With a hardware-based studio back home in Miami but most of his time spent in Europe, Danny Daze has had to find a new approach to making music over the last couple of years. Attack editor Greg Scarth discovers the details of his unique creative process and finds out why he’s keen to point out that he’s not hiding a hidden agenda.
Since breaking through with ‘Your Everything’ on Hot Creations back in 2011, Daniel Gomez has spent the last few years revealing additional facets of his musical personality, from the expansive techno of ‘Freeze’ on Kompakt through to the ominous, droning synths of ‘Silicon’ on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic imprint.
Ahead of an appearance for Circus in Liverpool later this month, we called him for an in-depth chat about his secret record label, plans for his debut album and the unique creative process forced upon him by separation from his studio.
Attack: Am I right in thinking you’re mainly based in Berlin these days? Are you getting most of your bookings in Europe?
Danny Daze: I would say 80% of my bookings are in Europe, so yeah, it’s pretty much out here. I guess the music that I make fits better with a European crowd.
I read an interview you did just before you released ‘Your Everything’, where you said it’s way harder to make it in the house scene when you’re from the US.
Yeah. I still think that way. House and techno, anything electronic, anything that’s not mainstream or cookie-cutter. It’s gotten that way because of how radio in the United States works versus radio overseas.
You’ve spoken in the past about how you weren’t really comfortable with the Hot Creations association. Is it difficult to handle the fact that people’s perceptions of you as an artist might not align with how you perceive yourself or how you want to be perceived?
I guess when you make a big record it’s expected to be pegged into one sound. For me I think the fun part has actually been having people’s heads flip around and be like, Damn, this is the complete opposite of the person I thought you were. The reason I think I’m still travelling and playing twice, three times every single weekend is because of the fact I’m pretty versatile. I have a certain sound that’s not very peggable, but the people who maybe heard me five, six years ago on that Hot Creations record, now they’re starting to come around. They’re like, Oh damn, I had no clue that he had this side. Even on that record, the flipside was something completely different, something more like Chicago house. I think it’s actually a good thing.
Being pegged into one sound is part of the process and it’s also motivation and fuel in order to prove people wrong.
A lot of people grow to resent the tags that stick with them, but it sounds like you’re a little more pragmatic about it, like it’s just part of the process.
It’s part of the process, and it’s also motivation and fuel in order to prove people wrong. At the same time, I wouldn’t be talking to you if it wasn’t for those records. I’m still 100% proud of them.
Are you happy with where you are now, with the fact that you can get bookings on so many different levels? You often play big venues for people like Circus but you also play tiny clubs.
Yeah. Every time I play a bigger venue where they’re expecting a bigger sound I try to feed them something a little different. I don’t try to go too far left-field, but I do like the challenge of going into a place like Circus where they’re maybe expecting more accessible music and then I go in and do something different. I really enjoy that challenge. At the same time though, I’m really more of a sweaty box kind of DJ; I like to play for eight hours and play everything from electro to 2-step to half-time music. We’re getting there, but I’m in no rush. People will see that little by little.
I get the impression that you see yourself as a DJ first and foremost. Is that fair to say?
Yeah, 100%, to be honest. I don’t play any instruments, so I definitely don’t consider myself a musician. I guess I know the way synthesisers work – I can freak out a synthesiser pretty well, because that’s how I had to learn – but I’ve been DJing since ’99, and maybe by 2000, 2001 I was already playing raves and I’d learnt how to play these six-, seven-hour sets of mostly breakbeat and some techno stuff. I’d definitely consider myself a DJ first.
It’s interesting that you play down your production skills so much, because you’re one of a relatively small number of successful electronic music producers who actually have formal training. Was it engineering or production you studied?
It was engineering, like how to properly record. Before I went in, I didn’t know how to compress, I didn’t know what ratios were, I didn’t know how to use a matrix on a mixing board. Now if I want to get into an SSL, I can properly record a band, knowing what mics to use for toms, overheads, you know?
I don’t know. I guess I… Honestly, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing when it comes to whether the record sounds good, but I have a lot more records that sound awful. I have way more sitting in the back burner than I actually release. You’re only hearing the stuff that I’m really really comfortable with. It just depends if it works or not.
I think that’s probably pretty common.
Maybe because I’m a DJ first, my skills lend themselves to dancefloor tracks, but I also make experimental music and stuff like that, which is a completely different world. This is when I really go nuts, when I do scoring for fashion runways and stuff like that. That’s really where I can open up my sound palette and go absolutely nuts, and I think my album is gonna go that way as well. It’s different kinds of rhythms – like half-time stuff and almost dubstep kind of stuff I guess – but it’s my sound, my way of doing it.
Honestly, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing when it comes to whether the record sounds good, but I have a lot more records that sound awful.
Are you working quite actively on your album at the moment?
I have a lot of ideas. What I’m going to end up doing is basically throwing 20 or 30 ideas into a folder when they’re maybe 50% done, and then finish the album within a month or two so that everything kind of sounds cohesive and I don’t have 30 different tracks that I’ve made throughout a year and a half. If I finish it in the last month, I’ll end up maybe using a certain type of snare or a certain type of compression that makes everything glue together.
Your studio back in Miami is pretty heavily hardware-based, right?
Yeah. I share a studio with a friend and we have quite a few things in there. The signal flow is just really good – analogue to digital and back to analogue – which for me was very important because I definitely don’t want to have to sit there patching MIDI cables and routing things to outboard gear. Everything is just set up perfectly.
At what point did you get into hardware?
The first thing I ever bought when I had enough money was a synthesiser. It was a Roland JP-8080. I’ve been into it since day one because MIDI mapping and velocity mapping [in the box] all just takes way too much time. I’d much rather just get in there and turn knobs.
So it’s kind of ironic that you’ve ended up travelling so much that you can’t do that.
Yeah, but I think it opens up creativity because when you come from one end of the spectrum of having gear and a bunch of stuff you can work with, then all you have is a computer and headphones, your creativity expands. This is why I’ve learned how to work with a mouse and the up and down buttons on my keyboard. I think it’s what’s creating the sound I have at the moment.