Doc Daneeka is a Welsh house music and more producer and DJ, swinging into Shanghai this Saturday night via Berlin on a wave of noble sentiments from things like Fact Mag, Resident Advisor, Crack, and Xlr8r. He does some some cool ass, crafty house music, rattling the drums for labels like Ramp, Fabric, 50 Weapons, PTN, and Well Rounded. His latest main work is the much lauded They! Live album -- a debut release with fellow UK transplant, Benjamin Damage.
Says Crack: “powerful, warm and grand at every turn”.
Here’s some links to some tunes for a cursory overview if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet: introduction track is this great single “Hold on” -- came out on Ramp last year or so. Then have listen to the wound-up, spun-down ”They! Live album preview”, and then move on to this skipping, swaying, rainy bit of business, "Tobyjug", which is the latest single. Quite beatific. Very nice. Finish up with this teaser mix preview that he put together ahead of his China dates.
SmartShanghai met up with the good doctor at some break dancing competition, strangely enough, to talk about this latest album, They! Live, Berlin calling, and that good old house music.
SmSh: So, I wanted to ask: What was it about the character Doc Daneeka [from Joseph Heller’s Catch 22] that made you assume that moniker. He met with a pretty depressing end, I think…
Doc Daneeka: [Laughs.] Yeah, I don’t know… well, I just liked the name. That’s it. And I always wanted to use a name from that book, you know. It’s just one of those things that I decided on when I was young…
SmSh: So you moved to Berlin recently. What prompted that?
DD: Well, I think I was looking for a different challenge and also we signed to the label [50 Weapons] -- this is me and Ben Damage -- and they kind of were just kind of doing a routine contract thing for “Creeper”, and then they went “and here is your album contract”… you know, should you wish to take this challenge… “and here is the deadline.”
SmSh: Yeah, this is They! Live. You only had a window of about three months to work on that -- is that right?
DD: Yeah, and it was really coming down to the wire because I had the Red Bull Academy thing coming up and Ben was off to Canada. It got pretty serious with lots of late nights and 17-hour days sort of thing…
SmSh: Do you feel like you rushed it?
DD: I think I like to write music like that anyways. I don’t know if it’s the definitive work kind of thing, but actually we kind of wanted it to be like that -- a snapshot of a time. ‘Cause nothing is ever going to be perfect, but in a way, yeah, I’d be happy to do it like that again because it just pushes you through to focus on one period of time, and it’s quite good.
SmSh: Just came out last month?
DD: Yeah, came out on the 25th of January.
SmSh: Have you had a chance to see the reviews? Have you been keeping track of how it’s doing out there?
DD: Yeah, Ben’s mum keeps track [laughs]. Well, the only one that’s reviewed it so far, I think, is Crack, and it was quite a nice one. But generally, I think it’s been good. We got album of the week in The Independent or something like that. I don’t know -- actually it’s been overwhelming in a way. Just the support in general has been really, really good for us.
SmSh: How did you write the record? How did you work together?
DD: We were given the loan of Modeselekor’s studio, which is this fucking amazing place in the center of Berlin and it’s rammed with analogue gear. And we basically just fucked around on gear we can’t afford for like a month [laughs] and then spent the rest of the time trying to put it together and finish up, basically.
But generally speaking, it was like an organic process where we just kind of… well, Ben tends to be more synthesizer based and I’m more rhythm based, but I think overall we both worked on everything together, you know. We just sort of sat together and did it. But in the very late editing stages one of us would have 40 winks while the other one worked on it, you know what I mean. But it was all pretty much shared…
SmSh: How did the locality of Berlin factor into the record? Was the history of Berlin electronic music a looming influence?
DD: Yeah, a lot of people have pulled us up on that. And yeah I think to an extent… but we were also sort of going that way anyways -- sort of a new-found interest in techno and Detroit techno, and Berlin has had a big influence in general but not really the history of it. More so the place itself and the energy of the actual city. And it’s a new place for us as well, so you kind of had all your senses on full blast the whole time, you know what I mean. You’re in the studio and then you go out and there’s this amazing nightlife, meeting new people, getting introduced to people through people -- it’s just a very vibrant city, I think.
And also the change in our lives as well… we’re uprooted and put into this city. So it’s just a snapshot of that whole thing, you know what I mean. The whole experience and energy of it. I think in five years I’ll be able to listen to that album and smell Berlin [laughs].
SmSh: So you had a chance to get out and muck about in Berlin. What’s you impression of the city these days and the music coming out of there?
DD: Well, it’s great. I think there’s not many better places you can be in the world if you’re into music. I think the energy of the city is great. It’s infectious. You go out and there’s this great party everywhere -- I don’t know. It’s just great… as for music, I think it’s always has this great minimal scene and shit like that but, I think as the city is becoming more international -- it’s embracing the international scenes and becoming home to more varied artists. There’s a big community.
SmSh: Do you have a DJ night in Berlin then?
DD: Not a permanent thing. There’s been a few parties and I get booked here and there but it’s just off-the-cuff really. I actually set out to not to play too much in Berlin, but I actually really enjoy playing in Berlin so I’m taking more bookings.
SmSh: How are the crowds there?
DD: Really good. Was sort of fearful that they only wanted minimal or whatever. But then again the UK style of dropping a tune every two minutes doesn’t work as well. They like it a bit more gradual. But I think it’s more open than it was before and it’s been really fun. I think learning to play there has been a new thing for me as well. But yeah it’s really open.
I guess in comparison to the UK, you have to look to the speed of the mix, which is different tastes maybe. You can go a bit deeper and take more time on some tunes [in Berlin]. Sometimes I’ll go back and play tunes that like go off in Berlin, like the whole place will go up every time you play it, and then you go back to Britain and it doesn’t work quite the same way. The longer mixes sometimes don’t work in the right way as well.
But then, I think, again, music is globalizing so much in the last five or ten years, you know. It’s not so localized anymore, where like you have to play minimal for five hours and take your time.
SmSh: What are your plans to tour this album? Are you and Damage going to tour behind it together?
DD: Yeah, there’s plans of a live show with Abi as well [Abigail Wyles, vocalist who appears on several tracks]. That will probably be a relatively condensed period and then also the focus of my career -- [sarcastically] career -- is Djing as well, because I enjoy it a lot and I want to continue being a DJ. It’s allows me more freedom as well. But yeah we’re definitely going to be touring together.
SmSh: What sorts of stuff are you DJing these days?
DD: It goes between -- well, it depends on the crowd as well -- but obviously I’ve been influenced a lot by house over the last few years and the spectrum of house from slower, more soulful stuff, to bumping it up to heavier, UK stuff. And I supposed techno as well, and if the crowd is up for it, grime… I’m of the thinking that in general people tend to be more open these days to different sorts of music -- it’s less so that you go out to a place and it’s just a drum ‘n’ bass night or just a deep house night all night. To me, I’ve always found that really boring, like listening to the same beat all night. 10 o’clock at night until 10 o’clock in the morning… On our release show party we went on as like a main set and then went back on and played disco for two hours.
If I get a chance I will definitely play disco wherever [laughs].
SmSh: So you’re hosted in Shaghai by Sub-Culture, who, at the risk of generalizing, has been pushing the dubstep agenda in Shanghai and hosting lots of UK dustep producers and DJs -- what’s you take on dubstep? How have you been rating dubstep and have you been influenced by the genre?
DD: Definitely yeah. It would be hard not to, coming from the UK and having an open mind to music… I mean I DJ bits of it here and there… and you can hear it in the music. I think it’s just a part of the culture now in a big way, you know what I mean.
I think, to me, our music sounds like us making house that sounds like jungle -- the jungle aesthetic is there with the synths and bass tones, but it’s just a more housey vibe.
SmSh: So I read somewhere that you got into house music really late and you were in rock bands when you were growing up. What kind of rock bands were you in…
SmSh: Or is that a closed chapter now and you wouldn’t like to talk about it at all… you don’t want it to get out there that you were in a Red Hot Chilli Peppers cover band or something.
DD: [Laughs.] Yeah, not far off. No, I was in a couple of good bands but it never really went anywhere -- sort of like snotty punk bands. But it was still important…
SmSh: House music is sort of the opposite end of the spectrum from snotty punk… what happened?
DD: I think I just started getting laid [laughs]. No, I think it’s when your teenage agro thing lessens you realize that girls are really quite cool and you would really quite like to dance with girls…
SmSh: So not really growing up in house music, was it this huge body of stuff that you discovered one day and have to rapidly educate yourself in it?
DD: Yeah, well until very recently I never really dug very deep into it. I actually came to house from broken beat, which is sort of a weird way to get into it, I think. We were just digging in this record store, and I was DJing drum ’n’ bass at the time, and then we just got into people like Quantic and stuff like that. And from that really I was getting into it -- picking up any record with no point of reference really -- just sort of organically. Generally, we were playing more percussive things and then more housey bits came into it like, ‘yeah this is dope’.
SmSh: What are some of the key records you can look back on that built your understanding of house then in that period…
DD: Just so many it’s sort of hard to narrow it down. Obviously, Quantic is a huge influence for me although I wouldn’t call him house in a million years. I don’t know… I definitely came at it from broken beat and in a sense that what I still make is broken beat but it’s become just a little bit more straight. And maybe I have more of an influence coming from my peers rather than older music.
For me, people used to tell me, “well you sound kind of like classic house” and I was having no idea what that is, you know what I mean [laughs].
I think that’s the nice thing about us lot making tunes is that it’s a bunch of guys kind of making music without that much reference.
SmSh: What’s going on with your own label, Ten Thousand Yen?
DD: The next release is a single with Abigail Wyles -- the singer that’s on the album. This is the single that kind of got us working together. And then following that is an EP from Mickey Pearce. Really happy with that. It’s fearless, fearless music. Fucking bonkers. And also coming up is something from Chesus in house music. Very excited for all of these. And the rest is secret… but it feels like it’s in a really good place. A real good place.
SmSh: You recently attended the Red Bull Music Academy with Cha Cha [Shanghai-based singer / producer, AM444, Uprooted Sunshine]. Are you guys going to be working together to put something out?
DD: Yes, we’ve been talking about it since the academy… so definitely. I like to work with people and focus properly with them, and hopefully we get some stuff done this weekend.
SmSh: What sorts of technical or aesthetic process or framework are you using to write songs?
DD: Well, my favourite way is to bring in stuff from outside the computer, into it – whether it’s like analogue synths or whatever -- recording with a mike… it’s gives it a different aesthetic to combine elements outside the box. You can always tell when a song has been written solely with a computer, you know what I mean.
So I always trying to bring stuff from outside, in, and it gives it a life somewhat. I think a tune has to be ‘living’, you know what I mean.
Oh, I don’t know… I’m probably talking a load of shit [laughs].
Doc Daneeka is the main event at this Saturday’s Sub-Culture. Taste the goods at his SoundCloud page.