Seeing out 2018 will mean a Liverpool New Years Eve for Danny Howells, so ahead of the show, at Constellations for 303, Marko Kuletsa sat down with the legendary DJ.
Date published: 28th Dec 2018
After spending almost three decades in the top flight of British DJs, Danny Howells remains a very down to earth and modest figure. While other contemporaries who also mixed compilations for the esteemed Global Underground mix series might play at stadium-sized events, in the latter years of his career, Howells has honed in on playing smaller, more intimate venues, where he is known to interact close up and personal with his audience.
His draw and talent remain undiminished by doing so, he is forever a DJ with an enthusiasm for new music, one known for playing a wide variety of styles of house music.
Howells returns to another intimate setting this New Year's Eve and for the first time in so many years that he actually can't remember, it will be within a UK club. Howells plays the 303 New Year's Eve party at Constellations on 31st December, who themselves have had a stellar year with the likes of similar DJs such as Henry Saiz, John Digweed and Nick Warren.
Prior to doing so, we caught up with the globetrotter to ask him about the big night, his preparations for such and to reflect on why NYE is still the biggest night for so many ravers.
How different is playing on New Year's Eve compared to playing on any other night of the year?
Well, it's different in that you find yourself looking back at the year as a whole. For me personally, it's a good chance to pull out a few favourites from the last year and balance those with some of the unreleased things I have, which will come out next year. It's also a really relaxed night to play, surprisingly, because everyone's letting their hair down.
It sounds like it's not that dissimilar to a normal night for you.
Well, I'm not going to go out and play all old music just because it's New Year's Eve. That's not me. At the end of the day, it's always a good party, most people have a great night and hopefully don't suffer too much the next day!
Oh, God. I mean, they're always good. In recent years they've all been kind of similar. In fact, I've not done a New Year's Eve in the UK for so long that I can't even remember the last one I did. That's one of the reasons I'm so looking forward to this one; for a change, I'm going to be able to party with people I know!
But, in terms of overall experiences, I think I'd have to say the street party I did in Los Angeles in 2001 or 2002. They basically sealed off this whole street next to this huge downtown hotel and there must have been 20,000 people there. I played the midnight slot. It was crazy, a full-on, major party. The location was superb, so huge. It was epic. A sight that I'll never forget.
You mentioned you're looking forward to partying with some familiar faces for a change at this New Year's Eve. Where will people be coming down from?
Well, I have a long history of playing in Liverpool and when I do, you always get people coming down from Manchester for the night. I have a lot of mates from both cities who I was hanging around with from the really old days, back when I was doing places like Cream some 20 years ago! It just makes it different.
I think I played in Budapest last year and it was brilliant, really good fun, but there's something about playing to a home crowd and then being able to hang out with people you know. It's just going to make it a special occasion.
Are home crowds different from playing to ones overseas?
It varies, you know. You can't give a definitive answer. Every city has got different clubs, every club has different crowds. You have good nights and you have bad nights, you have nights where I play at my absolute best, where the crowd are amazing. There are so many different variables, it's not always just about the music, the crowd, the sound, the lighting, it's about everything.
For me, the UK is where I started playing and it's where I live, so it's always a bit special, but to do a New Year's Eve here is just something extra special.
If I'd asked you to compare those crowds 20 years ago, would you have given the same answer?
Ha! Probably not Back then, when I first started to play overseas, I'd already been playing in the UK for 8 or 9 years. So, when you first start going abroad, everything's amazing. It's only when you start doing it a lot more than you realise that a lot of places, within that nightclub scenario, are more or less the same.
So, yeah, I probably would have been incredibly enthusiastic about overseas gigs back then. Truth is, have you good and bad gigs. I think that's something which a lot of DJs aren't that honest about. If you listen to them, a lot of them will seemingly never have a bad gig. But that simply isn't the case.
So, the country in which you play this New Year's Eve is going to make for a nice change for you, but also the setting might also. You're playing in what is one of Liverpool's best intimate venues. It isn't comparable to a street party in LA for 20,000. Will you prepare any different for a gig like this?
Not really, because a lot of what I do now is based in smaller venues. If I go to Argentina, somewhere like that, I can end up playing some really big venues, but I still play my own style because they've always been very open to that. But 90% of the time I will be playing smaller venues.
That's down to two reasons, the fact that I actually prefer doing them, I prefer the intimacy, I prefer to be able to have that close connection to the audience and to be able to play exactly how I want without having the pressure of having to satisfy this huge crowd. And also it's due to the fact that my demand is not so great, I'm not in a position where I can sell out 2 or 3 thousand capacity venues.
So, my preparation will be the same; I'll go through all my new music and make sure that I'm covering all the different bases within the music that I love. The only difference here will be that I'll be throwing in a few tracks which I loved from this summer and the start of the year.
Who's really been doing it for you musically in this past year?
I can never answer this question. I'm so sorry. I put so many new tracks into my virtual crate every single week, such an influx of new names every week, it's impossible to single anyone out.
Has there not been a label for you that's been so consistent that when they pop up in your inbox, you can't wait to check out their new stuff?
To be honest, I don't really pay so much attention to labels. I don't really pay so much attention to artists. I shop. I don't do promos anymore. Apart from the physical shopping, which I still do on a weekly basis, I do my digital shopping from hearing what other people play.
I don't even look at what I'm buying much of the time, I just park everything into my new playlist and go through it. If I went back, I could probably pick out a few and maybe be surprised.
But, a lot of the people who keep cropping up, I guess, would be a lot of the deep house guys, like Jimpster, Pete Moss, Cassy, Ian Pooley. People like that. Consistent, they've been there year in, year out. Labels like Freerange I guess would be a good one for me, but that's just because they've been so consistent, they deliver almost every time.