The name Rowan Harrington will most likely sound unfamiliar to most of our readers. Born in Chicago but raised in the humble county of East Sussex in south east England, it can be said that the small city of Forest Row became Rowan’s home away from home, his second city almost. Yup Rowan Harrington – aka Secondcity – is no stranger to the scene, having been born in house music’s hometown Chicago, a career as a successful DJ was always on the cards.
It was this time three years ago that ‘I wanna feel’ would get released, an absolute feel good summer blinder that would go on to smash dancefloors all over the world and even reach number one in the UK singles chart, showing the industry that Secondcity was a seriously talented producer. So a few years down the line we caught up with Rowan to see what he’d been getting up to recently, and what he’s got planned for the future.
WWD: Hi Rowan appreciate you sitting down with us for a chat! How you doing today you good?
S: Yeah yeah I’m all good man. Yourself?
WWD: Not too bad mate, just got back from camping at WeAre festival a couple days ago so feeling a bit bunged up
S: Ah shit I’d rather you than me mate! (Laughs)
WWD: (Laughs) Tell me about it. So we saw you recently dropped an EP on Yousef’s Circus Recordings, and just last month you teamed up with Dale Howard on his new imprint Wreck to make the Ino EP. We’re a big fan, so in terms of the future are there anymore collaborations coming up?
S: Sure so I’ve got an EP coming out with Max Chapman, which is cool. I’ve actually got a few tracks with him, so we’ve got them to come. Also got a lot of my own material coming to be honest, a hell of a lot, which I’ve been finishing more recently. And then I’ve got another record coming with Manu Gonzalez, and yeah that’s about it at the moment to be honest. I’ve kind of just been doing my own thing, getting my own stuff altogether. For instance recently I did a mix for Data Transmission, and I basically just did a whole mix of pretty much my own records and just new music that’s coming, to give people a flavour of what to expect.
WWD: Yeah nice one. And as we know both know Ibiza season has already started, and we hear you’re going to be doing some stuff with Abode at Sankeys. Could you just tell us a little bit about that and how it came about?
S: So yeah I’m doing Abode, and ANTS as well out there. I mean I’ve known all the Abode lot for a long time. My friend Joe, who’s been involved with them for a year probably now, is super cool and he’s wanted to get me involved with them for a long time. But yeah I’ve been playing for the Abode guys for like two and a half years, so I’ve always had a really good relationship with those guys and I like them a lot. Same with ANTS as well it’s the same kind of thing, so yeah I’m super excited to get out there. I haven’t been out to Ibiza yet once.
WWD: So have you ever held a residency out in Ibiza before?
S: Yeah, yeah I have. I’ve done Sankeys before and I’ve played ANTS a couple of times before. Well I’ve done ANTS basically every year I’ve been in Ibiza, at Ushuaia and stuff like that. But yeah I just haven’t been out to Ibiza this year yet, still waiting to go.
WWD: Bet you’re excited for that one then
S: Yeah proper excited man
WWD: And from an artists perspective what is it about Ibiza, the clubs, the scene there etc. that makes it this dance music haven? Because everyone knows that Ibiza is the place for house and techno
S: I just feel like it’s a place where everyone just stops for like a day or two, or at least like a good amount of time. Where, pretty much, you can guarantee that three or four of your mates will be playing at some place down the road. And it’s cool because most of the time you spend your career – as a DJ – on the lineup with massive DJs, but the majority of time you don’t ever see them because everyone is in and out. Whereas with Ibiza it’s cool because you’ll be there, and one of your mates will ring you and go “Oh I’m playing Ushuaia tonight” and you’ll be like “Ah cool I’m going to come and see you play”, then they’ll come to see you play. And you’re just networking with all your friends again which is really nice. So that’s what I love about it anyway, and in the past year or so I’ve made going to Ibiza into more of a trip rather than just going in and out. Definitely the best island to have parties, it’s fucking amazing.
WWD: Yeah of course. And I mean the other thing as well is that clubs like Ushuaia are massive and outside, and it’s almost got a certain festival vibe to it, unlike the stereotypical nightclub. We like asking artists this question because you get a lot of different answers, so if you had to choose between DJing at festivals or the classic nightclub setting, what would you go for?
S: Well for me I definitely prefer intimate clubs, but having said that, when it comes to Ibiza I absolutely love Ushuaia. I love the outdoor setting, like Blue Marlin and anything like that, where it’s an outdoor kind of terrace. So for me they are the best venues. I mean everyone loves a festival, but there’s something different about playing Ushuaia outdoors by the pool. My favourite place to play at Ushuaia is by the pool rather than the stage. I just think it’s sick because you’re playing outside and its like thirty degrees, you’ve got the sickest weather ever, and there’s loads of people around. It’s the best vibe that you could ask for. And I feel like when you play on the stage at Ushuaia you lose a bit of that, because at night it almost turns into that sort of festival environment if you know what I mean. Where it’s not so intimate anymore. So it depends, but then again I’d go and play the basement in Sankeys and it’s pitch black and all lit up red everywhere, and I love that. So it’s dependent on where you are and what the venue is, but nine times out of ten for me I love that small, intimate setting.
WWD: Sure mate we’re in agreement. And in terms of festival appearances this year, could you just give us a quick run through of what you’ve got coming up?
S: Ah man I don’t even know where to start to be honest. Festival wise I’m doing some festivals in LA Palm springs, and in other parts of America as well in September. Then I’m doing two festivals in South America in July, which I’m super excited for. And then music wise I’ve got loads, got the EP coming with Max Chapman on Relief and I’m also dropping two records on Toolroom just after that in July. Then I’ve got this sort of disco record that’s coming out, which has basically just been a little club tool that’s now been signed to a big label. And I just made it as a bit of discoey house record, so that’s cool.
WWD: Sick man we’re looking forward to all that. A major hit for you back in the day was ‘I wanna feel’, and obviously that blew up and brought with it some super popular remixes. And since then you’ve had an eclectic mix of releases, from hard hitting tech to more feel good vocal stuff. So we wanted to ask when you are producing a track, does it just come down to what you’re feeling on the day? Or is there more of a formula to it?
S: The thing is before I started making music I just used to deejay house music, drum and bass and jungle and loads of different kinds of music. So when I first started producing I just made the stuff that inspired me to get into music. So ‘I wanna feel’ was really a record that I made just for me. Because, going back in time, I loved old Masters at Work, Robin S and a lot of old house. So I thought I’m going to make something that inspired me and just play it. And then that record just started to take off and I thought okay sick. But there was no period where it was like “oh I’m going to make commercial music or underground music”, it was just that I always make house music. But that record happened to go off and do it’s own little thing, and that put me on the map. But in terms of what I make, I just make whatever I feel like.
WWD: And that’s the best way to be becuase then the music actually feels real if you know what I mean.
S: Exactly mate. The thing is, as an artist as well, you can’t be expected to just write the same formula of record for the rest of your life. You have to write stuff you love, otherwise you’re going to just end up getting to the point where you’ve sold out with a massive album deal and all that kind of shit
WWD: And would you say that music production is as important, in this day and age, as getting your name out there through uploading mixes to platforms like Soundcloud, Mixcloud etc? Or is it more about networking through who you know and what you know? Like Jackmaster for example, he’s someone that doesn’t produce yet he’s still one of the best DJs in the world
S: I think it’s a bit of both. With Jackmaster, as you said, he’s probably one of the best DJs in the world, he’s an amazing DJ. So I guess he’d always say that his talent has always been as a DJ not as a producer. And I would say a lot of people that started producing more recently would probably argue the same but at the same time there’s only certain people that can go out there, really, and be big just off the pure fact that they are a DJ. And Jackmaster is one of those people because A) He knows tunes that I probably couldn’t name one or two of anything he plays a lot of the time and B) He’s just well known for putting together these amazing sets of amazing music that people don’t know about. And that in istelf is an art and that is, for me, just as good as being able to make amazing records. Producing is definitely important, but you should only do it if you really want to make music
WWD: Yeah mate completely agree. Final question today Rowan: If you could choose one DJ to do a dream back to back set with, who would it be?
S: I’d say probably The Martinez Brothers or Masters at Work!
WWD: Nice one Rowan thanks for having a chat with us today
S: No worries man take care