When label founder Simon Dunmore walked away from the protection of Ministry of Sound to defend the independence of Defected almost two decades ago, he had no idea that this first solitary move as lone wolf would lead him to where he is today; top dog, leader of the pack, and a pretty solid pack, at that.
To this day, Defected has released hundreds of single through its flagship label and various sub-labels. Heard Soulsearchers’ ‘I Can’t Get Enough’? That’s from Defected. ‘Lola’s Theme’? ‘At Night?’ How about Camelphat and Elderbrook’s recent insatiable banger ‘Cola’? Yep, all Defected. Chances are the label is responsible for at least some, if not most of your favourite club classics, including plenty you haven’t heard yet. It boasts a roster of the World’s most talented established and emerging DJ’s, from club favourites such as Dennis Ferrer and MK to left-field, in-the-know rave Gods and Goddesses, like Calvin-Harris collaborator Riva Starr and once-record-shop-employee Sam Divine, who has grown from her mum’s shed to touring around the world both with events for the label and on solo venture sets. I had the opportunity to see Sam on the U.K. leg of her recent Openers tour a month or so ago, wherein she played deep, glowing sets with the same energy and lust for music that allowed her to become so established; she blew the roof off at every single venue, and, accompanied by upcoming protégée Jess Bays, reminded us all (and herself, probably) exactly why we love the rave.
Looking at Defected’s 2018 success, (which included regular events at household-name U.K. venues like Printworks and Studio 338 as well as Residencies in the Mecca itself (Ibiza), with a DJ reppin’ them in every corner of the world) the effort is not just admirable, or aspirational, but downright worthy of fist pumps and that one, drawn-out orgasmic ‘aah’ that escapes from your lips as the beat is handled by a pro in the middle of a rave. Especially when you consider what the last twenty years has done to the planet, economy, and society.
One thing Defected managed to do early on, and right was embrace the digital revolution. Years of science fiction prepared us for an inevitable technological uprising; I don’t think anybody predicted that the dangers of the internet, cyber-security aside, would hit the Music Industry first. Amongst file sharing and the rise of streaming, the crew of Defected managed to avoid an implosion through hard work, rolling up their sleeves and, of course, evolution. After seeing that physical sales in stores such as HMV were taking a hit, they took their own reigns with the distribution of their products to avoid losses and returns. After noticing that real-world marketing was losing its effectiveness whilst more people stopped turning their devices off, they invested in digital advertising. Filming sets and putting them on YouTube allowed fans to become immersed in artists they’d only seen the names of before, boosting ticket sales and leading to bigger events in the future.
The heart of social media is its no-walls-barred appeal; through its lens, fans of rave culture have been able to become immersed in first-person views of Defected’s DJ’s lives from their perspectives mid-set to the brunch-heavy mornings after. The early realisation that fans weren’t just buying into a brand but building emotional connections to the people, was key to both Dunmore and Defected’s growth and subsequent legacy. Whilst this knowledge is common-place to us today, surrounded by Social Media Managers and Digital Marketing teams whose sole job is to decode and infiltrate the internet, it’s integral to remember that 20 years ago, the face of the marketing industry was unrecognisable. It’s worth noting here too that Dunmore’s enigmatic and bold approach knew no bounds; he put his own house against two bank loans for the label. That tells you all you need to know of his character, and if I were part of Defected at that time, I’d follow him right into the sunrise too. With Defected, loyalty and integrity course through its crews’ veins.
Speaking of branding, however… they have got it absolutely spot-on. Your brand defines you, highlights your essence, the core of the message you wish to portray into the world, and no sentence sums this up so well as ‘In our house we are all equal’, Defected’s mantra. Champions of diversity and equality, at an event you’ll find posters advocating against discrimination of any kind, and the message that once you step inside the doors, we are united as one. As a gay man myself who has had trouble fitting into ‘stereotypical’ scenes, I have find I’ve truly emerged this year as my love for the house scene has flourished. I’ve never felt safer, more content, or comfortable displaying myself to the world than I do when I’m in the company of Defected fans. Not only that, but the loving energy that vibrates throughout the place assures me that this isn’t for show, for ‘branding’, or for revenue. Every person under that roof (or sunset) is there to feel the love and have the time of their lives, with egos and societal pressures left firmly in their bedrooms. And with the world in such a volatile state of recent years, we’ve been sorely in need of a haven.
When Defected began, the Ibiza scene was a blooming oasis of hedonistic dance music. Fans would flock from all over the world to hear the latest music from the world’s leading DJ’s, surrounded in euphoria by like-minded souls. Now, in an age where at the click of a button we can be almost-transported there with videos of sets gone by, it’s not a miracle, but a testament that the scene is only growing stronger, year-by-year. Residencies at Pacha, Booom! and now Eden, along with Sundays at Cafe Mambo are among the roster of Defected’s homes in the Summer. Old and new fans alike jet in and succumb to their inner desires, their purest selves, stepping outside of their own houses to enter onto one, united Dancefloor. Add to this what will be in 2019 another year of Defected Croatia, a six-day festival run by the label and showcasing the very best of the talent and lifestyle it has to offer, and it’s clear to see why people aren’t content staying put watching screens; it’s not living if it’s not in the moment.
Every family grows, naturally and organically, and Defected has been no different. Just as their presence has bloomed, so has their desire to spread more seeds of success; most notably in recent years with the arrival of Glitterbox in 2014, a sub-division devoted to the love of Disco. Dunmore once noted on the birth of GB that people were craving something other than tech-heavy, dark house and the commerical, VIP club elements; they needed to branch out, there were people who still had yet to find their home. Looking for a softer, sultry, almost-nostalgic experience reminiscent of generations before… and so Glitterbox was born. Becoming immensely popular in a short space of time, Dunmore again credits social media as key to the brand’s growth; if people see or hear something they like, they’re going to share it. Now a stand-out night in Ibiza as well as hosting events over continents, one thing is clear; Dunmore and his family know how to throw a party together.
This year has marked the first real forays into house music for me, personally. A casual fan before, all changed with one trip to Ibiza, and one matching Ibiza 2018 Defected album. Since then I’ve dived, with my partner, deep into the underbelly of the rave scene; what I’ve found is a Wonderland I never thought I’d be lucky enough to stumble into, and one from which I hope I never emerge. The compassion, loyalty and devotion I feel when I step down those stairs into a basement in Manchester for an intimate, 200-person set with Sam Divine, the energy when the Defected crew take me to heaven in an abandoned church-turned-nightclub, the hypnotic flow of bodies flowing as one in one of London’s most famous clubs… nothing compares to those feelings. Pure bliss, excitement, freedom… liberation.
I’ve seen legions of new fans, like myself, and even more veteran members, all who really do prove that ‘in our house, we are all equal’, free of ageism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. There’s nothing like succumbing truly to the moment, turning around and seeing your partner, and diving right into a passionate kiss, there and then without fear of any negative repercussions. I owe so much of my new-found zest, courage and heart to Defected and the people who fall under the banner of its family, for everything they have done and continue to do, and I am beyond thankful that they have stuck around through so much to become such the positive light that they are in my life today.
I mean, as if there was ever any doubt it wasn’t going to last 20 years, right? You can catch me at Ibiza next year celebrating Defected’s 20 shows for 20 years (a ticket for which only costs 20 euros, by the way), and after that…? Well, I’m sure that in another 20 years you can still catch me right here by Defected’s side, too.
I’ll see you on the Dancefloor. Or on the beach. Or on the boat. Either way, get yourself involved and join the party. The world’s waiting.