Moodymanc ZZZ EP Interview
With the recent release of his ZZZ EP on Frole Records. Traxsource News caught up with Danny Ward aka Moodymanc to chat about the creative process being the EP, his musician background, the Hacienda & much more.
Firstly, Danny, thanks for taking some time to conduct this interview with us. We’re big fans of your music and story: you studied & played various instruments from an early age, leaning towards Jazz and Latin music. Do you remember what made you fall in love with music back then?
Thanks for having me, I’m a long-time Traxsource customer so it’s a real honour to be asked :) One of my earliest memories is of watching Elvis in the film “Blue Hawaii” at the end of which he floats away playing the bongos. I decided that was what I wanted to do, and after a couple of years nagging my parents they eventually succumbed. That led to various chopsticks on pots and pans scenarios until I was in my early teens when I started studying drums formally. Around the same time I started digging through my parents’ record collection, found the Miles Davis albums and that was it!!!
When and how did you make the transition into producing & DJing House Music? Do you feel your musician background helped make that jump?
I was always a dancer and a clubber. Through that and playing drums and percussion I ended up working with various hip hop, dance music producers & acts both playing on records and on their live shows. I was also playing percussion in quite a few clubs, most notably Back to Basics in Leeds, as well as a few other ‘biggies’ at that time. I bought my first drum machine around ’92 and started programming so I always had that fascination, and as I was studying afro-cuban percussion at the time and playing drums I also felt I had a lot to bring to the table production wise.
I started producing breaks records and sample CDs with a brilliant engineer Danny Evans (hence the start of the dubble d moniker which I hung on to. Sounded good until we did an internet search and realised we sounded like a pair of tits! hahaha) and with the proceeds of those we started to invest in more studio equipment and taught ourselves how to use it. A process that’s still going on today.
I’ve always been lucky as a musician to have worked with amazingly talented artists and players (not to mention fantastic DJs) across quite a diverse spectrum of genres which turned me onto a lot of records and music which I feel I might have missed out on otherwise. That definitely gave me an agenda when it came to writing, producing and DJing house music also without wanting to sound too pretentious it really gave me a story to tell.
Let’s talk about the legendary Hacienda in Manchester. We have all heard the stories about this iconic club. What memories can you share with us about those days in Manchester?
I had some great nights in Hacienda, not just checking out house music, but also soul, jungle and also playing and watching live gigs. As a club it did have its ups and downs, however though it all this became a focal point & was just a very small facet of the city’s clubbing culture at the time. Manchester has a deep and long culture of night clubbing and a very diverse mix of cultures due to its industrial roots so there’s always been a big scene in terms of nightlife and an endless love affair with black music and records.
The end of the eighties and the explosion of ecstasy really did galvanise the city in a lot of ways for me though, particularly in a musical sense. Everybody was hanging out together in the same clubs and perhaps more importantly at the same parties, (“the kitchen” in Hulme was particularly influential for me at the time). There was a real excitement about the city and despite, or perhaps because of the way it had been crushed economically by the Thatcher regime, a real “f**k you” attitude towards the establishment. Very few people I knew had a job at the time and the prospects were generally bleak so it was a time to hang out and get creative….
How do you feel the city’s nightlife has moved on over the years since the Hacienda?
I guess like all cities. Clubs come and go, big and small, but what’s always remained in Manchester for me has been the diversity that I mentioned above. There are the big house nights of course, but also more than a lot of cities I’ve visited Manchester has a willingness to mix it up a little more in terms of style, though often with well rooted soul.
A couple of well-known examples would be Mr Scruff’s Keep it Unreal and Electrik Chair… The last few years has seen the Warehouse Project come to dominate the more commercial end of dance music clubbing in the city and some of the other clubs have no doubt suffered as a result, but there has also been a resurgence in small, more intimate and truly underground parties springing up which has been really positive.
Again, to only focus on what’s been happening house wise would only give a narrow perspective. It’s a big city with a diverse and tolerant population; a huge student presence and a big gay scene… it all adds up to a vibrant nightlife!
Let’s switch gears and chat about ZZZ’s. What’s the story behind your new ZZZ EP? Why did you choose the Italian label Frole Records to be the landing pad for this EP?
The guys at Frole approached me to remix their release by Gastek, “In Jazz”. I loved the vibe of the track and had a lot of fun re-mixing it. The re-mix was successful and they kindly invited me to come and play a really cool gig for them in Napoli. We had a great time together and I really loved the music-centric and family vibe they have, so when they suggested I do an EP with them to launch their vinyl series I was truly honoured. We bounced a few ideas off each other track wise, but I was really glad they shared my concept of making records that are stylistically diverse. It’s always a very important aspect of a record if I’m going to buy it, that the music should cover a few bases and for me as an artist (and DJ!), it represents the breath and depth of my tastes and my record collection! It’s something that I’m always striving to do and in that respect I’m really proud of this release.
Your sound is very deep and rich, and obviously has that musical element to it. What influenced and stirred you down this deeper musical path of House Music production?
That’s a very kind thing to say, thank you. I’ve always been a crate digging record collector and had a fascination with great sounding records. My tastes are broad but if there’s one thing that unites them, it’s the fact that everything that inspires is for me essentially roots music and great artistry. Whether that’s jazz, latin, reggae, samba, soul, hip hop, disco, house or techno. House music has very much been the place where I feel I can be quite honest about my roots and my influences, whether they may be Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Underground Resistance, Parliament or whatever. I really do aspire to make records that have both musical and artistic worth as my heroes have, but in order to do that I also have to be honest about who I am and where I’m from…so I have to try and take that to the dancefloor. As a musician and a DJ It’s an endless mission, but I love it and I really hope that comes across :)
What sort of studio gear are you using to produce your unique sound?
Ha! Well, everything’s centered around a computer of course, but over the years I’ve worked hard to build a nice collection of drums and percussion instruments, some nice useful mics and pre-amps, a couple of keyboards, some ‘V drums’, monitoring that I know and trust in a room that I’m comfortable working in and perhaps most importantly an endlessly expanding collection of records that never cease to inspire… There’s always a list of gear I’d like to own that I feel would improve what I’m doing of course, but I’m incredibly lucky to have what I have….
What new Moodymanc projects should we be on the lookout for?
I’m following the ZZZ ep with another “Dubble D” EP for Crosstown Rebels’ RebelLION label, “Church” which features a re-version by the great Ashley Beedle with whom I’ve been collaborating on a number of projects of late. I also have EPs arriving on Abstract Theory and Gimmick Records after that as well as a couple of re-mixes that are still due to drop. I’ve also been working on a new project called “Balaphonic” which I am in the process of developing. It’s a little more organic than some of the stuff I’ve done of late as “Moodymanc” and I’m hoping to involve a few more live musicians and artists, but still with a big nod towards the dance floor. I’m also hoping to get back out on the road DJing again. The studio side of things has taken over a little of late and I’m itching to get back out there so hopefully I’ll see you on a dancefloor soon too :)
Let’s switch things up again: what is your view on the music scene today? Do you feel encouraged about the state of affairs in House Music at the moment?
There are certain aspects, which are really positive. There’s a real interest in House music at the moment and some great artists are breaking through and getting the attention they undoubtedly deserve with some brilliant records. I think that this can only be a great thing for everybody involved in the scene, in whatever way. Unfortunately there does seem to be a real obsession, perhaps fuelled by online media and social networking with what’s deemed to be “fashionable” or “cool” or “successful”. There seems to me to be sometimes more value put on the perception of what an artist or DJ might be, and what labels they might be attached to rather than the actual music they are making or playing, and of course a lot of artists and DJs are as a result feeling the pressure to play that game. It’s tough out there! :) In that sense insome ways I feel the scene is eating itself a little at the moment, but I guess that’s inevitable.
People are bamboozled with the amount of new music that’s being released at the moment and are desperate for guidance as to what might be good, and there’s an ever growing online media presence that’s desperate to garner attention for itself by heralding the “next big thing”. It can often go in cycles like this though, ultimately good music always triumphs, and is always there, sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper than everybody else to find it. That’s part of the essence of House music to me; It SHOULD be about the underground!
Any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to today’s generation of artists, producers, & DJs?
Well, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily wisdom (who am I after all?) but from my perspective and experience I’d always say that I try to remember that the real success in music is music itself. Not fame, not money, not adoration, not winning polls…. Keep your eyes on the prize. If you start to run the same race that everybody else is, you’ve already lost it :)
Have any exclusives up your sleeve for release on Traxsource soon?
If we’re talking music, you probably have a lot better idea than I do! Hahaha! However, if I decide to do any interviews in the bath at any stage soon I’ll definitely give you the fist call ;)
Lastly, tell us and your fans something fun we don’t already know about you.
I don’t always tell the truth in interviews…….
Moodymanc Latest Release
‘ZZZ EP’ is out now on Frole Records