Danny Howells: My Girlfriend Fancies Erol Alkan, Please Help
Normally the girls you meet in clubs are fans and to be honest, my girlfriends favourite DJ is Erol Alkan. She doesnt really like what I play much at all and I actually quite like that. Theres nothing worse than going upstairs for a quick bunk up and then afterwards theyre like What do you think of the new Steve Lawler Lights Out album?
Chatting over his mobiles speakerphone as he drives back to his Hastings cottage Danny Howells laughs as he describes his new flame, whos sitting right beside him and also joining in.
We have some common musical ground in that we both love The Carpenters but as far as my dance stuff goes, she thinks Erol Alkan is a better DJ than me. So its quite a good relationship.
Interrupting in the background, his girlfriend teases him remorselessly as the couple chatter and giggle at each others quips.
I want to settle down and have a family, Danny continues, prompting an amused Oh yeah? in the background.
Weve only been together two and a half months and Im trying to get a ring on her finger already. Im joking, Im joking, he chuckles, No of course I do, I really want to, I want to have children and I want to get married and I want do it before Im forty as well.
Skrufff: How old are you now?
Danny Howells: Twenty six.
Skrufff: Thirty six?
Danny Howells: I cant remember actually. Age is only a number.
Love talk aside, Dannys chatting to Skrufff today to promote his new CD compilation, Collection of Classics, a retrospective selection of mainly club based tunes that hes put together for Azuli. As well as club hits though, his selection also stretches to Japans Ghosts, The Temptations Papa Was A Rolling Stone and Carly Simons Why, though is sadly lacking in Carpenters tunes or any of the other gems he admits form his ultimate all time Best Of choice.
I listen to the Carpenters a lot of the time and Ive got everything in my collection from Pam Ayres albums, to Abba and er a re edit of Boney M Night Flight To Venus that I still play out too, he boasts.
I did actually try to license that one for the compilation but I dont think it got clearance in the end. Ive also still got my childhood record collection, including David Cassidy, the Osmonds and cool shit as well my old David Bowie Starman seven inch and Jean Genie.
Im a huge pop fan still now, I love Madonna. I dont like things like Girls Aloud and shit like that, but Im a big fan of, he pauses unexpectedly, Well, everyone thinks Im gay because I like Dusty Springfield. What else do I like?
Carole King, his girlfriend reminds him, the Pet Shop Boys.
Thats right, The Pet Shop Boys, he confirms, Im getting really personal here. II listen a lot to the Pet Shop Boys in the car. I dont listen to my banging techno and progressive house all the time. Im also a huge Chic fan.
Thats gay, his girlfriend laughs.
Chics not gay music, course its not, he corrects her, Its early house music.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How different was it doing a best of compilation compared to a mix compilation of brand new tracks?
Danny Howells: Id say its a thousand times easier. When you are doing a compilation of new stuff, youre being sent new records each day, youre trying to imagine what they are going to sound like in six months time, whether they are going to stand the test of time. You dont know whether a track is going to blow up and suddenly be a big hit, and then date the compilation. When youre doing a compilation like this one, youre dealing with tracks that you have been listening to for ten, fifteen or twenty years, so I know Im not going to stop liking them. Every track on the album Ive heard a million times, and I still love them and listen to them all the time and try to play them out, so that whole issue is removed immediately.
Skrufff: You mentioned Steve Lawler, who told us recently that hes launching a fashion collection, is that something you have considered or would consider?
Danny Howells: You know about my fashion. I dont think Im known for my good taste in clothes, am I really?
Skrufff: I dont know, youve got a certain Je ne cest quoi .
Danny Howells: One of my little fantasies is, if I go deaf and I cant DJ anymore I would love to open up a little vintage store. Weve just been shopping in one in Hastings, actually, an old vintage t store where they sell all old 50s, 60s and 70s clothes. All the walls are plastered in old record sleeves and memorabilia and Dr Who pictures and that kind of thing. That would be a fantasy for when Im older, have a little vintage shop and you sell cups of tea and you sell sandwiches and soup and loads of old vintage clothes and vintage records, that kind of thing.
Skrufff: Would it be in Hastings?
Danny Howells: Hastings would be nice, yeah. Theres enough of that in London and Brighton, I think Hastings would be nice.
Skrufff: Have you never considered moving somewhere like Maimi or Brazil?
Danny Howells: No, no, not at all. I love where I live. My family all live around here. I live a few miles out of Hastings, in the countryside, Ive got three geese that wander around the village and go into my garden all the time. The only city Ive ever thought Oh Id love to live here is New York, but thats just one of those dreams really. I love living here because its so peaceful.
Skrufff: What is your house like?
Danny Howells: Playboy mansion. Its a little cottage in the count, near Battle.
Skrufff: With a thatched roof?
Danny Howells: No, its just an old cottage, about 300 years old. In a tiny little village.
Skrufff: Any ghosts or things like that?
Danny Howells: I havent experienced any ghouls or spectres yet, but Im hoping.
Skrufff: Do you believe in them?
Danny Howells: Yeah. Id love to have a ghost here, it would be nice. Thats your tag line for the article I would love a ghost. I thought I had a ghost in a previous place and I thought that I got molested one night in my sleep. Sexually, but it was
Dannys Girlfriend: I molest you constantly in your sleep.
Danny Howells: No. Not you, but I experienced sleep paralysis. Have a look on the internet about it, theres lots of stuff about it there. Paul McCartney did an interview and he was talking about how he gets it and my mum gets it too. For some people, its like your brain is awake but your body is asleep, or something like that, or you are in this really comatose half asleep state, but then things happen. I think people think they have been abducted by aliens or you think you are floating around the room, when they have it. I used to experience that a lot and I got molested in my sleep once at an old flat. I thought it was a ghost, then later on I realised it was sleep paralysis.
Skrufff: Are you still in touch with anyone from when you were a psychiatric nurse?
Danny Howells: Yeah, I still see a lot of the old patients around town. Its quite nice because they are always really friendly and come running up in the street, completely manic.
Skrufff: What about John Digweed? Is he someone you cross paths with much?
Danny Howells: Yeah, we speak all the time. Hes one of the guys out of all the DJs that I gossip with the most. Hes quite a big gossip actually.
Skrufff: What kind of gossip? Bitching?
Danny Howells: No, nothing horrible. Hes just always moaning about airports British Midland.
Skrufff: I see you dropped out of the top twenty in the DJ Top 100 poll last month. . .
Danny Howells: Only five places . . .
Skrufff: I know, but your website says you have been in the top twenty for the last six years . . .
Danny Howells: Yeah, but I dont update the website every two weeks, do I? If Im at twenty five in the list when theres no sign of Mr C, Slam or anyone like that, its like do you know what I mean? These guys arent even in it and they are amazing people and they arent even bloody in it. Then theres somebody in it that Ive never ever heard of, really high up, and you think Hold on a minute. So my popularity is on the wane and Im on the way out and the career is over (laughing).
Skrufff: I understand youre launching an international club franchise operation, whats the idea behind that?
Danny Howells: That came out of a lot of frustration actually. Because I did a Global Underground compilation at the start of the year, I had to do a megatour to promote it and go to a lot of places I wouldnt normally go to. There are cities that I love playing in, then other random places you have visit for promotion. I reckon this year I experienced about eighty of the worst warm-up DJs Ive ever heard in my life. Youre told Come and do a six hour set weve got our resident guy doing the first forty five minutes keeping it really ambient for you then you walk in and they are playing remixes of Nirvana and the White Stripes.
Ive always enjoyed doing long sets anyway so, Ive decided to pick a handful of my favourite clubs and cities and just go to these places and be totally greedy and play all night. If the night goes badly then obviously Ill make sure I play better next time, but if it goes well you feel like you have accomplished something. It also gives me the chance to play all the different styles of music that I like and to go a bit more experimental. I think hopefully we are going to do it bi-monthly next year and do Montreal, Toronto, possibly Amsterdam and a few places like that. Doing either a six hour set or a ten hour set.
Skrufff: When you are doing a ten hour set, does that involve loads of pre-planning?
Danny Howells: No real planning in the sense of what you are going to play though a lot of planning in making sure you have got every area covered. If I go away on a trip and I know I have a few long sets coming up, I need to make sure I have got some ambient for the beginning of the night, some super deep house, some jazzy house, some sort of afro infused house and some techno, progressive electro, some minimal; enough tools to allow me to do ten hours but without boring myself.
Theres a couple of times when Ive done long sets and you get six hours in and think I need to switch it up a little. With the right crowd and when they have got faith in you, you can let rip sometimes, you can go into drum and bass or you suddenly start playing hip hop in the middle of the night. Not to get the reaction but to give myself a certain jolt. Its a long time to play and your energy level can dip and sometimes you need something to give a bit of a kick. If suddenly you whack something crazy on in the middle of the night it suddenly wakes me up a little bit. Its a better way of prolonging my energy than doing anything else.
Skrufff: Howe do you handle toilet breaks, is it basically about putting on a long record and running to the bathroom?
Danny Howells: Actually Ive done twelve hour sets where I havent pissed all night even when Ive been drinking loads, such as in Montreal, because it was a really hot night and you sweat it out. I got to the end of the night and I was like: Shit I havent left the box once. Sometimes you are dancing around a bit and maybe laying off the beer and having a few tequilas or drinking water, sometimes you find you just sweat it out. If I do need to go to the bog I just stick on some old pop classic.
Skrufff: How easy is it for you to look after your health?
Danny Howells: As far as the partying goes, when Im actually playing, there was a few occasions last year where I got too drunk at a few gigs and really let myself down and let the crowd down and felt really bad about it. Especially when I was going through my tequila phase you think you are alright, then suddenly you are not alright. As far as the partying goes, Im out every weekend and if I accepted everything that was offered to me I think I would be dead in weeks. It affects how I DJ as well. It doesnt help me out if Im DJing. I try not to go too crazy in the clubs, for my partying I like to get a few friends around if Ive got a weekend off and go a bit crazy at home.
Skrufff: Do you ever play completely stone cold sober?
Danny Howells: A lot of times, yeah, though I like a drink when Im playing. I always quite enjoy a drink but theres been some times when Ive had a really bad hangover and Ive done sets where I havent drunk anything but water. Id rather not talk about that. Dont tell anyone that, its a bit embarrassing.
Skrufff: Were you wearing make up when you met your girlfriend?
Danny Howells: Ive got a confession. Youre going to hate it. I havent had the eyeliner out in ages. She stole it off me. Remember we did that interview when I chatted about wearing make-up? Everyone picked up on that because it was in the sleeve notes, but it was exaggerated a little bit because I didnt really wear it out that much. A few times I did do it and it had a greater impact than I imagined. The old gothic night in Miami with the black eyes and Cure T shirt, everyone responded quite badly to that. Im letting my natural beauty shine through right now.
Skrufff: Just because youve got a girlfriend .
Danny Howells: I finally got a girlfriend after years of trying to find one .
Danny Howells- a Collection of Classics, is out now on Azuli Records.