Saturday, June 11, 2011

Event/Interview: Dualist Inquiry plays at Bacchus tonight!

Dualist Inquiry's latest EP is a breath of fresh air. Floating between a variety of genres, feel-good funk, lush atmospherics, a hint of disco... there's a lot of substance to it. It isn't formulaic or predictable which has become a trend with producers from India nowadays. More to the point it's dance floor friendly, even though the BPMs aren't obscenely high... It's been on repeat and would recommend you give it a twirl. Been listening to a lot of Aeroplane and Magician mixes, and the tunes from the EP definitely seem like something I would find on there. Quirky, different but still got that hook to keep it infectious.

I first heard about him when he was rated at the Submerge DJ Championship, his set was met with stellar reviews.  And judging by the video from Blue Frog he rocked it. Tonight, he plays at Bacchus and I'm really looking forward to it!

Thought it'd be cool to have a chat with him about his music and his background, since what he's doing is unique in the spectrum of Indian EDM... do have a read!

In an exclusive interview with YHIHF Sahej Bakshi (Dualist Inquiry) talks about his time studying in California, his views on the current state of EDM in India, the latest EP Dualism,  the plethora of equipment he uses to get his sound right and much more!

Who is Dualist Inquiry and what makes him tick?
Rather than who, I would ask what is Dualist Inquiry? It is one person's vehicle for creative expression, born out of a strong personal need for such a thing. It's an open-ended, intensely personal, never ending quest/mission/inquiry into the subjective nature of being alive, a large part of which is being stimulated by sounds, sights and experiences in general. Dualist Inquiry started as my way of chronicling my life experiences when I was just writing music in my dorm room in college. But now its started shaping my life in return, so it’s quite interesting to think about the change of perspective.

What makes me tick? The fact that my Inquiry is far from complete.

In a nutshell, describe the kind of sound you embody as a producer and DJ?
As a producer, I'd like to think of my music as emotionally unambiguous, that is to say that each song tries to nail a particular mood with certainty. I like my songs to be emotive, and cerebral, in the sense that they spur thoughts, emotions and memories. I also need my songs to have a friendly, groovy, percussive beat to them, and a certain degree of the repetitive electronic element.

I never think about genre labels while making music, but often end up looking back at something I made and being like "that's interesting, there's some funk/electro/whatever in there."

Who are your inspirations inside and outside of electronic music?
Inside, the range is really wide. To name a few (no particular order): Propellerheads, Justice, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Ratatat, Moby, Digitalism. On the other hand, I've been a rock fan for far longer than my five years with electronic. My all time favorite band is Rage Against the Machine, and Tom Morello’s Telecaster guitar tone is a major inspiration to my idea of the perfect sound. Other bands I love include Soulwax, Explosions in the Sky, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay.

What kind of equipment do you use during your live sets?
My main guitar is a Fender Telecaster 1952 Reissue. I use the Novation Launchpad to launch clips in Ableton Live, and have one (sometimes two) Korg NanoKontrol MIDI controllers. One of my favorite pieces of gear is the Native Instruments Maschine. Its crazy how much it’s changed my set since it arrived, now it’s like my second instrument, after the guitar. I’ve been loading samples (from acapellas to videogame sounds) onto the Maschine and just letting loose on the pads during live gigs. I also have a separate chain for my guitar effects, for which I recently just bought a Line6 PocketPOD, which is a really small processor I plan to use just for Amp Modeling. I also use the EBow a lot, which gives me infinite sustain on the guitar for wailing, violin noises. And there are other pieces of gear or instruments (like a Glockenspiel) that I take out to gigs sometimes to make things interesting.

What kind of equipment do you use in the studio?
I have a Mac Pro running Logic 9. My whole studio functions around Logic. I’ve been a dedicated Logic user for 5 years now, because I love its interface, workflow, stability and plugins. I also use Genelec 8030a monitors, MOTU Ultralite soundcard, Access Virus Ti Desktop, Novation RemoteZero SL, M-Audio MIDI Keyboard, Boss GT8 Guitar processor and a few other pieces of gear I use regularly in the studio.

You were a runner-up at the MTV Submerge Ultimate Pro DJ Championship 2010 - what was that experience like?
That was a sweet and crazy experience. I was in Berlin wrapping up Berlin Music Week when I got the news that I made it and had to be in Mumbai in 48 hours for the finals. I’d barely been around in India for 7 months, so this was big news for me, and I dashed back taking 4 flights to Mumbai, barely made it for soundcheck, and in the same dazed, jetlagged state, went ahead and played a 30-minute set with a 5 minute setup time, with huge cameras glaring in my face while I played. It was over before I knew it, and when the results were announced, I remember feeling amazingly excited, tired and numb at the same time.

In retrospect, it was a turning point for me, because I no longer felt like a stranger to the Indian scene, to Blue Frog, and to Mumbai in general.

Tell us about the latest EP "Dualism" - what can new listeners expect from it?
With this EP, I've tried to represent myself as truly and fairly as an artist as I possibly can. There's some chillout, there's some midtempo, there's some party music, and there's some concrete spoken thoughts to chew on. I can't imagine why I should ever have to choose or 'commit' to one genre or tempo-range, which was quite a source of confusion to me for a while. This EP is a result of my arrival at the fact that I can produce everything I want at the same time and release it on the same record, if I think it through correctly. Listeners can expect to hear four tracks that are very closely related to each other, yet very distant in some very obvious ways.

What are your views on the EDM scene in India - the current state and how you'd like to see it evolve?
Currently, the Indian EDM scene in India is at a very special juncture, where people in large numbers are beginning to take electronic and other music very seriously, both in a musical and business sense. I believe that the way it is evolving is quite close to how I’d like to see it evolve in the future. Every few months there's news of a new venue or music festival. European and American festivals are looking to India for acts to put on their lineups. Increasingly, Indian music fans are taking a serious look at Indian bands (which are not playing covers anymore) and finding that they quite like what they see. I also think that music journalists and the media they use are crucial elements in bringing a scene to life, and it nice to see so many websites that have emerged in the last 2-3 years, that are dedicated solely to covering news, reviews and stuff related to Indian bands.

Musically, what was life like in California? What kind of gigs and clubs would you regularly frequent? How often did you find yourself shopping at Amoeba on Sunset?
What I liked best about Los Angeles was the diverse range of experiences it had to offer. So one weekend, we'd be at a club watching the Swedish House Mafia and the next would be at a Psychedelic trance gathering in the middle of a forest, desert or beach. There were raves in stadiums, in warehouses, and even on the streets of downtown LA. There was Coachella Music Festival, which me and my friends went to for 4 consecutive years. Coachella has, in itself, formed some of the most vivid memories I have of enjoying live music in its most exuberant form with 100,000 people in a grassy palm tree-filled field. I remember at one point, I scrolled through my entire iTunes library and couldn't find a living name that I wanted to see, and hadn’t already seen live. It was an insane and inspiring place to form my foundation as a musician.

Amoeba on Sunset was a cool place, but the biggest Guitar Center in the US was just a few doors down from there, and it would always win me over, so I never spent quite as much time in there as I did messing with Guitars and Gear next door.

Can you give some on insight on the music program you completed at USC?
It was a Bachelor of Science in Music Technology, from the Thornton School of Music at USC. It was beyond comprehensive. I took basic courses such as ‘Digital Audio and Recording’, ‘Analog Synthesizer Techniques’, and advanced courses like ‘Acoustics and Speaker Design’ , ’64-track Mixing Techniques’, ‘Digital Effects Signal Processing’ and ‘Analog/Digital Mastering’. Each course was 4 months long, and I had to take a total of about 18 of them to graduate. It was a crazy education and I was quite the studious nerd when it came to these courses because of how badly I wanted to know these things.

Having studied (and perhaps developed a certain taste) in the West, did you find you had to reinvent yourself as a musician once you got back to India?
Yes, I actually did have to reinvent something about the way I lived off inspiration from my surroundings in LA. When I moved back here, I was immediately struck by the lack of a healthy learning environment as a music producer. It was the random, intensely technical producer/gear-head chat that I’d have with a random guy ordering coffee on campus from which I’d learn something new everyday. I felt the community of thousands of talented producers from which to learn shrink down to a handful. But I quickly realized that that’s not a problem in any sense, and is just a matter of exposure, which will create the same environment here in the future.

But in the meantime, I decided not to wait to get inspired and further internalized my creative process. It was a slightly bumpy transition, but has worked out well. I now draw inspiration from my experiences and surroundings without the need for direct ‘musical inspiration’, so to speak.

What was it like playing alongside DJ Shadow at the The Great Escape Festival? Does your usual club sound change when you're playing to bigger festival crowds?
I doubt I can accurately explain the feeling. A few weeks before, I randomly checked onto The Great Escape website to see if I’d come up on the lineup, and there I saw that I’d been slotted to open for Beardyman and DJ Shadow. First I thought the Internet was playing tricks on me, then I got extremely nervous, followed by a realization that this is happening. As for sharing a stage with Shadow, let me just say that I felt glad I'd finished up my act and gotten neatly out of the way before Shadow unleashed what he did that night, with his Shadowsphere (Google it, seriously). I felt so dazzled, so outdone (for lack of a better word), that it was super-inspiring.

Three DJs and three producers who have never let you down?
Ratatat – Classic examples of bedroom producers who made it huge. Love ‘em.

Daft Punk – When I heard their latest song Derezzed, I felt so not let down

Fatboy Slim – This man amazes me every time.

What's in the pipeline for Dualist Inquiry?
After getting done with this EP launch tour, I'll be back in the studio and working towards a full length album for release later this year. I'm also going to be remixing some songs by both Indian and foreign artists for a remix EP.

There's a music video in the works, and I also have plans to conduct a series of informal music production workshops for beginners/enthusiasts in Delhi. There will be plenty of gigs in the months to come and a few music festivals as well. All in all, the unpredictability of this job is one of my favorite things about it, so we shall see what else happens!

You are stuck on a deserted island with a life supply of batteries and a boom box, list out 5 life changing must-have albums you’d like to have with you and why?
OK this is a difficult one because I don’t listen to a lot of the music that changed my life years ago, but I’ll state some of my favorite albums to date:

1. Rage Against the Machine – Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium
This record to me, is the pinnacle of the live energy a band can have. I love their music, but the way their songs come alive when they’re played live coupled with the fact that this was their last concert for another 9 years makes this one of my favorite albums ever.

2. Digitalism – Idealism
One of the ways I got acquainted with electronic music. I’ve been listening to this album recently, which is a crazy experience because when I first heard these songs 3 years ago I barely understood them or how they must’ve been produced. The electro-rock feel so close to home now.

3. Ratatat – Classics
The Ratatat sound – haunting, melancholic, kind of twisted, emotive and so very unique. One of the most original sounding bands I’ve heard to date.

4. RJD2 – Deadringer
One of my recent fixations, spurred my curiosity towards sampling in my live sets. More on that later (at a gig, presumably)

5. Justice – A Cross the Universe (Live album)
Like the RATM album on my list, this live album by Justice features blistering remakes of their hit songs, which is not only a great idea but also takes courage to do. They nailed it with their live renditions, and I can only imagine what that gig must've been like. Too bad Justice played a DJ set when I caught them in LA. It was nothing like this.

Follow Dualist Inquiry on Twitter
Check out Dualist Inquiry's Soundcloud page
Join Dualist Inquiry's Facebook page

Friday, May 6, 2011

INTERVIEW: Fergie - Dance Music's Irish Car Bomb

In Pic: Fergie
When I started listening to dance music - Fergie was dubbed a hard house DJ. Whenever I happened upon his sets (usually after Pete Tong's Essential Mix), banging they were and there was always a sense of eclecticism in the mayhem. It was hard house though, which wasn't really my cup. I still made it a point to keep an eye on him. This was an artist who had a genuine passion for music... you don't expect less from a DJ who has been mentored by the legendary Tony De Vit, who was hosting an extremely popular show on Radio1 and was regularly writing columns that featured in dance music magazines.

A little later on, I noticed John Digweed was charting Fergie. Then I heard about a Transitions mix, again for Diggers. Throbbing, twisted, evil shit? Had Fergie reinvented himself? Soon enough, Jalebee Cartel's Arjun Vagale (known to end his sets with the meanest techno ever) started giving him the big one. So I went through his latest stuff and much to my surprise, Fergie was playing some of the finest hybridtechnofunk I've had the pleasure to listen to and his label Excentric Muzik was putting out pure quality that would literally destroy anything in its path. 

If you've been to our Nightshift parties of yesteryear, you'd probably remember this one beast of a tune we would belt towards the end of the night... Fergie's "Ireland" was one of our biggest tunes from 2010 and would without fail garner the biggest reactions - hands firmly up in the air, peeps jumping mad, some drooling, some chanting. Whenever we wanted to bang it outFergie would be our go to producer. Wonky, mean, tough and in your face... just a few words I would use to describe a Fergie monster. He gives new meaning to the idiom 'hits you like a sledgehammer to the chest.' You usually think 'BOOM!' when you hear a relentless Fergie tune drop.

I'd be lying if I told you he isn't one of my favourite producers out there. Fresh off his tour in India - it's an honour to have the opportunity to chat with the legendary Fergie!

In an exclusive interview with YHIHF, Fergie talks about his inspirations, his mentor Tony De Vit, reinventing himself through his label Excentric Muzik, the Irish scene, playing in India and his bromance with Jalebee Cartel's Arjun Vagale...   

Who is Fergie and what kind of artist is he?
As a person I try to do what I can to help people in whatever way I can. This is the same way I would act as a DJ, because I remember how I felt when Tony de Vit took me under his wing. Suppose I’m lucky, every time I have an opportunity to give someone a bit of help I get to feel that feeling all over again and in a way it keeps Tony alive in my memory. I come from a caring family and had a good honest upbringing, so I have tried to be as honest along the way as I can be. Saying that, I have been a little pain in the bum at times.

Who and what have been your main sources of inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is always the feelings I have that run through my body. I love life, the highs and the lows (the highs more than the lows, of course). I try to take the best from every situation. From a music point of view I tend to draw on my past for inspiration. For example, recalling the feeling I got when I first set foot in a rave or when I first started to understand rave music... those feelings get stronger as time goes on and I realise how lucky I was to be involved from the start. So yeah, that is mainly where my inspiration comes from. We are in a great place in terms of the range of music that is available, but for me I think there needs to be soul and emotion added to the mix.

Tell us a little about your relationship with the legendary Tony De Vit (RIP).
It just so happened that Tony de Vit was playing at the club on one of the nights that I was warming up and he heard me play and invited me over to England and introduced me to the club scene. Tony took me under his wing and I really appreciated his guidance and advice.  I was lucky he helped me a lot but I was also very focused and knew that I wanted to be a DJ and here I am over a decade later; I have just been on tour in India playing at some of the of the best nights around. I think about Tony a lot and I know that he would be pleased about how things have turned out for me. I still miss him.
Tony De Vit - Legend (RIP)
You started DJing at the age of 14, legend has it standing on top of milk crates so you could reach the decks - how did you get into the DJing-raving space so young?
Yeah, believe it or not that is true! It all started in Larne in Northern Ireland. I left school at 13 and pestered the local promoter to give me a job at the club; brushing the floor, cleaning the toilets and clearing the tables… but I didn’t care because he let me play on the decks and I had to stand on a milk crate so that I could reach the decks. Eventually I got to do the warm up set and the rest as they say is history!

Can you tell us what club culture is like in Northern Ireland? How is it different from the rest of the world?
The scene in Northern Ireland is and always has been wicked. It's one of the most cutting edge places I play, to be honest. When I come home to play I have to up my game as they are so forward thinking. They will let you know if they are not digging what you are doing. I play regularly at Shine and The Stiff Kitten Club which took me years to break into... meeting the promoter to give him mixes and what not. But It was amazing when i finally got booked. I still have that same feeling when I play to a home crowd.

You've been a regular at Lush! in Kelly's Port Rush - can you tell us a little about the legendary club?
Well this club has been around forever. It was one of the first purpose built clubs not only in Ireland but the UK.  It was a massive club with 12 bars and a few big barns with several sound systems throughout. All the big DJs would come over to play every week and thousands of people would travel from England, Scotland and Wales to experience the vibe that was created in there. Was lucky that I got to go there with the biggest DJ in Ireland at that time, Robbie Nelson. Because I was so young he use to sneak me in so I got to see it all from the DJ booth first hand. Again these experiences will never leave me and words can’t even begin to explain the energy and emotion that filed that space. This was also at a time when the community in Ireland was very much divided, but at LUSH as soon as the music came on everyone joined hands and enjoyed the music together. I will never forget those memorable scenes at the club.

When I started listening to dance music back in 2000, I remember you were the only hard house DJ I could listen to... not so much a switch, but the stuff you've been releasing over the past couple of years can be labeled techno. Is this what you mean when your bio quotes: "re-established himself as a producer of innovative exciting music"?
Ha ha, I think people forget that when I started getting gigs in the UK and around the world I was very lucky as I was still quite young. I think as you get older your musical tastes change, I know mine did  and basically as a DJ I have matured, that’s all there is to it. I have a passion for all types of music, from country and western, Johnny Cash to rock, soul and of course, electronic music, which plays a massive part in my life today. To say that I will never play hard music would be presumptuous. If I play a three or four hour set, I still like to kick the arse of it - that’s all part of the journey. As I said before I’m playing the best music I have ever played, some of it's hard some of it's not. It's all just great music!

Tell us about your label Excentric Muzik, what kind of sound are you striving to push?
Excentric Muzik was originally conceived around six years ago. I had just left Radio1 and was in a different place musically. The line-ups and clubs I was playing in didn't really fit with my new sound and Excentric Muzik was my way of showing people how I saw myself and how I perceived my own style and sound. As well as being a sort of 'business card' for me Excentric Muzik has now developed more into a platform for others to have their shot at it all, it's their chance to show how they want to be perceived and I’m quite proud of that. Mr. Henry Von is an example of this… Henry used to attend the early Excentric Party Nights as a raver and wannabe DJ but he has come through the Excentric ranks and has had his track released with us and now runs two off shoot labels of Excentric Muzik, Rekluse/Tribal Rage so his is a great story.

You get heavy playtime from Carl Cox - what's your relationship like with the  beast? Any funny stories to share?
Not many people know this story but once when we are on a private jet going to a festival, I had smuggled a bottle of champagne on the flight and when we took off, I got on the tanoy and sang happy birthday to him. I was lucky not to get thrown off the plane ha ha. Carl enjoyed it, so it was ok.

Carl was one of the first DJs I went to see when I was 11 or 12. I have always admired him, so when I got to meet him it was incredible. We were both joining Radio1 as part of the very first two Radio1 Essential Mix residents. The story just gets weirder. Carl and I were part of a Radio1 charity event, Comic Relief, to raise money for children in need. There were loads of DJs taking part in the competition; Darren Emerson, Jon Carter, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong etc and the listeners had to phone in to vote for who they thought the best DJ was. Crazy as it sounds, I ended up in the final playing against Carl and as luck would have it, I won. So that was a very memorable night, all in the name of charity and it was all good fun.

What has been your most memorable experience DJing?
There's been a lot of good and bad. When I was younger I played quite a lot with Tony de Vit, he was someone who I always looked up to. As I said earlier he helped me quite a lot and looked out for me. So yeah, when we played together it was always a massive high for me.

The worst would be when England tried to do an 'English Love Parade' like they have in Berlin. They had all the floats  driving about with DJs and bands on but it was raining quite heavily. I was playing on the God’s Kitchen float and for whatever reason, they had made the roof of the float flat instead of at a slant which meant that the rain was lying on it. I was playing my set and the promoter stood up on a chair and cut the roof with a pair of scissors which made all the water gush in over the mixer, amps and decks... I was nearly electrocuted. That was probably one of the worst.

One of the biggest crowds I played to would be about 500,000 in South Africa where I played a big old rave years ago in an old power station which was wicked. Also the Berlin Love Parade is always a massive event. I'd done my Radio1 show from there... so yeah lots of memories.

Do you miss doing a radio show?
I do miss the radio. I wouldn't want to do a weekly show but maybe once a month or something like that. I had never been on radio before so when I was signed by Radio1 it was a quite surreal experience for me. I think I was the youngest presenter they ever had and I went for it! I was there for nearly six years and had the chance to work with some of the best DJs/producers and production teams. It was a great time. I do my Excentric Muzik Session Podcast more like a radio show format so I'm really enjoying that at the moment.

Your views on the death of music in its physical form?
Personally, I think it's great that people all over the world can get my music. For a long time people were having to wait on record shops from England and other countries sending the records to their local shops and they often ran out of supplies which kept that country behind. Now, no matter where you play, everyone is up to speed and playing the latest music. It keeps all of us DJs on our toes.

I think to download music is very cheap, so it pisses me off when DJs try every way to download it for free, then go and get paid for playing it at a gig.

What does the future hold for dance music?
Well, I think we are in the best place musically. Music is easily available around the world and software is easy for young people to get their hands on. This keeps the process moving nicely. The world is a smaller place now. When I started I would be driving up and down the motorway, but now we fly to every gig. It can get a bit crazy but as I always say - I'm lucky that I have been able to do this for almost two decades.

How often do you get confused with the Black Eyed Pea member? Does sharing the same name come to haunt you?
Never, she aint as good lookin as me... ha ha ha.

You are stuck on a deserted island with a life supply of batteries and a boom box, list out life changing must-have albums you’d like to have with you and why?
Queen - Greatest Hits - Well, Freddie is God and the rest of the band aren’t bad either… I don't really need to say any more than if I could be any one for a day or two I would like to be him, not on the days he went bonking tho.

Leftfield - Leftism - This is the best rave, prog, rock, experimental album for the rave generation I still play it a few times a month.

Simple Minds - Greatest Hits - I just love the 80s and this album has it all for me. A great Glaswegian band doing it how it should be done.

What's it been like touring with Arjun Vagale? How did you guys get in touch?
I have to be honest with you and say that I have had the privilege of touring the world and meeting many DJs and promoters, but I really hit it off with Arjun. He is my brother from another mother ha ha. Sometimes you meet people and you know you will be friends for life and this is what happened when I met Arjun - when the Irishman met the Indian. It's crazy, I'm a fan of Paolo Coelho who wrote a book called the Alchemist, which is where I first came across the word MAKTUB (I even had the word tattooed on my arm). It's an old Arabic proverb that means, 'It is written.' Anyway, it wasn't till a few months later that I was doing a guest mix for John Digweed's radio show and I heard a track by this guy called Arjun Vagle, so I tracked him down as I really wanted to sign him to my label. It wasn't until he mailed me back that I saw in his email signature that his very own record label was called Maktub Music, so this is a sign in itself.

I will be repaying the favour to Arjun and he will come to play in Ireland in the summer. We will make some music together and also when I come back to India we will work on a project over the month of February. My experience of Indian culture and meeting Arjun has been one of my best. He's a great ambassador for Indian club culture. We both took part in the I LOVE MUSIC Academy, I enjoyed meeting all the young guys who were so into making beats and finding out ways of developing their skills to the max. I’m glad to be a part of that in someway and I am working with them to give the guys a chance to remix some tracks from my artists album so watch this space...

Your first tour in India, what has the experience been like? The crowds, the response, the clubs and the food. Did you get to do some sightseeing?
What can I say... I have been wanting to come to play for you guys for years and years but it has never happened for one reason or another. The crowds and clubs were great. Can honestly say I met some fantastic, genuine people and I came away with some new friends. I can’t wait to head back over there and I will say we're planning a month long set of gigs and all sorts of other musical activities so keep your eyes open.

Unfortunately I never got to see any sights as we were flying every day so it was hotel car, plane and club, but next time I plan to see a lot more. I had the chance to taste some food which was wicked as I’m a massive Indian food fan, Arjun took me to Bukara, so I’m told I got the chance to try Indian food at its best.
A big thank you to the Fergatron for taking the time to do this interview! Much appreciated! And BIG UP to Arjun Vagale for hooking it up! :) - SG

Follow Fergie on Twitter
Check out Fergie's Official Website
Join Fergie's Facebook Fanpage
Check out Fergie's latest music Soundcloud

Friday, November 12, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Interview w/ Danny Howells - The true DJ's DJ

In Pic: Danny Howells
Actually getting goosebumps typing this out. Danny '12 hour set' Howells. That's what I used to call him, in honour of his many marathon sets I had the absolute pleasure dancing my nuts off to. The more times I watched him DJ, and this will sound embarrassingly cliche, the closer I felt to him as a person. Through the brilliantly programmed music that spans a variety of deepsexyfuturisitictechfunk sounds. Through his intimate vibe with the punters where he literally is just one of the boys. By the third time I watched him play (lol and this might very well be because of the various intoxicants I had ingested) - I use to wave at him like a little girl in hopes that he would look up and wave back... to the point where my friends would be, "WTF are you doing?" It was only a matter of time before I started calling him, 'Danny - He's everyone's friend'.

The thing about Danny Howells - he's an honest DJ... he knows what he likes and that's what he's going to stick with. There are a plethora of DJs who have jumped mindlessly on bandwagons (some more convincingly than others) and gorged their fans with the flavours of the month, and yet if you've heard Danny's music from the past decade - you'll notice it's been consistently timeless. He's very much a mood DJ and that's what sets him apart; where genres are essentially irrelevant, but the feel of the tune is all important. Very few DJs have mastered this art and Mr. Howells is one of them. He'll be playing the deepest darkest prog set and just to see you smile, he'll bust out an 80s influenced disco beast and it will make sense. That is the magic of Danny Howells.

Danny reigns supreme in my books for a variety of reasons. I can't think of any DJ who can program a set better than him... it's literally like he's picked tunes that have been made to make love with each other. More to the point, he doesn't blow his load. He knows exactly how to build a night; deep and sexy early, groovy bouncy to pick things up and throbbing madness to cap things off. It's all about pace and Danny Howells is the boss of pacing a night, always making sure to snugly grip on to his listener.

Forget that I've had my best nights (my thighs and calves aching from all the dancing the morning/afternoon after), to this day I can put on his NuBreed, GU Miami, GU 24/7 and his Renaissance mixes among others... and it will still sound fresher and groovier than ever. Even when he's putting together a mix that isn't dance music, it still sounds distinctly special and Howells-like (please, please, download his Essential Mix from 2002, it could potentially change your  life).

Do yourself a favour and get some Danny Howells in you - it's not just music to dance to, it's music for the soul.

In an exclusive interview with YHIHF, Danny Howells talks about his humble beginnings as a DJ in South England, his mentor John Digweed, his favourites from his illustrious list of compilations, his upcoming projects with Dig Deeper and much more! 

In a nutshell – who is Danny Howells and what kind of DJ/artist is he?
A 39 year old DJ, producer and label owner. Living in London. Not sure what kind of "artist" I am though - I suppose someone who puts music first and isn't too fussed about the glam! I'm also one who takes forever to answer interview requests, sorry!

In your lifetime, who and what have been your main sources of inspiration?
From an early age, my family who introduced me to a wide range of music - from classical to funk and pop. When I started DJing, John Digweed was a big influence. In more recent years my main inspiration has mainly been the music I have been exposed to, as well as the crowds I play it to.

Tell us about your childhood and what lead to you pursuing DJing as a career.
My Dad was nowhere to be seen, so my Mum raised me on her own, with help from my Nan, Grandad, aunts and uncles etc. That was one of the reasons I got to hear so many different styles of music from an early age as all my family members had different tastes, and I would spend days just listening to their records with them. There'd sometimes be three record players in different rooms all banging it out - pop, rock, classical, everything.

You must have tackled the age-old conflict of juggling ‘DJing as a hobby that feeds passion versus DJing as a profession that puts food on the table.’
I've had struggles in the past but I think I've been quite careful so that I've put myself in a nice situation where I can be a bit more picky and less reliant on non-stop touring, which i find hard as my age increases!

I’ve read somewhere, long time ago, you were once a nurse… besides being the brunt of bad ‘male nurse’ jokes, what was that experience like?
It was a great experience for me. I worked as an assistant psychiatric nurse for nine years in an acute ward in Hastings. It was so unpredictable and extremely depressing at times but also very rewarding. I would definitely consider dipping my toe into it again when I'm too old to travel.

Tell us about your label Dig Deeper, what kind of sound are you striving to push?
The label reflects any style of music that you could expect to hear in one of my extended DJ sets - anything from downtempo, eclectic, deep house through to techno. I've been a bit slow production-wise over the last year so I've been signing up some exciting new music from a range of artists, both known and upcoming, which I'll be putting together along with some of my own productions for a Dig Deeper compilation early next year.

You’ve done your fair share of mixed compilations, which three do you hold closest to your heart?
Probably the first disc of my 24/7 album, the Choice CD for Azuli, and even though it wasn't a CD I'll include my 2002 Essential Mix.

Give us insight on the legendary Bedrock nights on the South coasts of England during the 90s – you were Digweed’s go to DJ for warm ups. What was the scene and music like in those times, besides the bad hairdos and fluorescent clothing?  
For me they started on Hastings Pier, which sadly got burnt by arsonists just a few weeks ago. The scene was amazing - mainly because it was so fresh and new to us all, and less of an industry. I learnt so much from John and those warm-ups - the main thing was about sculpting a night, building it slowly from the start, not just musically but the lights, sound, etc. It showed me that a night doesn't need to be a full-on in-your-face experience from the moment the doors open, that it can be a creative process that slowly sucks people in and slowly develops into mayhem!

What was it like working with John Digweed so early in both your careers? 
He was exactly the same as he is now, very kind and supportive, as well as always being on hand to give advice on all matters. I loved working with him then and I still do now, nearly 20 years on. He was always so hard working and dedicated and that was very inspiring.

When you play around the world as much as you do… do you tend to categorize the crowds you play for? What kind of subtle differences and expectations can you tell between the crowds in Europe, America and Asia?
I never know how to answer this question really - there are always certain places where my sound goes down better, but then everywhere is different and I can have totally different experiences in the same place - it can be unpredictable which I suppose keeps me on my toes!

Tell us about your famous eclectic mixes – the Essential Mix from 2002 and the RA Mix from a couple of years back? What equipment do you use and how do you go about compiling those particular mixes?
The 2002 mix was done with turntables, one cdj500s (I couldn't afford two!), lots of looping and re-editing, and a piece of VERY basic software called Cakewalk Club Tracks. It was an 8 track audio editor which limited me extremely but also forced me to be more creative. The RA mix started from a small leftover from the 2002 mix, and I completed it on Logic 8, as I was touring South America at the time. It kind of restricted me a bit as I wasn't at home with my music collection, so found myself having to extract tunes from my ipod for the mix!

There a lot of mixed opinions regarding the state of dance music - the indefinite future of clubs and record labels, DJs not blagging as many gigs, is it currently in a bit of a recession or is it still blossoming? 
I think I've always kind of operated on the outskirts a bit ... just doing my own thing, so I've never really felt qualified to comment on the state of the industry as a whole. I only really see the things I'm involved in and obviously there are a lot of changes happening. Sometimes things have to be shaken up a bit though for things to move forward.

One of my favourite internet moments happened when you felt compelled to voice your opinion on an Australian forum regarding warm up sets. You were upset with a few DJs who were playing before you. When you’re headlining a night, what in your opinion is a perfect warm up set for you? How do you go about warming up a night for other headline DJs?
My favourite warm-up DJs are the ones who get me totally itching to get on the decks, where I feel I can play what I want without being forced into just "banging it out", and who get me constantly asking what tunes they're playing! Warming up is about setting the tone, getting the crowd slowly immersed into the night without hitting a climax musically when there's still another 6 hours of clubbing to be had! You can't burn the crowd out in the first few hours - you would see the Stones opening a set with their five biggest tunes! Maybe tease them with one or two, but they'll always save the big guns until the end! Warm up DJs should have an idea of how the headline DJ sounds, and not resort to showing off as it kind of looks a bit idiotic, and can totally spoil the flow and energy of a potentially great night.

What has been your most memorable experience DJing, there have got to be some crazy stories… tell us one!
There were many hotel-room experiences and airport vomit experiences, passing out on planes etc, but that was all years ago when I was drinking and partying. I still have a few beers and the occasional champagne but my party nights are very few and far between these days. My body can't cope with it any more!

You’ve played alongside many DJs where you’ve been known to gel and tag team with them (Lee Burridge comes to mind). Given the occasion asks for it, who are some of your favourite DJs to play with and why?
I always enjoy playing with Lee as we do get on and generally vibe off each other musically, plus it all happens without any planning - we just turn up and go for it! There's many other guys I've played with in the past, but I suppose Lee is one I've tagged with the most.

Have there been points of excess and chaos in your career where you look back and think “Alright, that was a bit too Led Zeppelin.”
I was definitely hitting the tequila too much for a while. I think it was probably out of nerves that I started getting into it, but there were quite a few Zep style incidents as a result, some of which affected my gigs and were extremely unprofessional. Today I think I'm pretty boring although I do still (very) occasionally have my Zep moments!

Who are the producers and record labels in dance music you think have truly stood the test of time?
It's too hard to name names but I think any good quality house music that has never sounded totally "current" tends to age better than anything uber-trendy. Take Ashley Beedle's remix of Bent, "Always", which I still play. It's just timeless, quality house music and I can't imagine it ever sounding totally "old". Unlike certain genres like 90s prog and Deadmau5y sounding electro - it's always going to sound of it's time and will date immensely.

Name a DJ who you think is ridiculously underrated and one DJ who you think is overtly hyped.
Most of the DJs who focus on playing quality house/deep house are underrated. If you want to know who I think is over-hyped, just pick any name at random out of DJ Mag's Pop 100 list!

Can you name a few of the secret thrift stores in London/South England where we can find those vintage tees and outrageous shirts you’re always sporting?
They mainly come from the States - New York and LA, as well as ebay. I prefer buying them in vintage stores as I can feel the fit and make sure they'll be tight enough without exposing my beer belly! It's a bit harder online as I'm very fussy about the fit!

Three clubs around the world that you have consistently had amazing nights at.
Good gosh ... a bit predictable but Warung in Brazil, Womb in Tokyo, and Moonpark in Buenos Aires.

Three movies that you can watch over and over again.
Aah my movie taste is pretty bad and I won't tell you some of the monstrosities lurking in my collection! My most-watched movies are usually rock/music related. The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" is amazing... The Beatles "Let It Be" is pretty fascinating but hard to find. My favourite non-rock movies are usually the old classics, things like "Midnight Cowboy" etc. I like films from the 60s and 70s.

You are stuck on a deserted island with a life supply of batteries and a boom box, list out 6 life changing must-have albums you’d like to have with you and why?
I hate this question!!! I'm not going to answer it properly but I will tell you that Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" is the first album I will grab and I could live with that one alone. I will never, ever tire of it, it's simply beautiful.

A huge thank you to Danny Howells for taking the time to do this. As you can see I didn't really hold back on the questions!  But he truly is my hero and one of a kind.  He's taught me what it means to be a DJ and for this I'll be forever grateful. Can someone please bring him down on a massive India tour? Please? And thank you to my old roommate from college Deniz - he took the photos here from one of my most memorable nights partying it up with Danny on the decks (Los Angeles, Nacional, 2005)! - SG

Follow Danny Howells on Twitter
Join Danny Howells' Facebook Page
Related Posts with Thumbnails