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Three residencies, but only one Danny Howard

BBC Radio 1's Superstar DJ winner Danny Howard gives us the spill on his unique success story and his Ibiza residency filled season so far.

Danny Howard, a once avidly aspirational DJ who had his pupils pinned on Pacha and ears routinely tuned into Radio 1 now holds a pillar position within the realms of both. A heavy bucketlist the 27-year-old has ever so slightly lightened thanks to the relentless hard graft he injected into his deckside passion, which laid down the tracks to him being crowned the winner of BBC Radio 1's Superstar DJ competition back in 2011 and making his White Isle debut at Ushuaïa.

Just four years stand between him crashing into the dance music scene and collecting profile boosting notches on an international level which have collectively secured him not just one, but three residencies in Ibiza this season. A gig which undeniably catapulted his name is his landing of BBC Radio 1's Dance Anthems Saturday evening show which has him trailblazing through the biggies that are setting dancefloors alight global wide.

Five mere weeks are holding this season together and Danny holds just a small handful of dates left on the White Isle to make maximum impact. One date is this very evening as for the final time this season, he will be lauding it on at Amnesia in the terrace with Cream. A bittersweet moment signaling the end of another meaty chapter in the DJs spiraling career which has no doubt already lit a chapter for 2016.

We grab a moment with the lively Englishman to get the lowdown on Radio 1, his season so far and what is next for the guy who has already nailed a good portion of his conquer list.

We're now in the season with one month to go so you've already laid the Danny stamp on thick with three different vibed residencies (Cuff at Sankeys, Pure Pacha and Cream at Amnesia). Give us your lowdown on your multi-venued action packed season so far.

"Pacha is like a dream come true really. It's the first club I went to when I first came to Ibiza about seven years ago and I first saw Erick Morillo play there who is like a personal hero of mine so I remember thinking if I could play here I will have made it. When I play there I think back to that first visit to Ibiza and the first time I saw Erick play. It's always amazing to play Pacha, it's the original Ibiza club so it's an honour to play. Cream Amnesia is another level in terms of its size, the room is so vast and so huge that you almost feel like you're playing a festival, so I really like that vibe. And on the other end of the spectrum you've got Sankeys which is obviously more underground and more intimate. Sometimes that's what it's about for me with clubbing. It's not always about the mass production and you know, who's got the most effects and pair of technics or who's got the biggest sound system. It's literally just about the room, nothing special, quite dingy, quite grimy but just big pumping music. And that's what I love about Sankeys.

It's amazing for me to play across all three. You've glamour of Pacha, the size of Amnesia and the intimacy of Sankeys. It's amazing as a DJ to get to play all three experiences of that. It's my favourite season because of that reason."

Let's jump quickly back to the beginning. You've been putting in the graft as a DJ for nearly a decade. Essentially every DJ who has cut it to the big time are entering ‘competitions' for recognition and craft respect every time they play but they're commonly called gigs – you also gigged at Blackpool's Syndicate but you exploded onto the global scene through Radio 1's national DJ competition and became an overnight sensation. Did you find that level of instant success brought with it an added pressure to keep the momentum going/growing and remain relevant?

"I think because it was the first time hosting the competition and I was the first winner it made it more unique. For me, I did feel a little bit of added pressure in a good way, it spurred me on to think right I've got this opportunity and I've got to work hard and keep this ball rolling. The important key was that I did my fair share of small gigs, I started in a student union and worked across clubs in the north west from Blackpool to Manchester and Liverpool. I Played as many gigs as I could, played my fair share of empty clubs like we all have to do. I always say you have to put the time in, you have to earn your stripes, you have to work hard and when the time comes you can then deliver. People do think I won the competition and all of a sudden became a DJ, not true. Anything I could do to get behind the decks, I'd do it and it paid off for me and I won the competition. That's what it came down to and I do feel a bit of pressure but it's for the better."

2011 you were a locally known DJ, now you have over 200k social media followers – how much do you credit your massive profile to Radio 1 seeing a potential radio personality in you and you cracking on with a demo to eventually land the now big success Dance Anthems radio show in 2012?

"With Radio 1 of course because radio 1 is so huge and the platform that offers is what's really driven everything in the last few years and helped grow my social media and my profile as a DJ. I think they run side by side, so the radio helps with the exposure but I think you've got to be able to DJ and produce as well to go alongside it for them both to come together and then be able to do what I'm doing now. The radio show is a massive part of my life, massive part of my career so it's a priority for me. I'm constantly working on my productions making sure I'm playing the right gigs and making the right moves to make sure they work together. It's important to Radio 1 what I can do outside of the radio show which I do by travelling around DJing and feeding into the show. It works both ways."

You finish the Dance Anthems show at 7pm and by 1am you're behind the decks in Pacha for the Pure Pacha residency. How do you cope with the travelling chaos?

"It's not a case of coping because I want to do it. The only thing that suffers is the sleep patterns and if that's the only downside I'm all good. To me it's fun and you're having a party. My view is that as long as you're making sure people are having the time of their lives then you're doing your job properly. When I was in Ibiza I had the best week of my life and now I'm a DJ in Ibiza so I always think back to that and think wow that's now my job to make sure these guys have the best night of their lives."

A self-confessed die-hard Radio 1 listener in the years before cracking the industry. Back then it fed your desire to DJ and was a source of track material for you and early sets, but did you also have aspirations of one day being the one to announce the latest big hitting dance hits to the nation?

"It was never on my radar, it was a source of me to discover new music when I listened to the radio. It wasn't until I entered the studio and was actually in the studio and saw what the likes of Chris Moyles and Annie Mac were doing and saw how radio actually works that I thought wow this is actually pretty cool. You're in a room by yourself or a couple of people talking to the millons who are listening. I'm playing the music I love and then getting people tweeting and texting in saying they love it; it's like a weird amazing feeling. Especially in the Saturday afternoon show and you get people texting saying “I wasn't going to go out but now but after listening to you, I'm going out,” and to have that influence is just like woah, how did this happen? It's amazing. From DJing live to the radio show – they're two different ways of playing but both very rewarding and when you get it right it's the best feeling."

The radio show is now in its third year running. Have you found that there are parallels between the intense planning/prep involved in putting together a packed show and DJ set? Do you think running the show has really benefited your rising DJ career, in terms of maybe industry knowledge, in ways that not having it couldn't have done?

"They definitely work together. With the radio show and the position I have with that, I get the tracks really upfront. A lot of DJs will send me edits. Some stuff might not be right for the radio which is cool but on the other hand I can use it in my DJ sets and that's good for me. On the other side of that, on a Saturday night you sort of want to bring that vibe of a Saturday night feel to the radio so you take tracks from your set and play them on the radio. But you're also mindful of the casual listener. People are driving along and want to hear something they can sing along to so that's the tough job because what I play on the radio isn't always representative of what I play in the club. It's a mixture, it's a balance. You get the best of both on the radio but they definitely work together."

BBC Radio 1 just celebrated being on the island 20 years. You were just 7 when they crashed on, talk to me about becoming a big figure in such a massive Ibiza institution in a late stage of its maturity and being part of the young team adding freshness to keep it as alive as it was in 1995.

"It's amazing. I was a massive fan of Radio 1 long before the competition. I listened to Pete Tong and Annie Mac every single week and it's mad to be the guy playing the music. It's surreal. It's like jumping through the TV, it's that weird at times. It's a real buzz, I love it and hopefully I can help emulate what the likes Pete Tong and Mac have achieved over the past decades and help drive it forward. That's what I'm aiming to do, that's what I wanna do and I want to make sure it happens."

Your profile in Ibiza has grown from landing your first residency with Judgement Sundays in 2013. This season is a biggy of a brute. You said that for Cream it would be straight up house music with some big bangers in there for some Fedde Le Grande building momentum and for Pacha you said it has more of a house crowd which lets you go a little deeper – how's that shaped up?

"I always play straight up house because that's what I was playing when I started DJing. When the whole progressive, big room slash EDM (dare I say it) wave came in I sort of got caught up in that a little bit because that's what was big, that's what people were playing at festivals and clubs and you know, it was fresh. It was good and then it became saturated, boring and annoying and I thought aghh I need to go back to the house music. That's what I've been doing over the last eighteen months and for the first time I've been able to do it without feeling a pressure to play something a little bit bigger. DJs have to play the right thing at the right time and if I feel I have to go one way just to get the atmosphere and get people going then I'll do that. I'm not stuck in specific set lists. Format B's Chunky Weapon is something I'm getting a lot of play out of. It's been around all year and a few people have been playing it. Only in the last months it's starting to get more recognized and play action. The radio started playing it and now it's everywhere. It was like a secret weapon cause no one knew it but it was so catchy, uplifting and people vibed off it, it was really, really good."

You're sets have been smashed in with those from Bob Sinclair; Basement Jaxx, Felix Da Housecat to Fedde Le Grande, Phillip George, Kryder, Mark Knight and Mark Mago. Have these invaluable experiences given you ammunition for a winter charging in the studio?

"It is one thing that's been a bug bear of mine that's I've never been able to get a schedule with my music. I'm starting to get time now and throughout the winter hopefully I'll be there every day to make new music for next summer. It's been really inspirational working with some of the DJs, especially one of the Cream nights - I'm on with Mark Knight, I'm a big fan of him anyway but he's also a good friend now and we went B2B for two hours. It was a great night, it was really cool and it was one of the highlights of the season."

Syndicate was once your dream gig – Ticked. Pacha was once a dream gig where you've played there alongside your ultimate DJ hero – Erick Morillo. Double ticker. The man who can be said to have it all – what is next in your sights and what would mark another step up in the game for you?

"I hope to have a bigger presence next year. With Ibiza I'm not rushing into anything. It would be easy for me to go I want my own party. But from what I've seen and experienced it not that easy you know. It's so hard, I'd rather make sure I'm playing good, credible nights that I already know are successful that I can slot into and bring something to the party. I'd like to play more headline shows playing my own music but that might come in a few years when I have done more the studio time and have more productions."

Last words before the final Cream of the year for you?

"To play in the world famous terrace is just always a privilege. I've always got the biggest smile on my face when I'm playing. The fact that it's the last one for me is sort of happy and sad at the same time, hopefully it will lead to more dates next year but we'll see."


WORDS | Aimee Lawrence PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman

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