Neither name is a stranger to dance music having both been wrapped up in the scene for more than a decade. Dresden of course was member of the stellar Gabriel & Dresden while Johnston was defining the San Francisco house sound with Mephisto Odyssey. Together this pair have a chance to make their mark on the dance scene once again, but just how do they plan on doing that? Best of House caught up with the newly formed duo to ask more..
BoH – It’s a new partnership. Would you like to explain how this came to be?
Dave –We met each other briefly in 2000 before I met Josh Gabriel. Mikael was in a band called Mephisto Odyssey that was signed to Warner Bros. I had Mephisto Odyssey on my radio show which was on Groove Radio for a live performance. We continued to talk online about working together but Mikael got busy touring to support his album and I met Josh and started working on what became Gabriel & Dresden.
Mikael – I think that Dave and I always had a natural chemistry from the first time we met, the timing just wasn't there back in 2000. After I left Warner I spent a lot of time producing and engineering and writing music. I was moving more towards vocal-centric material and away from the underground house and breaks sound of Mephisto, although Mephisto is still something that is ongoing. The interesting part about our story is that I actually knew and worked with Josh Gabriel long before Dave met Josh. I had worked before signing my contract at Warner Bros. for Josh's company Mixman, we had even worked a bit on music together as well.
BoH – How would you define your style?
Dave – Sad, sexy and euphoric.
Mikael – It's definitely a hybrid of what we both love about music, not just dance music. We pull ideas from everywhere all the time when we're working on a remix or new song idea. As for how it turns out, I mean I guess it's definitely music that we hope will create a mood and say something that means something to us while retaining at least the appearance of a universal message.
BoH – What qualities do you both possess that will make this collaboration work?
Dave & Mikael – Besides the fact that we've both had a lot of industry experience we also have complimentary talents. Dave has the uncanny ability to pick parts, design sounds and rhythms that are the heartbeat of our songs. Mikael is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and engineer. That might be over simplifying it a bit but in a nutshell that's how we work. We both often work closely with each other on all aspects of a song as well. For instance Dave will come up with melody ideas or Mikael will work with FX to help shape a sound.
BoH – Can you describe the process of how an idea becomes a full track when working as a duo? Does one person take the lead?
Dave – We have both worked apart and together, it depends on the song. Sometimes one of us will have an idea in our head for a direction and we'll assign tasks, like Dave might work on the drum programming while Mikael works on the bass. We'll then combine parts and begin to build the track.
Mikael – Often times I'll play a line, could be a synth pad or lead and I'll shoot it over to Dave and he'll slice it, dice it and effect it into something brand new then shoot it back to me to add to the arrangement. We never really know when we start where it's going to end up even when we feel we have a clear idea of our direction. The song always takes us on a journey.
BoH – How did you manage to bag yourselves a remix of what is already shaping up to be one of the biggest singles of 2009?
Dave – The A & R department contacted me looking for a Gabriel and Dresden style remix. Upon hearing the parts I felt Mikael (Johnston) would be the perfect person to work with me to help see this remix to fruition. Johnston and I had already been fooling around in the studio since the previous summer. After finishing the Lily Allen remix it was clear that we had the right chemistry in the studio to develop our new duo, so I suggested we call ourselves Dresden and Johnston when it came time to credit the remix.
Mikael – Dave and I have a lot of the same loves and want to go in a similar musical direction it keeps things exciting even when doing more mundane tasks. For instance we both have a love for analog synthesis and vintage analog recording gear. We both love vocals and music that create an emotional response.
BoH – Dave, you mentioned in your MySpace blog with apparent pleasure that you “pulled out the Moog and the Prophet 08” for this Lily Allen remix. Do you have any preference to hardware/software synthesizers when producing tracks?
Dave – Mikael and I both have a love for analog synthesizers. That doesn't mean we don't use software synths, but we will almost always choose the actual analog box over the software equivelent whenever possible. Some of the synths we've been using at our studio are the Prophet 8, Moog Voyager, Roland Super Jupiter, Roland JX-3P, and the Studio Electronics ATC-X. Some of the software synths we use are the Arturia Arp2600, Rob Papen Blue, ES-P, and the Vangaurd.
BoH – Mikael, still working with Orpheos Dejournette as Mephisto Odyssey, how are you going to manage your time between the two partnerships?
Mikael: Actually Orpheos left the band just before Mephisto Odyssey left Warner Bros. in January of 2002. The newer Mephisto Odyssey material that has been released since (mostly between 2006-present) have been produced by myself and Josh Camacho. Josh was our touring DJ back while we were at Warner. He was hired to take Barrie's place in our live PA when Barrie's wife had breast cancer. We were very sad to see Barrie have to leave the project but Josh has been amazing. Orpheos is working on his own solo material which has gone in a very different direction.
BoH – Dave, how is this partnership different from the Gabriel & Dresden legacy? Are you looking to achieve different goals?
Dave – I'm looking to continue where I left off and see where it takes me. I don't think we have any preconceived notions but I feel we're fastly approaching what I'm looking for.
BoH – You’ve both worked predominantly in partnerships. Is there a benefit to this?
Dave – Absolutely, it's great being able to apply your strengths to their strengths, being able to delagate work to one another so things can be acheived more quickly, having someone to bounce ideas off of and tell you when to believe the hype and when not to. ...plus it's just more fun to work with someone else.
BoH – Will you be DJing together as well as producing?
Mikael – Yes, but not immediately, and then only now and again until we release an album or EP that warrants that kind of tour support. In the meantime Dave will continue his fairly vigorous tour schedule on his own. Our first official appearance together will be at a festival here in San Francisco on August 7th (the Best of the Bay festival that's hosted by The East Bay Express).
BoH – What does the future hold for Dresden & Johnston? Are there more releases in the pipeline?
Mikael – So far this year we've done remixes for Lily Allen, Nadia Ali, BT, JD Webb and The Crystal Method. We just finished up The Crystal Method remix today as a matter of fact. We're going to take a short break from remixing to concentrate on finishing original material, including a song Dave started with our friend John Debo and music we wrote and recorded with Nadia Ali in June of this year.
BoH – Which one piece of DJ/studio gear could you not live without?
Dave – A Mac computer running Logic.
Mikael – A Mac computer running Pro Tools HD.
BoH – Which DJs/producers do you think we should be looking out for this year?
Dave & Mikael – Pablo Decoder, Wippenberg, Grayarea, Morgan Page, Serge Devant.