From DMC to DNB…
When you talk about Rave culture, Drum & Bass and Turntablism in the United States, Danny The Wildchild is undoubtedly one of the most valued DJs in the country. Having been an integral part of the Hip-Hop, House and Rave circuit in his home Chicago and across the US since the late 80’s, Danny has garnered a fiercely loyal fan base and carved out a reputation as the king of Jump-Up D&B this side of the Atlantic. Now, after years of grafting in his analog-adorned studio and tirelessly honing his production skills, Danny The Wildchild is ready to premiere his largest and best body of work to date on the Liondub Street Series; 7 hard-hitting, bass heavy, Funk and Hip-Hop laden Jump-Up gems, guaranteed to rock any party from the US, to the UK and beyond!
The EP does a great job of bringing many styles to the table. Whether you’re a fan of rollers, Jump-up, or just Drum and Bass, there is something for everyone. Danny The Wildchild has been dominating dancefloors for years and it shows. This release feels like a culmination of many influences and years of experience as it is very focused and straightforward.
The opening tracks, “Fresh” and “Beat Ya’ll” introduce you to the sound with undoubtedly fresh drum kits and hip-hop influenced vocals. The snap, crackle, and pop bassline of “Fresh” is a wonderful example of effective simplicity. “Beat Ya’ll” is even more upbeat with a rising stab rolling it along. Both of these tunes feel like a bit of Hazard and a bit of Souped Up, all in one.
“Body Moves” is an instant classic. The vocals make a strong case for the hook and the bassline keeps you bouncing along. “Trouble” is so much fun. It has a spacey, sort of sci-fi sound as if you crashed landed on an alien planet. The tone and rhythm of this tune is an absolute head-nodders favorite. This sound design, kit and groove definitely reminds me of Heist. These spacey vibes can be found in some form throughout the release, but definitely resurface in “Pound for Pound” which has the grooviest bassline of the release. It’s a nice chilldown tune to help you figure out your next move.
The EP gets filthiest on the collab, “What You Need” which features label head Liondub joining the party to really stink things up. This song is bare vibes as it relies on a strong 808 and a rough-talking bassline over the top. It’s dark, it’s raw, It’s straight to the point and immediately makes you just bob your head. It’s what you need!
No doubt, Danny The Wildchild has proven himself once again with this solid batch of tracks that will definitely stand the test of time. It feels like a cross between jump-up and roller heaven with a ton of replayability. I would highly suggest taking this whole album for a listen and taking the journey yourself!
After listening to the EP, I got a chance to interview Danny and pick up some knowledge from the don himself.
When did you become interested in playing music?
Danny: I was able to touch the decks from a young age, because it was always around the house. My brother had turntables and he would teach me how to use them. One day, one of his friends came over and he was blown away. He started calling me Wildchild.
Is that how you got your name Danny The WildChild?
Danny: I was 12 years old and there was a youngest DJ competition. I had to come up with a name and it was perfect for the contest: The WildChild! I ended up winning the contest and the name stuck with me.
What kind of impact has the DMC Battle had on your life?
Danny: When I was younger, my older brother brought home a videotape. It was the 1989 DMC Battle. We popped that video in and I had never seen Technics SL-1200s before in my life. Mind you, we had 100s. My brother was like THOSE are the turntables right there and he was making a big deal out of it, but I didn’t know any better, I was a little kid. I was just seeing these dudes do all these crazy tricks and I was like “YO I WANNA DO THAT. Forget blending, I just wanna do that!” As I got older, my grandmother noticed that I was getting more and more interested in DJing and she spoiled us. She said to my brother and I, “You know if you’re getting into this, I’ll buy you one of those turntables this guy is talking about and I’ll buy you one of those turntables.” She bought us both SL-1200s when I was only 13-14 years old. Fast forward to 2018-2019, DMC Battle came to Chicago and they reached out to me to be a Celebrity judge. I’m honored and I do it all the time.
How did scratching influence your mixing with drum and bass?
Danny: When I started getting into drum and bass, I was already scratching. I was like man I wanna start buying this music, but noone scratches. I really love scratching, but I’m really starting to like this dnb music. Then someone was like, Yo, check out this DJ Hype tape. and I was like oh shit, you can scratch over that! DJ Hype was doing (scratching noises). He kind of let me know that he’s a leader in the game and he’s scratching so it’s okay to scratch with drum and bass.
What are some of the influences in your music?
Danny: For me, DMC, Hip-Hop, scratching. I started hearing this DNB music and I heard all these samples like Public Enemy. That’s what led me. Mind you, the bass too. I mean, I was always into sound systems. Growing up on the house music my brother was buying, I was used to a 4-on-the-floor sound. I went to my first rave and I saw a wall of subs. I was scratching my head like whoa. Groovier was the name of the party. It was in a warehouse. That was the first time I heard a continuous bass sweep that went down the spectrum all the way to 40khz. With the Jump-Up sound, I started doing my homework and figuring out the labels that I was liking. Back then, it was Joker Records, Aphrodite, True Playaz. To narrow it down, basically it’s all the Hip-Hop samples that I already knew that were being used in dnb and I thought that was cool. That’ll work. Back then, it was drum and bass, but now we’ve got all these genres. Anything Hip-Hop orientated or Funk.
How did you begin producing music?
Danny: Being a DJ for so long and asking myself how are they doing that. I met this guy in Chicago by the name of CZR. He was a house producer on Bad Boy Bill’s label that made alot of cuts. I would hangout at his record store in my neighborhood named Abstract Music. This guy would be making tracks in the back of the store. He had an Akai MPC 3000, and a Mackie 1604 mixing board and he has back there making beats. I was so geeked. I was like, “yo man what are you doing?” He broke it down for me so therefore got me geeked. 1990- I saved up my money and bought an MPC 3000 like he did. I have to give him credit. He showed me how to use the machine a little bit, but I didn’t know that at the time that DNB was being made on computers. The only thing that came out of that MPC was my Wild EP. My first release ever was me perpetrating making American drum and bass on an MPC 3000 which is unheard of because no-one does that in the UK and it’s considered more of a Hip-Hop drum machine. CZR was making house but I wanted to make drum and bass. So I struggled for a little bit. The Wild EP came out and I knew it didn’t sound right. I knew it wasn’t like what I was playing from overseas. 1994-1995, I went to San Francisco and sat in the studio with Rinse and Flux (of Compound Records). We wrote some music and they showed me a completely different way to make music with an Apple computer, Cubase, E-mu Systems e64 Sampler, and he showed me Recycle by Propellerhead. The MPC lacked control in the sampling and it often sounded looped. With Recycle, you can stick the amen break into the program, it finds all the transients and spits it back into your sampler transposed to every octave across the keyboard. After that, I didn’t wanna touch my MPC anymore.
What did you use in the studio to make this latest release?
Danny: My production now on my Liondub EP release is all Logic 9. Me using my hardware stuff for some of it. I incorporate my tube compressors. I’m getting the best of both worlds I feel like. You can hear the warmth from my analog stuff and this equipment sometimes feels like an upper hand. I dump into Logic 9 and I shut the hardware stuff off. I get what I need, put it in the box and not really use other stuff. Back in the day, it was different. My catalog isn’t really that big, because I was making tracks in the late 90s/early 2000s the way Roni Size, Ed Rush & Optical, and Dillinja made tracks – with hardware gear. Nowadays, a kid can be on a train with his laptop and his headphones on and he’s making a banger. It wasn’t like that before though.
What was producing like before?
Danny: Before I was mixing everything on a mixing board and recording on a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) before CD-Rs existed. I would buy these expensive DATs, get my track together, load up my sampler, turn on a keyboard for strings and a keyboard for the bassline, beats from the sampler, mix it all together and then hit that record button. Now it’s just called rendering.
I could not imagine losing money every time I bounce a track.
Danny: The struggle was real back then.
How has the music changed over the years?
Danny: The Jump-Up sound changed drastically in the last decade or so maybe even longer than that. The sound changed. The drums got harder. They started layering a bunch of snares. The drums were really really heavy and the bassline started getting simple and clean, but very effective. They laid back on the looped breaks which was a foundation of drum and bass. They weren’t really using so much of the amen breaks, but more-so that kick and snare with little pieces of the percussion so everything breathes. It’s more aggressive and heavier. I’m loving it more than ever being the old guy that I am, but when that change happened, we lost alot of people too. Lots of people were just not feeling it. I pay attention to Liondub Street Series, Low Down Deep, and Dub Damage. There’s a handful of people who hate it and a handful of people who love it, but Jump-Up is still a huge genre within in itself. I stay clear from the screechy Jump-Up, the noisy Jump-Up with all these high-pitched sounds. I’m old school and I’m not too much of a fan of that. Like I said, I’m a fan of Ego Trippin, anything on Low Down Deep, because it’s like Funk with a subby bass, not so much a dubstep bass. I’ll jump into that too, because I’ve been around the block for all the changes.
How did you come up with the name and inspiration for the Fresh EP?
The title of the EP is Fresh and that’s from a Dirt Style record that I sampled off of. Dirt Style is one of my favorite scratch records made by Q-Bert. Maybe that’s where all this comes from. My age, my upbringing, the Hip-Hop, the DMC, etc.
Do you have a process when making music?
Danny: I make my drums first. The drums carry the vibe for the rest of the tune. That’s the way I feel about it. Some people sound design and make a bass first, but for me it doesn’t really work that way. I gotta make a drum. Sometimes it’ll take me a couple days to dedicate work into just getting that drum fat and loud. Once that drum is fat and loud, then all my worries are over. Once the drums sound good, you’re off to a head start. I’m always trying to make my drums really loud thats the #1 struggle right now with this new era of Jump-Up. The drums gotta be through the roof and they just gotta sound good. They gotta punch through the mix and that’s been an ongoing struggle for many people including myself, but I’m finally figuring it all out in this new world of Jump-Up. I didn’t have that issue before in the hardware days.
Any production tips you’ve picked up over the years?
Danny: I’ve just been learning more and more and more. I’m my worst critic. To get me up to the par where I’m at right now, I would take my favorite track that I’m playing at the moment and throw it in Logic just so I can read the meters. So I can read where everything is hitting at. Like, “Damn why does this song always sound good? Every time the bass drops, everyone screams. It’s just loud, it’s effective, it’s a crowd pleaser each and every time. Yeah, it’s a banging tune but how did they engineer it like that?” It’s important to keep your levels up right. I test my music on everything including monitors, car and bluetooth speaker. If I can make it fart on a 4-inch speaker, then yeah.
Also, if I put 2-3 days into a fat ass drum track, I’m gonna save that drum track and make a few more tracks out of it. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just letting people know it’s your tune.
Any studio rituals?
Danny: Smoke weed and drink coffee =)
Do you get writers block?
Danny: Writers block, fersure man. Sometimes I go down there and just go through sounds and go through sounds. It’s not that it’s writers block, it’s just more — disappointment. More of, I spent 4 hours in my studio and I was unsuccessful. I consider that writers block. Meaning I just can’t get something right or I get fatigued or distracted. [Writers block] does happen, but when the momentum’s strong – it’s strong. The momentum is strong right now, because we’re in quarantine and I miss the dancefloor and all that, but also, because of the support from Liondub on this release. It really feels like a win-win.
What would you like to pass on to the next generation of drum and bass DJs?
For the DJs, do your homework. Learn the music. It’s a tough situation, because when you’re a producer you read the song by the grid more. Like when the bassline drops at 33 or I put my dope change-up at 65. It’s a grid in my head already. If you don’t understand the grid and you’re not producing, then learn the measures and the music because every proper track has a break or has a little breathing room for you to mix out of. With my mixing technique, if the phrasing is right, then when one track is about to chill out, the second track is about to build up. What I hate in my sets is silence. I’m known for being a quick mixer. I don’t like breakdowns. People say they wing it. I wing it, but I never wing it. I have a USB with like 18 different sets so when I wing it, if I’m going hard on them and they’re not feeling it, I’ll jump into another set. I always know what I’m going to play. It’s just a matter of that shit’s too hard it’s scaring the people which sometimes is the case with this Jump-Up music that I play. Learn the music and learn the measures. If you get the phrasing right, it’s going to sound perfect. Practice the songs that you like and also, there’s always gonna be another track that sounds similar to that track. When I get promos or I’m shopping for music and I got about 26 tracks in my folder that I want in my routine. I’ll see which ones sound similar and I’ll try to put those two together.
What about the next generation of producers?
Danny: As for production, I don’t know everything. There’s a bunch of tutorials out there. Things are changing constantly and I’m just trying to keep up with the Joneses. There’s Youtube, end of. Get a DAW and master it. I hate to sound old, but it’s so easy nowadays with sample packs. I remember trying to recreate snares that I was hearing. I’d find a loud smacking snare, a small, tight snare, and a hand clap then collaborate all three to try to get the snare that I’m hearing. “Dude I don’t have any snares that sound like that! Let me start layering shit!” Whatever you need to do to make that snare pop in the 200hz range on your spectrum analyzer. Any producer should know this. You want your kicks to peak at 100hz. You want your snares to peak at 200hz. You want your midrange and other sounds to strike out in the 500hz range. And this is crucial for drum and bass especially Jump-Up, you need to shave the low end on all your sounds to make room for the bass, because you’re know you’re going to have a sub-bass that never ends. You don’t want the sub-bass to clash with the kick frequencies. It causes muddiness. There’s ways around it like sidechain and ducking. It all boils down to getting a tight mix. Making it sound crisp and clear.
Danny: Big Up the Chicago Drum and Bass Massive: MIA Crew, Proper DNB and DNB Identity. The people bringing drum and bass to Chicago.
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