Danny Howard has selected his way to become the tastemaker of his generation. Between hosting his influential Friday night show on BBC Radio 1 and heading his own record label Nothing Else Matters, he maintains an unwavering respect for his craft at the forefront of all that he does. A product of the UK dance scene himself, Danny puts a spotlight on what he champions as the original home of rave. At the heart of his sound is a voracious appetite for house music, but rather than resigning himself to one genre, his ever-expanding parameters allow him to spin his listeners from left to right, taking them through the best of what he’s been listening to that week.
We sat down with Danny Howard to talk about his new slot at BBC Radio 1, and his longstanding relationship with Mark Knight and what’s next for him in 2020…
You’ve played a key role in breaking artists such as Solardo, Camelphat and Fisher on Radio 1, and you’re one of the biggest influences of the UK Dance scene. How important is sharing new music and artists?
It’s the one thing that keeps the scene evolving, discovery! That is what my main purpose is on Radio 1, to find new, exciting artists that are making amazing music then showcasing that to the world. I remember playing Prospa for the first time when they were just coming through BBC Music Introducing and nobody had heard of them, next thing they’re signing a major label record deal and playing Glastonbury. The next generation of artists are what drive us forward.
What’s the best thing about working at BBC Radio 1? What does being a radio presenter involve?
The people. Quite simply the audience that listen to Radio 1 (especially on a Friday night) are one of the most engaged musically in the world. Yes they want bangers but the legacy of the BBC for championing new artist is so deeply rooted in UK culture that they use us as a filter for what the next hot talent or tune is and to be one of the tastemakers on such a prestigious platform is an honour.
Nothing Else Matters is your brand new label. You’ve welcomed artists such as Steve Lawler, PAX, Shadow Child & Andrea Oliva to name just a few. You also worked with Eli & Fur for NEM001 – What’s next for the label? Any names we need to watch out for?
We’re currently running our ‘Home’ series which means the music we’re releasing is less focused on clubs (as none are open at the moment!) and more for listening to at home whether that’s during your weekend kitchen party or getting lost in the music through your headphones, we’re showcasing our more eclectic side whilst at the same time introducing you to new artists with a raw edge such as SOHMI, Richie Blacker & Tom Flynn. It’s really exciting to be able to do this and it’s very much our way of turning a negative situation into a positive however, I’m longing for the day our dancefloors open again.
The #LockDownLinkUp was a new feature on your Friday night show, encouraging artists to work one another during the pandemic, resulting in brand new collaborations. What other things have you had to change and adapt because of the pandemic?
In terms of adapting, it’s not necessarily a case of changing what I do but more doubling down on it! Radio has been such an important part of peoples lives during this difficult time that I feel that connection more than ever with the listeners. Whilst I think club music is suffering due to no clubs been open, I’ve been making sure that I still give that ‘club’ vibe on my show as a means of escape for people to have their little fix of what we all know and love but also to give hope that these times will come back.
What advice would you give someone who wants to release a record on Nothing Else Matters? How do they approach sending you a demo? What are you looking for?
I would say don’t send me any Tech House rollers, there’s enough of those in the world. The backbone sound of the label is House music but I’m not confined to one particular sub-genre, we go left & right whether that’s deep & progressive or big room bangers as long as it has energy, is unique in it’s sound and has a sense of originality then I will consider it. You can send your demos to [email protected] and only send me 2 or 3 tunes maximum, preferably on a streaming link with download enabled (Soundcloud is the most suitable platform!)
What’s been your biggest career achievement to date?
Getting my show on Friday night Radio 1. I did Dance Anthems on a Saturday afternoon for nearly six years and it was brilliant because the audience was huge and I was playing dance music on daytime radio, it was peak! But ultimately, I always wanted to be on Friday nights as that’s where the influence is and the opportunity to create true legacy within the scene. I have deep passion for playing and finding new music that I love being the guy at the start of the journey, giving it the platform and springboard it sometimes needs to then see it fly. That is a feeling that I will never tire of and it’s what drives me to keep digging week in, week out.
You’ve a longstanding relationship with Mark Knight and Toolroom. You’ve produced a number of tracks with the label boss. What’s the best thing about getting in the studio together? What do each of you bring to a collaboration?
The best thing about being in the studio with Mark are his ideas! His extensive knowledge and years of making music means he really knows what will work and what won’t. He spots things most would never even notice and suggests things that you would never think to try but more often than not, it works… it’s actually quite annoying haha! We’re about to start another collaboration together, and I’ve just remixed his hit single ‘All 4 Love’ so watch this space…
You’ve also remixed Dombresky & Boston Bun’s ‘Stronger’ – What route did you take the remix? How did you approach the remix?
I wanted to make something that was fun and full of party vibes, hence the piano, but at the same time I wanted it to have a tough edge! It’s actually quite raw in it’s essence because the drums are mainly 909, the bassline is super weighty and I kept it quite stripped back in terms of the layers but it worked, I remember referencing some Will Clarke tunes for what I was shooting for sonically, an industrial banger!
The pandemic has proven some really difficult times for everyone. Club culture is due to take a serious hit with lack of help and support. What would you say to anyone wanting to peruse a career as a DJ or producer right now? Would you tell them to keep going, or find something new?
Don’t do it!!!! Joking of course! I would say you just need to be realistic and do whatever you need to do (work wise) to survive for now. At the same time, the best thing you can do is invest in yourself right now so keep making music, keep learning and work hard to make sure that when the scene comes back, you’re ready to hit the ground running. In a way, this pandemic has almost neutralised the playing field and now is your chance to get prepared and break that door down with a ton of amazing new music when the time is right.
How important is it to you that we fight to save our culture?
It’s so important and should be the priority for anyone that has ever benefited from our culture whether that’s professionally, or as a punter. What we do in terms of events and clubs is world class and it took decades to get to that point so it would be incredibly sad for all that to be forgotten. It’s so encouraging to see the unity within dance music on social media the last few weeks that it seems everyone really is on board, rolling their sleeves up and is willing to voice the importance of dance culture in the UK – something that we’re very proud of and aren’t willing to let go!
What’s been your best gigging moment to date?
The best was when I first played Pacha in Ibiza in 2013, it was the club I always dreamed of playing and it was on that very dance floor when I first visited the island as a raver that I decided that I wanted to become a proper DJ. So, when it came full circle and I played my first track, it was truly special! However, the most surreal / funniest gigging moment had to be for Toolroom at Studio 338 a couple of years ago, it was my birthday and the Toolroom guys very kindly brought me a birthday cake out mid-set whilst getting the entire club to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ which was all kicked off by Mark Knight singing it on the mic which I definitely will never forget. (A very nice gesture but stick to producing eh Knighty!)
What are your top 3 tracks right now?
What does the rest of the year hold for Danny Howard?
Like most of the DJ community, the only thing we can do is make the best of a truly awful situation. I will be in the studio making as much music as I can getting ready for when we’re back to normal, now is the time to prepare for the future and that’s what we all should be doing. Times are hard but we’ve got to keep hope and good times will come again! ❤️