One to Watch: Dander
Ones To Watch: Interview with Dander
At just 15 years old, Dander, has been catching the attention of the electronic music scene. We caught up with him to find out more about his learning experience, goals and latest release 'I Want You', out soon on LSA records.
DJ Gym: Daniel, with your first releases coming out and your recent graduation from the LSA Elite DJ Course you're evidently a high achiever for your age. At what age did you start getting into electronic music?
Dander: I have been a huge fan of electronic music my entire life! My childhood was defined by it. All my life I loved music of all sorts. However, I began to grow a deeper love for electronic music at around five years old and I would always demand that my parents turn on the radio whenever they could. I loved listening to the sounds of the EDM and House music that was becoming more and more common at the start of the 2010s.
Like most other kids, I also really loved video games. Eventually, at eight years old, I discovered a game called ‘DJ Hero’. It looked quite interesting, so I eventually asked to get the game for my birthday that year. Little did I know what that would start of an epic journey!
I fell in love with it! It was nothing like anything I had seen before! The concept of getting two tracks that I loved and making a mix out of them blew my eight year-old mind! After watching some real performances from DJs, as well as a few tutorials, I knew that I wanted to do it myself, and make my own mixes. Christmas was approaching soon, so I found a cheap, used DJ controller and once again asked my parents if they could buy it for me. Thankfully, they agreed, and that was the start of my journey as a real DJ…
Needless to say, I adored the real thing even more than the game and would practice for years to come. I gradually improved my skills and learnt from YouTube tutorials as well as pure experimentation. At around 10 years old, I had started to become more interested in music production. I started by downloading an app called ‘Garageband’ on my dads phone to see what it was like to make my own music. Even though you can imagine how horrendous the music I made was, I had tons of fun doing it! I then saved up some pocket money over a few months to buy FL Studio, to take my newfound hobby of production further, as well as help with my already existing DJ hobby.
At around thirteen years old was when I had really started to make huge steps in both my DJing and production skills. It was around then that I realised this is what I want to do in life and that there is no going back. That year was the first year in which I truly took my craft to the next level, and began to truly establish my identity. I didn’t have anyone to guide me in the right direction, as neither of my parents know a thing about DJing and music production, so I just had to hope that what I was learning/doing was actually right. I started to learn more in-depth about how Tech House was produced (Tech House was now my favourite sub-genre of House), I learnt sound design and some music theory and also started to develop my own unique style of DJing.
It was also around this time when I had decided to Join LSA. I wanted to know how DJs use samplers and drum machines in their live performances, but the main reason that I wanted to join, was that up until that point, I had never interacted with any other DJs. I had literally no contacts, and I had no real way of knowing if all the things I had learnt for the past five years were even correct. I was reassured by my tutor Olmo that everything I had learnt was indeed correct, and besides showing me all the intricacies of the Elite DJ Course, I was finally able to ask all the questions I was unable to ask since I started my journey. It was an extremely satisfying feeling.
This has carried on until now. I continued to improve, I made more contacts and I started to post videos and live streams of me DJing to my social media accounts and so on. I have huge dreams for the future, and I will stop at nothing to achieve them!
DJ Gym: What barriers has your young age presented you with, and how do you overcome them?
Dander: Being so young in such an adult-oriented industry is certainly a challenge! Firstly, and most obviously, I can’t perform my sets anywhere in front of an audience, and share the knowledge and skills I have been patiently crafting for over seven years. To see your hard work essentially be ignored for such a long time, can honestly be quite demotivating at times, no matter what age you are, and there have been many times where I almost quit altogether as a result of this.
Another barrier I had to face is the inability to make connections with other DJs. This also stems from the fact that I can’t perform, and consequently network with other DJs, promoters, managers etc. This meant that for an incredibly long time, I had no one to ask questions or receive advice from. I was very solitary in my journey, and I want the listeners of my new record to know that everything they hear in the track has been created with skills I learnt alone, and haven’t been taught to by anyone.
But, in all honesty, I don’t particularly care about these things. Yes, it’s frustrating not to be able to play in clubs or even festivals, yes it’s frustrating when you can’t ask anyone for advice, and yes it can feel bad when your hard work doesn’t get seen by many people - but I don’t DJ and produce for the money or the fame. I do it because I genuinely love it. I suppose at the end of the day, life can be like that sometimes, you can’t always get what you want. However, I try not to look at it like that. If I just change my perspective a little, I see that all this time being alone has given me plenty of time to perfect my craft, and develop a unique style, so that when I am ready, I can truly show my best side, and be far ahead of everyone else my age. It’s this mentality, along with genuine adoration for DJing and production that pushes me forward, and gives me the drive to carry on.
DJ Gym: Well we certainly are looking forward to clubs reopening and getting you some gigs! This year has been tough for all of us DJs, what have you had to do differently?
Dander: Admittedly, I think that I’ve actually been relatively unscathed this year, in comparison to adult DJs. While this year was certainly tough for me, I think that it also gave me the time to really develop my DJ and production skills like never before, and feel confident enough to finally release my first track!
Seeing as I never had any opportunities to DJ in front of an audience yet (and I certainly wasn’t making any money from it), I don’t know what I’m missing out on! In fact, I think that my experience with DJing and producing from home has really proved quite beneficial in how I adapted to the situation. I had already been live-streaming my DJ sets and uploading some to my social media pages even before all the lockdowns started. When they did start, I thought of it as a good time to start creating these little ‘one-minute-mashups’ which I would regularly post to my social media pages, along with regularly doing live streams too. As a result of this, I started to slowly grow my pages, and I began to slowly grow a little following online.
Furthermore, the lockdowns have also given me lots of time to work on my skills and to produce more content in the form of mixes and tracks. I have now gotten to a point where I am now confident in releasing music to the public, and I don’t think I would have gotten to this point this early if the lockdowns didn’t happen!
So, while the lockdowns were certainly a challenge, I think that they also provided time for me to make more content, and make better content. Without them, I don’t think I would have reached this level as quickly as I have!
DJ Gym: Who and what inspires you?
Dander: Before working on any project, be it a mix or a track, I find that looking through old photos of me gets me very inspired and motivated. It always reminds me of how far I have come in my journey, especially at such a young age. On the complete other side of the spectrum, I also love to look at sets and tracks from some of my favourite DJs and Producers before I work, to serve as a reminder of what is yet to come if I work as hard as possible. I especially find that looking at videos of DJ sets from huge festivals and club nights is especially motivating, as I know that one day, that could be me up there. That thought always gives me a huge boost in motivation.
As for people who inspired me, I find the success stories of Producers like Joel Corry and John Summit to be very inspiring to me. This is mainly because I feel like what they have achieved (and mainly the way they had achieved it) isn’t something unrealistic for me to achieve in the future. I feel like I can relate to them both especially, as not too long ago, they too were in a similar position to me, but through their amazing productions and perseverance, they have managed to reach the top. I see a bit of myself in them, and I can only dream that I too will be able to be as successful one day.
As for DJs who inspire me, I look up to people like Fran DC, James Hype and James Zabiela. I find that their mixes are quite similar to my style of mixing, and I love the way all three of them utilise technology to its fullest potential, to make a DJ set more than just a compilation of music mixed together, but also a show of technical prowess and skill from a DJ. Like them, I also try to embrace new technology, and I try to use every feature on the gear to its fullest potential. I feel like this embrace of technology is what defines my style the most as a DJ. I always go out of my way to make my mixes as engaging as possible, and I try to do things that no one has ever done before. I can’t wait until I show some of these new things to a crowd one day!
DJ Gym: What projects are you working on and where do you see yourself by the time, you're old enough to play in clubs?
Dander: Currently, I am just continuing to make more music and developing my skills further and further. I am indeed a very high achiever like you previously mentioned, so I hope that by the time I can play in clubs, I will be able to play in big ones like Ministry of Sound, Egg, Printworks etc, and also possibly even some festivals. That is my biggest long-term goal! I hope that I may eventually get signed to some big labels like Toolroom, Defected, Ministry of Sound and many more (which would also help me achieve the previous goal), and eventually also meet some big DJs who inspire/inspired me. That is my biggest dream as a DJ; I want to meet the people whose music was the soundtrack to my childhood, and what made it so special!