To newer fans to electronic dance music, can you give readers a bit of history of Danny Howells?
I’m a DJ playing house and techno who started out in 1991-92. My first big break was getting a slot warming up for Digweed at Bedrock back in 1992, a job that I did regularly for about 9-10 years. I’ve been producing since the mid-1990s, had residencies in different places around the world. The most famous residencies of them all has to be Twilo in New York City, and when Twilo closed down my residency moved over to Vinyl, which then became Arc. Done lots of mix albums like the Global Underground compilations, Renaissance, and the latest one being Balance. I had my owns series called Nocturnal Frequencies about 10 years ago. I had my own record label called Dig Deep, done plenty of remixes… And then just the usual kind of stuff really.
People sometimes put your music style down in a box but how will you describe the music you play with your own words?
I don’t know, predominantly house and techno, some disco, usually with a groove or some feeling, nothing really commercial although some of what I play is probably “accessible” or familiar sounding. I veer towards tracks that sound like they could have been made at any time, as opposed to tracks that sound super shiny and new and will sound like crap in two years!
One of your first career breakthroughs came when you started your long lasting relationship with Bedrock being the warm-up DJ for John Digweed for many years. What did that mean for your career?
I was playing a few clubs before that, but the association with Digweed and Bedrock made a lot of people take notice of what I was doing, not just people on the dancefloor but eventually the industry too. And what I learned from working with him (and still do) is priceless .. he knows so much about what makes a good night and has always been a good teacher as well as a friend.
These days you mostly play headline sets. What is the biggest difference between these two types of sets and are you able to play some of the same tracks or is it completely different tracklists?
It used to be totally separate, the warm up or the peak time. But now I’ve really settled into a groove where the rooms I play are much smaller and more intimate, and this means there’s not such a big difference these days. The deeper end of house music is where my heart truly lies, although I still enjoy some real stripped down techno too, and playing headline sets in appropriately sized rooms to clued up crowds means I can get the best of both worlds.
You’ve been djing and producing for a long time. What are your thoughts on the evolution of dance music?
It moves all the time, I can’t keep track. I never pay much attention to it. My focus is always on “what good tracks can I find this week” and doing my best to pick the ones that are going to work the best on that weekend. I’m in such a tiny bubble as far as the whole electronic scene goes; it’s such a nice place to be.
With what can you continuously make your musical repertoire more colourful and fresh?
For me it’s only ever been about finding the music I love, and finding a way to present it to the crowds. I keep things fresh for myself by trying to play as much new music in every set as I can. I rotate tracks so much that sometimes I might only play a song once and never play it again. There is so much great music out there that I’m able to do that without feeling too guilty!
You’ve played in festivals, big clubs, small clubs, tikki boats, and private parties. Where do you prefer playing and why?
Festivals are amazing if they’re quirky, different and non-EDM. Glastonbury is my favourite event in the whole world because I can go and see some random psychedelic rock band, then see the Stones, then see some acid-folk band, then spend the night meeting new people, it’s beyond eclectic. I LOVED playing at Lighting in a Bottle, it was just so cool and relaxed. But on the whole it’s all about small clubs for me. Intimacy is key; I want to be a few feet from the crowd. The Tikki events were amazing, I miss them…
What can fans expect when they see you behind the decks?
I’m going to do my best to play the best music that I can find, and play them to the absolute best of my abilities. This applies to every single gig that I do. In every gig I play I cannot help but to put the same amount of effort into every single time I play. Whether there are 5 people there or 5,000 – you still have to deliver the maximum amount of passion. They will see the best that I can possibly deliver and hopefully it’s going to gel.
You have a long glory career in the music industry. Do you see yourself more as a DJ, producer, label owner or a combination?
DJ definitely. That’s why I got into this, I was obsessed with the whole idea of the “DJ” even as a kid, when I’d go to weddings and see the wedding DJ with his thousands of 7″ singles. It was a part of me from a very young age. WHEN I get on a production roll, then I love production and I can’t be stopped. But since the whole issue with the label and the problems that came because of it, I want to channel all my energies into improving as a DJ.
What do you enjoy to do the most and what is the worst part of the job?
The best part is the minute I take over the booth .. tidy it up, get rid of empty beer bottles and make it my own space. After that I’m in my own world and no matter what’s going on in my head, for those few hours I’m hopefully going to be detached from reality and lost in the music. (And hopefully, the crowd are with me, haha!) The worst is the exhaustion from travelling too much, or when airlines fuck up flights making you miss a gig etc. Or when the US embassy decides to take a million years to process your work visa, meaning you miss 6 gigs!
We are guessing you are on a vegetarian diet. Should we become vegans?
Well, I was 96% vegan until Christmas, which was when I decided I couldn’t eat dairy again and have been 100% vegan since. We all have our own choices (except for the animals being killed) but really, after lots of research and discussion, I just don’t feel I can justify eating any of that again. I don’t want to be responsible for a lamb getting its throat cut or a foal being torn from it’s Mum. My diet is so much more varied and healthy now than it ever was. If you want to eat whatever you want, do it but don’t you dare go slagging others that are trying to do the right thing. I do advise seriously looking into it and seeing what you are contributing to. Cowspiracy is a movie that I recommend to many, and it’s frightening to see the relationship between meat consumption and the unbelievable damage to the environment. There’s a whole load of great films that are worth watching, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, etc. Anyways, besides all that, I think my body would repel anything like meat now. Even fake meat is starting to scare me haha!