Interview: Charlie Darker
On his first bus tour, weird fan encounters, and his life before DJ'ing

We waited two months for Wolfgang Gartner and Tommy Trash's Hounds of Hell Tour to hit the district, and with two gigantic tour buses parked behind Echostage, to say that they made a grand entrance is an understatement. We interviewed Wolf back in August just minutes before his Made in America set at Roseland Ballroom, so last night we devoted our attention to one of the two supporting acts who deserves just as much love: Charlie Darker. At just 21 years old, he is traveling the country on his first bus tour with the gang, and last night he played a killer set that we're sure will stand out in fans' minds for a while. We asked about what it's been like living on a bus for the last few weeks, in addition to the vivid cultural experiences and getting his name out to fans. For now, Charlie has been doing extremely well with support from artists like Wolf, Tommy, and Afrojack to name a few, and continues to release banging tracks on Kindergarten Recordings. Listen to his remix of Clockwork feat. Wynter Gordon's "Surge" below!

As you power through your very first bus tour, what has the experience been like for you? Feel free to share any embarrassing moments involving you, Wolfgang, Tommy, or Bass Kleph.

The experience has been great! The crew of guys is awesome. I mean Wolfgang, and Tommy…they’re guys that I’ve looked up to forever. And when they asked me to be on this tour I was so excited about it. Just to have them even want me to be a part of it. There’s a lot of things about bus life that you have to learn on the fly. And I’m the youngest one on this tour, by a lot. I’m 21. So that’s the thing. I think the bus experience has been great so far and it’s awesome to be a part of. In terms of embarrassing stories, when I was in Calgary, since you’re doing so many dates and so many cities, you kinda forget where you are sometimes. So I was on the mic in Calgary and we had just played Edmonton and I was like, “Thank you so much Edmon…Calgary!” So that was embarrassing for me. I felt pretty bad at the time. I got some tweets about it.

We’d imagine that traveling to all these cities is eye opening, especially for a first-timer. What have you learned about the cultures you’ve seen so far?

It’s kind of funny because we’ve been moving slowly up across the west, and then up top, and now we’re coming back down the east. So it’s kinda funny to see how things slowly change as you move. The difference between LA and Burlington is massive, you know? I feel more at home in the northeast because it’s more like where I’m from, in Canada. But, every city is so different. That’s the thing. People talk about how they went to Canada. Well you know, there’s so many fucking places in Canada, you can’t generalize the entire country and the same goes for the States. Every state is like its own country. So I’m really excited to go to New Orleans which we’re going to in two days, and we’re staying there for four days. I loved Burlington, I loved New Haven, obviously LA was great. There are differences between all these places and I try to note them. All the places we’ve been to are really nice. 

What have you found to be the most difficult aspect of getting your name out? The Hounds of Hell Tour is probably helping out a lot with that.

It’s really not difficult if you can identify what works and identify what doesn’t work. A lot of guys put a shitload of money into buying fans or whatever, and I don’t consider that exposure. And as you said, this bus tour is really helpful in getting my name out there to all these markets that I haven’t played before. But the best way to get your name out there—I can’t really comment on the heart of what’s difficult about it. I mean, it’s difficult if you don’t have the content. If you don’t have good music, no matter what, you’re not going to succeed. There are exceptions, if you pour enough money into any one act, they’re gonna do well. But I’ve found that I make the most fans when I make songs that I’m proud of and I get feedback from guys like Wolfgang, so I have a good network of people to run things past. I kind of know when things are gonna expose me to new people because its basically when I put out a product I’m proud of. I don’t think anyone’s super surprised; overnight success doesn’t really exist. Even the most screaming examples of overnight success—there’s always so much work behind it.

Do you ever get nervous before you’re about to enter the stage, or does the crowd’s energy make you feel confident?

I don’t really get nervous anymore. Sometimes if I’m playing with names, like people I’m playing with or people that I know are watching—it’s really when people are backstage, like super big guys, which happens all the time—that’s when I get nervous. As you said, the crowd’s energy gets me pumped up and I’m not nervous about that, it’s more who’s watching really closely. Because a crowd is pretty forgiving because if you fuck up they don’t really know—most of the time. But you know, when there’s guys backstage really watching, that’s what I’m thinking about at the back of my head. Like, “Oh fuck, Tiesto is right there watching me. Shit.”

And that’s how you make connections. When artists are really observing you and are impressed by your work. That’s when they start reaching out to you.

Yeah, it’s great! The support from guys like Tiesto and Hardwell, Wolf and Tommy…all these guys, it’s been incredible all the DJ support I’ve gotten relative to my fan base. It’s not like Charlie Darker is a household name or anything. But my music is being played by the biggest guys in the world. Like Afrojack, all these guys that I never come across, but they somehow got my music.

That means you’re doing something right.

I hope so!

Speaking of the stage, you have a perfect view of the entire venue from up there. What is the funniest or most notable thing a fan has done while you were spinning?

This one actually is a story that just got told to me. It didn’t happen to me, but I was with Pierce Fulton the other night and we were talking. There was a guy who was yelling at him during his set, “I know you, I know you man!” And he’s in the middle of the crowd and he passes his ID all the way up to the front of the crowd for Pierce to look at, and Pierce has no idea who it is still. This was in New Haven that this happened to Pierce. And we were in New Haven at the time, and he met the guy again. So that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. A guy passing his ID up to show to the DJ. And then afterwards apparently he was just like, “I just wanted to meet you.” I can’t think of anything that’s happened to me, but that came to mind because that happened like two days ago.

When you initially began submitting your demos to Wolfgang, did you expect that he’d love your work and immediately sign you onto Kindergarten, or were you just crossing your fingers on that one?

Well the funny part is I never sent anything to Wolfgang. I put out an EP called The Dojo EP on Ministry of Sound and Wolfgang/Kindergarten heard it and they actually reached out to me. They said, “What do you have?” And then I sent them a track called “Pacific,” which is off my Atlantic Pacific EP. And then I met Wolf shortly after that and we talked, and he said, “Yeah, we’re really into that. So let’s try and get another track—a B side.” And then that ended up being “Atlantic,” which ended up being the A side on the EP. So I never really submitted any demos. The only time I’m submitting demos is now, when I’m signed to the label, for new tracks. So that’s more when I have my fingers crossed. Because before they approached me and now that we have the connection, I’m sending them shit and hoping that they like it.

Do you have any sort of rituals before heading into the studio to produce? For example, whenever I’m about to start a huge paper I make sure I buy a bunch of fun energy drinks to keep me motivated and inspired.

What are fun energy drinks?

I really like the Red Bull Red Edition—it’s cranberry flavored.

I didn’t even know that existed.

Yeah, I don’t like regular Red Bull because it tastes like cough medicine.

That’s what I said! But in terms of rituals in the studio? I drink a lot of coffee. I think any producer will tell you that. Drink a lot of coffee. I usually spend some time listening to the tracks that I think are the best, the most well produced. Guys like Wolfgang, Knife Party, Porter and Madeon, Zedd. I’ll listen to those and be like, “Okay, so that’s the bar.” If it’s not that good, I don’t wanna, you know. And my ears are kind of attuned to that. And then I try to make sure that my stuff is at that high quality. That’s my only pre-studio ritual. But the thing about my studio is that it’s right beside my bed so there’s not much time for rituals. You kind of just roll out and get to work. It’s different for shows. I don’t even really have pre-show rituals. I drink a beer. That’s about it

If there was one thing about yourself that you’d want fans to know, what would it be? It can be funny or deep, but preferably funny!

I don’t think there’s anything deep that I’d want my fan base to know about me. What would I want my fan base to know about me? I am just like anybody else, I guess. Meeting fans and having them go crazy and ask for my autograph still blows my mind. I always try to respond to things on Twitter and interact as much as I can. I just want my fans to know that I’m just another guy and I hope that I keep encouraging them to contact me, sending demos or whatever. I can’t really think of anything specific that I’d want them to know about me. I used to be an athlete, that’s kind of funny. I was a really serious soccer player. I was a really serious ski hill racer, like downhill skiing. I owned a wakeboard and water ski school for three years. I played in rock bands. I was very different, or I did a lot of different things before I got to this. I never set out to be a DJ, it just kind of happened. So I guess if I could say something to my fans, it would be “thank you” and keep Tweeting me, keep emailing me. I’ll try to respond whenever I can. And I’m so grateful for all the things people do for me, like clicking “buy” on Beatport. Clicking “download” or clicking “like.” It means a lot to me, and I think fans often go underappreciated. It’s hard to communicate that in such a diluted social media world. It’s really hard to truly tell your fans that I appreciate it. So I guess that’s something I’d like to say to them.