Skip to main content
 

At Home With: Danny Daze

Miami bass and electro innovator Danny Daze takes DJ Mag’s Megan Venzin on a tour of his home studio and some lesser-known pockets of his hometown, and chats about his Cuban-American heritage, and mentoring the creators of South Florida’s next big sound

Danny Daze might be known for redefining Miami bass, but an actual bass is not what DJ Mag expects to see when we pull up to a cream-coloured house in the quiet neighbourhood of Flagami on a sunny Friday afternoon. Where an address number should be is instead a giant, unmarked fish, its mouth spilling open to reveal the day’s mail. Our door knock goes unanswered, but when we dial the artist, whose real name is Daniel Gomez, he assures us we’ve arrived at the right place.

“I’ll let you in around back,” says the voice from the other end of the line, and a few moments later, an enthusiastic Gomez emerges in a camouflage shirt, wire frame glasses and a black baseball cap. Beyond a swinging gate is a collection of unusual cars, at least four in plain view, including a Wonderbread logo-wrapped vehicle that’s seen better days. “They’re for racing mostly,” he explains, touching on the first of a seemingly endless well of hobbies that occupy his time when he’s not pushing 16-hour sessions for an immersive, audio-visual planetarium project called ‘Blue’ that he’ll unveil as a special presentation during Art Basel this December.

The internationally renowned producer currently resides with his sister, niece, brother-in-law and mother, and his childhood home is literally a stone’s throw away. After decades of living in different locations — from a short stint in a jail cell to destinations like Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam — “Danny from Miami” is back on the street where he grew up, the very place where he learned to breakdance and honed his craft on the first pair of CDJs he received as a gift from his mom (who also granted him his DJ moniker) when he was just 13 years old.

“I could have gone a long time ago,” Gomez shares. “But for some reason, coming back now, being home so long, dude, it feels good. I’ve been travelling hard since 2007. I don’t even know if I’m going to leave, I’m just chilling here.” He has a second residence in Portugal, but it’s not getting much use currently. “I haven’t even been to the Lisbon spot yet,” he admits. “I may not go, actually.”

Danny Daze leaning against his seabass mailbox, and another picture of his car

Upon entering his stateside studio, we understand why he’s second-guessing his next move. Danny Daze’s sonic laboratory is serving intergalactic, Fern Gully vibes. Green foliage dangles over an impressive station packed with synths like an Andromeda A6 and an Ensoniq Fizmo, which he utilised to create about 80% of the first full-length album (also titled ‘Blue’) that he’s been chipping away at for about three years. “A lot of people now like to work internally, like inside the box,” Gomez explains. “They’ll just create using VST plugins and stuff, but I really enjoy the atmosphere of turning the lights off and feeling like you’re inside a spaceship — a spaceship inside of a forest.”

Playful mushrooms peek out from the ceiling, not far from a tennis racket that’s representative of the alternate path his career could have taken. “I used to play professionally, actually, until I was 19. And then I had some stuff happen legally, where I got arrested,” he offers up candidly. “And then my life changed. But, yeah, that was my life before — five hours a day, every single day and tournaments on the weekend.” 

Other accoutrements, like a Bernie Sanders figurine, a bottle of Snoop Dogg-branded table wine, a pin-covered world map and a taxidermied common snook fish that Gomez caught himself offer a varied look into the tangential mind of Danny Daze. “And we got the big teddy bears back here — you’ll like those if you’re tripping balls,” he adds with a laugh that indicates that sort of activity happens here often.

“I made mine like this because most studios that I’ve gone to are usually kind of boring,” he explains of the wacky aesthetic. “I want anybody that comes in here, anybody that I collaborate with, to walk in and know that it’s go-time.” The message is well-received. On the left-hand wall are a plethora of handprints — names like Jonny From Space, Lonely C (of Soul Clap) and the members of the local INVT crew are a few visitors who’ve left their mark in paint and sharpies.

The self-proclaimed “nerd” powers on the computer to provide a sneak preview of forthcoming productions, and they’re as expansive as the tricked-out location where they were dreamed up. “It’s all just movement,” he says loudly over a celestial soundscape that swells and warbles. “That’s what a lot of the album is like. It’s just kind of manipulated audio.” 

He goes on to share that his planetarium presentation will showcase the new tunes, and include additional content made for Oculus headsets, as well as NFTs (Gomez is big into all-things crypto). “We’re building monsters that will float over your head in 2D and then explode into three dimensions,” he continues excitedly. “It’s literally the biggest project I’ve worked on in my entire life.” 

Gomez began DJing regularly in 1999, inspired by pioneering names like Phoenecia and Autechre, and local imprints like Merck Records and Schematic. The snippets he shares today are distinctly different from the electro and ass-shaking cuts that eventually made Danny Daze an in-demand booking in the mid-2000s, but that’s only appropriate given that Gomez has made it his mission to defy the one-trick pony assertion.

“People just immediately pegged me into a wall. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a deep house DJ from Ibiza’. Yeah, not even close,” he shares of the period following the release of ‘Your Everything’, his breakout hit featuring Louisahhh, which dropped on Jamie Jones’ Hot Creations imprint more than a decade ago. “That song, for me, was an electro record. For a while, I was like, ‘I can’t even touch this record’, but I play it out now, and it’s fun.” 

The track exploded in 2011 during Miami Music Week, which coincidentally is also the event that DJ Mag is in town for now. “Where are you staying?” he asks. When we say South Beach, he replies with no filter: “Oh that place is absolutely abysmal.”

As such, our next stop is nowhere near Collins Ave or Ocean drive. We’re hungry, and what better place to head than 8th street for some authentic Cuban fare? We pile into a green ‘91 Nissan Cima, a Japanese car with right-hand drive, which Gomez insists he drives “for the experience”.

Danny Daze sat in front of a giant chicken. Danny Daze waiting to pay for his meal

While en route to the strip that’s frequented by the proud Cuban people of South Florida and tourists alike, he lets us in on the history of his family. Gomez’s grandfather owned a tobacco farm that was seized by the Cuban government back in the ‘60s, after the Castro family came to power. “He left on a boat, on a little dinghy from Cuba,” he says of his grandfather’s escape. “It took him like a week to get here with no motor, just drifting off.” 

Gomez, though clearly connected to his heritage, reveals that he’s never been to the country where his mother was born. “I don’t want to go,” he says defiantly. “Whenever my mom has gone to visit or meet up with family, she comes back super depressed. Why am I gonna go do that to myself?” 

In lieu of the 90-mile flight, he mingles among other nationals and Cuban-Americans, who share similar stories at spots like Versailles. “It’s a restaurant where Cubans go and celebrate everything that is Cuban — yesterday they actually celebrated that flan became the official dessert of Miami. We celebrated there when Fidel Castro died — it’s a place where we just go with pots and pans and we party whenever crazy stuff happens within Cuba,” he reveals about our next stop, which has been family-owned and operated for more than four decades. 

When we pull into the Versailles parking lot, we realise lots of lunch-seekers had the same idea, so we opt for a Cuban coffee at the takeout window instead. We order a Cortadito, a sugar and milk-laced concoction that comes in a styrofoam cup and is missing a much-needed warning label. When we hear Gomez go for a fresh- squeezed orange juice, we know we’re in trouble. “Yeah, I can’t do caffeine, it makes me crash like crazy,” he says, nonchalantly. Unfortunately, we’ve already downed the frothy mix, and hope for the best. (Spoiler alert: we’ve never sweated more in our lives.)

We head across the street to La Carreta, where the line is shorter and the menu is nearly identical (apparently the same family runs it). We wait for our table while Gomez shares his knowledge of the flag-wrapped concrete chicken out front that’s part of a bygone street art series. A few minutes later the hostess announces, “Mesa para Danielito!” Gomez snickers, “Yeah, I told them my name was Danielito.”

We order a plate of ham and cheese croquettes, along with Cuban sandwiches and a traditional combination of Ropa Vieja with frijoles negros y arroz blanco (that’s shredded beef with black beans and rice, FYI.) When the appetiser arrives, Gomez offers instructions for enjoying the crispy fritters. “You take a saltine, and do it like this,” he says, before popping the cracker and croquette combo into his mouth in one big bite. When the mains arrive, he’s a little less enthused. “They put pickles on this — I fucking hate pickles,” he says, before dissecting the pressed sandwich and scarfing it down anyway.

The mid-day chatter is rife with deep cuts. We get the inside scoop on Danny’s come up — from the teenage days he spent DJing local parties, his uncredited work with popstar Mike Posner, and how his time with the trio DiscoTech and their eventual dissolution sent him veering toward a more alternative sound. We also touch on his love for chemistry and the aforementioned brush with the law. “Remember when I said I got arrested? Yeah, that was drug-related. The reason I got caught was because I unknowingly sold pills to a detective,” he admits between sips of cola. 

“I was locked up for nine months, but in some ways it was a lot like summer camp.” Though he’s soft in his descriptors, it’s obviously an inflection point that had a profound impact on his mindset, not to mention his professional trajectory. Had tennis remained his focal point, it’s unlikely that our next stop would be on the docket. 

Record store section reading Miami Bass/Freestyle. Danny Daze eating a sandwich

We pay the bill and cruise over to Technique Records and Wish You Were Gear, a combo shop in the Miami Shores district where folks can crate dig and gaze upon rare synths all under one roof. “Where are you playing this week, Danny?” asks the event manager, Caroline Cardenas, while giving him a hug. He’ll kick off Get Lost at Factory Town at 5AM the next morning (“I’m just going to stay up until then”) and he’s on the bill at the Where Are My Keys? Closing Party on Sunday night, alongside names like Omar S and Palms Trax, at 94th Aero Squadron out by the airport (“It’s the coolest club in the city because you can watch the airplanes take off right there”). When she inquires about our local accommodations, Cardenas echoes Danny’s familiar sentiments. “It’s horrible down there. How do you do it?” She chides.

We take a stroll around the interior, peeking at the Miami bass and electro selections — stuff like 2 Live Crew, Pretty Tony and Disco Rick, offer a glimpse of what’s available. The Omnidisc section — Danny Daze’s self-launched label touting artists like Piska Power, Vivian Koch and Dean Grenier — is completely sold-out.

“This is probably one of the most curated record stores in all of the United States, and it’s owned by this great guy, Mikey. I don’t really buy a tonne of vinyl anymore, but I’ll come down here whenever they get a big electro shipment,” Gomez says, in between chatting with another employee (and fellow DJ/producer), Greg Beato, who’s manning a modest wall of theremins and other modular items. 

A schedule of upcoming album release parties indicates the powerful community the small shop has fostered. When Danny Daze released his ‘Propaganda & Manipulation’ EP back at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, he pledged 50% of its sales directly to the then-struggling business. It was the least he could do for a local treasure that had been so important to him since its 2017 opening.

In the years following his incarceration, Gomez got serious about music. When he sent a pop-laced mix to Diego Martinelli, a promoter he encountered on MySpace but had yet to meet IRL, a second chance came into focus. Lucky for us, he happens to be just down the road so we meet up with him for a quick glass of wine at a waterfront bar called Shuckers.

“He sent me this completely schizo mix — it was amazing,” Martinelli says of the wild creation that clashed Madonna with the Beastie Boys, Debbie Gibson and everyone else you wouldn’t expect. He has a kind smile and a supportive demeanour, something that’s likely remained a grounding rod for Gomez since those early days. They converse about old times and works in progress, too, as one of the visual artists behind the ‘Blue’ experience is also in tow enjoying a cheeseburger and a cold beer.

Danny Daze and the Miami crew

Our impromptu interlude ends, and we drive downtown for a proper hang with Miami’s up-and-coming talents at Margot Natural Wine Bar, a low-lit spot known for its skin-contact wines, which we learn is a method whereby white wine is made like a red. We start with a 2020 bottle of fizzy Kobal Bajta Pet Nat rosé and sip leisurely as Gomez’s protégés trickle in.

“There’s something really cool happening in Miami now where I kind of feel like I’m bridging the gap between these artists who influenced me, like Phoenecia, Soul Oddity and stuff like that, and the younger kids who I’m influencing now,” he shares with a palpable zeal. “I’ve put this thing together where they’re meeting each other, and having the meeting of the minds as well. 

Once we’re out of the pandemic, there’s going to be a massive influx of this new Miami sound.” The members of INVT, along with Bitter Babe, Nick León, Jonny From Space, Coffintexts, Sister System and Sel.6 eventually arrive to kick off their Friday night with Danny Daze. “I was telling them that I’m like the fun uncle to you all,” he says, referencing an earlier mention. The squad plays everything from IDM to acid house, and trust when we say they aren’t afraid of heavy bass. “We’ll do these concept nights where we’ll just sit down and listen to a full album for an hour and a half — stuff like the Roni Size ‘Reprezent’ album, Phoenecia’s ‘Brownout’, or, you know, the album that I just finished, and we’ll just sit there and listen. And they’re like ‘Yo, we’ve never really done this before — just sat and listened’.”

There’s electric energy in the room as the close friends exchange their MMW plans and ample laughs. They get in a few good jabs at some of the more mainstream parties and names who will also play in town that weekend — temporary transplants who come for massive gatherings like Ultra Music Festival at the nearby Bayfront Park, or the “horrid” pool parties back by the beach. “I’m a hater — that’s how I make my friends,” Gomez says. “If we hate the same thing we’re probably going to get along.”

Gomez still has a whole night ahead of him, so he finishes the remnants of a second bottle before wrangling his chosen posse for a group photo. “DJ can be a verb or a noun — I absolutely live this as a noun,” he says with conviction, before heading toward the door. We can’t help but think that his overseas studio will sit empty for sometime. Danny Daze may be a hero of the global underground, but the roots he’s formed at home are deep-set and sturdy. It’s only fitting that his origin has become a part of his public-facing identity. He’ll forever embody that three-part noun — he’ll always be “Danny from Miami”.

Want more? Read At Home With: Optimo (Espacio) here

Megan Venzin is DJ Mag North America's Contributing Editor. You can follow her on Twitter @Meggerzv

Photography: Lawrence Jones