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Danny Howard interview

Radio 1 dance titan Danny Howard has spent five years cutting his teeth on Saturday’s Dance Anthems show. However, next Friday (November 10) sees him step up to what he describes as the “mainstage” when he takes control of the 11pm-1am slot, right after his heroes Annie Mac and Pete Tong. He tells us more about the new show, his move to tastemaker status and the state of dance music

Dance Anthems has been your project for five years, what’s your vision for the new show?

The Friday night show is a completely separate, fresh new show headlined by own name. It will be more reflective of what I play out in the clubs. The 11pm – 1am slot means the listeners will either be well on their way into the weekend or on their way to the club, so it’s about bringing that club vibe to the airwaves. It’s going to be more of an underground tip than what people are used to hearing from me. It’s a complete flip and a challenge that I’m really excited about but it’s also me stepping up into more of a tastemaker role as opposed to a reflective one. 

We’ve seen a lot of success stories via the BBC Introducing platform but rarely any dance acts, what more would you like to do to showcase new talent with the Friday show?

I’ve been working closely with BBC Introducing to help them curate their first ever Creamfields stage and a small showcase at ADE but the new show will definitely be an outlet for up and coming dance music producers. Something that I said to Radio 1 when we were discussing me possibly doing the Friday night role was that I want to evolve into an influencer and have an impact on dance music globally. I want people to be able to say they first heard something on my show. Annie Mac and Pete Tong have been responsible for breaking tunes on Radio 1 and that’s exactly what I want to emulate in the future. 

My tune of the week will be called Friday Fire which will be my biggest tune of the week but also something that’s going off in the clubs that you need to know about. I’ll be doing a one hour live mix every week too. My Saturday mix was pre-recorded, which is fine, but I think there’s an authentic sound with a live mix that gives it an edge. 

Dance music’s ascent to the mainstream has been mooted to have slowed down, how much do you think this matters to maintaining the scene?

You don’t need mainstream acts to support the genre, dance music is always going to be there. It’s something that everyone says, but music goes in cycles and if dance music was always up in the mainstream it would get saturated quite quickly. Genres need almost a reset and I think that’s the period we’re in right now. This year’s big dance records haven’t crossed over into the mainstream like we’ve had in the previous five years with the likes of Duke Dumont, Gorgon City, MK and Route 94. That’s not a negative thing, I think it’s just a period that dance has to go through to reset itself.

How has the attitude to dance music changed in the five years you’ve been doing your show?

Definitely the mainstream major labels wanted to get in on the dance music acts. Major labels are there to jump on whatever is hot and feed that through to the mainstream, because dance music has had such a surge in the last few years it’s only natural that they get involved. I think it’s good for dance music when major labels come knocking, it can only filter down to the rest of us. 

The number of nightclubs in the UK dropped from 3,144 in 2005 to 1,733 in 2015 – what more do you think can be done to ensure their future?

I think a lot of dance music producers are going to go down the live route over the next few years. There was a point when it was all about bands, if you look at someone like Calvin Harris, who started in a band, he ditched that and went to DJing because it was easier and the crowd didn’t really care if it was a band or a DJ on stage as long as the music was good. People are no so immersed in dance music that they’re looking for something special so live performances are going to drive things. 

My Off the Beaten Track tour is a tour of small venues and it’s so important for those to stay open. Those places allow people at the start of their career to play to people who are just discovering dance music and provides a place for those who can’t afford to go to the big cities and pay £50 a ticket. As long as those artists, DJs and producers who are having their moment now don’t forget about the smaller venues outside of the big cities then the future will be OK. 

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