DJ Dan: Nothing But a Party
Los Angeles — As a club and rave staple for over 20 years, DJ Dan been described as the hardest working man in dance music. The description is an apt one, as just this year DJ Dan has managed to release a brand new album, in between his constant touring and the running of his own InStereo record label.
The studio album, Nothing But A Party, is a jam-packed collection of 20 tracks, including new collaborations, unheard originals, and the Beatport House Top 10 singles “Shake That,” “Jacked Up Funk” and “Engine No. 9.”
We connected with the busy DJ/producer (aka Daniel Wherrett) shortly after his Electric Daisy Carnival performance in Las Vegas to talk about his latest projects and an infamous incident from earlier this year at Baltimore’s Red Maple Club.
DJ Times: Someone at a Baltimore club tried to punch you in the DJ booth when you wouldn’t play a song that was requested. What exactly happened?
DJ Dan: That club on Thursday nights is a strict underground-house night. I actually would have been kicked off by the promoter if I had played this girl’s request! What had happened this particular evening was a fluke, really. The club had been packed with my loyal hardcore fans and the vibe had been amazing all night long. Eventually, these two people came in without any knowledge of the night, and the girl started aggressively demanding tracks that I just did not have, nor would I ever play. Like I said, I don’t have an issue with requests, if you know what the theme is.
DJ Times: Why’s that?
DJ Dan: The first DJ gig I ever got hired for was a residency at a Top-40 club playing all night for five hours straight. Requests were always welcome because sometimes they would inspire an entire block of great songs that I hadn’t even thought of. Let’s face it, when you are hired to play at a Top-40 club, you are there to make the crowd, the bar and the management happy. You are there to do that job and there is a real skill in doing that for five hours. I learned so much from playing that gig—I think every single DJ out there should have to take a gig like this as DJ bootcamp. It really makes you think on your toes and it ultimately taught me how to program better, even at my underground events.
DJ Times: What goes into running your label InStereo Recordings, in addition to your full DJ/production careers?
DJ Dan: My label has been going for 12 years now and it has been a labor of love. I started the label as a source for talented up-and-coming producers to have an outlet to release their music. Most of the artists on my label are friends that I believe in, and—if needed—I give them advice, direction and even mixing and mastering tips, so we can get the best-sounding tunes possible. Mike Balance and divaDanielle work with me on the label as well, and we all have our individual roles.
DJ Times: What’s the process?
DJ Dan: I prepare all my track ideas, samples, etc., in my personal studio space and then Mike takes over and makes everything sound amazing! During the day, I handle all my DJ gig negotiations as well as A&R and negotiation of all deals for the label. Mike also handles artwork, additional production, banking and delivery of all final masters ready for retail. Danielle works with me during the day on promotions, sending out promos, website updates and social media. Danielle is also in charge of organizing all of our InStereo club events.
DJ Times: What went into the creative process of the new album?
DJ Dan: I worked on this album for a year and collaborated with some of my favorite producers at the moment, including TJR, UMEK, Mes, Phunk Investigation, and Mike Balance. My last album, Disko Funk Odyssey, had a disco theme to it and I wanted this one to have a hip-house meets tech-house approach. All tracks were inspired by a lifetime of record collecting. Some tracks I wanted to sample I was still searching for, so I had to search high and low for some of these rare gems and pay top dollar via mail order from various private collectors. Once I got my dream records together I started grabbing my favorite records out of my personal record collection and started chopping up samples for days! I love the art of sampling. If it weren’t for sampling, Daft Punk’s Homework would have never existed.
DJ Times: As someone who’s played for over two decades, is there one particular element of DJ/dance/club culture that’s changed the most?
DJ Dan: The sound systems—they’ve become their own entities really. Like when you hear Funktion1 or TurboSound, you almost want to go just to hear the dynamics on the system. Also, clubs used to be pretty rough and raw back in the day. Now, they are more posh and have themes that they invest a lot of time and money into. It’s the same way with the underground parties. I love all of this!