Not too long ago, the glossy rave magazine Urb called DJ Dan "America's most beloved DJ," perhaps marking the first time a superlative regularly used to describe grandmothers had been attached to a turntablist.
The explanation is simple: Since 1991, when DJ Dan first moved to Los Angeles, the spin doctor has been a touring force. He is considered the first DJ with a signature sound. He is America's most beloved because, well, he is one of the only DJs America knows.
A better word to describe DJ Dan, also known as Daniel Wherrett, would be "revered." The 32-year-old Olympia, Washington, native began laying down the foundation in the early '90s, turning out late-night shindigs in Los Angeles and San Francisco (birthplace of the Funky Tekno Tribe, the rave production company that employs Dan as resident DJ). His funky, ever-evolving brand of party-friendly dance music has made him a fave.
The Funky Tekno Tribe Tour
Club C2K, 800 Almeda Mall
Featuring DJ Dan, Donald Glaude, Graeme, DJ Mea, DJ Bizz, Kung Fu Pimp and others
Saturday, September 9
Doors open at 9 p.m.
$18 (presale) and $20 (day of show) (713)917-4984 or www.hardrivefuture.com/karma
Now, he's a veteran, a seasoned pro, an elder of the spin set. He has several albums to his credit, including 1998's Beats 4 Freaks, 1999's Funk the System, and Another Late Night, released in March. He has souped up tracks for the likes of Keoki, Carl Cox, Orgy and the Freestylers. He has appeared on countless compilations and 12-inches as a performer, producer and/or remixer. (A few months ago he split from the L.A.-based Moonshine Music label to cut-and-break for Kinetic Records, a Warner Bros.-distributed imprint.) And good ole Daniel Wherrett has toured across North America and made appearances in Australia, Great Britain, South America and Germany, among other locales. Any respect he gets is well deserved.
But however fun-loving DJ Dan is on the turntables, he's serious when it comes to the business at hand. Mixing and recording dance grooves since his teens, Dan says, he knew that spinning records was his true calling. "In some ways, I feel like it chose me," he says, so Zen. And since Dan and his music are fully immersed in the underground party universe, he is quick to defend the rave scene in the United States, which has received a bum rap from detractors and media types. "If you go to a regular club, that's also going on," he says of drug use. "If you go to a concert, that's also going on. It's just where you get a lot of young people and music throughout history, there's always going to be that."
As a DJ, Dan doesn't feel he is inspiring this bad behavior with his house beats. "The music and deejaying, for me, I take very seriously," he says. "It's at a very professional level. And there are a few other DJs that I play with that are in the same boat. We don't do drugs. We don't condone any of that kind of bullshit that goes on at the parties. I've seen it go on. You know it goes on, and there's some cities where it happens more than others."
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Dan doesn't get this kind of hassle when he's abroad. In Europe, for instance, a rave is seen as a home away from home, and underground dance artists are treated like royalty or well-known soccer players. Dan says a DJ or a performer in the rave stratum who wants to go international needs to be media-savvy. (He would serve as a good case in point, no?)
"Going to Europe is all about the media," he says. "Everyone there has press agents, and a lot of it is about how many records you have put out. And it doesn't even matter, like a lot of times, how good of a DJ you are. So it's been a slow build for me in Europe."
Dan is hoping that underground dance will pick up at a slow but sincere pace over here in the States. Three years ago the American media was eating up the electronic music scene. You couldn't pick up a magazine without seeing a fancy spread on it. Acts like Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers became icons of musical subversion. Old fogies like David Bowie and U2 resuscitated their careers thanks to it. But then the Spice Girls began to sell more albums, and along came Celine with that damn Titanic remix, and things started to die.
But as we set out into the next millennium, full of wondrous possibilities and the hope that people will quickly tire of all the teen-pop junk that has infiltrated our airwaves, DJ Dan is certain that American audiences will finally pick up on the pleasures of digital dance. Hell, there are some signs of popular culture already working hard to overexpose it. "There was just a new commercial again, a car commercial, with a guy talking about him being a DJ at night playing house music," Dan says. "And then, there's Madonna's new song being based about a DJ, and you know, there's all this stuff, like everyone wants a piece of the electronic pie at the moment. Whether or not people take it seriously, or [whether] they really think that it's going to happen or not, it just is gonna happen.