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Danny Howells: Don’t Call Me Luddite (Or Alvin Stardust!) ::

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on October 5, 2007

“Please excuse me, but I've had to look up luddite on wikipedia to find out what it means, and I'm still none the wiser! If it's an insult, then anyone who calls me it can go f**k themselves.”

Vinyl fanatic, eye-liner loving prog-house DJ Danny Howells remains one of the world’s most popular DJs, though pointing out to him that Wikipedia says ‘the term Luddite has been used to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change’ is perhaps a rash move.  A former psychiatric nurse in the notoriously rough British seaside resort of Hastings, he’s more than capable of defending himself, and more, as he’s the first to admit to Skrufff.

“My last fights were when I worked in the psychiatric hospital, about ten years ago. I was getting decked (punched) nearly every week, but I was very good at the control and restraint though, and was able to pin my attackers down without causing them any pain, says Danny, “Although they did very frequently get 100mg of largactil via a jab pretty pronto.”

“I'm not a scrapper, but I can get very aggressive if someone starts on me when I'm pissed (drunk); I can become a right arse,” he confesses.

“I tried to start a fight with Judge Jules one night after he jokingly called me ‘Alvin Stardust’. I tried to chase after him but Hayes from my agency pinned me down. I did see Jules again recently, and reminded him of it and apologised that I was very drunk at the time, but thankfully he hadn't remembered,” he laughs.

Fighting talk aside, he’s equally happy to chat about digital downloads, mascara and DJ tips and the state of clubland some 15 years into his career.

“As far as I can see it's as healthy as ever,” he suggests. “Obviously there's good and bad nights, but I'm pretty sure most DJs experience that, except maybe the Tiestos and Dyks. You've got to bear in mind I only get to see a fraction of what goes on out there - I obviously don't play at trance or minimal techno clubs, for example. There are changes, though, of course.

For example, I don't see the weekly influx of mix CDs in Virgin Megastore like I used to, and sales have obviously been affected by the internet etc, but on the whole I think the whole Alexis Petridis* dance music is dead scare stories of a while back were a bit premature.” *(notorious Guardian journalist).

Skruff (Jonty Skrufff): What are you up to right now?

Danny Howells: “Right now? Sitting on my arse doing this! To be honest, this year's been pretty low-key, apart from a few remixes. Most of my time was spent making the big move out of the sticks (provinces) to London and getting settled in. I've promised my manager a much higher output next year.”

Skrufff: As a DJ Magazine Top 100 DJ does it get easier or harder over time?

Skrufff: Do you fees get ever higher in house price type advances?

Danny Howells: “I suppose I am like a house in that it does generally move in the upward direction, but never drastically. And it all depends on things like which country it is, or how big the event is, are there sponsors involved etc. Those are the things your agent takes care of. In some countries it stays pretty much the same, in other places it does increase.”

Skrufff: I see you have over 27,000 friends on Myspace: how many of them have 
you met? Do you refuse anyone?  

Danny Howells: “Oh I know all of them personally. Actually I don't. I do the page myself (as you can probably tell) and it is very time consuming. I find it really good for getting in touch with producers etc, especially when I'm on the blag for a certain tune, but I generally accept everyone. Except for those that are obviously just spammers. I keep my Facebook more private though, just accepting people I actually do know. I actually prefer that to Myspace, which at times just seems to be a daily bombardment of party invites and Viagra for sale. F**k off with your Viagra please.”

Skrufff: How much is Myspace changing things in the way fans interact with you? Have ever had 
any Myspace rows with your girlfriend?

Danny Howells: “I do read all the comments I get though there's a shit load of really irritating spam. But amongst the crap I do get a lot of genuine messages from fans, a lot of which I respond to. The main way it's benefitted me though is the ability for people to pass on their productions, both new and established producers, who otherwise would have no way of getting in touch. There's been no rows with my girlfriend over it - she often see messages I've been sent of the "oh I think you're really hot" variety, and tries to grab the computer off me to tell them to f**k off, but she gets similar things on her Myspace page too.”

Skrufff: What’s your take on digital downloading these days: are you still resisting?

Danny Howells: “I still buy about 80 records a week, and buy mp3s off various sites too. As far as illegal downloading, I use one site but only use it for getting old pop videos or rock concert footage that is just not available anywhere else. If I get sent stuff through messenger and I like it, I have to own the vinyl of it too. The same with mp3s I buy from sites. If I like a tune, owning an mp3 isn't enough for me. I grew up in the 70s so the feel and smell and sound of vinyl is too important for me to it go. I'm glad that bands like Led Zep are still not available on itunes. It's bad enough seeing their artwork shrunk to cd size, let alone a tiny mpeg on an ipod screen. Physical Grafitti on an ipod doesn't work quite as well as the vinyl, does it?”

Skrufff:: When was the last time you wore make-up?

Danny Howells: “Sorry to disappoint you, it was quite a while ago now. I only really wore eye-liner on an occasional basis, but I see things like my wikipedia page and it's like ‘he is well known for wearing eye-liner. Oh and plays progressive house’. I'm fanatical about the Stones. Mick Jagger, especially between 68-72, looked amazing so maybe that was influencing me a bit. And Dylan, around 1975. The strong imagery of those people around that time, especially when you grow up with that, must have an impact. I've always been the biggest Bowie fan, and my biggest regret is that I never had the guts to dye my hair red or wear a big glittery star on my forehead”

Skrufff: the Korea times reported recently on the growing feminisation of men and said 'men in their 20s-30s are the biggest buyers of ‘for men'’ colour lotion, powder set, mascara and lip gloss, however, now more 
men in their 40s are also showing interest.':have you ever worn  mascara or lip-gloss? (would you?)

Danny Howells: “I've worn mascara for some press shots. But I was around 32 at the time, and had the hangover from hell, so I suppose they took one look at me and went "Jesus - sort him out." I think a lot of men wish they had more courage to do this kind of thing. Why should it be mainly women who get to have all the fun with the slap? But I suppose fear comes into it, scared of people on the street going ‘ooh look at her!’ I do moisturise on a daily basis, which I think is important, especially because of the way air travel can make your face disintegrate. It hasn't really kept me looking young though, although it seems to have worked for Paul Weller. I must find out which one he uses.”

Skrufff: how important is image for DJing these days—and do you have secret tips you can share on whipping up a crowd, is image?

Danny Howells: “No I haven’t, and if anyone's got any secret tips, please let ME know! I think image is quite important, but being natural in the DJ box is the main thing. If Digweed started doing the Jesus stance with his hands in the air, everyone would be like "Oh my god!!" That kind of thing works for some of the commercial trance guys but I wouldn't feel natural doing that, especially while playing a record that someone else spent six days making. I do feel natural having an interaction with the crowd though. I dance around a bit, and if I'm in a particularly good mood I do bust out some of my Jagger moves, especially that hip-thrust while making a loop with my arms thing that he did on the ‘72 tour. I like that one, and it helps ease the back-ache too.

Skrufff: Seems like DJs these days are expected to be sober and very much working for their money (as opposed to partying with masses): have you encountered this attitude more in recent years?

Danny Howells: “If that's the case, why do I get every promoter under the sun trying to force tequila on me? The bulk of the work for me as a dj is in the preparation, going through all the records, organising the CD wallet, trying to do as many edits as my computer will allow etc. When I hit the club I want to be partly in the same zone as the people dancing, which means having a few bevys, but making sure I'm still standing at the end of the night, whether it's a 2 or a 12 hour set. Occasionally that isn't the case, but if I do f**k up, I feel terrible and make sure I make it up to the club as soon as I can.”

Skrufff: your album series is called Nocturnal Frequencies: does it get easier or more difficult staying up late?

Danny Howells: “I find it so hard these days, which is probably a good thing. I do have my moments, but they are few and far between compared to, say, ten years ago. I'm still a very nocturnal person but the days of staying awake for five days solid at WMC are behind me.

Skrufff: Do you still bump into many/ any patients from your 
nurse  days when you’re back in Hastings?

Danny Howells: “Well I see less of my old patients now that I'm living in London, but when I do see them on my return trips they are always really pleased to see me. I think I must've been OK as a nurse because my ex-patients always come up to me, sometimes hug me, and say things like ‘oh I really missed you when you left’ and so on. And I'm always really pleased to see them too, especially those that were in a particularly bad place the last time I saw them. I always wonder how many of them are doing now, as I did feel close to the people I worked with. I met some amazing people there.”

Skrufff: How much are you encountering more casualties on the 
dancefloor, if at all- what impact is the switch from E to coke and 
K having?

Danny Howells: “I can't say I've seen too much of a difference at my gigs in terms of dance floor casualties. I think a lot of the people who come to hear me are a bit like me, ie, they enjoy a few bevys (drinks) but don't really enjoy going into a coma. I think there are other DJs who attract more of a K crowd. “


Jonty Skrufff (

Danny Howells: “When I started out, I assumed that if you were a bigger name DJ it would all get easier and that self-confidence would naturally increase. But for me, I get more and more nervous as I get older. I think that's probably because there's more expectation, so I suppose it's natural. Anyway, a shot or two of tequila normally helps the nerves disappear.”