CDJs and a mixer. I don’t ever plan what I’m going to play. I just go with my instincts and try to read the crowd.
Live wise, I’m still working on what my ideal live show will be like. My album isn’t quite done yet, but I’m working with vocals so there will be more of a live show at gigs. Hopefully it’ll be more like a live band. None of that laptop stuff.
What’s your plan with the album?
To get it finished ASAP. I want to get it out this year. I’m hoping for late summer, but it’s difficult with the amount of gigs coming through.
I’ve got an Australian tour coming up, then Miami’s WMC. I’m trying to find the time to fit it all in.
You’ve done loads of remixes for big artists. How did you get to that level?
I don’t know really. I just started out doing remixes and bootlegs for my sets – not official remixes, and just hoped that the artist would like it enough to use it.
The things I did early on, were really just me doing remixes and trying my like. And fortunately a few of them put it out as official remixes.
Now I get requests from big bands.
I just did a mix for Wolfmother, which came out a few weeks ago. I did Ladyhawke too – not sure if that came out yet. And I did Black Eyed Peas as well.
The trouble with doing stuff for majors, is that sometimes you do remix and it doesn’t actually come out.
What’s your studio like?
I’m slowly building it. More and more cables appear every day. I started off with just me and a computer and software, now I’m building up hardware and it’s beginning to look like a weird science lab in my bedroom.
I live in an attic which is quite weird, on the roof of a flat. It’s a weird shaped room, but it has good acoustics, as they say.
I have a computer, a few synths, some weird talk box with tubes that go in your mouth, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, and an electric guitar. It’s very makeshift.
Yeah I’m self taught, though. I never had a guitar lesson in my life, but learnt how to play acoustic from books and playing other people’s music. Then I learnt bass guitar after that. When you do this genre of music, it’s a lot easier to play live and record it, and then just remove the mistakes afterwards.
Burns ‘So Many Nights’ EP
Burns guides us through his killer new four-track EP.
This is a four track EP of original songs, and it’s probably my favourite EP out of the lot that I’ve released. At least three of the tracks could have been released as singles on their own.
The whole EP is epic sounding and emotive, even though there are no vocal hooks. The tracks hopefully stand out. The only thing I wanted to achieve with this EP was a big club presence, and for every track to sound different to the last one.
‘So Many Nights’
I’ve played the lead track in every DJ set for last month, and it has had some great reactions. DJ Mehdi from Ed Banger even included the track in a podcast mix in December, and people have been asking for it ever since.
I made this a long time ago, when I was about 18.
I was actually a trance tune originally, so I had to revamp it a bit. It’s still trance sounding, but I’ve tried to make it as fresh as possible.
It’s a little homage to what I was listening to when I was 14 – full on trance, Ferry Corsten, and epic 1990’s trance. At least, it’s my take on it.
‘Kiss ‘N’ Hold’
Again, this track has been around for quite a while in my studio. I revamped it into this big epic sounding thing. It has a really emotive chord progression made from samples.
When you listen to the riff it’s big and uplifting. It’s a full-on club track. Its sole purpose is to be a peaktime club tune.
This is a new thing I did. I only started it a month before the EP was finished. There was little part of the track that I had for a long time, so I built a completely new track around it.
It’s one of my best tracks I think. It’s a fresh sound, and quite different to anything else out there. It’s not a simple club track – there’s a lot going on.