Notorious for claiming that “real DJs don’t have a tan”, Miami-based producer of everything from Detroit techno to Italo disco Danny Daze is a voice that stands out among the babble of DJs out there, in it for the lifestyle and the fame. In an industry where distinctively unique creative endeavours are steadily being superseded by the cult of personality and high-sheen, soulless tracks made for rapid consumption on commercial radio, Daze is proudly defiant – an uncompromising creative ethos bolstered by an incredible amount of success found at such a young age. One of 2011’s breakout producers and DJs, the self-professed studio nerd has suddenly found himself in high demand by audiences across the globe. Set to kick off his first Australian tour in March, we figure there’s no better time to introduce you all to one of our favourite young stars at the moment.
The morning I sent off these questions for our current favourite purveyor of warm, sunny disco-tinged jams off, Twitter had informed me that Daze’s shoes had been nicked at a party the night before; no context whatsoever was provided. Which, of course, is a story strange enough for me to ask as soon as I get the opportunity to begin this interview. “My favourite pair of airport shoes… that's it. I'm done with this interview,” he jokes. “I went to an afterparty where we had to take our shoes off, only to head to the airport in a pair of shoes that were three times my size. Should've seen the faces on TSA. No clue who the hell would steal a pair of sneakers, but oh well. If you're reading this, sneaky sneaker thief – you’re welcome!”
Daze’s interest in mixing began at 13 – an age where young and budding fans of electronic music can often be confined to bedrooms through a lack of money and opportunity, unable to immerse themselves within the after-dark lifestyle of DJs and producers in clubs and raves, finding themselves consumed by other, more mundane commitments, like school or parents. This didn’t stop Daze from trying his hand at the decks, however, as he explained to me. “I started really young doing weddings and house parties which is where I honestly learned a lot of technical stuff. From the weddings, I'd go directly to all-age raves where older DJs would let me hop on for 30 minutes or so. The more I went to the all age parties, the more they noticed I started gaining a little bit of a fan base. Those times were really fun.”
His love for music production was piqued around a similar time – messing about on FruityLoops and putting together his first tracks, but it was a few years before he began to release the adrenaline-riddled club fuel he’s now notorious for. Asked about the relationship between those two worlds for him, he is quick to compare the two. “They are extremely closely related – in my world at least,” he says. “Being a DJ gives you the experience of knowing what works on the dancefloor. Some things may be a great idea in your head but as soon as you lay it down it sounds awful.”
Studying sound engineering after high school and graduating at the top of his class provided those interested with an excellent indicator of where Daze’s interest in music was to take him. “I was one of the only electronic heads in my class. I knew nothing about how to properly record audio before I went to school. Before I went there I had no clue the difference was between sample rate and bit rate. I'd render out projects at 128KB/sec, just to make more room in my computer. The guys I went to school with had previous knowledge on how to mic up a drum kit for insane metal bands and definitely gave me pointers when needed. They themselves were learning as well though.”
There’s a decidedly electronic feel to a lot of Daze’s productions, but a soulful, human glow manages to shine through, too – giving life and warmth to music that often draws accusations of being unfeeling and machinelike. It’s not a deliberate movement, as he tells us – his method of production is far too anarchic for careful planning, and the results are a decidedly organic and fresh take on the genre. “I’m running Ableton as my DAW, along with both analogue synths and VSTs. I just freestyle, to be honest. My way of producing is a bit chaotic. I put a million ideas onto one session then little by little start stripping back so it’s not too overloaded.”
And if you’ve listened at all to this year’s releases over the past few months, you’ll notice this careful balance between the disciplined curating of samples and beats and his chaotic creative spirit, his influences that run the gamut between Detroit techno and Italo-disco and everything in between. Listening to the mixes he’s put together, or his own material, is a captivating experience. Latest EP, Your Everything, was awarded the title of 27th best track of the year by Resident Advisor, and it’s almost a sure thing that one of your favourite DJs has dropped one of Daze’s stellar jams into a mix over the past year, universally singing its praises as one of the more eclectic sounds from a new producer in the scene. It mightn’t have come as a surprise to listeners entranced by Daze’s euphoric releases, but its success came as a surprise to Daze. “No artist ever expects a track to become huge,” he points out. “I was barely given a chance to play it out before anyone else was playing it so I basically was seeing the climb of the tune with everyone else. That was really intense!”
Released on Hot Creations – a label that’s home to the likes of releases by Jacques Renault, Jamie Jones, Tiefschwarz, and plenty more – it’s an impressive achievement for somebody of his age. “I met with the fellas during conference. It was real simple – they dug the tune, then they heard Fall Away From Love, then we high fived, then we had my EP ready to go.”
If you’ve visited Daze’s SoundCloud page, you might notice a particularly intriguing comment about the use of subgenre names in dance music – that is, he absolutely loathes them. “I just make music,” he explains. “Sometimes you dance to it. Sometimes you listen to it in your car. I understand the difference between tech-house, disco-house, deep-house, jack-house, house-house, super-duper-classic-house, Tiesto-house, but really – who cares, man? All producers shouldn't care what sub-genre they fall into. Just do what you do.”
2011 was Daze’s year of breaking into the consciousness of clubbers, everywhere. “It was pretty nuts. I hit 200,000 air miles – never in my life would I have thought I could do that in a year!” Those 200,000 miles have included a mind-blowing list of club dates, and he’s more than happy to recount some of the highlights. “A couple stand out gigs were Fabric because London has really supported me, it was a really warm welcoming. I got to play alongside Jamie, and the other gig had to be at D-Edge in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The vibe was incredible and I played about a nine hour set. I'm very used to playing long sets and prefer them – rather than having to cram a story into two hours. I'm really excited that now people are noticing I'm a bit of an old school soul, I try and tell a story with every DJ set. The longer the better!” In what is possibly a naïve and misguided move, I ask him about some of the contemporaries he finds himself particularly enamoured by. “There's too many to name and I don't wanna leave anyone out,” he says, diplomatically, before segueing into possibly one of the funniest answers a DJ has ever given me in an interview. “So I'm just gonna say S.Mouse, of Slap My Elbow fame.”
America’s history in cultivating breakout scenes in dance music has always impressed peoplebeyond its borders, shaping the tastes of audiences on an international scale and dictating trends in dance. Ever since the emergence of Detroit’s techno scene, America has become inextricably linked with the creation of machine-driven music. In the years that have passed since, however, the country’s role in the cultivation of dance music has become harder to define, and Daze provides an interesting assessment of the state of dance there, along with his role in the Miami music scene. “America started techno and house – but it definitely isn't thriving at the moment,” he points out. “At least not the underground, that is. It's all auto-tuned car alarm electro house out here.” The heyday of innovative, underground producers in Detroit techno and Chicago house are long gone, it seems, replaced by commercialistic grabs for cash by a slew of artists we could list, but don’t for fear of retribution. As for the dance music scene that’s kicking about in his home city of Miami, he’s ambivalent. “Miami is great to live in, but I really wish people were a bit more motivated to work and collaborate out here. I love it out here though and have a lot of love for the people who have supported me through out the years.”
His hectic touring schedule is not the only thing on Daze’s mind at the moment – busy in the studio, he’s got a decent amount planned for 2012, as a follow-up to such a wildly prosperous year last year. “I’m finishing up a bunch of original tunes at the moment. Just finished a remix for Flight Facilities a couple seconds ago actually, coming out on Future Classic soon.” And set to play both a slot at New South Wales’ Playground Weekender, and treating Melbourne audiences unable to spare the expense or the time off work to head to Wiseman’s Ferry (I feel you on that, people) to what will undoubtedly be a gargantuan night out at New Guernica for the city’s more discerning disco and techno consumers, it’s Daze’s first venture down into the country for a tour, and his expectations for this run of dates echoes the approach he takes to music. I ask him about what he’s expecting when he’s down, and he responds saying he has none. “I really wish I knew about the country but at the same time, who doesn't love surprises?”
Good thing we do, too.
BY MIKI MCLAY