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Selador artist Danny Howells talks to the Global Dance Music Collective
17 September 2020

Full Name: Danny Howells
Occupation: DJ/Producer
Labels: Selador/8Bit
Current Releases: Paradium on 8bit
Musical Mentors: Too many to mention!
G’day Danny. Thank you so much for taking time out to have a chat with us all today. Where are you and how are you feeling?

 I’m currently in my home town of London, feeling very chilled after a few relentless days.

So, I guess we can start at the beginning right and ask how you got yourself caught up in this dance music circus?
Like many I’d grown up with a huge passion for music, collecting records and tapes from a very young age. In 1990 my friend and I decided to throw a birthday for Prince, playing his music and productions and throwing in loads of then current hip hop (the more Daisy Age end of the spectrum) along with 80s funk and soul etc. That one party made me realise I really wanted decks which I promptly went out and bought on credit. This was around the time that dance music was hitting the south coast so it wasn’t long before I was getting immersed in that, collecting tunes I liked and putting tapes together for mates. After a few lucky breaks with local clubs one of my tapes ended up with John Digweed who promptly put me on as an opener on Hastings Pier. This all happened so quickly really, and none of it was planned by me. I’d never dreamt I’d be able to make a career out of something I loved so much, although it was probably another 10 years before I gave up the day job.
What music did you listen to growing up and do you think subconsciously these sounds influence your musical taste today?
My family were all hugely into music so as a kid I had the obvious 70s pop stuff but was also hearing my family’s music which included 60s/70s r&b, Motown, classical, rock, even the likes of Zeppelin, Sabbath etc. I was even exposed to Kraftwerk at a very young age, by my Grandad who gave me a tape of Man Machine – this was odd as he was normally mainly into classical. 
The 80s was the era of 12” remixes, dub mixes and so on, and then as genres starting to fuse later with the likes of Happy Mondays, Primal Scream etc, I think it was only natural that I would plunge into dance music.
The music I was exposed to as a kid has meant I’ve always appreciated a diverse range, which I think came through in what I played as a DJ.
Do you remember your first rave? Where was it and what was it called? Do you remember who was headlining? Was it the best night of your life everrrrr? lol
Wow I can’t actually remember. Which is probably a good thing..
It would have been something that Digweed had put on, either in The Crypt or on Hastings Pier.
When did you start becoming interested in music production – and who were your greatest influences? Were you self-taught or did you have mentors around you to guide you?
I can’t remember how but I was introduced to a local producer in the mid-90s called Tim Cross. I was a bit awestruck as he’d been in punk bands and toured with Mike Oldfield etc. We decided to try some stuff out which resulted in us getting a few records out, the last of which (“Crash” by Squelch) did pretty well. 
I used to watch what he was doing and then when I later started working with Dick Trevor he’d be really good at showing me how to use Logic and so on. I’ve never been very technical and have no clue how a studio works but I can just about get around Logic enough to get down what I need to.
Your discography is very impressive. Most people would know you through your track ‘Breathe’. I mean, this record pretty much defined that ‘golden era’ of progressive house as people like to put it…. How did this track change your life? Did you know it was going to be as influential as it was?
I don’t think anyone ever really thinks like that tbh. I remember we used to take so long working on tracks back then, especially as we didn’t have automated mixing etc. “Breathe” started off as a pretty dark and boring track that really had no life. It was probably months later that we totally changed it and I remember I was very pleased with it although by the time it came out we had mixed so many versions that we were probably a bit indifferent.
As far as changing my life, I don’t know really. It was very long ago. I still like the tune though and love Erire’s vocal.
So, fast forward a few decades and you already have quite a jam-packed DJ schedule but you decide with your good mates, DAVE SEAMAN and DARREN EMERSON to start touring as 3D? Can you tell our readers how this came about and what you enjoy most about sharing your collective love for music together? It must be a wonderful feeling? I read somewhere you called Dave the ‘Jagger’ of the group as he was the one that got the ‘stones rolling’ to begin with?  
Like most things I’ve been involved in it just kind of fell into place. We DJed together and really enjoyed it. We’d known each other for so long so we just decided to do some more gigs which led to putting some EPs together and, more recently, producing together. I think Dave is the most driven out of us and does push for us to do things. He is very good like that.
Ok, so I’m going to shift gears here and ask you more about your other passions in life. I’m assuming most people wouldn’t know that apart from being a devotee of dance music, you are also a huge advocate for animal rights and veganism. I, myself am a pescatarian am also hugely passionate on this subject.
Yes, nearly 5 years now since I became vegan and 4 since I got properly involved in animal rights activism. I also started as a pescatarian but soon became vegetarian. I kind of stuck there for a bit too long but during that time I was so uncomfortable with what I was doing, for example I wasn’t eating cows yet I was paying for cows to be abused and killed by consuming dairy. I have only one regret and that is not doing it decades earlier.
I feel the primary misconception against veganism, is that animal product consumption is necessary to provide a ‘healthy’ diet. The necessity to consume and abuse animals is fundamentally flawed though as we see  millions of ‘healthy’ living vegans around the world. So, in your view, what are the biggest misconceptions around Veganism and how do you get around that?
People often think going vegan is hard, or will be expensive etc. I thought the same initially but once I’d seen what happened to animals any inconvenience to me seemed so trivial. But like most things, the more you explore the more you understand and it just gets easier and easier, especially as now it has become a lot more mainstream.
And you’re right in that there are misconceptions about getting necessary nutrients on a plant based diet, but most of the time these myths have emanated from the industries that profit from the exploitation and killing of animals. Every time you see some new health scare in the media simply dig a bit deeper and you will nearly always find that it is linked to some meat or dairy industry funded study and is totally biased. B12 is a great example as we’re brainwashed into thinking that we need to eat animals in order to obtain it, yet we pump something ludicrous like 80% of the world’s supply into animals! You can cut out the middle man and simply take a supplement yourself, or just look for foods that have been fortified with it.
When did you realise you wanted to be vegan? Was there a particular triggering moment or did you simply decided you didn’t want to continue to contribute to the abuse of animals any longer?
There were many moments over a period of time. One of the most memorable ones was cutting into a steak and being utterly horrified at the blood that came out of it, and realising that if I couldn’t eat animal flesh unless it was heavily disguised then I probably shouldn’t be eating animals. 
For a while I was trying to convince myself that being vegetarian was ok but i was still extremely uncomfortable with funding the dairy and egg industries, animal testing and so on, so towards the end of 2015 I made the decision to align my actions with my morals by going vegan.
Being quite a prolific force in the Animal Rights world, how do you stay positive with the continued prevalence of animal cruelty and can you tell our readers wat have been your biggest challenges/achievements to date?
It can be hard to stay positive but I think whatever we go through, we have to stay focussed on the victims which are the animals. As far as challenges go, my activism is pretty similar to my DJ career in that I’ve never really set myself any goals or anything, although I do constantly strive to improve. I’m really happy that I’ve moved into organising a few regular events over the last year, as well as getting more involved with the local wildlife protection groups as this is a very direct way of helping animals.

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As a touring DJ (pre covid) have you noticed a change around the culinary world towards veganism and what advice would you give someone thinking about making the change?
Absolutely. There is so much more awareness now than there was previously, and obviously the amount of restaurants grows all the time. There are a couple of vegan-unfriendly places but if you have HappyCow app and Google translate then you can get by absolutely fine. 
If anyone is thinking about making the change then I I say just do it. It has never been easier and it has never been more vital. 
So, to end today DANNY, what does the future hold for you? What are you most excited about? 
Wow, this is the hardest question yet. I literally have no clue!
As far as activism goes then obviously I’m going to continue to do as much as I can.
And music, well the whole idea of socially distanced DJing holds no attraction to me so I don’t know what I will do to be honest. I guess we’ll just wait and see.

 

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