The Mix 001: Danny Daze

today21/02/2024 4

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How did you get into dance music? What was the moment that made it all connect?

Felix Sama from Power 96 when I was in West Miami Middle School. I was breakdancing at the time; I had to be, I think, in sixth grade. But I was probably 11-years-old the first time I ever saw a DJ. And then, by the time I was 13, I had my turntables. Every time that we would breakdance, we would go to my house with the kids around the block, and I was the one who would choose the music. I didn’t know that that was DJing.

That eventually led me to go to a school dance and see this guy who had turntables turned sideways and was doing all sorts of cool things. And he had a bunch of records behind him. I was like, ‘Yo, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’ He was playing everything, booty music and 2 Live Crew. We were booty dancing in school dances. It was wild. Whatever that person was doing, that was what I wanted to do. By my 13th birthday, my mother bought me my equipment, and I quickly paid her back — a couple of thousand dollars. I would DJ weddings and do whatever I needed to do. She believed in it and put it all on her credit card. We were broke; I remember vividly mixing water with milk to have extra leftovers and eating macaroni and cheese. But I think it was her way of seeing me staying home and keeping me out of trouble.

What was the first show you played?

I think it was probably a house party. I think they needed someone, and I got $150. I still have the actual speakers I used right outside. I kept all that stuff. I originally wanted to be a biomedical engineer but ended up in jail. It changed everything. That was the year when the government was really throwing the book for drug offenses. The last party I played before that was Club Space in 2003. I still have the flyer somewhere. I was also playing tennis and getting into the leagues, but I wasn’t good enough. I went another path, unfortunately, but that’s what led me to this: I was under house arrest and got to connect with artists. One door opened, and now I’m here doing planetarium shows.

You started breakdancing in 1997 and DJing in 1999. You’ve produced a large collection of EPs, singles, and remixes, but why did you think ‘::BLUE::’ had to come out now?

I started making music in 2000/2001. The big shift came in 2005 when I got off house arrest and started DiscoTech. It was a big remixing team between me and another guy named Joe Maz and then Joe’s brother Gigamesh. We were very well known. We were playing five times a week and had residencies in Vegas and Atlantic City. So it was that when things took off for me. I gave that up because I just wasn’t happy with everything becoming extremely norm, and there wasn’t a risk being taken. And I, too, had an understanding of that pop world and pop sensibility, and I brought it to that Hot Creations record. And from there, it just went.

It’s taken a bunch of years to not only find the exact sound that I wanted to put out, but it also took a lot of years for people who think they know me to slowly start accepting this other side of who I am as an artist. I couldn’t just go from a Hot Creations record to an experimental IDM record. So, over the last 13 years since that record came out, I’ve just slowly started implementing more and more of who I am.

That shift changed around 2013 when I started working with people like Jimmy Edgar. But with this album, I wanted it to be 100% of who I am. It’s exactly that. Every single little detail is placed there for a reason. I’ve collaborated with people from Push Button Objects to Deroboter, Nick León, Jonny From Space. It was a perfect time. Omnidisc kind of helped me put out a certain type of sound where people know me, and then me doing Boiler Room at Dekmantel and all that stuff.

I think now people consider me an eclectic DJ with technicality. So, it gives me the room to experiment. I consider ‘::BLUE::’ to be just deeper.

This is the first time I ever explained how I put it together, but the album is basically an index of a person’s life on how a person starts off super rudimental. That’s why the beginning is quiet: you just hear very slow lines. Then, it slowly gets heavier and heavier and more accentuated. Then all of a sudden, there’s a big drop-off, which is kind of like midlife — when you have a drop-off — and then, you know, towards the end, it gets really dark, which for me meant the realization that your life is coming to an end. Every track is kind of just influenced by something.

Then it ends with the understanding and acceptance that you’re on your deathbed, and you’re able to say, ‘Okay, I live my life the way that I wanted to.’ That’s why it’s a continuous mix — to make it feel like a movie. We live in 15-second increments. People can barely listen to a song before they’re already skipping on it. I wanted to do a continuous mix so that people could understand or try to take in a different way of consumption.

Read this next: “Gravitating towards the weird shit”: The story of Danny Daze

What influenced ‘::BLUE::’? It seems like Aphex Twin and Board Of Canada and other IDM artists informed the record.

Yes, but the crazy part is that I don’t know much about Aphex Twin. I’ll probably get hated on for that. I know ’Selected Ambient Works’, but that’s about it. I was very much influenced by the labels that were in Miami called Schematicm, M3rck, and others. The IDM scene in Miami was very different than Warp. They came from Miami bass. So there was this Miami bass element to it that was funky, booty music with tweaked-out aliens in the background.

These guys were doing this in ’95. I didn’t even know where they were doing parties. They were dudes like Soul Oddity, specifically their ‘Tone Capsule’ album. When I heard that, I was like, ‘This is gnarly, dude.’ Just straight bleeped-out music, but that had a structure that you can remember. It wasn’t just you throwing a bunch of kitchenware around and calling it IDM.

You once told me that making the ‘::BLUE::’ visual show was the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Why did this album need something as grand as a 40-minute feature at a planetarium?

I’ve never really been a fan of flat screens with musicians in front of things. The flat screen can be beautiful; there’s beautiful stuff playing in the background, and then there’s someone’s silhouette in front of it, which blocks the full screen.

But not only that, I would sit down right there [Gomez points to a cushion near his computer], and I would meditate, or at least leave a loop going of the songs that I was producing, and I would see what pops in my head, and jot it all down in a composition book. That essentially turned into the planetarium show. It’s the easiest way for people to get into my head, which is what I wanted to try.

So then I had to find the right people that I could go back and forth with, where they kind of understood what I was going for, and give them a bit of artistic openness where they could do whatever they wanted as well. So it was just back and forth between the guys, Connor McDonald and Joseph Nixon, and me. They really put a lot of work into this; they did it for much cheaper than what they usually charge for anything, I just believe that they wanted to work on a project that came from somewhere real. And, of course, being given the opportunity to work on a planetarium is also kind of cool.

The planetarium show allows you to be fully engulfed, your peripheral vision is taken, and you’re able to feel everything around you. It’s way different than just having a flat screen and me performing in front of it. You’re sitting down and fully taking in a surround sound system that’s playing the surround sound mix with all these images.

The first scene is from, I believe, one to three years old, where everything is super rudimental; the second scene is maybe adolescence, and so on. All these factors came together, thankfully. I think this is opening up a pretty cool door for me where I will continue to go down this path of interesting visuals in a different way. I’m already working on a 360° live show.

How did you approach the Frost Science Museum curators to collaborate on the project? It is a science museum families go to on the weekends.

They were totally in, especially when we did a test. And with the test, they were like, ‘Yo, this is sick.’ When we came back with the full show, they wanted to do more. And now they basically started this thing called nightLAB [a late-night adults-only planetarium showing], with ::BLUE:: being the first show.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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