DJ Times Nexus Radio Episode 004: Mixed by DJ Dan

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With over 20 years experience, DJ Dan has remained a dance music staple with a continuous stream of electrifying performances and tight productions. Now based out of Los Angeles, the DJ/producer balances his musical career with running his label InStereo. He released his latest studio album Nothing But A Party last month, showing off a bright set of house jams and collaborations with TJR, UMEK, and more.

For his Nexus Radio guest mix, the America’s Best DJ nominee delivers a party-ready combination of house, hip hop, and tech house that’s guaranteed to make you move. Stream the mix and read our talk with DJ Dan below.

DJ Times: There was a well-publicized incident at a Baltimore nightclub where someone tried to punch you in the DJ booth when you wouldn’t play a song that was requested. Do you think this incident says anything about the current state of clubbing and dance music?
DJ Dan: I think we can all agree that clubbing and dance music in this country is at an all-time high and that is a great thing because we are exposing more and more people to this music we have all loved for years now. This is obviously opening all kinds of doors for many different types of artists, DJs and producers. However, there are many types of clubs and theme nights that one should consider before heading out for the night: Who is the DJ? Who is the promoter? What is the theme of the music that night? I don’t have an issue with requests if you know what type of night you are heading into.

DJ Times: What exactly happened at the club?
DJ Dan: The club I played in Baltimore, Red Maple 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. 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 5 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 I can honestly say that 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. Mike and I work out of my basement at my house at night on all new original tracks and remixes.

The studio consists of two spaces: 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 sort of events does InStereo throw?
DJ Dan: We have had 2 InStereo parties so far: one at Dim Mak Studios in Hollywood and one at Monarch in San Francisco. Both were a massive success and we are already booking more shows across the country—including Hawaii—as well as Canada. This is going to allow all of our artists in different areas to get heard. InStereo is all about a family of incredible producers and DJs and I really want them all to get heard.

DJ Times: You seem to avoid sticking to one specific genre. What parts of a track are most important to you when picking tracks to play when DJing?
DJ Dan: When I am searching for tracks I am looking for a certain kind of electric energy that I know my crowd will get excited about. I shop in many different genres to find my tracks: house, tech house, deep house, techno, breaks, nu disco, you name it! I love searching for music this way because I find all kinds of hidden gems that I may have overlooked because they were randomly categorized in a ‘genre.’ It’s also because I was raised with a true love of many different styles of music; it really has become a part of what my sound is all about. I search for tracks that can take me on those amazing peaks and valleys, emotional rides and sometimes tracks that are just pure adrenaline. I look at DJing as being the conductor of a carnival ride, and I do it with the different types of mood and energy I get from putting different styles of music together. I approach my production style in a similar way. That’s why I work with many different producers as varied as UMEK, DJ Mes, Phunk Investigation, Ido, Simon Doty, DJ PP and TJR (just to name a few). I like keeping people guessing because I never want to be pigeonholed. I feel that has had a big part in why I’m still successful after 20 years in the business. Trends come and go but good music—no matter what form—will always stay around.

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: I think one of the thing that’s changed the most is the sound systems. They’ve become their own entities really. Like when you hear “Funktion-One” or “Turbo Sound” 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!

DJ Times: Your album Nothing But A Party was recently released. What went into the creative process and production of it?
DJ Dan: I worked on this album for a year and collaborated with some of my favorite producers at the moment, including TKJR, 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: Your set this year at EDC Vegas has created quite a buzz. How did you approach this performance?
DJ Dan:Yes, this was an amazing show! I played at the 7UP stage on Sunday from 2-3 AM. When I went on I saw a sea of people packed in the arena and it was overflowing out the front. I played my signature funk driven set and weaved many of my new album tunes throughout the set (as well as many of my new remixes about to come out on InStereo). It was just a pure dance party fueled by driving basslines and tech funk grooves. Everybody was dancing their asses off and telling me how happy they were to hear really fun, funky house music at EDC. It was magical.  

DJ Times: Congratulations on the America’s Best DJ nomination! Is there anything you want to say to the voters?
DJ Dan: Yes, thank you for all your support over the years and letting me be me! I feel very honored to be such a big part of dance music’s history and have used music as my therapy for years now. Thank you for keeping an open mind and letting me take out my insanity on you for all these years! MUSIC IS THERAPY!

DJ Times: What else do you have in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
DJ Dan: At the moment I am touring for my album. As well as doing my festival and club dates, I am working on new music for my label and planning InStereo tour dates across the country. And lastly, since I love to cook, I am heading back to Italy in November for my third round of cooking classes. If I wasn’t DJing I’d probably open up an Italian joint!

DJ Dan’s tour dates are below. For more information, go to DJDan.com.
6/26/2014 New York, NY
6/27/2014 Atlanta, GA
6/28/2014 Denver, CO
6/29/2014 Austin, TX
7/3/2014 Phoenix, AZ
7/4/2014 Buffalo, NY
7/11/2014 Ferndale, MI
7/12/2014 Rochester, NY
7/19/2014 San Francisco, CA
7/25/2014 San Diego, CA
7/26/2014 Baltimore, MD
8/1/2014 Fort Saskatchewan, CA
8/2/2014 Portland, OR
8/3/2014 Los Angeles, CA
8/8/2014 Nelson, CA
8/9/2014 British Columbia, Canada
8/15/2014 Providence, RI
8/16/2014 Toronto, CA
8/23/2014 Seattle, WA
9/27/2014 Moab, UT