‘Through the trials and tribulations of my life, music has never left me. Never left.’
With such a statement it's obvious Ferrer’s passion for music is beyond question, and this unquenchable thirst is largely attributable to his childhood: one of his earliest recollections is tinkling the ivories of a toy piano aged four in a soul-and-disco-obsessed NYC household. Another vivid memory is as an eight-year-old, making after-school trips to local record shops to buy rap records, as both his ears and imagination were captured by the birth of hip hop in and around his New York neighbourhood. 'I was born in 1970 but I'm more a child of the early 1980s and late 1970s onwards: As a kid I remember chic's Le Freak, and Rapper’s Delight - that was an eye opener,' he recalls.
He also scoured the Columbia Records catalogue that his parents and aunts would use to purchase their music, and bought records with interesting names, such as the Doobie Brothers, or Kiss because of their striking LP covers. 'They were great times we listened to Chic, Sugar Hill, Kiss, Rush and AC/DC - everything rolled side by side, there were no genres or the genres were easy listening, rock and soul.’
‘And that's my approach to music today: I grew up in the whatever age, where you would listen to everything and I'm doing the same thing,' continues Ferrer. 'That's why people are surprised by my variety like if I do a tech thing, or an Afro thing, or a soulful record. That's the way I grew up. I didn't listen to one type of music.'
'Let's get this right: I'm not a producer. I'm a song writer/producer.'
Ferrer is quite literally an exceptional producer, in that he writes 90% of what you hear on one of his records, from lyrics to melodies to beats. His specialty is songs ('That's what I grew up with and that's what wrong with this business, there's not enough songs'). Forthcoming LP, The World As I See It, redresses this imbalance: with a healthy representation of song-based house - or dance music with feeling and a message.
He is also exceptional because he's the anti-thesis of the anonymous dance music producer: he uses his real name - no pseudonyms, monikers, or abbreviations. That's because he's prepared to stand up and be counted, putting blood, sweat and tears into his records: 'This is who I am, this is not my job, this is what I love to do: when you get one of my records,
there's quality - you're not getting cheated, I put my heart in it.'
Inspiration, however, can strike at the most unexpected of moments, and you have to be prepared: 'You can be taking a sh*t and be humming something and come up with a lyric and then have to run to the studio or write it down,' laughs Ferrer. 'Life is my muse - whether I'm having a sh*tty day, or I am happy or pissed off, what I write is coming from my heart. He’s been schooled by house and electronic music's leading lights of the last 15 years including early 1990s acid techno pioneer Damon Wild (behind Synewave Records), Kerri Chandler who set up a studio for Ferrer in his front room, and 'brought the soulful element into my life', while Kerri's good friend Jerome Sydenham, 'taught me arrangement and nuances in records.'
However between hooking up with Damon Wild as a young and confident producer - who astonishingly bagged (blagged?) a major label deal with his first ever record in the late-1980s, aged 19 - and Kerri Chandler in the mid-1990s, Ferrer left music behind, and studied to become a software engineer. While studying Ferrer began working in a music equipment store, where house music's elite would drop by. Inevitably Ferrer’s hobby of producing music grew into something more, especially after becoming friends with Kerri Chandler.
Then in 1995/1996 Ferrer went to a gig with Chandler, where again inspiration struck unexpectedly and he literally experienced an epiphany. 'Kerri played Kenny Bobien's Why I Sing and I stood in the middle of the dancefloor, not dancing and had tears in my eyes: I realised this is what I wanted to do. ' Ferrer still had a day job until 6pm in the evening, that finished at 6pm), and would get straight into the studio with Kerri and work ‘til 3am, only to start work again at 6am. His job suffered and was asked by his employers to make a choice. It was a no-brainer of a decision, and luckily for us, Ferrer pursued his calling and dream: making music.
'As long as it's 4/4, bumping and a club record, I'm happy - I don't want to make anything sleepy.'
Ferrer doesn't mince his words, but unlike many egotistical producers he can back it up with the real deal or at least three of house music's and the global dancefloor's biggest records of the last three years: Sandcastles, Most Precious Love, and The Cure & The Cause. He makes music with a vibe, and as long it meets the criteria of ‘4/4, bumping, club and not sleepy’ he's a happy man.
The last thing Ferrer is concerned with is fitting a genre or scene. Which is useful for a visionary such as Ferrer, as barriers between dance music genres currently seem as relevant as the Berlin Wall. Take for example the club sound du jour ‘minimal’ which blends techno, electro and house, or indie kids rocking to Nu Rave or guitars meets happy hardcore (Klaxons, Sh*t Disco, Data Rock) - while the collision of guitars, synths, disco and club beats in the form of cool dance bands (Scissor Sisters, The Rapture, Fischerspooner, Spektrum, Cut Copy, The Presets, Infadels) is beyond measuring. 2006's dance music darlings Ame aren't house, techno or electro - simply deep.
Ironically enough, Ferrer provided the catalyst that began breaking down dance music's Iron Curtains: Ferrer’s absolutely monstrous collaboration with Jerome Sydenham, Sandcastles (2003) got the ball rolling and straddled the tech-soulful divide.
'We knew we had something special, but the question was would anybody get it?' At first nobody got it - the deep, soulful house heads are saying what's this tech? At the Miami Winter Music Conference all the soulful house heads are asking who's this a*** playing techno? I felt so bad, I thought I botched and felt horrible. But one month later every soulful head in the universe is rocking Sandcastles, a year after its release.' ‘This was the one record that joined the tech crowd and the soulful crowd - you would hear it in both a tech club and a soulful club.' Next up was Ferrer's refix of Blaze & Barbara Tucker's Most Precious Love, that provided one of the biggest house records of this decade, with a new lease of dancefloor life: 'It was in the trash of my computer, I was thinking I don't make records like this it's too happy, I've messed it up.’
Ferrer's take on this year's all-conquering house anthem, Fish Go Deep's The Cure & The Cause, which has sucked a generation of lost UK Garage ravers into soulful house clubs, was another experiment in pushing the envelope. 'I was thinking I want to do something really different, so I put a tuba in it. Again I thought I botched it, again no one got it, and six months later it jumps off. Again, a year down the line it's being rocked by everyone.' Ferrer is one of the most well rounded producer/song-writers in dance music, let alone house. He's produced myriad styles (ambient, acid techno, tech, gospel, Afro, soulful), and has learnt from masters including Damon Wild, Kerri Chandler and Jerome Sydenham. It's an apprenticeship that many aspiring producers would trade their right arm for, and by combining this with strong ideas and passion, his consistency and quality over the last five years has been peerless.
And the logical step for a producer at the top of his game is an artist album: The World As I See It. His debut LP for Defected is an amalgamation of surprisingly diverse sprawling, global sounds, honed into soul-stirring, bumping house music; yet this is music that takes you on a subtly nuanced journey brimming with detail and painstaking perfection.
The jarring gospel-tech of Church Lady hits you in the stomach, as well as moving your feet while constantly changing direction; nourishing love song Touch The Sky overflows with fuzzy electronic melodies and bongo percussion; the largely instrumental P 2 Da J is packed with sharp and punchy chords, mesmerising chanting and a relentless, thumping bassline as its engine; Son Of Raw's messy electronics with short, sharp stabs of pads and pianos; Transitions' spellbinding grooves tumble then pump, powered by tribal drums; How Do I Let Go is a heartbreak elegy, recalling that desolate moment of realisation that a relationship is over and will never be the same again; finally the dancefloor drama of Destination sees the Balkans on an aural collision course with Brazil and of course, New York.
Dennis’ latest feat sees him joining those elite artists to have constructed and mixed a Defected ‘In the House’ compilation, his selections on which show he is an artist who refuses to have his music pigeon-holed into one sub-category of house music. From his beautifully reworked version of Telepopmusik’s ‘Love Can Damage Your Health’ to Booka Shade’s gritty ‘In White Rooms’, Dennis’ mix takes guides the listener through deep, funky, soulful and minimal, without ever straying from his trademark melodic sound.
Discerning house dancefloors across the global village couldn't have a more apt - or unifying - soundtrack.