Danny Rampling is widely credited as one of the original founders of the UK’s rave/club scene, but his love for house music didn’t really start until a chance holiday to Ibiza in 1987, Rampling, along with fellow DJs Paul Oakenfold and Nicky Holloway, attended Amnesia, a then open air nightclub in San Rafael. At the club the group were introduced to the unique eclectic style of DJ Alfredo, playing, among other genres, the new house music that had been exported from the USA.
Upon his return to England, Rampling attempted to recreate the Ibiza experience by promoting what is regarded as the UK’s first Balearic rave club, Shoom. Shoom ran for three years, starting out at a gym in Southwark, London. It was a launching point for what we now know as acid house and defined a generation of clubbers and still has large ramifications in the industry today.
Our Daz Pearson takes time out to speak to the legendary, yet humble Danny Rampling.
Hi Danny and welcome to Decoded Magazine it’s a pleasure for the opportunity to chat with you. How are you today?
I’d like to begin with how you first got into music which I believe was from a very young age of 9 years old. Is there a specific record or memory which struck a chord where from then on you never looked back?
I began listening to music at a very young age listening to radio daily my mother would have the radio playing in the family home and I became obsessed with the sounds being transmitted from the radio and how it was possible to broadcast music through the medium of radio. Early records which were played at family parties which are probably my earliest memories are Jerry Lee Lewis Great balls of fire the rock and roll anthem.
At what point was the house music scene at when your involvement began to progress to a professional level?
My DJ career became professional when I created Shoom after a few years of attempting to break into the London closed shop club/warehouse party scene . Radio also underpinned my success professionally going from an unknown late night shift presenter to peak time with Kiss FM London when it was a pirate station and the sound of young London created by Gordon Mac. He had the vision and gave me an opportunity with no presenting experience on radio to be part of at the time an exciting new ground breaking station. House music also gave me like thousands of other DJs the break we were waiting for patiently. We created our own opportunity through House Music as opportunity was very limited and in the hands of a select few DJs and promoters pre House music scene.
How did your friendship begin and later develop with Paul Oakenfold and Nicky Holloway?
I met Nicky in Ibiza and became his DJ assistant over a Four year period, where I learned so much about the craft and business of promoting events. Later on Nicky introduced me to Paul who was working for Def jam records at the time and brought all the artists over on a UK tour which was huge at the time Run DMC Beastie Boys LL Cool J later we all went to Ibiza to celebrate Paul’s birthday and history was made.
It was during a holiday to Ibiza in 1987 with Paul and Nicky you were introduced to the sound of the Balearics and DJ Alfredo. The island has changed dramatically over the last 27 years but what have been in your eyes the most influential developments which have maintained the kudos as the biggest party island in the world?
Ibiza has always and in my opinion always have a strong musical culture there’s something magical about the island and how music sounds different on the island which really coined the term Balearic beats. Ibiza has always been about high end clubs and a vibrant music hub Space and Pacha at the forefront, and it will continue to be a relatively expensive place to party. Club prices have always been on high side drinks entrance since the 70s 80s. Ibiza has always been the glam jet set /euro trash island and had lost that for a while in the early 90s however now the island has reclaimed that title alongside places like St Tropez and Miami. The island standards have improved and that in my opinion is a positive change in modern times logistically. I have played some great sets on the Space terrace, one of those sets was written about by Stephen Armstrong in his book The White Island.
Inspired from returning from the white isle in 1987 your club night Shoom was launched and later became one of the first seminal Acid House club nights in London which was regarded as the UK’s first Balearic rave club. What were the challenges faced promoting such a successful event for over 20 years?
The challenges of promoting an event in the early days were keeping the local police happy as we were an unlicensed venue in a small 300 capacity fitness club in the basement. Lucozade became the drink of choice at Shoom, and thereafter the rave scene adopted it increasing the brands popularity with the youth market and it then became re branded as an energy drink because their marketing team had experienced the music scene that was booming. Shoom helped create that change and a complete unique positive shift in youth culture and collective consciousness. Shoom was also a place of celebration fun uplifting colourful happy optimistic not a dark dingy moody underground club, but a complete riot of colour and hedonism and the new ground breaking sound of House and Techno, and Balearic beats.
There must have been some crazy nights over the years and many laughs. Can you share any funny stories with us?
Well there have been many over the years, but one that stands out like some comedy sketch was at Dance Valley Festival in Holland, and had needed to get from A to B quite quickly and the driver wasn’t present and decided to take myself there in this golf buggy across the festival site to go to the main stage. I ended up accidentally reversing it into an oak tree, and ended up out somehow outside of the gate. And the promoters were looking for me… it isn’t something would like to repeat, but it is quite funny and the Dutch found the whole thing rather hilarious.
Event promotion has evolved dramatically with the introduction of social media and the internet. What promotion tips would you say are critical for successful events today which are often overlooked?
On a conservative small operation size venture you still cannot beat viral word of mouth marketing there has to be social proof to make any night become great. That means getting out there and promoting face to face and spreading the word coupled with social media, Facebook or Twitter promotion alone will not make a night a guaranteed success, it’s part of the process but not the most powerful delivery build a team to help with promotions cut others in on ticket deals leverage contacts to assist as no man is an island.
Off the back of your very successful Kiss FM radio show Your “Love Groove Dance Party” launched In November 1994 on BBC Radio 1, which run until March 2002 making it the second longest running dance music show on radio after Pete Tong’s “Essential Selection. How did you get the opportunity to move to the BBC and what were the biggest rewards you walked away with from the experience?
Due to my success hosting a prime time Saturday slot with Kiss fm I was invited to be part of the changing face of BBC Radio1 spearheaded by station controller Matthew Bannister and Pete Tong. BBC R1 approached me from Kiss along with my other Kiss contemporaries on the first wave Tim Westwood and Giles Peterson later followed by Judge Jules. R1 made a negative impact unfortunately to Kiss taking some of the stations key presenters at that time. It was an offer none of us refused as Kiss only broadcast to London area and this was ahead of internet radio broadcasting. My experience at Radio 1 improved my skills as a radio presenter and also taught me about the internal world of the BBC. I lived the dream as a kid I used to dream of being a presenter on Radio 1 and made that happen in my life, incredible experience and helped change the face of Radio 1 and British club culture. The R1 weekend shows between us all underpinned the nation’s boom in clubs all over the country it was the golden era of UK clubbing.
What have been some of your most favourite and influential moments across the evolution of house music to present day, and which era would you personally like to see a revival of and why?
That dirty tribal twisted American sound made my Danny Tenaglia, Junior Vasquez, Murk, Angel Moraes, and Peter Rahoufer. It was an amazing period of the New York sound the clubs were awesome Twilo, The Sound Factory, The Roxy, and The Tunnel and the Tenaglia early Groove Jet Miami WMC parties. It was very special to have been part of that sound. My radio shows and playing alongside some of those DJs and being present at 6am on those dance floors at that time. The music was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously, and all the bitch tracks of that genre are brilliant. Tony Humphries greatly influenced my sound and so many other DJs in the early days with his sets at Zanzibar in New Jersey and his mix shows on NY 98.7 kiss radio vocal house at its best. Also hearing DJ Alfredo play when Amnesia was an open air club was a life changing experience and the early days of the evolving Acid House scene. Red Zone with David Morales was also a great period for the NY club scene and the late great Frankie Knuckles at the Sound Factory and Sound Factory bar. The Italian House sound of early 90s was wonderful upbeat and funky sound and breaking so many of those tracks in the UK after my trips to Italy sourcing music and playing the clubs in Italy. Not forgetting the Trance sound of the 90’s also had an incredible energy.
Where are you with your DJ style and sound at present?
I play a broad mix of Electronic music, music to celebrate and dance to, and to escape the pressures of everyday life to music that uplifts the soul and spirit not dull ploddy boring music on the dance floor there’s too much of that on dance floors in recent times.
You will be playing Cream Birmingham 8th year anniversary on 6th December at the Rainbow Complex alongside David Morales, a US house music legend.How significant was the rise of US house music in relation to the UK house music scene?
David has been a good friend for many years and without the 80s influence of European bands like Kratfwerk, Depeche Mode and others it’s unlikely Techno would have evolved with its producers creators in Detroit and without the sound of Disco and Chicago’s Frankie Knuckles Ron Hardy and New York’s Larry Levan, the House scene in Europe would have been very different. The US paved the way musically for us all to do what we love playing producing music. We took the US House sound to a wider audience in the UK and Europe and US house music producers became stars overseas. The US is repeating history now taking influences from the European sound of rave Hard House / Trance and created the US sound of EDM and creating mega star USA DJs on home soil.
What are your thoughts on the US scene of late?
The USA scene has exploded recently EDM is huge and has turned a new generation onto Electronic high energy music with lots of songs is overall positive for the music industry and club festival scene. EDM has as the UK scene in its inception has on a mass scale opened up a wealth of opportunity for many people to create careers and be part of something special. To some EDM is the anti Christ musically however 300 thousand kids at EDC and the popularity of the Ultra music’ festival in Miami and the Vegas scene coupled with major support from US commercial radio has created a massive new young audience of electronic dance music fans .Long term this will have a snowball effect where those kids taste are likely to change and become more interested in the history culture and other genres of electronic music .I see parallels to what we collectively created pioneered in the UK rave scene at the beginning .
Your wife Ilona is also a DJ and producer who you have a very close working relationship with as Mr + Mrs Rampling. How did you both meet and how is the chemistry between you both in the booth?
We first met at a charity event for The Terrence Higgins HIV charity which I am a patron of at the Ten Bells Pub in east London the chemistry synergy was instant as if we had known each other for many years although it took nearly a year for us to become a couple after a number of dates and after parties at The Shed in E London we eloped to the romantic historical Gretna Green and married in Scotland 2013. We share so many congruent interests in life, Ilona is a great DJ outstanding technical ability music knowledge and the skill of reading crowds, we learn from one another in the booth it’s a learning curve and I never imagined myself DJing as a duo with anyone over the years, and now I DJ with my wife which is great fun. Iona’s been Djing for over 10 years and was prominent DJ on the Psy trance scene also at the time signed to Dragonfly records and a regular on the east London scene in more recent times. We have something very special and love travelling together to play at gigs across the globe. We are also producing music and hope to see our first release this year on a project we commenced in 2013.
For those who don’t know you have a book published titled ‘Everything You Need To Know About DJing & Success’ which shares your wealth of experience in the industry and also available to download digitally fromlearnhowtobeadj.com. Leading onto my next question what are your thoughts on how the industry has evolved over the years to how it is at present?
The industry has evolved at a rapid pace technology advances have transformed our industry to a wider audience and the way we play as DJs with the abundance of new technology kit we have the pleasure of using as our tools with the craft of DJing. The super club era of the 90’s has paved the way for the stadium acts Tiesto and Guetta of today. So many people want to be DJs more than ever part of this unfortunately is driven by huge fame and riches as DJ fees on the stadium circuit run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, like any profession an element of luck and a solid business plan and commercial production creates the handful who become superstars. Unfortunately not all reach this level and many fall by the wayside moving onto other life paths as fame and money do not happen quick enough. It still starts with an unbreakable passion for music and sticking with your dream long term being motivated and committed in the quest to make it. For a elect lucky few it can happen relatively fast in today’s industry and others it can take years. Other important advice try to avoid playing for free in commercial venues bars clubs restaurants you are in a business like any business and you work and have associated costs, do not play for free if possible as it’s a slippery slope where some business operators operate this way and may take advantage of inexperience and ambitions and is damaging the start up market for DJs beginning a career.
What advice would you give to the new breed DJ battling for their break onto the scene, above and beyond talent what else is paramount to be heard and seen above everyone else?
Networking is essential more than ever being seen at all the right events seminars music industry gatherings which can be costly. The obvious producing music learning early on how to make music either committing 10,000 hours alone in your studio to become accomplished or attend a production school. What’s great about the present is there’s a wealth of video content online to help develop skills from DJing to production and how to get the best out of new equipment. Personal branding and Image is important and having a professional business plan setting targets goals along the way. Get into it because you love music first and foremost and not just for the glamour fame money that comes with hard smart work for a select few like any industry.
In 2005 you announced your retirement from DJing which thankfully wasn’t indefinitely. Why did you make this decision and what other projects were you dedicated too during this period of your life?
I took a break made an exit from Djing rather than retirement as I became a father and was on the road worldwide weekly and believed it wasn’t a conducive lifestyle and had a desire to create other opportunities. Taking time away from Djing provided me the available time to write a book on the subject everything you need to know about DJing and success, I would not have found the time to write and produce the book being on the road and became a published author, which is an achievement the book was produced over a two year period from the starting point to the published copy .At the end of the day Music is my core passion and however I was feeling at that certain time, you just can’t take away that from someone who lives and breathes it and realised I was making a wrong choice after a short absence and got back doing what I love and do best. Music!
As well as the above you also contribute too many other charity activities including the Amy Winehouse Foundation, Save the Children, Help for Heroes and the Terrence Higgins Trust. Why is charity work so important to you?
I am very fortunate to live a blessed life through hard work and ambition to be successful in music and always thoughtful of hardship those less fortunate and give back through service where possible to charity it’s the universal law pass it on and be giving grateful.
OK, back to music. In Dec 2012 Shoom celebrated its 25th anniversary at Cable in London, which unfortunately has now closed, with a line up including Derrick May, Bushwacka! Farley and Heller, Alfredo and your wife Ilona. What are your fondest memories from the night and what was the final tune of the night?
There was no final tune of the night as Shoom main room merged with Jaded during Derrick May’s epic set he was brilliant as always. The fondest memories of the night was seeing so many original Shooters still upholding the spirit of Acid House with many new clabbers who were there to be part of something very special cultural. The event sold out within an hour .Everyone who attended speak very fondly of that night at cable it was a huge success with a great deal of work behind the scenes to deliver the event. Cable was such a great club and is missed by the London club scene. The whole weekend passed so quickly andwas so busy behind the scenes with the management of the event. All the DJs played great sets and was wonderful to see so many original regulars after so many years still loving the vibe dancing alongside new music heads.
If you could pick a record you wish you had produced yourself what would it be?
Love Sensation Loletta Holloway Relight My Fire Dan Hartman where love lives Alison Limerick Hardfloor Acperience. Ilona’s choice -Prince erotic city. Timeless productions.
Which producers are you following closely at the moment and why?
Steve Mac with his Black rock records sound one of the most talented UK producers, Maceo Plex always delivers, Mat Playford has a great new album and again outstanding talent. The Cucharacha’s chunky percussion led tech house London production team. Also out of London Jim Warboy’s productions and Andy Blake Dolly Rockers and Nick Hook also have a good sound. Night Safari also is the new collaboration with D. Ramirez and Guy Williams.
Finally is there anything else you would like to tell us about that you have planned for 2014/15?
Ilona and myself will be releasing a series of productions throughout 2015 that’s the main point of focus to create hits and get a Grammy nomination.