Danny Howard has enjoyed another impressive twelve months, securing releases on legendary imprints like Erick Morillo’s Subliminal Recordings, playing a slew of sold out shows on his own UK tour and making tracks with iconic figures like Mark Knight. The Blackpool-born artist has also slotted in seamlessly since joining the esteemed Friday night team on BBC Radio 1, regularly taking over the reins from dance music royalty Pete Tong. We caught up with Howard to look back on what has been a stellar year.
It seemed only right to start with the monster collaboration he put out with Toolroom Records head honcho Mark Knight. The track proved to be a huge milestone for Howard as it was the first time a record of his made it into the top ten of the Beatport overall chart – this is a universally recognized barometer of success amongst the DJ community. Ever since Howard started to give people a glimpse of the record via his social media channels the reaction was crazy, with fellow DJs and fans alike dying to know the name of the song.
When the opportunity came about to produce a track together with a man of Knight’s calibre it was a dream come true, according to Howard,
“He’s been a major player in the game for many years and to get in the studio with him was incredible,” he said, “I learnt a lot off and it was just a pleasure to be able to do it with him.”
Howard confessed spending time in the studio with Knight was as much a privilege as it was an education, being able to soak up all Knight’s knowledge and then put that into practice for his own records further down the line is huge,
“It was definitely an honour,” he added, “When you get in the studio with someone like that it’s just little tips and tricks.
“The way people make music is similar there’s no right or wrong way but little things that he does makes a big difference and I guess that comes with experience.”
Working with a titan like Knight in the studio is a relative first for Howard but he has spoken to countless superstars as part of his duties presenting on Radio 1. Whether it is a huge actor like Bradley Cooper or one of the biggest dance music artists in the world like Calvin Harris, Howard has spoken to them at some point throughout his career as a radio presenter. When asked about the individual who left the biggest impression on him Howard picked a worthy name,
“I think Carl Cox is the person who’s the most inspiring and engaging when you’re interviewing him,” he commented,
“With Carl Cox he always has a good story for everything. He has great anecdotes, and has been in many situations. The way he tells the stories is also really endearing.”
Over the many years spent interviewing musicians and other famous personalities Howard has spoken to individuals in a whole variety of weird and wonderful settings, from the top of Blackpool Tower to the back of a stretch limo. It was at this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event which proved to be the setting for one of the strangest interviews he has done in recent times.
“The hotel room with David Guetta during ADE was interesting,” he continued, "When we walked in he was doing some sort of yoga.”
After earning his big break through a Radio 1 talent search back in 2011 Howard went on to become the host of Dance Anthems, building a reputation as one of the most prolific tastemakers within dance music. That show, which runs from 4-7 every Saturday, is all about representing the entire dance music spectrum whether it be drum & bass, house or electronica to name but a few. Around a year ago Howard was given another huge affirmation of his turntable talents, being asked to join Tong and Annie Mac on the world-renowned Friday night line-up. Howard was ecstatic when he was asked to move and explained how helping to promote new talent was the biggest reason why he was so excited,
“The thing I love most about it is being able to play new music, break new artists and start building a legacy,” he continued, “I had five-and-a-half years of doing Dance Anthems. I loved that show, the people that listen to it and I love that Radio 1 let me push the boundaries because that show is about playing the biggest tunes of the moment and selecting what people already know.
“I just had a burning desire to dig a little deeper and introduce new music to masses and in time watch those artists grow and know that I’ve played a good part in helping that track grow.”
Many months have passed since Howard first started working with Tong but it still feels surreal to be broadcasting in the same building, according to the Nothing Else Matters label boss. The 58-year-old has been a huge inspiration for Howard ever since he started to DJ,
“I spent many years listening to him,” he added. “He’s a bit of a hero of mine and someone I’d one day like to emulate so for such a well-respected figure to be on before me is crazy.
“Living in LA and travelling around the world he does a lot of his shows recorded but the other week he was doing a show live and he was in the studio across from me.
“When he’s actually in the building and in the studio next to you it’s mental.”
Howard recently completed his latest UK tour, Nice People Dancing to Good House Music, taking in nine cities including Liverpool, Aberdeen and Plymouth. The Radio 1 host was really happy with the tour and explained how nice it was to receive such a rapturous reception the length and breadth of the country. One of the shows which stood out in particular was his trip to Stealth in Nottingham. Instead of playing two hours Howard stayed on stage for double that time, explaining why those sets are by far his favourite,
“It’s not like a festival where you turn up and have an hour,” he said. “It is stripped back and like rewinding to the early days, “Basically the resident who was meant to go back on after me was too hungover from the night before so when it was 3am and I wasn’t quite ready to finish I asked if I could play on for an extra half hour.”
Playing on for longer than planned can be a real treat for the fans, especially when they are ready to go home and then the night continues on.
Howard, like every other DJ, has been faced with this situation countless times throughout his career.
When asked about the craziest time Howard admitted it just so happened to be during Radio 1’s esteemed Essential Mix series,
“Hardwell was playing and he had an hour set,” he added. “After an hour one of the monitors broke and he said he couldn’t hear the music.
“Basically he had a diva moment and said if you don’t get me another monitor I’m walking off.
“I know Hardwell and he’s actually a really lovely guy so I don’t know if he was tired or what but he was true to his word and walked off.”
Howard said it was so mad when he filled in for Hardwell, not only because of his status at the time but the show which was being broadcast as well,
“I was filling in for the world’s number one DJ at the time and doing an Essential Mix for the very first time by default,” he continued,
“I don’t really play the same style of music as him so I only really had a handful of tunes that would fit that genre.”
Looking ahead to next year it is all about focusing on his label Nothing Else Matters. Since launching a few years ago, the imprint has put out a handful of releases, the most notable being ‘The Girl is Mine’ by 99 Souls,
The decision to sign a deal with Sony was not what Howard had expected it to be and now hs is keen to champion his platform as a hotbed for quality underground dance music,
“I’m going to be giving a big push with my own label Nothing Else Matters,” he added.
“We signed a deal with Sony which didn’t quite work out because their vision was completely different to what I wanted to do.
“I’m a DJ in the clubs and I wanted to release music for the clubs, and they being the beast that they are we’re just more focused on pop music.”
Finally Howard is rounding off the year by playing two very special shows on NYE, making an appearance at Canal Mills in Leeds before heading over to Store Street for The Warehouse Project. Both events are going to be epic in their own right, with WHP moving location four years on from returning to the former air raid shelter.
Starting with Canal Mills Howard explained why both are going to be special,
“My mum’s side of the family are from Leeds so it’s close to home,” he continued,
“On the clubbing side they have a good history with dance music.
“Clubs like Mint and Canal Mills have all been doing amazing events over recent years, especially Canal Mills because I love playing anything that feels like a warehouse. I’m actually sad that it’s going.”
As for WHP it is all about reliving the first memories of when he first started going to raves,
“I used to go as a student all the time and I remember the first time I played it was surreal,” he said,
“It was part of my grassroots of becoming a raver.
“I used to live in Manchester for a few years and just love the city.”
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