The annual electronic music behemoth known as Winter Music Conference is nearly upon us, and as usual, a flurry of international DJs, producers, and industry types already have their tickets booked to Miami. One of those eagerly anticipating the sunshine of South Florida in late winter is one of the U.K.’s brightest rising stars, Danny Howard.
Since 2012, Howard has been the host of a three-hour BBC Radio 1 show, Dance Anthems With Danny Howard. The following year, he parlayed that into a second gig, Nothing Else Matters, on Sirius XM, a show aimed at fans stateside who enjoy the British brand of massive house anthems. And today, Howard is celebrating the launch of his own record label, Nothing Else Matters. All came as the result of Howard winning the BBC Radio 1 Superstar DJ competition.
The same weekend as Ultra, Howard will be spinning solo all over the city and alongside the legendary Pete Tong for a special rooftop party. Howard won't be releasing any of the specific details about his Miami Music Week plans until March, but we'll keep you posted via our MMW party guide when he finally does let us know. Ahead of the upcoming debauchery, we spoke to Howard about sudden fame, living the dream, and crappy DJ sets.
New Times: Are you excited for Winter Music Conference?
Yeah, of course. It's one of the main events of the year, and as far as for me, living in London, it's the first bit of sunshine I get to experience. It's the first real get-together of the whole dance-music community with all the parties going on and everybody's there and they're just sort of hanging out with people you have not seen since ADE [Amsterdam Dance Event] in Amsterdam. So yeah, I'm looking forward to it.
Have you been to the South Florida/Miami area before? What are your thoughts on the electronic scene here?
Yeah, I've been the last three years. It's become a regular thing for me now. [The scene] is thriving still — especially in America for the last five years. Now dance music is one of, if not the most popular, genres. Not just in America but worldwide, and that's reflective in the amount of people who go to Miami every year, especially in more recent times.
You've been billed as the next Pete Tong. That’s like being a basketball player and being dubbed the next Jordan. Do you feel any pressure? How do you deal with expectations like that?
[Laughs] Well, I don't think I am. Pete was revolutionary in what he's done for dance music over the last couple of decades. He's someone I listened to growing up. I respect him so much, and it's been an honor to work with him, and sometimes, when he's on holiday or away, I'll cover his show on Radio 1, which is a sort of massive honor. Also, it's like a pinch-me moment when I cover his show. But in terms of being described as someone who might emulate him one day is quite flattering, although I think it's quite challenging to say, because I don't think that, but it's nice to hear.
Speaking of that “pinch-me moment,” over the last five years, you’ve had a residency in Ibiza and secured radio shows on both Radio 1 and Sirius XM. What’s been the biggest change in your life since winning the BBC Radio 1 Superstar DJ competition?
I suppose moving to London, traveling around the world, getting to see cities I never thought I'd see. Even getting across to America. I went to America last year and played everywhere — from New York to San Francisco to Vegas to L.A., Miami, and Chicago. All these places were incredible, and at the time, you obviously enjoy it, but then it's more when you look back on it and you think, Wow, did I really just do that? From a DJ who grew up in my hometown, in the north of England, and only expected to play regionally as a local DJ, then moving to London, getting the Radio 1 show, and then not just playing around Europe but getting over to America — I probably would never have dreamt of that. So to be doing that in reality is definitely a pinch-me moment.
You play what you call “big-room sexy house.” What specifically about the genre first attracted you to it?
It's funny, I get asked that. I've been asked that before. I think I said it in one interview, and for some reason it keeps popping up. I think it is exactly as it comes across. I like to play to big crowds. I like to play groovy, house music, something for the girls but also the guys. It's hard. I don't want to be pigeonholed. When I answered that question, it was just a phrase that ticked every box I wanted to represent. Growing up, I just loved where house music came from, including America. I love all the American house legends. Right back to Frankie Knuckles, of course, but my real hero is Erick Morrillo. I saw him play in Ibiza, on my first trip to Ibiza. I suppose that's when I was like, yup, house music is what I’m loving. Every time Erick came to the U.K., I always traveled to the gigs. It was that week in Ibiza where I was like, yeah, house music is where I wanna go.
As a tastemaker on the radio, you’re in a position of power. How do you determine what’s the next hot artist or song? Is it just gut instinct or something else?
I think the most important thing is you’ve gotta really love the record. Like you say, you gotta go with your gut. You’re always looking for something fresh, new, exciting, doesn’t sound like anything else out there. I guess it’s literally just trusting your own ears.
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Right now, things are great. However, what’s the worst DJ gig you ever had to suffer through?
There’s been a few. I think when you first start, any DJ has to go through that. I put a picture on Instagram where it’s a split picture. The top part says, “Don’t expect this,” and it’s a picture of a full arena, just packed full of people. And then underneath it says, “if you’ve never experienced this,” and it’s a picture of just an empty — really, really empty — club. Obviously, the message is: You gotta put in the hard work. Do whatever you need to do to get behind the decks and get some experience DJ'ing.
Once in England, I did a college party. I turned up and said to the promoter, "How’s it looking tonight?" And he said, "Not so great." I said, "Why not?" He said, "It’s Tuesday night." This club held 800 people. I counted. There was 19 people. That was the worst/best gig ever. Even though it was 19 people, I thought, I could either put my head down and look miserable or I can actually try and make something of it. So I stopped the music, got on the microphone, got all the people to come to the front. I looked around for all the beer I could find, held the beer up, and said, "You wanna start a party?" I gave the beers out, and they stayed the whole two hours. They all had a great time, and I really enjoyed it.
So MMW will have a few more people than 19. Rumor is you and Radio 1 have got something special planned. Can you give us some sort of sneak preview?
Well, I can’t reveal any lineup details just yet, but it’s gonna be myself and, of course, Pete Tong, and we’re gonna be doing a big, big party. I think it’s a pool party, actually, on Friday, which will be broadcast live on Radio 1 back in the U.K. and around the world. Then on Saturday, I’ll be doing my usual show. And I’ll be playing a couple of parties over there. Keep an eye on my socials and I’ll be announcing that soon.