Today we have the pleasure of hosting a mix and interview from Canada’s own Dan Only. Appearing on our radar back in 2017 with his debut release on New Kanada, he’s since blessed us with two further works on Berlin’s revered Dirt Crew Recordings. An eclectic artist who makes groovy house tracks one second and fierce electro-infused breaks the other, Dan Only is an artist who’s always kept us on our toes. Fresh off the back of the of his similarly multi-faceted ‘Fragments’ EP on Dirt Crew Recordings, we’ve had a chat with Danny about his musical past, future and everything in between.
Hey Danny, thanks for taking the time to record this gorgeous mix for us! Anything you’d like to tell us about the mix? Any specific genre, mood or idea you had on your mind when recording?
I was looking to keep this mix as eclectic as possible. I didn’t want it to be driven strictly by four on the floor or be rooted in just one genre. You’ll hear it twist and turn, much in the same way that I like to approach my DJ sets and my production. I also wanted to showcase some tunes from some homies so there’s a couple sprinkled in throughout.
So how did you end up where you are? Care to enlighten us about your musical roots a little?
Music has been in my life in some way or another for a very long time, but I think my obsession with it all began when I started playing guitar when I was about 10. I was taking piano lessons prior to that but always hated classical training so I really pushed that off to the side. I was also fortunate enough to go to an arts school from a young age and that allowed me to play into my musical inclinations. I decided to stop lessons all together by the time I got to high school and then just remained self-taught. My biggest regret, hands-down, is not having taken piano more seriously and seeing it all the way through as a kid. That being said, my rudimentary knowledge has really lent itself well to my musical output – and as you can probably tell by most of my productions, I tend to lean towards melodic content rather than purely textural or percussive elements.
Electronics also entered my life quite early on too. I got my hands on a microKorg when I was 13 or 14 and that was my introduction to synthesizers. It could produce such a broader range of sounds than my guitar or bass, so I was instantly hooked. Around the end of grade 11 I became fascinated with the idea of production and started to mess around with Reason and Ableton. I blame Burial’s Untrue as the record that really made me want to produce. That record really captivated me and showed me the vastness that just one person can create. And now here I am – years later, many studio setups later, and still as naive and eager to experiment as I was, only with more technical knowledge.
I know that you’re very much into hardware, do you intend on putting that to use with a live show?
The idea of a live show has crossed my mind a couple of times, but it would mean I stop creating new music and focus on reinterpreting my existing material into a live context (this could be a good thing though as the vaults are getting too deep). The prep involved also seems to be a little too removed from the way that I generally tend to write my music so I’ve been neglecting it. I’m also destined to figure out a way of doing it without a computer so that less is in the way in terms of potential technological failures. The last thing I want is a computer glitching out on stage.
Another fear of mine is also touring with vintage hardware. I think I’d like to get my hands on gear that’s dedicated just for live use instead, but this is also just me justifying more gear purchases.
Despite my skepticism, if I were to do a live PA set in the near future it would consist of an Octatrack, an MPC2000XL, a mono synth of some sort (like an SH101 or 303 Clone) and something that could cover poly duties.
I feel like I’ve heard you mention other band projects. Could you tell us a little about those?
No real band projects of my own, but I’ve been lucky enough to share the stage with River Tiber in the past, as well as play with A l l i e for a couple of her live shows. Some of my recent studio output has also been more organic leaning and has relied a lot less on drum machines and synths and more so towards live production, and this is probably the closest I’ve gotten to a band project.
My studio partner, Gray Rowan, and I have also been working on stuff well outside the realm of dance music since we’ve started sharing a studio space, and we’ve managed to find an interesting middle ground. The first of these collaborative productions to see the light of day is A l l i e’s most recent single “Hi-Lite”. I’m hoping some more of our productions will be released before the year is out.
The studio has also been a revolving door of local talent over the last year so it’s been incredibly inspiring getting in the same room as different producers, vocalists and musicians. It’s really taught me a lot in terms of the countless ways you can approach music making and you’re constantly learning from every experience.
… but still – no band lol.
Your last release came out less than a month ago. It shows loads of variation, with blissed-out house cuts spanning one side while electro-infused breaks are on the other. What’s next? Do you think you’ll find and settle for any particular sound in the future?
Firstly, a huge shoutout to Dirt Crew for believing in those tracks. I was super excited when I sent over the demos and they showed interest in the full variety of sounds. I’m extremely grateful that they gave me an opportunity to showcase all of that on one release.
My sound has always been informed by a mix of House, Techno, UKG, Breaks & Electro and I think it’ll continue to be a mix of all those. My more recent productions are definitely getting darker, deeper & heavier though. But once again, different day, different mood, different output.
I don’t think I like the idea of settling into one sound. My taste for music is eclectic, and so is my hunger for production. I do think there is something that inherently glues all my work together, and whatever that is, I won’t be able to shake that, but I always like to approach my production with different intent or with a different production process in mind. Constantly switching up how you start an idea, or simply forcing yourself to use a certain piece of kit can help change up the sound and keep it diverse. I think I’m gonna keep hopping around for now until someone tells me to stop. I’m also just trying to keep the music making process fun and exciting.
Is deejaying something you enjoy? How does it fit in with your vision as a producer?
I do love DJing, but it’s something that I truly enjoy most when I’m getting instant feedback from a group of moving bodies. There’s something extremely special about sharing that energy and seeing people react that really does it for me. Even if it’s just one body on the dance floor, whoever is in on that journey with me, that’s the reward that I’m looking for.
DJing is also an opportunity for me to test out my productions on a sound system, so I do truly love it for that. I started producing after learning how to DJ with the intent of getting to play out my own music so why not leverage that – to me it’s a great way to welcome a group of people into my world, my influences, and my productions. It’s also a craft I’m still constantly working to improve despite the years of practice.
What do you make of the scene in Toronto?
The talent pool is fantastic and it’s a great city to create and collaborate in. The dance community is also quite small and tightly knit, but unfortunately, the city’s infrastructure really doesn’t have much tolerance or support for it. Sure there are a couple of clubs that put on dance music events on a more commercial scale, but all the real bookings and parties for the real heads have been taking place in DIY/illegal venues for the most part. As soon as we think we found a home for the community here, the city either catches wind of it, or manages to crack down on its viability.
So once again, great place to create and collaborate, but it’s not a place to be making a living out of dance/electronic music sadly – the economy simply doesn’t support it.
Favourite local venue?
To be honest, it’s the DIY spaces that bring the community together that I’m all about. They come and go but it’s where this music and community thrives most. Many of them no longer exist, and I would also hate to be the one that destroys their existence.
Favourite local acts?
Too many to list but here we go…
Electronic/Dance Acts: Nautiluss, Joel Eel, Ciel, Hemingway, Korea Town Acid, Raf Reza, Emissive, Sergio SP, Roberto, Smoke and Shadows, Block Univers, Immigrant Muscle.
Non-Dance Acts: River Tiber, Matthew Progress, A l l i e, AHKI, Young Clancy, Jaunt, Jonah Yano.
Favourite local food joint?
Zakkushi! I fucking love Kushiyaki. Nothing like Sake & Skewers for ya boi.
Got to write those down for when I’m about! To wrap things up, what are your top non-house/techno/electro music recommendations?
At the moment Thom Yorke’s Anima has been on repeat, not sure if that’s too close but I’m gonna list it anyways.
Otherwise, here are some forever classics in my opinion:
Bjork – Vespertine
Fela Kuti – Afrodisiac
The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium
Marvin Gaye – I Want You
Portishead – Dummy
Stereolab – Dots & Loops
Buy Dan Only’s new EP here: https://tinyurl.com/DIRT119-Shop
Photography by Alex Mazanik (@a_mzng)