Tracking Danny down for a few quick questions, Ibiza-Voice found the king of eclecticism in his hometown of Hastings, preparing for yet another transatlantic trip…
Country hopping, crossing borders, have you had any unforgettable culture shocks in 2005?
Danny: “Apart from being told that it was illegal for me to drink alcohol in a DJ box in Dubai – which was a big shock – there haven’t been any really. This year, I tended to return to the places that I’ve played before: America, Asia, Australia, Russia, and all over Europe...”
And as a DJ, what events or experiences have been the most memorable this year?
“Without a doubt, the high point of my year was in July when I played at Womb in Tokyo. It was so incredible that I was left speechless for the first time in my life! I think a very close second was the recent tour of South America, which culminated in Creamfields in Buenos Aires. The atmosphere was mind-blowing. I couldn’t believe it, I normally prefer smaller events because you can see the expressions on people’s faces, and there’s often a better connection with the crowd. But the thing about Buenos Aires is that you can have an event with thousands of people and it feels like you’re in a club that holds two or three hundred.”
What are your plans for Dig Deeper in 2006?
“I will hand pick clubs from over all over the world, great environments where the sound systems are properly maintained for a Dig Deeper tour. That’s sure to be challenging and rewarding. Dig Deeper will also be at The End in London on a bi-monthly basis, and will regularly visit clubs in America and Canada.”
Your Choice album is out in January. Can you tell us about your approach to this mix, how it came to be?
“With a normal contemporary mix album, where you’re scrambling around for all the latest tunes, you are never convinced that you have the definitive track listing. You hand in a finished mix, but on the same day receive a pile of new tracks that leave you thinking, oh shit, now I want to add this or that. With a Choice mix of classics, the approach is very different. In the back of your mind, you already know the tracks that have influenced you the most over the years, and for that reason it’s easier to compile. When I was first asked about doing a Choice, I actually gave Azuli a list of 100 records. It was very eclectic, with hip-hop, drum & bass and so on, but the hardest part was getting the list of 100 records down to 40 for clearing/licensing. Thankfully, as I knew the music inside out and could see how each track would work, putting them together was a bit easier. Really, it was a pleasure to do!”
So were there any classics that you couldn’t get your hands on?
“To be honest, I got clearance for most of the tracks I picked, and it was great to be able to include Carly Simon, The Temptations, and Japan. The only other thing I wanted to try was to get some music by Prince on there, but I was told from the start that would be difficult. As it explains in the sleeve notes, the reason I started DJing was because my friends and I were huge Prince fans, and the first time we ever used decks was at a party we held to celebrate his birthday. However, other than that I was very lucky in getting everything I wanted!”
Choice contains three of your own re-edits – PM Dawn’s A Watcher’s Point of View, Sub Sub’s Space Face, and The Temptations’ Papa Was a Rolling Stone – can you reveal more about these personal specialities?
“I did the PM Dawn re-edit about three years ago, just to play out, and Sub Sub is about a year old. More recently, I was approached to remix a track for an album called Motown Remixed and I chose Papa Was a Rolling Stone. However, I unfortunately missed the deadline and so it couldn’t feature. Rather than doing a full remix, on my version I highlight some of the things going on that you maybe don’t hear in the original track. Focusing on the strings and vocals, I remove a lot of drums and other elements. It’s not really a re-edit but more of a stripped down version. There were so many other re-edits I could have used, such as Donna Summer and Underworld, and there is still a big collection of re-edits lurking around in my CD wallet. At one point I was doing about five re-edits a week, adding effects, altering arrangements etc, so I’ve already re-edited many of my favourites.”
How do you feel about the timeless qualities of dance music and the classic tracks of today?
“Some things never date really. Although when I was going through all my old records for Choice, I certainly found things that sound dated, and there are many examples. For one, there are those tracks that sounded really groundbreaking when they first came out, such as Belgium hardcore from the early 90s, or a lot of progressive house tracks from the late 90s. These were devastating and sounded like nothing else at that particular time, but have tended to age really badly. Whereas I think deep house, as well as disco or techno influenced house, perhaps has a more classic sound and therefore tends to fair better over time. A lot of material coming out now is great because it doesn’t sound super contemporary and it’s not relying heavily on tricks or ultra modern sounds – it might just be a warm groove and a good bassline. If you listen to pop music of the early 80s, when technology was making huge advances, you can hear the state-of-the-art production of that time, Duran Duran’s drum sounds for example. These productions may have sounded great back then, but I believe a great deal of 80s music currently sounds much more dated than that of the 60s or 70s. So who knows how today’s music will sound in 10 or even two years from now?”
Danny Howells’ Choice is released on January 30 via Azuli.