It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, and to a point want to emulate them. Artists are even more susceptible to this because with success often times comes fame, money, and attention – everyone wants a little piece of that pie. But, when you begin to concentrate more on the aspirations of being that other person, you often times lose sight on who you are and what your realistic goals are.
When 35-year old veteran Trance producer, Danny Stubbs began DJ’ing some 17 years ago, he would play a favorite song to the point of his father coming to his bedroom and asking him to stop playing it because he’d heard it so many times! “I learned from an early age that I don’t do anything half-ass,” remembers Danny. “Once I’m committed to something, I’ll give it all I have until I completely exhaust myself, and sometimes my father!”
The art of mixing came easy enough to Danny, and he began to perform locally in many of the small clubs around his hometown of Stoke-On-Trent, England. As the first few years ticked away, he began to learn of a local artist, Andy Moor. “He lived just a couple of miles from me. I began to listen and realize that what he made was incredible.” But, production was never at the forefront of Danny’s mind. “I was happy with Dj’ing,” said Danny. “To be honest, I didn’t know if I could be good enough to produce.” It’s these feelings of self-doubt that would plague Danny to this day.
Danny and his grandfather were very close, and his passing took a terrible toll on him as he withdrew himself from working, and spent two months in a depression-filled delirium. “It wasn’t until one morning when I woke up and realized life is short. I wasn’t going to waste any more time,” Danny humbly remembers. “I needed to get moving, and instead of just thinking about things, I needed to act.”
Inspired by the level of creativity, time and effort production involved, Danny enrolled in a music production college course, but quickly found that he was learning more on his own than what the course offered. “I really didn’t get anything out of the class that I paid a fair amount of money for,” said Danny. “So, I ended up dropping the class.”
After producing his first couple of tracks, Danny began sending them to his acquaintance, Andy without realizing the magnitude of where Andy was in his career with Armada and the successes that came along with it. “He was being kind at first,” remembered a laughing Danny. “He would tell me, ‘yeah, it’s good, but you might want to change this or that.’ I must have been really annoying because they were basically shit tracks that I had made on an early version of Cubase, and it was music that he wasn’t even into!”
Still committed though, Danny pushed on and was fortunate enough to meet another local artist, Mick Park (Tilt) and the two began to work together under the name STARK (Stubbs and Park). “We did remixes for Paul Oakenfold and Boy George,” said a proud Danny. “I also engineered some Tilt originals for Lost Language including, ‘Your Love’ feat. Sam Mollison and ‘Other Day’ feat. Maria Naylor.”
Danny went on to remix and release with Solarstone on his labels, Solaris, Touchstone, and Pure Trance. “One of my Solaris releases, “Secrets” got the attention of Scott Bond which led to regular Gatecrasher bookings,” recalled Danny. “We went on to create an Armada track under the alias, Catalyst.” On the back end of this, Danny furthered his career with track releases on Baroque and Discover. Eventually, Danny launched his own label, Empress Recordings. “I got the title from the Childlike Empress in the book, “The Neverending Story” because I loved that feeling of magic and mystic,” said Danny.
“Everything was happening so fast,” remembered Danny. “I was ready to quit my job and become this rock and roll star DJ!” What Danny didn’t realize that although these were great personal accomplishments, it still wasn’t enough to break the mold into the elite of an ever-growing saturated dance music market. What they did lead him to was a period of self-doubt, breakdown, and personal disappointments.
“I thought I was going to be that guy,” said a somber Danny. “I was looking at all the other artists out there, seeing their social media with them traveling the circuit and playing every weekend, and wondering why I wasn’t one of them.” Danny continued, “It got to the point where the music and my label were the last things I wanted to concentrate on. It wasn’t even an emotional outlet like it was before.
Taking a break from releasing music, Danny took a step back to refocus his efforts. “I needed to understand that you can’t force a situation,” Danny proclaimed. “You’ve got to let things happen naturally.” Probably the most remarkable thing through all his trials and tribulations thus far was that he had never heard one of his songs played live by another DJ. Well, that and the course of the rest of his life was about to change.
Danny began to produce again and had written a track, “Skyscrapers” feat. Natasha Cadman and was interested in having it signed to Perfecto Records. One early 2017 evening while at a Sheffield bar having drinks with close friends and fellow Perfecto fans, The Oakenfolk, he was met in the hotel reception by Paul Oakenfold who was scheduled to play Gatecrasher later on that night. Little did Danny know that this meeting was pre-arranged by Mick and Tariq Ahmed, one of Perfecto’s A&R.
After inviting Danny up to his own hotel room, Paul listened to the mastered track on his laptop and not only played it that night during his performance but signed the track the next day. “I had never heard any of my music played before,” exclaimed Danny. “Paul asked me how it sounded and me, being my own worst critic said that it could’ve been played louder, but Paul adamantly disagreed.” This led to Paul asking Danny to remix “Broken” with Mick Park and was the opening track on his Mount Everest compilation.
“It got crazy from there,” Danny nervously said. “Mick and I did a rework of one of U2’s songs from their new album which was just meant to be a DJ promo but ended up being sent to Will Atkinson for play on BBC Radio 1.” Paul would go on to play the rework for ten consecutive weeks on his Planet Perfecto radio show while Rich Solarstone played it live during a Buenos Aires performance.
This support led to U2’s management talking with their engineer, Howie B. and finally passing the rework onto the band who gave the final approval for an official release on Universal Records. “You can imagine the immense feeling of gratitude and excitement to have this happen,” described Danny.
Still though, Danny is hesitant when it comes to marketing his own music. “I like everything that I create, but I’m not the kind of guy that likes to push it in front of other people’s faces,” declared Danny. “It’s kind of like when people are trying to sell you something, you’re not going to be as interested or excited about it if you found it on your own.” A noble way of looking at things certainly, but in this day and age of everyone promoting their own music, Danny has never played one of his own tracks during a live performance.
That will soon change as the nervous yet excited Danny received a phone call from Bo Van Eck, founder of Luminosity Events – one of the larger Trance festivals in the world – and has been asked to open the main stage during this year’s event. “It’s only six weeks away,” shouted Danny. “I’m still pinching myself into believing that this is really happening!” A wonderful producer who enjoys his time in the studio nowadays more than DJ’ing, Danny will need the confidence to begin playing his own material for the purest Trance crowd. Note: Danny began by offering Trance Farm this exclusive Producer Set.
Danny has also reunited with his own acquaintance, Andy Moor who has asked Danny to join him on a trip to Los Angeles for his and Ian Standerwick’s show at Avalon Hollywood. “We’ve just really hit it off here lately and become really good friends.”
The opportunities are finally coming for Danny, and in his mind, this is indeed the rebirth of him as an artist and as a person.
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