In 1991, he helped shaped the early LA rave scene with Doc Martin, Pasquale Rotella, and more. Years later, he dominated San Francisco as part of the Funky Tekno Tribe. In 2001, he founded InStereo, a label that’s helped launch the careers of Wolfgang Gartner, Robbie Rivera, and more.
We caught up with DJ Dan to talk about his illustrious career and his most recent release on DIRTYBIRD with Enky Jane—’Tubulence’.
Your productions are known for spanning a broad musical spectrum; but it seems with this release you’re really returning to your roots. What have been the inspirational forces pushing you back toward this direction?
I personally like to cover a lot of ground in my DJ sets, and for this track in particular, I wanted to do something that captured my early influences of Kraftwerk—but also something that I could hear being played along with some of the DIRTYBIRD tracks that I’ve been playing.
Fans of both you and the DIRTYBIRD brand seem ecstatic over this union; can you expand on your personal history with the imprint and why now feels like the perfect time to join for a release?
I’ve known and played with Barclay (Claude VonStroke) as well as many other DIRTYBIRD artists for many years now; I’ve also been playing their tracks in my DJ sets. My inspiration for this release was when I played with Claude at Halcyon in SF recently. I was very inspired by his set and wanted to deliver something I could hear in both his and my gigs so I got together with Enky Jane and created “Turbulence.” Claude surprised me by playing it at the DIRTYBIRD barbecue in LA while I was there, and that’s how I knew it was getting picked up by the label. I was very excited!
Tell us about the inspiration behind yours and Enky Jane’s single on the Summer Sampler.
The inspiration was Kraftwerk to start but I wanted it to have a more driving tech house energy. I wanted to do a track that would cross genres that I could hear being played by many different artists
Your career is fabled and enduring; what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in achieving artistic success, fulfillment, and drive over the years?
I have been playing for some promoters for over 25 years now and we all keep growing artistically. That keeps me inspired. I always try to deliver my best in my DJ sets as well as my studio productions, and I treat the promoters and the people who support me like family. At the end of the day, truth over time equals trust. I stay inspired by being true to myself and what I love and am passionate about bringing people together on the dancefloor.
On a similar note, InStereo is approaching its 20th birthday. What are a few of the releases that have really defined and embodied the label and its ethos over the years?
One of my favorite artists (and friends) are WhiteNoize…..their track “Insecure” has been one of our most successful releases to date along with many others from those guys. I was very excited to release my remix album which included three Salsoul tracks that I remixed, as well as my recent album “Full Circle” because it captures the early hip-hop influences as well as funk, techno, acid house and disco.
What sets the West Coast apart from other music scenes in your eyes? Have you ever thought about living elsewhere? If so, what kept you from taking the leap?
When I finished college in Seattle I swore I was moving to NYC because I loved the fast pace energy of the city but somehow I ended up trying LA first. I eventually fell in love with SF and moved there for 6 years. I’m now back in LA but still miss SF and I just can’t imagine living anywhere else than California. I think there is a certain psychedelic funk that we have on the west coast that is very unique to us and it really comes out in the music.
You’ve talked before about anxiety as a performer and artist, especially in a live setting. Can you impart some wisdom on our readers on how to handle this and re-establish your center/calm? What about maintaining mental health in general as a busy artist?
I’ve always found it very important to have a quiet time or just chill with close friends before a set. The energy at a party can be very intense but I am there to play a great set and to be present to the crowd so I have to save up my mental energy for the journey I intend to take them on. That is something I was not always good at but have learned to pace myself and save my best energy for my set. Oh and my biggest advice to maintaining mental health is knowing when to leave the after party! [laughs]
Tell us about your huge archive of 45s. What are some of your most prized records from the collection and how did you come to own them?
One of my most cherished 45’s is a disco record by Joe and Lee called “Black Gold Disco Moving Machine” that came out in 1979. I hunted for this record for years and actually sampled it and put it on an album entitled “Nothing But A Party”. Another prized record is Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Blow Your Whistle. I still play this 45 in my vinyl sets from time to time; this one I found digging at Vinyl Exchange in Manchester England, which is hands down the best record store to find rare gems. Another one of my favorites is Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band is “Scorpio.” I found this one in a random book store in Cleveland Ohio. I could go on forever but I am very proud to have over 250 rare funk and disco records that I still play and sample today.
On that note, what are your favorite record shops to dig at around the globe?
Vinyl Exchange in Manchester, England….. Bill’s Records in Dallas Texas……Gramophone Records in Chicago……Piccadilly Records in Manchester, and Amoeba Records in LA and San Francisco.
What else is going on in the DJ Dan pipeline?
I am currently hitting the studio pretty hard working on a few remixes for InStereo as well as a secret alias that I will be unleashing later this year. After the release of my latest album Full Circle, I have decided to just focus on singles and collaborating with some of my favorite artists like Enky Jane, Fleetwood Smack, and Ant Brooks. I will be doing my usual tour dates as well as an upcoming date with Dolby Laboratories in Atmos at their space in Soho. I did one date already at Halcyon in SF but I am very excited to play their Legends Of House Showcase in Atmos in NYC.
Listen to “Turbulence” by DJ Dan and Enky Jane on DIRTYBIRD Summer Sampler below and purchase now on Beatport.