Londoner DJ Danny Rampling is considered to be one of the fathers of the British rave scene in the 1980s. Now, 30 years on, he’s also a father in the conventional sense, but that hasn’t stopped him from spinning at clubs all over the world.
Last Saturday night, he played a gig at Riverhouse lounge in Phnom Penh – his first performace, but (he promises) not his last, in the Kingdom. He spoke to 7Days about the club scene in Asia and how it’s all changed since he first took to the turntable decades ago.
How do you rate the Phnom Penh club scene?
I think Riverhouse is a very cool venue. The owner is very instrumental in creating a club scene here. We also went to Heart of Darkness, which was…interesting…to say the least. Dance music is truly global now. For example, Thailand has got a very strong scene, China has strong scenes in Shanghai and Beijing. Here there’s a lot of potential, it’s building up. Phnom Penh will be on the destination of clubbing maps in the near future
You’ve played a lot of international gigs. What’s it like on the road?
I recently played in Cape Verde, in the mid-Atlantic off the African coast. It was wonderful. I guess, in some respects, I’m a pathfinder, so to speak. I have played in a number of places where scenes are emerging, and that continues to excite me.
I’m not one of these wild rock’n’roll DJ characters who causes havoc wherever he goes, it’s not my scene. I’m booked to entertain, so I operate with a high level of professionalism, that’s very important to my value system. For raising hell everywhere, you’ve got the wrong DJ. I wish I could say that I’m like Keith Richard’s distant brother or something.
What makes House music in particular so internationally popular?
House music is a very positive, uplifting musical form, and I do believe that’s why it’s been going so strong for 20 years. It’s not about hate, it’s not about killing people, and it touches a lot of people. The advances in technology has changed the role of the DJ – the technology in the last couple of years has transformed the DJ, and it’s a very exciting time because of that.
Tell me about the beginnings of the London scene in the ‘80s I started out in 1980, and for close to seven years I was learning the craft of DJing and not getting any breaks. However, I knew that I wanted to be a DJ and I stuck with it. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, when or where, but I stayed close to my faith, spent all my money on records, and practiced constantly.
My professional career began in 1987 when I created the club Shoom – that was really the birthplace of acid house in London. It was a catalyst and a blueprint for the whole UK dance movement. It’s now a global scene.
How has it changed since then?
I think it’s easier now to break into the market if you’re a producer. You can become, overnight, a superstar. But many years ago it was a different marketplace.
If we look at David Guetta, he is a stadium DJ. He’ll fill an arena with 50,000 people. DJs have begun going out like an act would. It’s all down to production. But the David Guetta’s are one in a million.
The role of the DJ is far more respected now. When I started, it was assumed you just played at weddings or some dingy nightclub or something.
What does it take to make it as a DJ?
You’ve got to have good people skills. The foundation of it is being perceptive to the audience’s needs, and being able to read a crowd, and that’s what sets a great DJ apart. You’ve also got to have good taste in music. Anyone can go up and play the top 20 dance tracks. Absolutely anyone. But can they keep people dancing for three to four hours?