Self-Portrait: Manuel Darquart

Back in 2017 we became hooked on the smooth boogie licks of ‘I’m Not Over You’, a breezy jam taken from New Zealand duo Manuel Darquart‘s sophomore release on childsplay.

A follow up to their debut on London’s Coastal Haze that came just a few weeks prior, the EP was an introduction to the pair’s sun-soaked productions that felt reminiscent of PPU’s funk-laced output, and conjured up images of beach-side hammocks and juicy cocktails with tiny umbrellas.

When they’re not in the studio you can find them behind the decks on Netil Radio, where they host their monthly Adventures In Paradise show, or at their party of the same name, where you can catch them serving up their favourite Italo Disco finds at different establishments around London.

With future releases penned for Wolf Music, Demi Riquismo’s Semi-Delicious, Aussie fave Planet Trip and CC:DISCO!, the duo put together a mix of unreleased jams, alongside a few previews of the aforementioned forthcoming goodies. This is accompanied by an interview about their approach to production, failed dreams of sounding like Oasis and making sure Louis gets his 5-a-day…

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

Louis: Doing what I thought was a choreographed dance to the Spice Girls ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ when I was 7. 

Sean: Listening to Fine Young Cannibals while on a roadtrip with my parents and my brother. I think around 10? My mum hated it. I still revisit their back catalogue frequently. 

Louis: I can see why your mum hated it. 

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

L: My mum was a jazz singer and my dad always had a massive music collection and then my step dad would listen to George FM mixes so I definitely always grew up around music. Then I was forced to learn guitar at age 11 and it changed my life.

S: Not particularly. I played bass guitar and saxophone – both terribly. I’d say I’m more on the technical side compared to Louis, which helps when producing.

What led you into music production?

L: A copy of Garageband and trying to sound like Oasis.

S: Louis trying to sound like LTJ Bukem in Garageband. 

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

S: Along the years, Harvey Sutherland, M5K, Zanzibar Chanel, Frank Booker, Break, D’angelo, Gil Scott-Heron, and Telephones. I think in particular, learning Jill Scott – ‘Golden’ on the piano was pretty influential.

L: For me probably more scenes than individuals so yer Italo Houses, yer Italo Discos, yer early 90s houses (MAW!), yer late 80s dub mix paradise garage stuff. 

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

S: Usually Louis hasn’t eaten in 24 hours so we grab some grub.

L: Not eating for 24 hours. 

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

S: Sometimes. I try to collect tracks that I am liking at the moment and, based on these, create a picture of what I’d like to produce. This usually includes short snippets of tracks that I think we could sample and build upon, to full albums that I like the production of (e.g. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound).

L: I never do. Everything I’ve ever made has honestly been such a wild and random convergence of events. lol. I’m actually fucking terrible at figuring out what I want, it either comes together in 20 minutes or not at all. 

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

S: I used to think I was the former, but now I’ve realised I’m definitely the latter. Better to produce something than sweat over nothing.

L: Me too. I’m too busy sweating the real stuff like if the Knicks can get Giannis Antetokounpo in the 2021 free agency!  

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

S: We’ll usually start with a loop which reflects what we’re listening to at the time, or what gear Louis’ just bought. Then we add and subtract elements. Nothing too complex, but Louis has a lot of kit in his studio so it’s easy to pick up great sounding presets and patches quickly that all fit well together.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

S: Most of our production is original. We sample drums here and there and layer these into a track. We also sample ambient, backing noise from old tracks and YouTube. Quite a bit of YouTube.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Manuel Darquart track?

S: It’s really changed over the years. Before moving to England, we both had large studios (bedrooms) in New Zealand, and we filled these with mostly cheap keyboards (Alpha Junos, JX-3Ps, DX7s etc.) we could acquire second-hand. 

When we made the move, we sold everything and, faced with extremely small bedrooms in London, focused on downsizing. This led to us purchasing a lot of rack gear and switching to a more ‘in-the-box’ approach. 

Right now, and for the past year or two, it would have to be the Korg M1R. Louis’ just picked up a TD-3 and DX100, so those will probably dominate our productions for at least the next year. We also frequent SecretSundaze studios as much as possible and make use of their kit, and I think the last few and next few releases have been recorded and mixed there. 

L: Also if anyone is in the market for a Roland SH32 then I AM currently (perpetually) selling it on eBay.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Manuel Darquart material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

L: I think maybe the first impression was to do something a little too cute and conceptual, but every time we’ve tried stuff like that it’s never come off and been a little disingenuous to us so with this we just went all out, dancefloor-orientated, classic DJ mix but all the tunes just happen to be ours! 

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

L: Yes! An EP with Wolf Music which we can’t wait to release (couple of tunes in the mix)! Then there’s a couple tracks on VAs for Demi Riquismo’s Semi-Delicious, Aussie label Planet Trip who I’ve been fanboying over for a while (shout out Borrowed CS) and also a track for literally the best person on the planet CC:DISCO! 

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