Q: How Did You Get Into Producing Dance Music?
A: I always wanted to make EDM in some sort of sense. When I started out, I was listening to a lot of crappy Euro-dance, if you can call it that. We have all been there, if you’re about my age, 29. We all started making really, really dance-y music, like Euro-dance stuff, but wanted to make it more trance as well. In 1999 or 98, I think the first track I heard like this was Paul Van Dyk’s – “For An Angel”. That was one of them, because that got into the club charts in Denmark. It was amazing because nothing of trance had ever really got into the charts. Then Cosmic Gate’s “Exploration Of Space” hit the radio waves, and that was really huge as well. That was before, as you obviously know. Cosmic Gate are now much more deep and progressive.
It was a good start. Then you had Mythos ‘N DJ Cosmo, Above & Beyond and Cygnus X Superstring and stuff like that… those kinds of tracks. I got them on the Dream Dance compilations from Germany, and I kind of built from there. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do. Oh yeah, obviously I can’t forget ATB’s “9pm till I come” – massive tune. So that’s kind of where it started for me.
Q: When You Produce A Song, What Is Your First Step?
A: Actually, because I make the melodies that I do, a lot of people think I would start out with the melody at first. If I do that though, it actually makes it harder to mix on top of a beat. So I always start with making the beat first, and once I am satisfied with the beat and the baseline, I can kind of work the melody on top of that. It makes it easy to mix and it makes it sound better, in my point of view anyway. That’s how I go about it, usually with the beat and baseline.
Q: How Did You Go About Getting Your First Song Signed?
A: Let’s go back to Euro-dance stuff around 2002, or actually 2001. I was supposed to do a remix for Barcode Bothers’ “SMS”, which was a really cheesy song. I sent them the remix as it was instrumentally, and I said to them, “I want the vocals so I can do the remix”. It was a cross over between trance and Euro dance at the same time. They said they really liked it, but the single was already out and they weren’t releasing any remixes from it. What they offered instead was for me to remix Catch’s “Walk On Water,” which was a pop song as well. I ended up actually realising that as my first real track, a remix of “Walk On Water”, a track which Above & Beyond apparently also remixed. I just felt really happy to be on that vinyl, being on the B-side, with Above & Beyond being the A-side remix. That was quite an amazing feeling to be honest.
Q: Your Radio Show And Record Label Are Both Called ”Always Alive”, Where Did This Come From?
A: I think I just wanted something that really just looked good on print. It wasn’t that I was trying to overly think about what I could do that would relate to the actual sound of the label. I knew that I wanted to make some sort of name for the radio show that would stand out. I didn’t just want to call it “One Hour Trance Session by Daniel Kandi”, because everybody has got “Trance Session” or “Trance-port” – really generic titles for radio shows. Not that there is anything wrong with it, I just didn’t want it happening to my radio show. As happy as its sounds with “Always Alive”, the whole thing came from a chill-out track that I started back in the day called “Almost Alive”. I thought, “I can’t call it ‘Almost Alive’. It’s got to be A and A, because that on paper looks really good”. So “Always Alive” just became the name for the radio show at first, and then obviously it was a natural thing to call the label “Always Alive Recordings”. It sounds good, so that’s why I wanted to name it that.
Q: In 2010 You Were Ranked At Number 77 In The DJ Mag 100, What Did This Mean To You?
A: That was a major accomplishment for the team behind me and everyone that worked really hard for it. It was just a way of saying, ‘you’re doing alright at the moment’. That was back when trance was still doing alright, compared to now, here, where a lot of the house-y styles are blending with trance. If you look at the Beatport top hundred, a lot of it is really not trance, but rather it’s the whole new “Trance 2.0” thing going on. Back then a trance DJ could make it in the top hundred, and nowadays we see so many different styles, like dubstep and super duper electric music, really doing well on the DJ Mag.
It’s more difficult now if you’re a trance DJ, which is also why I’m trying to branch out a little bit – not because I’m worried about the DJ Mag ranking, but because I also want to play at the big festivals. Let’s be fair. The DJ Mag rankings have an effect on what promoters go and do. Sadly, they do look at a rank, but they should look at what a DJ is capable of and what he brings to the table. I do believe that even if I don’t get in this year again – because I have been out of it for two years now, just outside the top hundred. I think I was 124 this year or last year – I still think that it’s a good thing that I can get booked out for really good parties. I just need to get hold of some more festivals now. Granted, if we get to the DJ Mag votings at the end of September/October and I’m not in again, it’s not going to be a major problem. I’m just proud to have been there for two years in a row.
Q: When You Were A Child, Did You Imagine That You Would Be Doing What You Are Doing Now?
A: I always had a dream about it. I would be singing to myself constantly, to the point where my mum would actually be really annoyed sometimes. I started watching a lot of talent shows on TV when I was a kid when they started out, way before X Factor and Idol and stuff like that. If it was about singing or making music or something like that, I watched it. I always had this feeling that I wanted to do something with music. I didn’t know what it was, but I think that when I started at the youth club at about twelve or thirteen, I kind of knew that was the road I wanted to go down, no matter what it would take. I even thought to myself, if it comes down to me doing music full time and ending up living like a bum (which I actually ended up doing for a while because I didn’t want to continue after the tenth grade of school), then that was the way I had to do it. I just really wanted to bet on it one hundred percent. I couldn’t let other people come and do the stuff I wanted to do. I felt like, “I have got to do it now before it’s too late”, which is silly because I was maybe about eighteen or nineteen when all this started. I felt like, “I need to hurry up because there is going to be some other people that can do this stuff as well”. So, yeah, I always really wanted to get ahead of the game and do it before taking an education. I kind of regret it a little bit now, as I know it would be a good thing to have something to fall back on, if, let’s say, I should become deaf or develop some other disability for making music. But you know, you just try and do the best you can, and that’s what I have tried to do.
Q: At The Beginning Of Your Career, Who Were The Most Supportive People Around You At The Time?
A: Actually, there weren’t that many. My mum and dad were like, “you have got to have an education, and you have got to do this, and you have got to do that.” I didn’t really care for it, and honestly, I was not in too good spirits with my mum and dad sometimes, as they always said you have got to have money to pay rent and stuff like that. I couldn’t see past the music. I was just betting everything on it that I could, which was in some ways obviously stupid, but I just really, really wanted it. As for the supportive people: we have got to talk about an old manger of mine whom I’m not really on good terms with now, but who really saw something in me and the talent that I had. Starting out doing remixes, even though it was shitty pop music, I still had a good gift for making good melodies and stuff. He kind of knew that and wanted to build that potential, so he was one of the most supportive people when I started out with the music. Besides that really, it was an uphill battle for the most part until I started getting recognised, getting signings and DJ jobs.
Q: What Has Kept You Going When You Have Experienced Setbacks?
A: There have been a few setbacks. I think the fact that I just said to myself, “you know what, I can’t fail, this is what I want”, kept me going. I just kept believing that at some point, I would make one or two tracks that would kind of open the door. Eventually “Breathe” was the track that opened that door, because that was the first tune that I got signed to Anjunabeats.
Just before that, a good mate of mine in Denmark named Michael and I released a track called “Sorrow”. That one got signed to a now defunct label. We ended up not seeing a dime of that, as it didn’t sell. That was kind of like the first setback where I felt, “OK this is never going to happen for me” or whatever.
Following this, I sent a demo of “Breathe” to Anjunabeats, and I didn’t hear anything from them until like two or three weeks into the process. I thought, “OK, if they don’t reply within two or three days or something, they must hate it or they don’t like it or what not”. So I went on a massive bender and got really, really angry with myself and actually thought I was never going to get signed, I was never going to do anything with trance and stuff like that. Then, suddenly, I went to like a rock concert in Copenhagen, and while I was on the dance floor with a couple of friends of mine, my phone went crazy. I had something like, twenty text messages and people saying, “Dude you’re on the fucking radio show with Above & Beyond! You’re on their Ministry Of Sound radio with their Trance Around The World radio show, and they were playing it!” That was back when they were still mixing live on CDJs and stuff from Ministry Of Sound radio. That was the first goose bumpy feeling I got about it, and despite the setbacks, it was worth the wait. It got signed in 2006, early 2006. When I went home from that – I’m not kidding you. I left the rock concert before it stopped – I immediately turned on my pc, literally shaking, wanting to hear the radio rip of the Trance Around The World. I think it was 85 or 86 episodes, but when I heard them mention my name, it was one of the best feelings ever because I kind of knew that this was my door opened. I felt that from there, it was all going to be alright.
Q: Where Does Your Drive And Passion Come From?
A: It probably comes from the fact that I got bullied a lot. Everybody said, “you’re a fucking failure and you are a no good person”. I was made fun of because I was obviously different and probably also because of my sexuality, being mostly into guys, that made me seem so different. I think kids can smell it. They do smell a different sexuality, and I just didn’t play ball with the guys outside, I didn’t get muddy or run around and act like usual guys or boys would do at that age. I was just really bullied in that sense, and they always told me, “you know what, you are never going to amount to anything”. For some reason they would even pick on my mum, and they had never really met my mum. That really angered me, and I was just like “OK, I’m going to make it”. So part of my success I owe to the bullies, which you can see is a similar case with so many entrepreneurs around the world that used to be geeks. They can probably also thank their bullies, in a sense, because the bullies motivated them to go on and become something greater than what these guys were. I know for a fact that some of the bullies have amounted to absolutely nothing, working a regular job in a shop or something. I have one friend who has said to me, “sorry for being like I was when I was a kid, and I wish that I could take that back”. At the same time, that person said “you are really living the dream. I spent such a long time trying to find out what I want to do and not really going for what my passion is because the passion might be unsafe or something like that, in terms of job opportunities”. He said he really envies the fact that I am travelling the world about 30 out of 35 weekends a year and see so many different cultures. I can really respect that when it comes from a former bully, in that sense, saying sorry about that. The bullies have been the motivators, mostly.
Q: Do You Believe In A Higher Power?
A: I do, but I do not believe in a god per se.
Q: Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
A: My inspiration comes from life, like before: failures, love relationships and good friendships. Nowadays, let’s say when I’m doing a tune that’s just about good party music – a good example would be the new “Arigatou” – it’s not too much about inspiration from life or anything like that; it’s just me and my friend wanting to make a really good melody and, at the same time, have a really good driving baseline. It doesn’t always have to be about inspiration from life. Sometimes it’s just, “let’s make a good party tune, have a couple of drinks and kind of see how it goes from there”. “Arigatou” was the latest result where it was more about having fun and seeing how we could go about it in the studio.
Q: What Do You Think Are The Most Important Elements To Being Successful?
A: I think the most important thing is that you stay true to yourself no matter what style you make: hard style, dubstep, trance, house or whatever. Just try and do what you feel is right, and if the music is good enough, it will speak for itself. People will like you because the music will be the most true to you, compared to when you try and follow trends and then people start to follow you only that way. It’s just about really staying true to yourself I think. Right now, I’m at the cross-roads where I want a bigger audience, but it’s hard not to sell out when you talk to uplifting trance fans, because they always feel that you’re selling out when you do stuff like “Arigatou” or other house-y stuff that’s a 130 BPM. It’s the fact that everything has to be 138 or 135 BPM and above and has to be with a rolling baseline and be trance. I have got to stop looking at that and make music that I like to do. I think that’s the most important thing. If I do what I like, the real people who want to follow me for what I do will still be there I think.
Q: What Are Your Future Plans?
A: My future plans would be moving to the Cayman Islands or Hawaii. No, it would be just to continue doing this for about fifteen or twenty years and try and save up money for a quiet life or something like that. Just, in general, to keep on travelling and to try and actually travel well – be as much in business class as possible, so I can save my health, and not being in economy class all the time. Just having a good time, flying around, doing these gigs and hopefully getting to bigger and bigger crowds.
write by Lagan