"Gravitating towards the weird shit": The story of Danny Daze - Artists - Mixmag

"Gravitating towards the weird shit": The story of Danny Daze

Who better to be our guide to the other side of Miami?

  • Words: Duncan Dick | Images: Michael Raveney
  • 14 March 2016
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The next to join us for a pint in Churchills is a man with the build of a welterweight boxer, a ready grin and the delicate hands of a surgeon. Born in Nicaragua and raised in Westchester, DJ Craze has been a friend and inspiration to Danny since they hung out at raves at the Hot Wheels rollerskating rink back around ’99/’00 and Danny was just starting to DJ and make music. A four-time world DMC champion, Craze is one of the greatest turntablists of all time. He and Danny have long had a shared sensibility. “We always gravitate towards the weird shit,” he explains. That weird shit, that experimental, offbeat indie sound that makes Danny’s productions so fresh, is represented here by the founder of the label that did more to shape Danny than any other. Schematic Records was founded by Romulo Del Castillo in 1996 as a post-rave home listening label, and quickly became known as ‘America’s Warp’. Romulo describes Danny as one of the few people who keeps the energy of the Miami scene alive – but it goes both ways. Schematic’s intelligent, emotional releases were a huge influence on Danny’s development as an artist; in fact, back when he was busted with 2,000 ecstasy pills and ended up under house arrest, they were one of the few things that kept him sane.

Wait, what? Tucking into a tasty (but artery-thickening) Cuban meal of pulled pork, plantains and black rice at local hangout Palacio De Los Jugos, Danny explains: “At this point [around 2002] I was very desperate for money: I had a car accident and I couldn’t work. My mother couldn’t help and my dad doesn’t help out at all [Danny’s parents split when he was young]. I would have robbed a bank. A girl I knew hit me up online. She asked, ‘Do you know where we can get a punch of pills?” Danny’s first and last foray into criminality didn’t quite go to plan. In fact, what followed could have been a cut scene from 90s rave movie Go: after sourcing the pills and meeting what turned out to be an under-cover detective in a Hooters car park (during a Harley Davidson convention, no less), the minute Danny put his hand in his pocket there were a dozen guns in his face. Cue time in a youth prison, the end of a potential pro tennis career, and a further nine months of house arrest. “They used to give me an hour a week to go get a haircut or go get food. I barely remember anything from that time. I kind of just blocked it out, but it was very monotonous,” he says. He stayed sane by chatting online on electro forums and on Instant Messenger, buying and selling vinyl online and getting deeper and deeper into artists like Iceland’s Ruxpin and Lackluster and the more leftfield side of the music released on hometown labels M3rck and Schematic: “I guess it was very emotional music, and that’s what I gravitated to,” he says.

But when Danny finished house arrest in 2005 he was $75,000 in debt to his lawyers, and he concentrated on the serious business of making money. At first he worked killing cockroaches during the day and DJing at weekends and evenings. He didn’t turn down many gigs. “I’ve done three hundred-something weddings. I’ve played for deaf people. I’ve played for fourth-graders, for nine- and ten-year-olds at a Homecoming party where I had to play everything from Jennifer Lopez to Vengaboys – and I got good at it. Anything to make money.” His crowd-pleasing, mash-up style juxtaposed everything from electro to disco to rock and was full of his own dancefloor edits of everything from Jefferson Airplane to Violent Femmes. Soon he was getting gigs at clubs, including a weekly eight-hour residency at a place called Funktion and Monday nights at a fetish party called Back Door Bambi. Meanwhile, his edits were getting picked up by DJ AM, and in 2006 he teamed up with Joe Maz and his brother Gigamesh to create DiscoTech. They were swiftly in demand for edits from some of the biggest chart acts in the US, and touring from Vegas to LA to Detroit. “It was fun at the time,” he recalls, “but soon everyone was doing that style. In 2009 I just thought, ‘Eugh, that’s enough.” The journey towards the kind of music he really wanted to make started when his 2009 track ‘Ghettofab’, under his own name, was included on mixes by DJ Hell and Loco Dice. He took a year off from gigging, and ‘Your Everything’ was the result.

As we walk through Little Havana, where tourist-friendly live music bars stand cheek-by-jowl with parks full of old Cuban men playing dominoes, tiles clacking away at a BPM that’s more like gabber than electro, Danny turns his thoughts towards the future. For now that means concentrating on Omnidisc, with planned releases from Legowelt, Sebastien Bouchet, Dean Grenier, DJ Tennis and David Vunk, and its two off-shoots, the disco-influenced Polyester and the bass-driven, tech house inflected 80 Hertz. It means building on a couple of years that have finally seen him get the message across about what kind of artist he is – and seen that message resonate from Brazil to Berlin, from his recent Radio 1 Essential Mix to his upcoming parties at Miami Music Week. It’s about Danny and some of the incredible talent in his hometown putting this city back where it belongs: at the centre of the dance music world.

Danny Daze ‘Miami EP’ is out on February 22 via Omnidisc

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