Filed under: Interview
One of the people responsible for the emergence of electronic music as a popular art form towards the end of the 1980’s Danny Rampling has been intricately involved in its development and growth ever since. Promotion of pioneering clubs nights were soon followed by radio shows on Kiss then as host of the nations most popular dance show on Radio 1. Compilations remixes productions and of course sought after DJ appearances followed and continue to this day, Danny has done and is still doing it all. A true DJ legend Higher-Frequency caught up with him in London before he jetted off to Tokyo for his latest Japanese date at Ageha spinning alongside Rolando and Ken Ishii.
Interview by Matt Cheetham (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How’s 2004 been for you so far?
Danny Rampling : 2004 has been absolutely amazing, I couldn’t have asked for more this year, it’s been incredible, the highlight was the birth of my son, Claudio, meeting him at the birth was just incredible and he has brought so much more love to mine and my wife’s life.
HRFQ : What’s been the musical highlight so far?
Danny : It has to be last Sunday (15th August) on the terrace at Space in Ibiza. The atmosphere was phenomenal; there was such a rapport with the audience. For me it was definitely the most outstanding gig this year, even better than last year. There were a couple of thousand people on the terrace and there was magic in the mix, the atmosphere was brilliant.
HRFQ : Looking back what would you say was your favourite release out of all your productions and compilations?
Danny : My favourite production has to be ‘How Good Your Love Is’ which I co-produced with Dave Lea on Defected a couple of years ago and out of the compilations, although I love all of them, I guess Decade of Dance would have to be my number one choice. That’s the one I most admire because it reflects all of the music that I’ve played over the years and it was great putting together that double CD. There’s a lot of history there, the roots of the music and whole culture of the house scene that I’ve been part of and helped shape.
HRFQ : You’ve released a massive amount of material over the years, did you ever think of setting up a label and if so why didn’t it happen?
Danny : Because I was too busy partying! and traveling the world and working on radio shows, I didn’t have that entrepreneur spirit at that point in my life. I was content with having a great time as a DJ, partying hard and living life. I did have a consultancy with Ministry of Sound maybe several years ago and I had a label with them called Vision Wave but there were changes that went on at Ministry and it didn’t last very long. They didn’t really believe in it, made some changes and cut all their labels back. That was my only venture into owning a label and in the current market I certainly wouldn’t want to be a dance music record label boss, it must be a nightmare experience. Things are recovering, dance music sales are improving, but in terms of having a label, it’s not really something that appeals to me.
HRFQ : You did some of the earliest dance music shows on Kiss and then spread the word to the nation on Radio 1, would you like to get back into radio one day?
Danny : I’ve had a break from radio for a couple of years now since departing Radio 1 and it’s been great because I’ve been able to tour worldwide and I’m continuing an international schedule of dates and its helped to raise my profile internationally. Unfortunately when I was at Radio 1 I was restricted in my traveling so it’s great now to be able to visit more international cities. In terms of radio, I would like to go back to it one day if there was the right offer with the right station yes, probably so. I did thoroughly enjoy radio and had a great time presenting radio shows and it certainly helped the small and independent record labels achieve better sales. Those shows were a platform for new music, that’s what they always represented, new music, and I was always a lot of independent records. I listen to GLR (Greater London Radio, http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/insideldn/radio) quite a lot, Norman Jay’s show on a Sunday night. I don’t have a car so I don’t have a great deal of time to listen to the radio and most of my time is spent listening to new records and attending meetings that are related to the business side of things but when I do get chance to listen, its usually GLR with Norman.
HRFQ : Since 2002 when you’re radio show finished you’ve been performing overseas much more frequently, where do you enjoy playing the most?
Danny : Italy, I love Italy. The whole scene there has been there since the beginning and they really understand the whole roots of the scene, they’re always pushing new music, the clubs are very vibrant and I love the culture of Italy. Outside of the club culture it’s always a beautiful place to visit and on every visit there I’m inspired and always come away with something new.
HRFQ : What were your first impressions of Japan and the dance music scene there?
Danny : I think the Japanese scene has a great attention to detail, the music is very understood, there’re some great record stores in Japan and there’s always been such a passion for dance music there. It’s very tied in with the American scene, there’s a lot of respect for the DJ’s and producers from there that have shaped the house music scene and it’s a great experience to play in Japan. I love Tokyo as a city, its fantastic, it’s such a vibrant and buzzing place, the people there are so lovely and charming and the crowds are really appreciative and responsive so I’m looking forward to returning to Tokyo. I’m playing at Ageha next time and the DJ box there is out of this world. There’s so much space and technology it’s out of this world. The monitoring in that DJ box is faultless; it really is an awesome DJ booth to play in. I only played there a few months ago so I must have made a good impression to be invited back so soon. Ageha has such a fantastic sound system; every club in the world should have a sound system like that.
HRFQ : It’s been another season of guest appearances in Ibiza for you, which is your favourite party on the island?
Danny : I always enjoy Pacha, I played at the Defmix night with David Morales in July and that was very enjoyable but in terms of the gig that really rocked, that was Space. Pacha was cool but Space was really the one that was amazing. I’ve played all the clubs on the island, El Divinio, Privilege, Es Paradis, Eden, but my favourite has to be Pacha. Its very Ibiza in terms of the design of the club and the crowd it attracts.
HRFQ : It’s frequently said that your trip to Ibiza changed the face of modern dance music, can you remember much about that trip, what was the highlight?
Danny : Of course, I remember that trip as clear as day. It completely transformed my life so I’ll never ever forget that week we had there and yes, it helped to shape the face of dance music in Britain, and I guess globally with the export of British dance culture, so yes, I can remember that trip clearly and will do to my dieing day. It was one of the most outstanding points of my life, apart from having my son and becoming a father, that really was a life transforming time and a brilliant period to have lived though and I feel lucky to have been there at that time, to have experienced it and received the inspiration there that we brought back to the UK. I’m extremely happy about that whole period and have very happy memories of that time. The best part was dancing in the open-air, listening to Alfredo’s music and hearing house music played for 6 hours for the first time in my life and that really was something I wasn’t familiar with, dancing in the open air in this glamorous club. At that time Amnesia was a very glamorous place to be, very underground glamour, it was word of mouth and it was open-air and anywhere we can dance in the open air really gives us a special feeling. So it was a combination of many things.
HRFQ : What do you think about how the island has changed since you visited there in the late 80’s?
Danny : The island has changed dramatically, it’s become more developed and in recent times some of the changes haven’t been for the better, there’s a lot more ego’s on the island, it’s now become ego-island in a sense. The bigger the billboards with your name on the bigger your brand and the bigger you’re perceived as a business, so that’s one of the downsides to the island. The upside is that it’s attracted a huge amount of new tourism to the island and the club scene is still exciting to this day. Its still a place where people can let off steam and its still a place where people can feel relaxed about doing that. Even if they haven’t been clubbing for 5 years they’ll set foot on the soil of Ibiza, go out clubbing and let their inhibitions go and that’s still there, the spirit is still there, the energy is still on the island and I felt this year the energy was much better than last year. There’s a real exciting atmosphere there, it’s a great place to play for any DJ in the world and it attracts all of the worlds top DJ’s all concentrated onto that tiny island through the summer months and there really isn’t anywhere else like that in the world. It’s changed, it’s developed itself and there’s more amenities now in Ibiza, hotels have improved, the shops have improved, nothing’s changed in the bars though, the drinks are still ridiculously expensive and will always be that way. That’s Ibiza, it was 5GBP for a water back in ’87! But as an island it’s attracting more of a vogue / Harpers and Queen jet set crowd again. Especially this year there seems to be a lot more celebrities going there again like the Puff Daddy crowd, Tommy Lee and the models like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell who are going there, its attracting a more glamorous crowd again. That’s what Ibiza was all about, it was always a broad selection of people including celebrities and people are very individual about their dress sense, fashions are born there and back then there was much less focus on it in the media whereas now there’s major focus on Ibiza and what it has to offer. There’s always something special.
HRFQ : What do you think about pop stars like P. Diddy crossing over into dance music?
Danny : Well it’s kind of interesting because this should have really happened years ago, people have dabbled with it but now you’ve got high profile American’s venturing into and merging with dance music and I think it’s a very exciting time because it may become much more widespread and who knows what will develop from that. There could be a whole new angle on things, Puff Daddy is making house records which I think is positive, he’s embraced the scene and loves it and has come from a hardcore hip hop background so I think that’s all very good as long as people don’t forget their roots and where they’re at and don’t let their egos run away with them. I don’t have any problems with that at all I think its all very positive as that in turn will gain more respect from the American media and record labels and radio stations because America in terms of it’s radio output is still very much stuck in the past and having these people on board could change the face of American radio.
HRFQ : What do you think of the scene in America at the moment?
Danny : I haven’t been there much for a couple of years but I played at Avalon in Boston and New York about 6 months ago and the scene there has really grown and is continuing to grow. There are a lot of restrictions that have been imposed on the American scene but that’s a paranoid government that the Americans live under, but in terms of its scene I think it’s very encouraging. It’s very wide open to go there and make something of your music, whereas 10 years ago the door was firmly closed in America. Now there’s much more openness and much more opportunity to go there and promote your music across the board. The American scene is continuing to grow and will get stronger and stronger.
HRFQ : Currently in America musicians are becoming much more involved on the political stage, voicing their opinions about the current administration and encouraging people to vote. Is that something you think we should see more of in the UK and around the world?
Danny : I think a lot of artists are scared to take on that responsibility and be that spokesperson whereas people like Bono have stuck their necks out. Some people in the media say that the artists are being pretentious and shouldn’t really stick their necks out in politics and I think if you care about something and care about the way the world is run then why shouldn’t you speak out being a pop star. That in turn gets the message across much more clearly to the young market where there is a lot of apathy when it come to voting and politics as a whole. I think its really positive that more Americans are getting a voice and becoming more political because it’s never really been that way and that can inspire and instigate change and that’s what we need more of in the world currently. There’s been some very bad decisions made by politicians on the world stage that the public have had no say in and no control over so if the younger generation can have more of a say then that will make the world a better place. We have different ideals and on certain issues we’re more realistic than certain politicians that are at large.
HRFQ : You’ve achieved more than most DJ’s ever will, what are you’re future ambitions?
Danny : Just to have a happy healthy life with a large family and to carry on doing what I love, that’s the most important thing for me and I think anyone.
End of the interview
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