“...the crowd will let you know if they like what you’re doing, and if they think its good, I feel that calling to keep on doing it.”
I was surrounded by swords and shields and all sorts of fantastic medieval paraphernalia, yet it was difficult to feel anything but an aura of comfortable hospitality as the most beloved beat jockey in the country welcomed me into his home. Apparently, his habit of making people feel good on the dance-floor carries over into his everyday life. He’s polite, he’s down-to-earth, and he’s extremely positive and personable, smiling and laughing his way through the entire session. It’s not often you get the chance to meet one of your musical heroes and walk away with even more respect than when you first walked in, but Dan Wherritt made it extremely easy.
As he led me to a sitting lounge underneath a gazebo in his backyard, I couldn’t help but notice the acute attention to detail in the design and decoration of his English Tudor style home. Elegant stone pathways weaving their way through an array of lush vegetation…carefully crafted castle-style awnings… branded black steel rails and trimmings…and a tasteful renaissance-era scheme adorning the modernized interior. The same sort of attention he pays to his craft. As we sat down, our introductory banter subsided and we wasted no time in finding out what DJ Dan ‘the man’ was really all about…his career, his hardships, the music he loves, and what lies ahead. But first, what got him here to begin with. “My dad was in the army, was a Vietnam vet, and was real hardcore with my other brothers and sisters. But he never messed with me. It was so weird. And he asked me one day ‘do you know why I don’t mess with you?’ I was 5, I had no idea. He’s like ‘cuz I know one day you’re going to do something with your life, and you’re going to be an artist and you’re going to be successful and you’re going to be creative…you’re going to be a painter or musician, or something”
As if by omen, you’d figure with that sort of support and encouragement, all fear and doubt would simply be nonexistent, but as with most anyone whose art serves as an extension of their heart rather than a bragging right, the uncertainty couldn’t help but linger. “For years I thought I was gonna switch careers, thinking, this can’t last forever. Even at the peak times, I thought, well, maybe I’ll get back into design or something. But every time I thought ‘I should get out of it’, I end up doing a track or something, and the crowd will let you know if they like what you’re doing, and if they think it’s good, I feel that calling to keep on doing it.”
It’s quite ironic that Dan was doubtful during the explosion of electronic music in the 90s, yet as it currently rests in one of it's more substantial slumps, he remains extremely optimistic about its future and our involvement. He looks at it more like a maturation phase. “Once our generation, which is about to, really crosses over to the other side into like, executive heads and production and that whole thing, they have been into this music, its been a way of life for them a long time, so of course it’s going to be embraced even more. I mean how many house music producers do you know that have to get second jobs when you know that they’re so talented and that’s all they should be doing? I definetly think this is like the calm before the storm. It’s gonna be good. I definitely think it will.”
And what about all the legal legislation aimed at squashing exactly at that sort of thinking? There’s no question that they have successfully been able to keep the size and intensity of the scene to a bare minimum. “I think we’re going to have to swallow that pill. We really don’t have too many choices,” he told us. “I don’t mean selling out to the man, I just think we need to meet them halfway…do what we have to do to keep it going until we can change the rules again. It seems right now it’s kind of in a cooling off period, like it has a chance to sort of redeem itself as long as we cooperate. I mean, who knows what’s going to happen. Hopefully, we’re gonna get a new president.”
Amen! And what about the face of the music? What survival skills must the dance music scene learn in order to insure against itz extinction? I’ll go into a record store today and it’s hard to differentiate between what I hear now and what I heard last year. How can we extend the limit of itz creativity? “Well, it really seems like the cool hiphop heads are into house music. It seems like, on the side, they really admire it and are really into it. I hear more people producing house music with hip-hop bass-lines. To me, that’s really exciting because I’ve always been into both, it’s just that they’ve never yet merged properly. I did a Tribe Called Quest remix for Jive-Electro a while back, and if I do an artist album, I would definetly look at that. I just haven’t found the right someone who could rap…I certainly couldn’t, I mean, could you imagine?”
Don’t quit your day job Dan!
“Right. Actually let’s not imagine!”
“But I mean, hip-hop was at one time an underground form of electronic music that had to make its way forward, and it’d be nice to see one hand help the other one out. It seems like it possibly could right now, but it’s going to take everyone to get on the same page to try to push that.”
“I won’t name any names but there are some record stores in LA I just don’t fuck with. I remember before I actually made it, nobody took me seriously in some of them. I’ve always tried to be very humble, just sort of get by and do my thing, and in a lot of record stores, I felt like I had to fight to get anything out of them, to get any respect, so now there’s certain stores that rub me the wrong way. I like it when I see just an average person come up and ask for good records and they go out of their way to help them…thatz why I like This is Music. It’s probably my favorite record store in LA. They’re really cool and there’s no fuckin’ bullshit.”
And that’s the kind of guy Dan is.
The confidence of a statesman, though the genuineness of a commonsman, he leaves us feeling better than when we first showed up.
“Just, keep passionate about it,” he advises. “Don’t get discouraged by what’s happening. Everything’s sorta taking its hits right now, but I know for a fact that it’s going to come back up and when it does, the people that are really into it for the right reasons will still be there, to make their statement…tell their story. Like I said, our generation will start getting into those lead positions, choosing and making music for various reasons, so we’ve just got to keep the faith in it. Just keep doing it, because it’ll come back and, when it does…it’ll be good!”
Who are we to argue!
(This was originally published in WAV Magazine, which gave birth to Kotori Magazine, in the Spring of 2004. Click here for a PDF of the full print magazine, which also includes interviews with Saul Williams, The Crystal Method, the Frames and much more.)