TiD&B Interview: Danny WheelerPosted by Lady V on Friday, February 17th, 2012
2011 ended on a mighty high with a wealth of quality releases being unleashed in the last quarter. A highlight amongst the longplayers was Danny Wheeler’s debut ‘Universal Language’ – a ray of musical sunshine in the dark winter months, with its fusion of funky flavours and latino rhythms teamed with liquid drum and bass.
With a rich history within the D&B scene, as a respected producer, DJ, promoter and label head of W10 Records, and now after completing his album, Danny recently moved from the UK’s grey capital to the bustling and vibrant city of Tokyo. We spoke with him to find out more about ‘Universal Language’, his relocation and plans for the coming months…
TiD&B: Tell us more about ‘Universal Language’ - did the finished version end up sounding as you originally planned?
Danny: The album’s really personal and I have been working on it for a long time and put a lot of energy into – it took about 2 years to write. I’d always planned to make one that would be mainly drum and bass, as D&B is my passion, but I also wanted to incorporate other genres that I love too, like hip hop and nu jazz. Krust once told me that jungle is not only about the tempo, but just a state of mind, so I think that even though there are tracks that are not D&B on the album, it was still produced with that D&B mindset. I had some great people around when I was making the album, who helped shape it with their ideas, and I was lucky to collaborate with some awesome artists.
TiD&B: Regardless of genres on the LP, there is definitely a feeling of warmth that runs throughout it, a real soulful vibe and funk which you can’t help move to – would you say those elements are trademarks of your sound?
Danny: Thanks, yeah I guess they are my trademark sound, I love funk, 70s and vintage soul and always wanted to incorporate that vibe into modern day production. I wanted to use vintage keyboards mixed with modern drums and make a fusion between D&B and soul, creating music that will hopefully be received as feel-good and uplifting.
TiD&B: What were you listening to whilst writing ‘Universal Language’ – was it the kind of music which naturally translated into your own tunes, or very different? Are you inspired by the music around you, or draw inspiration from other things?
Danny Wheeler: I was listening to loads of stuff like The Neptunes, Quincy Jones, V Recordings, Kaidi Tatham, Adam F & J Majik, and I was sharing a studio with Beni G from Jack Beats, Bugz In The Attic & Plan B, IG Culture and MC GQ at the time so all those people had an influence on what I was writing.
I am inspired by the people and places around me and also by film and different cultures. For one of the tracks, ‘Salsa Tequila’, I’d just been on the road in South America with Jenna G and had been really inspired by the South American culture.
Danny Wheeler ‘Salsa Tequila’
TiD&B: Do you have a particular favourite tune on the album?
Danny: I think ‘Let It Flow’ is probably my favourite, it is the most dancefloor D&B tune on there and was written just a day before the big earthquake in Japan last year. I was in Tokyo working with my friend Taku Takahashi in his studio, we made the tune and everything was positive but the following day the earthquake happened and it kind of changed my perspective about things, so I think when I listen back, it has some memories of that time and also of being in Tokyo during that experience.
Danny Wheeler & The Suitboys feat. Aina ‘Let It Flow’
TiD&B: You’re now living in Tokyo, having moved from London, what led to the relocation? Are you still working on music there?
Danny: The main reason I came to Tokyo was personal, after the earthquake happened I decided I wanted to spend more time here. The D&B crews here are really cool, and the clubs are amazing, as is the food and culture. I am working on some wicked tunes out here, I have been working with Makoto – one of my favourite producers and such a cool guy, we have been working on some dope new tracks. I’ve also been working with the aforementioned Taku Takahashi. He is a big J-Pop producer who has a rich history in pop music is Japan, but he is also a big D&B lover at heart and is an amazing producer and great person to work with… so I have some exciting new projects on the go! I will let you know as things develop over the next year.
TiD&B: What’s the D&B scene like in Tokyo? Is it a huge change to London, where you’ve been used to promoting events and running W10 Records?
Danny: Tokyo is like living in the future. The D&B scene in Japan is amazing, there are two main parties; one at Club Unit and one at Womb, both promoters are good and do wicked parties. The DJ & MC fraternity are all really good people, it is kind of a culture, so I love the people here. There are some wicked up and coming talents – amazing producers, some who I hope to sign!
It is a big change to London, but I started my W10 Records party in Tokyo in November, I did it with Makoto, myself and DJ Aki from Womb. It was a good start to have an event here and this year I plan to continue and expand my parties. I think Tokyo can be a major player on the international D&B scene – it’s very strong, healthy and refreshing, it reminds me of London in the late 90s in terms of the expectation and creativity in the music.
MC Tali and Danny Wheeler at W10 Records Launch Party, Tokyo
TiD&B: And what about you – what should we be keeping an ear out for in the coming months?
Danny: I’ve got some fun stuff planned for this year, I don’t want to give too much away yet, but I am in talks with some good people and plan to raise my game. What I can say is that I am working on collaborations with Makoto, XRS, The Suitboys and Kaidi Tatham – a variety of artists from different parts of the world; from Japan to Brazil and London.
I’m particularly interested in working with more singers, rappers and musicians, and hope to do some more stuff with Blu James, Steelo and AiNA Roxx.
But above all, 2012 is about working with positive people and spreading the gospel of drum & bass!