Danny, aka Moodymanc aka Dubble D, has an illustrious and wonderful history behind him. From drumming for the likes of Rae & Christian, to remixing some of the biggest names in the industry, to playing to some of the best crowds this globe has even seen. He has also, it seems, released music on more labels than you could possibly imagine. However that history has not been handed to him lightly. It’s clear that Danny works a lot harder than most purely from the passion that drives him to do so. Oh and he is also one of the nicest people in the industry – fact. We caught up with him to talk music in every sense.
What are you earliest memories of music?
Waking up on Sunday mornings to the sound of Jazz and the smell of breakfast cooking; bashing away on a pair of bongos that I nagged my parents to buy me; buying 7″ singles; messing around with cassette players; making up tunes on the mouldy old out of tune piano in the cellar at my mum and dad’s….
Why do you think it captivated you so much?
I honestly don’t know…. it just connected. My parents weren’t musicians but were, and still are, great music lovers. They’re well into their seventies and still go to way more gigs than I do, so hopefully I inherited that love!
What were you listening to back then?
I liked a lot of the jazz they had in their collections, plus my mum loved Stevie (Wonder), which I do too. When I first started buying 7″s it was a lot of the 2tone/Ska/Mod stuff that was big at that time. As I got into my teens ,it was all about Jazz, Hip Hop and Soul.
You’ve played drums for a number of big names over the years. Who were the stand-out ones for you?
Different people stand out for different reasons. I had a particularly great time doing the Grand Central/Rae and Christian shows; we had some great guest vocalists (some of my heroes – The Pharcyde, Q N C) and a great vibe in the band. I had a time of doing proper pop/dance stuff in the early 90s too, which stood out in the respect that it taught me that that was definitely NOT the route for me music wise. Of course, we had some amazing times with 2020soundsystem too! These days though, I’m lucky enough to play with quite a few outstanding jazz artists who come over from Europe and the States, as well as some of the best UK players, and this is something that I really love and keeps me massively on my toes!
How did you get into DJing?
I’ve always been a record buyer, and though it was never a main aim to become a DJ, I always enjoyed playing music at parties, to my friends and making mixtapes. As I started to get more records out the opportunities to DJ ‘officially’ started to turn up more and more, and, as we started to go out and play gigs with 2020soundsystem, I started to play a lot of the warm ups. That really made me focus a lot more on mixing and started me thinking more and more about playing house sets. I was really lucky in that I was playing alongside some of the best DJs in the world at some of the best parties and festivals, so I got to really check a lot of people at the top of their game out and, therefore, start to discover what I might like to do within it all. It was also great to play with Ralph (Lawson) so much, who was a massive influence on me. I’ve also always had friends, and been in bands, with great DJs, so it’s something I’ve always been around. These days it’s something I absolutely love and take incredibly seriously. I come from that musician background where it’s all about practise so I like to spend a LOT of time on the decks at home and also a great deal of time sifting for the right music to play. I LOVE it!
What tracks are rocking your sets of late?
As ever quite a variety of stuff. Some deeper stuff for sure, a lot of straight up House music though. I’m really liking some of the bass records that are coming out at the moment and some of the jazzier disco stuff too. And there’s always the techno and techier stuff too! The bottom line for me at the moment is that I’m trying to play great party records first and foremost, and records that represent and reference other records I love but wouldn’t necessarily be able to drop in a nightclub otherwise. I really love that; it feels quite subversive, just as good House music ought to be in my opinion!
As well as DJing, you produce your own music. How did you get into that?
I was always fascinated by making beats, at first with a drum machine and sampler. I was also lucky to be hanging out with one of the best sound engineers in the game, Danny Evans, and we started recording a lot of drums and producing breaks for DJs and producers, both on vinyl and CD. That started to get me a lot of sessions with producers I really admired. I had always had this plan of going to music college and becoming this fantastic jazz composer, but I remember going over to do a session in Hull for Fila Brazilia and Steve Cobby talking to me about this, then sitting me down in front of ‘Re-birth’ (an early 808 etc. software emulator) and saying to me “Just write some music! You’re a drummer from Manchester, just write some music that a drummer from Manchester would write!” It struck a massive chord. I spent the next income from the breaks thing on having a music pc built and have never looked back.
Who are the major influences on both you as a DJ and a producer?
A lot of my friends, many of whom are great DJs and musicians. A lot of the more forward thinking labels and producers out there who I feel are really relating great music and records I know in a new and exciting way. Plus, still a lot of the great labels and artists from the past. I’m still trying to emulate some of the sounds and aesthetics of all those great old CTI and Impulse records, all those great 70s Brazilian records… If we got into specifics I could go on forever!
You’ve got the ‘Thud’ EP due out imminently on Timewarp Records, which you’ve described as being “strictly party vibes and not a single house beat n the pack.” Can you tell us more?
As I mentioned above, I’ve always made a lot of different music, not just 4 on the floor stuff, and at the start of the year I realised that I had this great stockpile of stuff I was sitting on that I ought to try to re-touch and get out there. I was pretty out of touch with things label wise though, but got hooked up with Timewarp through a friend, Clairvo at MustBeat Records. They took “Thud” and decided to run with it as an EP after the original came out on a comp and got a bunch of their guys to re-mix it. They don’t release house music, so it was really refreshing to get a bunch of re-mixes back on a breaks and party tip. The EP’s currently available through the label but hits the usual digi shops later this month! There’s some other stuff under different project names on the way too!
You stated that producers shouldn’t be afraid, that they should, “Throw your sample packs away, shut down the soft synths, leave your house, go buy some fucking RECORDS and make some sounds that really MEAN something to you.” Do you think there are too many producers out there ‘painting-by-numbers’, so to speak?
The thing that initially excited me about House music was the fact that it was a forum for producers and DJs to explore and introduce new or different sounds to dance floors and to each other. It was a real chance to play people records and sounds that nobody else had, and bring something of themselves and their background to the party. Because the formula was set it was a very beautiful and subversive form of creation. It was kinda meant to be FREAKY! A big part of the agenda was, whilst of course referencing certain sounds and production values, to try to give things an original twist, and to display just how big your music collection was; how DEEP you were into it. I have a huge record collection of very varied roots music, whether that be jazz, funk, soul, afro, hip hop, techno, whatever. It’s a huge investment, not just financially but also in terms of the time spent collecting and really listening and studying all this stuff; it’s something I really want to bring to the table as a House producer and DJ. So when I hear a producer, or DJ, who has made that investment too, and is giving me their angle on it, that really excites me, and it stands out a mile!
Going back to the buying records point. Do you think that the way people now consume music, cherry-picking what they want in the search for instant gratification, has had an adverse influence on the music that is being produced? If so, who out there, for you, is fighting in the vanguard against this?
Of course it has changed absolutely in this way, but there is definitely a whole culture of labels, producers and musicians who are bucking the trends across all genres, just as there always has been. You’re just not necessarily going to find them because they have a million followers on Facebook or Soundcloud or Twitter, or because they’re throwing themselves at you through these media. One thing I’ve always stuck to with regard to my own releases is that I’ve tried to only release with labels who release on vinyl. This has a huge amount to do with my interest and love for vinyl records, of course, but is also a lot to do with the fact that these are the people who are making an investment in something more permanent. They’re actively putting a value on their music in a much more meaningful way.
You’ve also built a solid reputation as a remixer. How different is that to producing your own tracks? Do you take a different approach to each?
Thanks! I take re-mixing incredibly seriously. To be asked to bring something fresh and try to elevate someone’s track is a real honour, and to be honest, where I’m concerned, represents a real investment by the label or artist who has commissioned me. I really want to put 100% into it, otherwise I wouldn’t feel sincere in it.
I do treat every project differently. I try to think about bringing a different angle to the track in order to really complete the release, and try to bring as much of what I feel I have to offer to the project. In that respect I record live drums and percussion specifically for each project. I re-record parts, record new parts, try to bring different angles harmonically and melodically, sometimes bring in live musicians to augment the mix, and for the most part try to deliver a couple of mixes to cover where or how I might want to drop the track as a DJ. Although I’m not the most expensive re-mixer out there, I’m not the cheapest either. The fee is always to allow me to put as much time as I feel is necessary into each project. There is a definite difference in the process in the respect that, with a re-mix project, I know that this music is going to be released imminently and as such, I have to be 100% confident in what I’ve done for me to deliver. I also have to be 100% confident that I will be able to honestly support the release too!
When producing my own music, I’m not necessarily sure where it will go (if anywhere!) so it can be quite a different pace to work at. I’m constantly ‘sketching’ beats Not all of them ever make it past being just layers of loops, and I don’t always start working on an idea with the specific thought that it will be a record; I’m just exploring the idea. Sometimes I follow them through and end up with a ‘mix’, sometimes I might re-visit an idea a couple of years later and produce a track from it.
What constitutes a good remix to you?
As I mentioned above, something which brings a new and valid angle to the essence of the original track, or perhaps an abstraction of the original that would make it something that otherwise I wouldn’t dream of playing.
You’ve recently done a number of remixes for Rae and Christian’s new single, ‘1975’. How did that come about?
As I mentioned above, I used to play drums for Rae and Christian and some of the other live acts in the Grand Central Records days. I also worked on different studio tracks and projects and even released a Dubble D 12″ on the label too. They were very happy and creative times for me and also very influential, so when Mark approached me to remix this single I was massively honoured and also really wanted to go to town. The track is a full blown song with beautiful and haunting vocals, so I did a “Balaphonic” mix as well as a housier vocal mix and a hooky dub.
You used to work and tour with them back in the Grand Central days, didn’t you? What were they like?
Mark and Steve are lovely guys. Mark is a fantastic DJ, with massive drive, energy and determination, and one of the funniest muthafuckers you will ever meet. Steve is a very consumate musician, engineer and producer who I knew from years before he even got involved at Grand Central. He was a great and well respected guitarist and keyboard player but whilst we were all trying to be 1950s US be-bop musicians he was focussed very much on writing and recording songs. He is very much a true maestro!
Who out there is floating your boat remix-wise these days?
A few people, most notably of late Kyodai, of whom I’m a big fan and am looking forward to them remixing a forthcoming single on Local Talk records. I’m also really liking Shadowchild, both productions and remixes. Paul Woolford’s on ever present form; I really like Coyu and a lot of the Suara crew; Jay Lumen I think is fantastic. Atjazz is always great on the jazzier side of things… Ah man, it’s another one of those questions, I could go on forever.
Have you any advice on how to get noticed for the aspiring producers out there?
Do different! Be Yourself! Don’t pay attention to advice!!!!!
You recently said that whilst you’re “always flattered to get sent promos, but still get a massive buzz from actually buying the music I like.” This may be an impossible question, but can you put your finger on what that buzz is?
Yes, it’s that feeling of KNOWING that what you have just got your grubby little mitts on is going to buzz you up to fuck for many years to come! It’s true excitement. It might happen now and again with the odd promo, but I usually get it more, and more often, when I’ve sifted for it in a real or virtual shop and bought it!
What’s upcoming on your horizons?
More Moodymanc and Dubble D releases are imminent, as are remixes. We have the first “Soopaman Inc.” EP, a collaboration between myself, Ashley Beedle and YamWho? dropping on Tru Thoughts. A long awaited mini-album of beats under the name “Vault” is due next year, as is more from “Balaphonic” with a bit of luck. I’m also hoping to step things up DJ wise through my new agent, Jo Hunter at Jackmode in Berlin, and am trying to create more time in the studio in general, to write more new material of my own. I’m also looking forward to quite a few nice drumming gigs both with friends and a couple of visiting Jazz artists.For bookings: email@example.com For Press: firstname.lastname@example.org For remixes: email@example.com