Foster Care, Synthwave and Condoms: In Conversation with Daniel Deluxe
Interview by Arnold van der Walt
“At the end of the day, everything is a remix”
Daniel Deluxe, who is based in Denmark, has been a prevalent artist at the forefront of the synthwave movement. Born in Moscow, Russia, Daniel Alexandrovich started his music career in 2013 and creates his unique minimal style with dark basslines by observing the world around him and translating it into music; whether it be anime from the 1980s and early 90s, video games, horror movies or an old Soviet space museum located in Moscow. His music is heavily influenced by the likes of John Carpenter, Daft Punk, Prodigy, Enigma, Lustmord, Burzum and Justice, but still manages to withhold his own Daniel Deluxe sound.
Synthwave has seen a massive growth spurt in recent years. With subgenres evolving like retrowave, vaporwave and cyberpunk to name a few, the genre has seen popularity in mainstream media like TV, film and especially video games. Daniel Deluxe is a perfect fit for this mold and his music has reached fans across the globe. With his millions of streams on Spotify, it was only a matter of time until he embarked on a North American tour. The Loved To Death tour will be kicking off on the 25th of September where he will be supporting Dance With The Dead across more than 30 dates in multiple countries.
Listen to ‘Star Eater’ by Daniel Deluxe, below.
We caught up with Daniel Deluxe in an honest conversation about growing up in foster care, how music saved his life, and being excited for authentic McDonald’s.
Hi Daniel Deluxe, before we get into the swing of things, why did you decide to work in the music industry? Why the arts?
To tell you the truth, music was always my getaway when stuff got bad. I didn’t have an “ideal” upbringing if I could put it in those terms, and not to make this a long and boring sob story, but more to be honest with you.
When my mom and I moved out of the Soviet Union to Europe, things were not all sunshine and rainbows. As a single mother my mom struggled to adapt to a new country, new language and a new way of life, so it was of course hard for her, and I was in no way an easy kid. It resulted in her losing custody over me very quickly, and I got taken away by the system and put into foster care. So from when I was 10 until I turned 18, I was living in a lot of different places, with a lot of different kids that showed me a lot of different styles of music. If there was something we all could come together on, it was music.
By the time I was 18 I had to leave foster care, and so to say my moral compass was not in the right place. I was angry at most things around me. I started hanging with the wrong crowd, doing stupid stuff here and there that I’m not too proud of, and that lifestyle sustained me for a while, until the cops came knocking on my door and I got locked up. When I got released, I worked hard on changing my life and morals around, so I enrolled in college and made music on the side to keep my focus on something else than breaking the law. I never thought it would bring me anything else than a piece of mind of my own so I was quite surprised when people started to give me credit for my work. I finally had something I could be proud of, I guess.
To this day, I’m seriously thankful for the people who told me to keep on doing this and were actually ready to spend their own money on my music without even knowing what I looked like, or knowing my background.
You have quite a distinctive dark-electro, almost retrowave/cyberpunk-influenced style. What/who are your inspirations?
John Carpenter, Goblin, Vangelis, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, Danger and many others have inspired the Daniel Deluxe project.
I watched a lot of movies on VHS as a kid, everything I could get my hands on that had a front cover that looked violent or horrific, so I try to emulate what I remember into sound, if that makes sense.
As for bands I listened to a whole bunch of stuff when I was younger. Everything from Black Sabbath, King Diamond and Burzum to Onyx, Wu-Tang and Biggie Smalls.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
I make most of my music at night. That is personally the best time for me.
When everyone else is sleeping and I can be alone with my stuff. I usually try to find something visual to write my music too, I mean not always, but it does help a lot.
During the day I try to write ideas down on my phone if something triggers that part of my brain. Maybe a quote, or a name, a place, it can be a lot of different things. Sometimes I write tracks for the energetic purpose, so people have something to move to, other times it’s more about a certain emotion, or a theme. Like for instance, if you take the word “Hope” as an example, I would try to write something that feels like hope. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but I don’t really know how else to explain it.
Gary Numan is quoted as saying: “I have always been far more interested in sound than technique, and how sounds work together, how they can be layered. I think electronic music, (in its infancy anyway) allowed us to create music in a way that hadn’t really been possible before. It created a new kind of musician.” What are your thoughts on this statement?
Very true. I respect anything original, even if the technique is not something people would call professional. At the end of the day, everything is a remix of some sorts in my opinion.
Let’s get technical for a moment: take us through Daniel Deluxe’s collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I mostly use software. I have a lot of virtual instruments and stuff that I don’t even know what it is, but it sounds okay for the most part to my ears. Quite frankly, I tend to not know what I am doing half of the time anyway. But SQ8L, Sylenth1, Korg Legacy, Massive are some of the synths I use, alongside some weird Russian and Japanese ones. My drums are a mixture of layers. I don’t really have a template that I open every time I make a new track. I try to layer my drums in a different kind of way every time I make a new track, just to keep things fresh I guess.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Studio work and music creation. I tend to get a bit nervous and self conscious when performing in front of a large crowd, mostly because I am doing gigs with long-time professional DJ’s and people who have played in bands most of their life.
I’m not a very good DJ if I had to say so myself, I feel like I still have a lot to learn, and I have never played in any band to be honest, but I try my best and hope people have a good time and will have a beer with me after the show if there is time.
Speaking of live performances, you are about to embark on a massive North American tour alongside Dance With The Dead. What can fans expect from the ‘Loved To Death’ tour?
Yes, that is the plan. First and foremost I am very thankful for the people involved who are making this happen, I know it’s been a lot of work.
I have actually built a new set and worked on my own visuals for the most part. There will be some new tracks that I have edited for live performance, and of course some older DD classics. It’s gonna be really cool, I promise.
Also merch will be available after each show, so there is that too, and for the people who can’t make it, there is some online too at danieldeluxe.com
Hopefully this won’t be the last time I visit the US.
Which city/performance are you most excited for? Have you travelled in USA before?
I am excited about the coastal areas, mainly Los Angeles and New York of course. I have been getting letters from people telling me if I come through they will buy me heroin and whatnot, so I am looking forward to that. Not the heroin of course, but the people.
But jokes aside, I am just happy to visit the states finally for the first time in my life and try authentic McDonalds.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Bottled water, on the floor, not the table.
How have you refined your craft since you first entered the industry? What are some of the mistakes you see younger producers make?
My mastering for sure. I try to make cleaner mixes than I did before, and focus on the punch, but yeah, depending on the song of course.
Hmm, I don’t know if producers “make mistakes”. I mean, there is my subjective opinion on the matter, but I don’t think anyone should care about that at all. On the mastering side of things, I don’t like when shit clips over 0 db, other than that, I don’t think I have anything to add. But again, it works for all these new soundcloud rappers, so people should just go for whatever feels right. Emphasis on “feels”.
If you could collaborate with, or perform alongside any artist, who would it be? And why?
Danger. I respect the dude, and he is also a big inspiration since my youth. I have played with him once in Helsinki, and once in Moscow.
Any new artists on your radar? Who are you currently listening to?
I like this new project called Darkest. It’s pretty epic.
Before we say goodbye, apart from the ‘Loved To Death’ tour, what can we expect from Daniel Deluxe in the near future?
Someone once told me Daniel Deluxe sounded like a condom brand, so I have been thinking about branching out into new markets.
No, but in all seriousness, I will probably try to finish up an EP before this year is over, and then I will start working on a new soundtrack for an upcoming video game that I can’t really talk about… yet. Other than that, only time will tell.
Famous last words…
Thank you for your time.