Getting To Know: Sam Dexter
Sam Dexter is a man wearing many hats. A producer of quality deep house beats, DJ, as label head of his own Hungarian Hot Wax imprint, and as A&R at the long established and highly respected Glasgow Underground.
Over the past year or so, Dexter has put out a series of booming tunes including ‘Looks Good On You,’ ‘Catch Your Eye,’ and his perfect rework of the 1991 Drizabone track, ‘Real Love’ on Glasgow Underground, which was one of the label’s biggest tracks of 2020, a real breakout hit.
These have all helped him pick up support from A-list DJs such as Steve Lawler and Radio 1 heavyweights Annie Mac and Pete Tong.
Sam continues to assert himself with his latest single ‘Let Me Love You’ feat. J & The Rest, out now on Glasgow Underground.
A standout talent with an unrelenting work ethic and reliable skill in the DJ booth, we thought it was about time we got to know Sam Dexter.
Here he predicts the upcoming trends in global house music, gives advice on submitting a successful demo, and candidly talks about living with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and how it affects him as a producer.
About Sam Dexter
Hi Sam, thanks for chatting to us here at Data Transmission. For those who don’t know you already, what is your background – how did you get involved in producing and DJing?
Hi guys, a pleasure to be in be touch. From a young age, I was a drummer/percussionist. I played in orchestras and brass bands which taught me essential rhythm/improvisation skills and the basics of moving around the country to play music. I sold my drumkit and bought my first turntables and a handful of Drum & Bass and Hard House records at the age of 14. After discovering electronic music, I never looked back. I then studied Music Technology at Stafford college and, after that, Music Production at Staffordshire University.
My first gig was at a local pub in Stafford when I was 17. I must have brought my entire record collection with me as I was sure I would play them all. After an hour or so, the bar staff changed shift, and they discovered my age. They asked me to leave, and I responded, “but I am the DJ?”. The salty landlord laughed and told me my music was shite anyway.
What are your musical influences?
Childhood musical influences include Nirvana, Pet Shop Boys, REM handed down from my mother. The first electronic artists that influenced me are Andy C, Junior Jack & Kid Crème, Eric Prydz and Switch.
How did you land your role as A&R at Glasgow Underground?
In 2015 Kevin posted on the Glasgow Underground socials looking for house music lovers to go through the demo inbox and send on anything we thought stood out. As part of the application, I had to do a one hour DJ mix. Out of the hundred or so to apply, I was one of 5/6 to include any Glasgow Underground records in my DJ mix. [TOP TIP: When applying for a job at a label, and they ask for a mix, include some records from the label in your mix]. I think Kevin took on eight people, and I was the last one standing. I saw the opportunity as a foot into the industry, and given where I live, Stafford, I knew chances would be scarce. I checked that demo inbox every day and eventually started approaching artists I admired for music. The rest is history.
The Global House Scene
A rather broad subject we admit, but looking at releases on Glasgow Underground you’re signing artists from the UK, Europe and America. What are the current trends in house music – what styles are working best?
When I first joined Glasgow Underground, Kevin was releasing deep/tech-house. The scene then started shifting more towards house, so we changed too. I think the ability to adapt to the climate is crucial to the survival of any house music label these days. A perfect example of this is the surge of deep house popularity during recent lockdowns. DJs don’t need hands in the air anthems with no clubs open, so we went back to the deeper roots of GU, and I have to say we are enjoying it. Dance music moves fast, which is why we don’t sign tracks any more than 2/3months in advance. It may make for a tougher work schedule, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
We’ve seen trends in deep house, piano house, rave house. What’s coming next or will these genres continue to prevail?
So, as I mentioned, I think the deep house surge is due to the closure of clubs and people are enjoying house music in their homes. However, there will always be a place for deep house, whether it is the deeper ‘lounge’ feeling from artists such as Jimpster or the more peak time deep house from DJs such as Chris Stussy and ANOTR. Piano and Rave house were big in the 90’s, which was a great time for house music. Although we are in different circumstances, some people have compared the lockdown restrictions to the government’s attack on dance music in the early 90s. Perhaps this has reflected in the style of house music around at the moment? A kind of ‘protest’ against everything wrong in the world at the moment.
What are you looking for in a demo? You must get sent hundreds so what makes one record more signable over another?
We get a lot of demos. I get demos sent to me on email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and even Linkedin. There is no hiding from a determined dance music producer. I want the process to be as simple for all involved as possible, so I need a link I can stream/download, such as Soundcloud or Dropbox. If you send me a Wetransfer link and I have never spoken to you, I am not downloading it. I don’t need your life story. If I like your music, I will be in touch. I look for tracks that are either a fantastic idea or have solid production.
Do you purposely set out to represent a mix of international artists or does their location have nothing to do with it?
I don’t care where you are from, I don’t care if you are a male, female, even a high functioning child. When I am operating at full speed, I am looking for the demo link in your email only. This process means we pick up music from the depths of Russia, South America, everywhere. The connections I make along the way make this the best job in the world.
Is there anyone we should be keeping an eye out for as GU’s next new house act?
Mallin. Keep an eye on Mallin from the West Midlands. Only 24 years old, but man, does he make some excellent music.
How has it been in lockdown for you in Stafford? Has your creativity flowed or stalled? Are you as productive as usual?
Lockdown life hasn’t been the easiest, although I have been very fortunate not to have lost any family or friends, and we appear to be the other side of the worst of it. At times my creativity and productivity have ground to a complete halt, especially towards the back end of 2020. Thankfully 2021 has been great so far, and the music and creativity have been flowing again. I always think you can’t force it so if it just isn’t happening, take a break. Thankfully Stafford is surrounded by countryside with plenty of walking opportunities which has kept me relatively slim and sane.
What about the volume of demos being submitted via GU, have you seen an increase /decrease in quality or volume?
At the start of lockdown, demos surged which was great. During lockdown, Glasgow Underground went from strength to strength. We were even Beatport’s ‘Label Of The Month’ in December 2020. That kept the increased flow of demos at a constant speed, so keep them coming!
How has the GU team worked together – has it changed at all?
We have never had an office; we all work from home. So not that much has changed. Kevin and Tom both have children, so both have been busy juggling homeschooling, Glasgow Underground and the steady pressures of modern life. Despite this, they have been brilliant. We have just done whatever is necessary to keep the momentum up, and at times, it has been the perfect distraction from all the negative news in the media.
‘Let Me Love You’
You recently released ‘Let Me Love You’ following a string of releases including ‘Looks Good On You’ and your rework of the 1991 Drizabone track, ‘Real Love’, one of GU’s biggest selling of 2020. Can you explain a bit about the creative process behind ‘Let Me Love You’? We believe it started when you heard the Muzique Tropique (Kevin McKay and Andy Carrick) remix of Jori Hulkkonen’s ‘Let Me Luv U’.
Kevin and I were in Glasgow cruising around in the company car (a crusty old Skoda). Kevin played me the Muzique Topique Remix of Jori Hulkkonen’s ‘Let Me Luv U’, and I loved it. I took the sample to do a demo version for Kevin, but my initial attempt was rubbish. So, we put the idea on hold. As time passed and my productions improved, I revisited the idea and got Jamal from J & the Rest to re-sing the vocals for me. Like Elliotte did on ‘Real Love’, he smashed it, which makes my job so much easier. I am delighted with the result and the support it has had.
What support on the release have you had?
The initial DJ support from the promo was superb. Riva Starr, Kryder, Quentin Harris and the producers at Beats Music all gave us great feedback. Beatport also supported the release on their store on the home page. It peaked at 11 in the Deep House charts, narrowly missing out on my first top ten on the store. I’ll be back; getting into that top 10 is certainly a target for 2021.
Do you have any remixes coming up?
I have remixed a track by Russian musicians Maxzim, Maqar and Lana Domire. They are from Yekaterinburg. It’s super cold there, and they make cool deep house. I am super happy with the remix, probably some of my best work to date. I am excited for you to hear it.
Living with ADHD
You’re open to talking about your diagnoses of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at the age of 32, which we’re very grateful for. What symptoms did you experience to result in being tested and then diagnosed?
Being diagnosed with ADHD at the ripe age of 32 answered a lot of questions for me. It also left many more questions unanswered. I have always been told I am ‘underachieving’ or ‘naughty’, especially in high school. I was always in trouble, despite my grades being pretty decent. I struggled, and still do, with focus and also the emotional side of having untreated ADHD. ADHD often comes with a host of anxiety issues alongside the inability to regulate your emotions at times. You can imagine how annoying things must be for Kevin. At times, if I don’t want to do something, I just don’t do it until right at the last moment because I have to. Fortunately, Kevin has been fantastic throughout. He understands me well, and it is great to know I can call him any time of any day if I am struggling.
How does it affect you as a producer?
The production process is something you cannot rush; everything takes time. To be a good producer, you have to put the time in, and at points, this has been hard for me. At times I will not open Ableton for months as I can’t face it. Other times I want to do nothing but produce. I think it is best to take regular breaks, keep your mind fresh, keep focused.
What coping mechanisms do you have to manage anxiety and bouts of sensitivity?
I am still learning ways to cope with anxiety and ADHD every day. I think it is essential that people like me understand that they don’t have to go through this alone. If people do not know what is happening in their heads, how are they supposed to help or make working arrangements better? So please, if this is happening to you, TALK to the people around you about it.
What advice can you offer to anyone who is potentially experiencing ADHD symptoms, but doesn’t know this to be the case? Where can they seek help?
ADHD services in my area for adults don’t exist on the NHS. I have had to save some money and go for a private consultation and assessment. Always start with your GP. Tell them you want to be assessed for ADHD. If they cannot help, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
We loved hearing about Sam’s Samosas, the samosa delivery service you set up during lockdown. Tell us all about that– why did you set it up? How much money did you raise? How many samosas did you deliver? And will it be coming back?
So, towards the end of 2020, I was miserable from lockdown and needed a break from everything. Along with a friend, we decided to deliver samosas in Stafford in December. We would give 100% of the profits to local charities. The moment I announced the idea on Facebook, I realised I was out of my depth and had bitten off more than I could chew. Thankfully, with the help of some friends, we did four delivery days throughout December. In those, we sold 1335 samosas and raised a total of £629. That money then went to a local charity helping people and families affected by the pandemic. It was the perfect distraction for me, and I rolled into 2021 full of positivity. Sam’s Samosas is always there if the people need it.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Sam!
Pleasure guys, thanks for having me!