Oct 20, 2022
5 min read
ACRAZE has enjoyed a career trajectory most electronic musicians dream of since the 2021 release of “Do It To It,” his house rework of Cherish’s 2006 song of the same name.
“Where do I begin?” says the DJ and producer, whose real name is Charlie Duncker. “I feel like that song just put me in another stratosphere.”
A little over a year later, he delivered another impactful release in a similar creative vein. For “Believe,” he enlisted British duo Goodboys for a house cover of “I Need a Miracle” by Coco Star, framing their wistful vocals with layers of melancholic synth chords.
"I remember starting in my bedroom years ago and now I'm traveling the world," he says. "It's just so surreal to be able to do what I love, and to be able to do it at this level as well. It's actually really fucking cool."
For the foreseeable future, though, ACRAZE has shifted his focus toward original music. “There's something about sampling that I feel like there's just always going to be inspiration there for me,” he says. “But I definitely want to stay in the original realm.”
This is by no means uncharted territory for the rising talent. Born in Staten Island, he went all in on dance music several years ago—much to the chagrin of his old-fashioned parents.
"No one in my family is musically inclined so I just came out of nowhere and stuck out like a sore thumb because I wanted to do music," he says. "My parents thought I was absolutely nuts. They were like, 'You gotta go to college.' My parents are very old fashioned. They were just looking for security. And that's why they wanted me to go to school, but I hated school. I hated being in a class learning about stuff that I really didn't care about because, at the time, I just wanted to do music. That's all I really wanted to do, so school was not even an option for me."
ACRAZE lived the starving artist lifestyle while learning to produce music. "I was kind of in a bad slump," he says. "I was pretty broke at the time, and just figuring out how I can find money to buy samples or production stuff. It was a pretty tough time, I'm not gonna lie, but I figured out how to make music. I stayed at my friend's house for like, two, three years, and I just figured it out."
2017 marked his debut solo release, a heavy trap single titled “PULL UP” that came out on MACA. From the very beginning, however, ACRAZE couldn’t be confined to a single genre. “How I produce is pretty interesting,” he says. “One way I catch a good creative drift is that if I’m stuck in a certain genre, I'll move to another.”
This led him to produce house music on more than one occasion, and it proved a more worthwhile pursuit than a simple workaround to eliminate writer’s block. His 2018 single “Marco Polo” landed on Confession, the label of French artist Tchami that straddles the line separating house from EDM.
“I don't really play many of my older records,” says ACRAZE. “But that's one that I definitely play a lot. I don't know why but every time I play, it always goes off.”
During the COVID crisis, ACRAZE doubled down on house more than ever before. He recounts, "I remember during the pandemic, my managers and I were always going back and forth, saying, 'We need to work hard now when nothing's happening,' because there was no momentum for anyone."
"So I was just sitting there working 15 hours a day," he continues. "I would wake up at 8:00 in the morning and work all the way until maybe midnight, just do the same thing over and over. I wouldn't even leave my room to eat; sometimes I would bring the food into the fucking room. Yeah, I was grinding. And I always knew if I worked hard when no one was moving, I would come out with this momentum—and it worked."
By the time lockdowns began to lift he had made a lasting impression with singles like “Funky Town,” which arrived by way of Black Jack Records in early 2021. He delivered “Do It To It” later in the year, and his story since then has played out against the backdrop of stages around the world.
From Tomorrowland in Belgium to Sensation in Amsterdam and three separate iterations of Ultra in different countries, ACRAZE has emerged as a staple of the festival circuit. Has the novelty worn off? Not even close. Gatherings at this scale offer a perfect testbed for his latest music.
“Playing new music is like a different type of feeling—I'm always amped up to play and see the reaction,” he says. “You work so, so long on a song and that's one thing that you always think, but if it goes off, it pays off right there.”
As more and more of these crowd-pleasing cuts trickle out from the dancefloor into the house music ecosystem, it remains to be seen what direction ACRAZE will steer his discography. For the time being, at least, it’s hard to imagine him going anywhere but up.