[Interview] Danny Howells brings London to Atlanta
Photos by Teddy Williams
I was introduced to Danny Howells at Wildpitch last weekend. He greeted me with a grin and an enthusiastic kiss on each cheek. Dressed in a graphic tee, skinny jeans, a beret and a pink and silver scarf he immediately reminded me of the things I love about British culture. He is every bit a character, just as entertaining face to face as he is behind the DJ booth. As we chatted before his set I was impressed by his candor as well as how content he was to simply have a conversation. Formalities were set aside and he spoke openly with me as if we were already fast friends.
Earlier this year you played at the DJ Mag "Celebrates 25 years party." Tell us about that experience.
Well, it was amazing. It was weird, it was that week after Prince had died. It was a very small, intimate event at a really tiny club. My plan was to play a set dedicated to Prince’s music. I was obviously very affected. He was the guy who got me DJing in the first place. But, I did about four songs and I realized that a lot of the crowd were 18 or 19 years old and didn’t really know anything apart from “Kiss” or the big hits. So, I did about four or five songs, then went into some other stuff, but it was brilliant. It was really good, nice to be involved in it, definitely. You know, magazines like that tend to sort of focus on the newer kids on the block, for them to have an oldie like me on, it was quite fun.
It’s nice every now and then, having the ego stroked. Not too much, just every now and then.
How do you think the technological breakthroughs in media since DJ Mag’s first appearance in 1991 have molded current artists?
In ‘91 it was basically two decks and mixer, that was all we had. Everything we’ve seen since then, the evolution of the mixers, the evolution of the CD deck, the introduction of CD turntables, the evolution of computers, record box it’s all made huge huge differences to the way that people DJ. It’s made it possible for people who previously wouldn’t have been able to DJ at all to DJ. It’s enabled people with the ability to turn on a computer to go to Beatport and begin to DJ. It’s taken away the art of DJing sort of in the commercial area, but in the more underground area, the art of DJing still continues to evolve and develop. Whether you’re using the technology creatively or you’re sticking to the traditional ways of putting music together, it’s still evolving.
I use just a basic set up and it’s still really enhanced what I can do as a DJ. Be more productive and have more access to tracks, tracks from ten years ago, five years ago. Be able to load more tracks per week to my “crate” so to speak. For me, it’s been very, very beneficial. It’s opened up a whole new world, taken away a lot of limitations that were there previously.
We couldn’t find you on Soundcloud. Do you use it at all?
Oh no, I’ve been banned from everywhere. Soundcloud, Hear This, YouTube. I’ll give you an example. I did a Donna Summer remix years ago, it had been on my Soundcloud for ages and on my YouTube, but I got copyright strikes and you get three copyright strikes you’re written off. Fuck Soundcloud, fuck all the other sites out there. I’m going to do my own thing and I’m going to find my own way to get my stuff online. I like being banned. It makes me a rebel.
Traveling and touring is a part of the job that you do everyday, is there one place in that you’re always looking forward to going back to?
Well, obviously home, London. It’s a great city, I walk miles and miles and miles, through High Park, along the Thames, all over London. I always love New York, friends, the vibe, I love San Fran, the vibe the climate. L.A. has really good shopping, good walking. I’m a big walker. South America, Argentina, I love going there, the crowds there are so passionate. Peru, again with the great crowds and they’ve got this park full of cats. I love going there and feeding the cats. They’re strays, the sort of accumulate there. Some get abandoned there as well, I donate to them quite a lot as well, so they can get medical care. Then I visit them regularly.
You’ve been in the industry a long time. What do you think is so special about Boiler Room?
I'll be honest with you, I love doing it. But I’m not really a big fan of televised DJ events. For me the event is all about the moment. It should be about a dark club, about anonymity. I don’t like having a hoard of people behind me trying to be seen. Obviously they serve a purpose because people like them, but for me, they’re not what clubbing is about. Clubbing is about an experience, like going to a rock gig. You go and experience it, you watch it through your eyes, not through a phone. And you remember it. It’s not clubbing really, it’s an internet event.
How do you feel about the current political situation happening in the U.S. right now?
I’m not in the best position to comment. When you see what’s happening where I come from with the U.K. with the Brexit, I’m really embarrassed to be British right now. I’m hugely embarrassed. I’m hugely embarrassed with leaving the E.U. and the conservative situation, it repulses me. Then I think about you guys and you’ve got Trump as a possible president and how do you guys feel? I just think right now the world’s in a bit of a mess and I just really hope we can somehow all pull out of it intact.
What are you plans for the rest of 2016?
I’ve got quite a bit of touring coming up. I mix touring with pleasure, well, touring is pleasure. But I mix it with time off, I go to a log of gigs, I go see a lot of bands. I’ve got a tour of North America coming up and a tour of South America coming up and then I’ve got some scattered European dates.