The term ‘legend’ is often overused in the DJ industry. For that truth to be attained, a DJ must be a visionary, establish a legacy that cannot be ignored and be considered a person who has influenced beyond measure. In the case of Danny Rampling, all of this is true and more.
He, along with Nicky Holloway and Paul Oakenfold, are regarded as the men responsible for starting the rave and dance phenomena in the UK and giving to the world their vision of dance music. A birthday holiday to Ibiza 25 years ago sowed the seed of an idea. A short time later, in a disused gymnasium in south London, that seed blossomed into a night called Shoom. And the rest, as they say, is history…
Before Rampling there was no house scene in the UK. There did exist the more conservative soul and Northern Soul nights – they were the descendants of the original sounds of Stax and Motown, but the wild abandon of disco had long since disappeared and these children of soul were but a mere blip on the Saturday night landscape. The drab suburban and inner city nightclubs were stifled by bland pop music and a new generation of thrill-seekers was looking to express its feelings in fits of boundless hedonism.
So when Shoom started, the nightlife was ripe for the picking. Rampling repackaged an obscure Spanish nightclub and turned it into his scene and his night. He brought the party and London, followed by the rest of the planet, went along for the ride. Fast-forward to the present day and his idea has become an industry. The music that he promoted has become the beat by which people live their lives. Originally, though, Rampling aspired only to have his own radio show.
“I wanted to be a radio DJ first as that is what influenced me … I was fascinated by radio broadcasting. [My] career as an international DJ flourished partly through radio work. Pirate radio is still close to my heart and pirate radio is where mine and many DJ careers began. It is still alive and kicking in the UK and keeps flying the flag for underground music forms.”
Whilst radio inspired him, it is as a founding member of the UK dance movement that Rampling has cemented his place in history. “Basically we sprinkled a touch of Ibiza’s colour and magic into our parties in London, and that was the blueprint for the rave scene. It was a very unique time for youth culture and a revolution in new music called ‘house techno’. The spirit of that movement still lives on in many people’s lives with ‘unity through music’. So the rave scene made its mark and influenced many. It has now become the festival scene as we know it and is a progression of those early raves, mixing live acts with DJs and performers.”
This leads us into how he sees EDM and its explosion in recent times. “EDM is a great thing to happen in the USA, as electronic music is now recognised commercially and a new generation of clubbers has embraced and created a scene which hasn’t happened in the US since rock’n’roll and rap. The roots of EDM are in house and trance music. The sound has uplifting songs and lyrics, which helps with radio play. Swedish House Mafia sold five million copies worldwide of ‘Don’t You Worry Child’. That is incredible.”
“The Electric Daisy [Carnival] in the USA had over 300,000 kids going nuts to electronic music peacefully and having the time of their lives,” Rampling continues. “The scene is so fresh and new to young America. It’s only going to get bigger and bigger and when America does something it is always on a grand scale. It’s an exciting time for dance music on a commercial level.
“The underground will always be with us, though, and many kids who have been introduced to EDM will seek and be influenced by underground sounds as tastes develop further.”
Rampling himself has not stood still in developing his performance style. He utilises digital technology because of its versatility and now performs with his wife Ilona. “It works really well. We have great synergy together and Ilona is very talented. She has been DJing for 12 years. It happened very naturally, playing sets together at [London club] East Bloc. We are DJing together on this current tour of Asia. We are also writing songs and have produced tracks to be released in 2014.”
Nonetheless, Rampling recognises what he is known for and what is expected of him when he plays at Goldfish this week. “I will be playing uplifting melodic house music with maybe a couple of classics thrown in. Nothing dull. I’m not into plodding music. I find much of the new wave of fashionable deep house uninspiring. Flat sounds waiting for something to happen. The music stays linear.”
The man certainly does not rest on his laurels. He always looks to the future. “There’s no point dwelling on the past. It’s done. Yesterday is history and I feel very blessed to have been at the forefront.”
J B McCauley is the author of The King Of Sunday Morning – A fictional journey into the world of Australian Gangsters, DJs and House Music. Available at Amazon UK, The Book Depository and Angus & Robertson.
BY J B MCCAULEY