One of the first songs I heard from Daniel Kandi was ”Make Me Believe”, and at the time of its release, I was blown away. Although this song is now over five years old, it is still one of my favourite songs. Since then, I have heard many other productions and remixes from Daniel.
What stands out about him is not that he has been producing for many years, but rather the fact that his productions have remained consistently high in quality. In the beginning of the year Daniel released his first-ever vocal track entitled ”Change the World”. Not only did this track have his trademark production style, but it also had great vocals. This was not the only first for Daniel of the year, however. He also produced a song with Jack Rowan titled “Arigatou”, which was very different to his other productions.
I initially contacted Daniel in December about doing an interview, but due to him being based in Denmark and DJing throughout the world, it has taken a while to get hold of him.
In recent years, very few Danish musicians have had the same impact on the world of electronic dance music as that of Daniel Kandi.
Now established as a leading name in the global trance scene, Daniel has been at the top of his game for many years having been responsible for some of the most memorable releases in recent memory, such as ‘Breathe,’ ‘Change The World’ ‘Symphonica’ and ‘#Trancefamily,’ and he has lit up the globe with his stadium rocking performances.
One of only a select few artists to have been personally selected by Armin van Buuren to play at the A State of Trance 400, 450, 500 and 550 parties, Daniel has also performed at the biggest events in the world such as events such as Trance Energy, Global Gathering and Tomorrowland. Hailing from Denmark, Daniel has been around the world and back again, playing the largest club shows from Pacha, Buenos Aires to Ministry Of Sound London, and at leading cities such as Sydney, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Moscow, Singapore, Rio De Janeiro and everywhere in between, earning himself consecutive appearances in DJ Magazine’s coveted ‘Top 100 DJ’s’ poll.
Daniel is more than just a DJ; a leading artist on world renowned labels such as Anjunabeats, Armada and Enhanced, and his own Enhanced sub-label, Always Alive, he is heavily featured on renowned shows like A State Of Trance and Group Therapy, and considered an absolute fan favourite of the listeners of those shows with an endless list of Future Favourite / Record of the Week accolades to his name. Not to mention he is also the star of his own radio show, Always Alive, a showcase of the most recently discovered talent. It’s not only on the airwaves that Daniel’s productions have dominated, for you will be hard pressed to ever see the top download charts be absent of his breathtaking productions.
Such are his producer achievements; Daniel is one of the most in demand remixers for the trance genre, handpicked by the biggest names for remix treatment, such as Above & Beyond and Gareth Emery.
One of the most colourful artists in the scene, Daniel Kandi will continue to be one of its leading lights for many years to come.
Q: How Did Your Life Begin?
A: Well, let’s go back to even before I was born. My mum was actually pregnant with me and she was on a small Cessna with my dad and a friend of hers in really bad weather. My dad’s friend was the pilot, and he apparently didn’t have a certificate or a permit to actually fly in bad weather, especially with a small Cessna. They were lucky enough to get hold of the agency control on the ground during this storm, and they were the ones who guided the pilot down safely. At one point, however, the pilot did actually say ‘May Day’ and stuff like that, as the engine went out during the landing. When my mum told me that – I think the first time was when I was about 12 or 13 – it made me realise how lucky I am because I wasn’t really supposed to be around, obviously, if things had gone differently. That was a fun start to everything.
Growing up, I was very different. My mum kind of knew that already from, I think, when I was about age three or four… or something like that. It could be attributed to the fact that I was born not alive, if you can say so. See, my heart was out for about four minutes or something like that before they got it started again. Three or four minutes. That could have lead to me becoming not really retarded, but a bit special in ways. That’s what we’re actually trying to look into now: if I have got Asperger’s Syndrome and stuff like that. I have always been a little bit special. Everybody who knows me, has seen me on video and sees me around the decks knows that I am a bit different to so many other people.
I did have a troubled start and got bullied a lot in school because I was that different. Besides that, I didn’t have my real dad around from when I was about one year old until I was about nine. I had a step-dad instead. I always wondered who my real dad was, where does he live and stuff like that. I started talking to my real dad when I was about nine, and he ended up being a part of my life for about a year or so. The contact started slowly, but we got to talking again. He eventually flew me from the north part of Denmark over to him in Copenhagen, and I got to know him again. So I had a bit of a troublesome start, but I have learnt to live with how things were. Obviously you can’t control that kind of stuff.
Q: What Motivated You To Become A DJ?
A: At first I really just wanted to make music. I started DJing at the age of thirteen when I entered a youth club that had a pool table, which is ironically one of my other passions. That’s where I got to know pool and the music side of it, because of the disco tech they had there, where you could earn a license and stand there and play music for whoever would be there and stuff. That’s essentially how I got into DJing. Right around that time, my aunt had a boyfriend who was a DJ himself in some of the local clubs in my town. He showed me a program called Cool Edit Pro, and that was really when I started sampling stuff and making my own tunes, even at the age of about thirteen. Back then, you didn’t have any proper sequencer, the equipment was scarce and the computers were not really that good. You know how it was before we entered the ‘Pentium Age’, and it was really, really hard to run these programs.
Sometimes you would have the ‘out of memory’ problem because it was such an old PC, but it was fun actually to start out that way: the DJing, doing the sampling and trying to create dance music… that way, about thirteen, yeah.
Q: Tell Us About How You Feel The Moment Before You DJ?
A: Really it depends on the size of the gig and if it’s the first time in a new territory. Of course when I go to play in London at Ministry [of Sound], it’s always special because it’s a great nightclub, and it’s got a great reputation. It’s been running for so, so many years. It’s a picky crowd. They do like their trance, and they do like their house, but you have to keep within certain boundaries, I think, and just try to keep it really hard because that’s what the crowd loves there. We are here in London now, and I’m going to play there tonight. I’m actually playing after John O’Callaghan, which is going to be tough because he plays really hard. I’m digging deep in my record box today to actually see what I should play because I don’t want to play too soft. People might leave if I do that. So actually tonight I’m a little bit nervous, because even though I have been here before, this is going to be the hardest one to follow up on because I have always had someone play either softer or slower before me.
Last time I was here with Gareth Emery, it was quite easy because he just played really banging and progressive stuff. He actually left me a lot of room to build on his 34 BPM. That was a good gig, and that was streamed as well online. The reactions were also really good. Tonight I am a bit more nervous, but in general when you get to those big festivals, when you get to 5 or 6 thousand people at a mini outdoor festival or something like that, that’s when I can start to get really nervous. I think if you get nervous though it’s a good thing because it means you really want it as well, and you’re not bored of it. Right before I DJ, I will try and compose myself. I will have a bottle of water and make sure all my stuff is in place. Then, I’ll go on stage and try and feel the crowd in some sense and just take it from there.
Q: How Would You Describe The Experience Of DJing In Front Of Thousands Of People?
A: Well continuing on the last question, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s not as intimate, and you don’t really get to talk to as many people in the crowd as, let’s say, a crowd of about five or six hundred people, which is, like, the optimum. Anything between five hundred and a thousand people is where you get the ultimate contact because you can look at everybody and kind of try and point people out, especially when people have certain items and memorabilia with them. If they have a sign or tattoo or new york mets viking zip up tính diện tích with your logo on or something like that, it’s easy to point out when you have those small crowds. When you get to the really huge crowds, however, if you play the right tune, there is nothing better than seeing five or six thousand people jumping up and down for just one track. That’s an amazing feeling.
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 victor young