DENNEY is living out his musical dream and is the latest artist to be given the honour of mixing Global Underground’s Nubreed series, following in the footsteps of Steve Lawler, Lee Burridge and Sander Klienenberg.
Denney’s path was always headed in a musical direction from an early age growing up in Teesside. He was a DMC finalist as a teenager and Mixmag’s youngest ever ‘Future Hero’. He has since go on to grace the turntables for BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix, released a slew of music on taste-maker labels such as Hot Creations, Crosstown Rebels, Saved and Jackathon. With his DJ career in ascent following his acclaimed residency for Back 2 Basics in Leeds, Denney took a break from live work to complete his Nubreed album, following years of heavy gigging to support his burgeoning career as a DJ and producer.
Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us why you decided to take a sabbatical from touring?
To be honest I’d been touring the globe constantly and when I wasn’t gigging I was recording or remixing, so I was not going to be able to give the Nubreed album project my full attention under my old regime. I’d also wanted to take stock of where things were heading, so it was good timing to sit down and programme the album. However, although I took time out, I wasn’t resting on my laurels, I was still doing stuff, just not at the breakneck speed before the album.
World Mental Health Day has been observed across social media with many people posting their own messages. Obviously DJs and musicians are prone to mental health disturbances due to working at night, problems with fame, insecurity caused by unpredictable work and income; do you think mental health is finally gaining the recognition it deserves?
Mental health is something that is so common it affects 1 in 4 people in the UK each year, so the chance of it affecting DJs and musicians is probably even higher due to the obvious pressures. This is something that can no longer be ignored and I’m glad this serious topic is getting the attention it deserves. I tragically lost one of my oldest friends in 2010 due to mental health and I just wish he had spoken to one of us as it could have changed everything. If you are suffering with something – no matter how small – please speak to someone, I guarantee it won’t be as bad as you think. I can’t stress how much we need to all look after each other and make sure people are ok.
Tell us about your Global Underground Nubreed#12 release?
It’s a major project for me and one that I wanted to put my back into. I’ve taken time off work to focus on it as I know it needs to stand tall against albums by Steve Lawler, Satoshi Tomiie, Oliver Schories and Theo Kottis to continue the Global Underground legacy. I took three months off to complete it and I’m happy with my track selection, which includes Andy Cato, Danny Howells, Brian Cid, Kerri Chandler, Layo & Bushwacka! as well as newer artists like Catz ‘N Dogz, Audiojack, Franky Rizardo, and Eelke Kleijn. There are also some exclusive tracks on this album, also included on an EP with my own new track ‘Genena’.
Although people talk about you as a breaking artist, you have actually been grafting for 15 years or more. Where do you see yourself?
I actually started Deejaying professionally when I was 17 in my local house club in Middlesbrough, where I’d been partying since I was 15! The club was actually the legendary Sugar Shack at The Empire and I played upstairs in the Voodoo Lounge. It was one of my greatest experiences and set me on the path to gigs at Tall Trees in Yarm, GoodGreef in Newcastle, North and Sankeys in Manchester and of course my residency at Back to Basics in Leeds. Before Sugar Shack I’d won the northern Technics DMC Championship in Manchester and come third in the final at Earls Court in London, which gave me a platform to work from. Although the intervening years have definitely been building blocks to where I stand today as a DJ and producer, I realise that you have to maintain your love of music and performing to reach your goals in this industry. The moment people stop enjoying the music is the moment people hang up their headphones.
I’ve been blessed with chances to attain new personal bests each year such as tours of continents such as Australasia and South America, great festival bookings, releases on great labels, gigs such as Elrow in Ibiza. This has helped sustain my love of this job, this life, with all the pitfalls and problems it presents. I just focus on what I’m doing musically and let other people be the judge, so things have a natural progression. It’s underground so it’s organic growth. It’s not like I’m trying to compete in the pop market for radio playlists.
Leeds is very much at the heart of the electronic music scene. What’s your relationship with Back To Basics, the pioneering house club in Leeds run by Dave Beer?
I started playing in the back room at Basics in 2008. In fact I worked at the club assisting on the bookings and the running of the club until 2010, after moving to Leeds in 2005 to attend Leeds University, I’d completed a music technology course at college in Middlesbrough and wanted to take a degree in creative sound and music in the hallowed halls of the UK’s rock and roll university in Leeds, which also houses one of the UK’s best gig venues. The course, also attended by Piers and Kesi from Rudimental, definitely helped with my production knowledge and general confidence as a music industry professional.
On the last day of uni in 2008, during my final presentation, I got a call from Ralph Lawson, original resident DJ and booker at Basics. He was in a meeting with club promoter Dave Beer and they wondered if I would be interested in working with them. I was over the moon and worked in the office and played in room 2 for 18 months before becoming a main room resident and I still play regularly at Basics events. A lot of DJs, especially many US jocks who are enjoying a renaissance in popularity today were supported by Basics as their UK port of call during the artists’ leaner years. Back to Basics is a pioneering club run by pioneering people in true punk spirit.
You’ve made waves with your productions over the last few years, how is your recording career progressing?
When I stopped working at Basics, I spent time making music at home during the week. I knew what I wanted to achieve with my productions I just needed to focus. I started with the track ‘Shake The Club’ on Hot Waves and followed it up with ‘Ultraviolet’ on Hot Creations. I’d got off to a great start and a raft of high profile gigs followed, which is the mindblowing effect some good releases can have on your DJ career. I’ve had a run of new recordings being signed including a single on FFRR called ‘Empire’ being released first week of November and an EP on Moon Harbour – ‘The Woozle EP’ and a track on Alan Fitzpatrick’s label We Are The Brave. So you’re going to be hearing a lot more from me now on. There is also the single accompanying my Nubreed#12 album entitled ‘Genena’, which Global Underground are releasing on a 12” as well.
Who has been your greatest musical influence?
I would have to say my dad has probably been my greatest influence. He was a jazz drummer when he was younger and he really encouraged me to follow a path in music and to “never get a real job”. My dad is a jazz aficianado and his love of rhythm has influenced me greatly. When he was a kid he even hung out with Dizzy Gillespie in Stockton! He asked my dad if there was anywhere open for food after his gig and he invited Dizzy back to my grandmother’s house and they stayed up eating, drinking, playing chess and talking jazz. His love of jazz is so great he has the largest collection of Miles Davis’ original art in the world.
Which electronic music artists have you drawn energy from?
I would say definitely The Prodigy. I discovered No Good (Start The Dance) on a Smash Hits cassette when I was in my infancy! It was a life-changing moment. I grew up on happy hardcore as well, Slipmat, Bonkers with Hixxy and Sharkey; Gatecrasher also had a big influence on me, which is funny as I ended up playing in the house rooms of hard house and trance clubs back in the day. A big game changer for me was seeing Roger Sanchez playing at The Empire in Middlesbrough in 1999 and dropping ‘Another Chance’ the year before it reached No. 1 in the charts. Other favourite artists include Derrick Carter, Yousef, Andrew Weatherall, Layo & Bushwacka, Tenaglia, Garnier, Sasha and Digweed and Heidi, on whose label I released a track with Roger Sanchez and Derrick Carter – Full Circle EP – so it’s a small world really. That’s the beauty of being involved in this community.
‘Nubreed#12: Denney’ is due to for release on Friday 12th October 2018 as a double CD plus digital and streaming formats. A vinyl release featuring four exclusive tracks is scheduled for November 16th.