A few weeks ago, while in Amsterdam for ADE, Don’t Lose The Magic spent some time with Danny Daze, an artist who first began DJing in the fertile electro scene in his native Miami. We had a deep and personal chat about a health condition that has shaped his entire life, keeping him away from the drug culture that exists within the electronic music industry and giving him an early impetus to strive for success. And this is the resulting interview… (While reading this, DLTM recommends you flick on his Sunday Podcast set embedded in the interview below)
Can you explain what your heart condition is; what it’s called and what effect does it have on you?
Sure, it’s called Bradycardia and it’s led to DVT and something even crazier that I don’t want to talk about. It’s a condition that affects your circulation. My heart rate is resting at 35 beats per minute so anything that makes my heart go and up down could potentially kill me, which is the reason I don’t do drugs. I feel it whenever I drink Red Bull, or any kind of drink that has stimulants in it, or even alcohol. I often feel really tired. Usually your heart rate should be around 60 beats per minute, mine’s at 35, so… you know…
When were you diagnosed with it and how did your parents come to realise you had a problem?
I got diagnosed when I was a kid, when I was really young, around five or six years old. They noticed that I was really tired, always really really tired. I ended up taking medication for it, but now I’m good. In 2008 I had an incident where blood was coming out of my left atrium, it was leaking and that’s deadly, people die from that. Thankfully it was dealt with, I’m fixed and good to go.
Are you still on medication at all now?
How do you keep yourself in check then, because we guess the medication helped to regulate your heartbeat?
It was used to regulate my heartbeat yeah, but other medication was also administered to seal any areas where there was a leak. My left atrium was pretty messed up for a while, so I was given the medicine to help seal it. But the medication I was taking most of the time was to help regulate. It thinned the blood, and I still bleed now, like all of a sudden I’ll start bleeding from my nose and stuff like that. I needed that medication to help prevent DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). I’ve it and the reason I think I got it was because of the traveling. On eight or 10-hour flights I would never stand up once and that’s bad. Now I’ve started using compression socks. It’s a crazy thing, you should definitely use compression socks if you’re traveling a lot because it does happen. If I were to lift up my pants you’d see I have bruising up and down my legs from that.
So it’s obviously had quite a big impact on your life from an early age.
Well, I don’t think so because I’ve been born and raised a certain way and I don’t know any different. My mum would tell me, “You smoke weed, you’re gonna die”. I don’t think I would have tried those things anyway, so I don’t know if it’s affected me. For me alcohol is way more of a drug than a lot of the stuff that’s out there. The only obvious impact is that fear of dying, which is maybe more present for me than it is for most people. Last time I had a scare, I was on an airplane – I ended up fainting and woke up in First Class. I got hooked up!
You should try and pull that move one more often!
I woke up with a face mask on and we had to do an emergency landing, so that was pretty nuts. That was coming back from New York to Miami. We landed in Orlando, so I almost made it but we had to do the emergency stop, which is crazy because it costs the airline a lot of money.
Ok so it maybe hasn’t affected you because it’s been there since your formative years, but you do have to be conscious of it every day.
Yeah yeah, 100%. I can feel when I’m really tired and I do take notice of that. One of the things I really do have to look out for is diabetes. The blood not flowing right can lead to that stuff so I’m watching how I eat, trying to get as much sleep as possible…
It’s not easy when you’re DJing though, right?
Nah, that’s probably why I don’t party too hard also; I’m trying to sleep and conserve as much energy as possible.
Do you feel like having the risk of a premature death hanging over you from an early age has motivated you to push harder to be a success?
Subconsciously I think so, yes. I don’t have it ‘lingering over my head’ because it’s not a big risk, it would be far worse if this was a serious risk to my life. I’m not at big risk, it’s pretty common. A lot of athletes develop it because they need to pump less blood – their hearts are really strong. When it’s not treated or you don’t know you have it and you become, say, a heroin addict or you get hooked on sleeping pills, you’re done.
We hear you meditate a lot too, is that connected to the Bradycardia?
Not really, it’s more connected to alleviating stress – trying to relax and de-stress. This entire industry is pretty damn stressful. I’ve been doing it every morning I wake up and every night before I go to sleep for 10 to 12 years. I used to do tae kwon do and that’s what we did before and after each class. I really like the way it felt, it feels really good so I kept doing it. I try to spend half an hour doing it every day, but it depends how quickly I can get into a meditative state, I can sometimes be there for quite a while. Thirty minutes to an hour is my average.
What are the main causes of stress for you?
The industry, this industry… well, it’s not really the industry, it’s knowing when to stop. When you’re your own boss, when you have people depending on you to make money, like I’m trying to pay my mum’s house off, those are the things that stress me out. Knowing when stop is the hardest part; I start when my eyes open and I stop when they’re closed and that’s not good. I’m trying to have a normal day-to-day job and be my own boss.
We know how exactly the freelance life is; there is no end to the day!
You think there will be. You think it will end or it will get easier but the more you grow, the more you’re known, the more pressure you put on yourself. The more you can do, the more influence you can have, the more money you make… it’s just gets more and more. I’m trying to learn how to balance that; a real life, where I can have a wife and kids and this.. crap. It’s ego-driven, everyone’s trying to climb up that ladder and it’s stressful.
You’ve been involved in music for a long while now…
Yeah, yeah, since ‘99.
…this industry is different from the electro scene you were involved with to begin with, but have you identified any parallels between them; were there still egos and people who were driven by money?
Honestly, no. This is the bigger scene, whereas electro was a bunch of people who didn’t really care about blowing up, they blew up and made money somehow but it didn’t come from a conscious effort to do that. A lot of people that I know, that have been doing it way longer than me, are living in a tiny place really excited to get their hands on a new synthesiser. They’re not looking for the brand new Mercedes or wanting to dress as cool as possible. My mind state is still there; I own properties in Miami but I still live in a tiny little spot. I still drive a 2002 Mercedes when I could have a way nicer one. My mindset is still there because if you put yourself in a situation where you’re living in a nice house and driving a nice, brand new car, you might get lazy. I like to put myself in a situation where I still feel like I have to work to escape it. I think I’m gonna stay that way for a while.
This business can sometimes chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful.
That’s the thing, I don’t know when this is gonna end. I’m constantly living on the edge, thinking, “When is this gonna end?”. It hasn’t yet, but thank God. I’ve been traveling since 2007, but still I’m like, “This has to end, this has to end”, but it’s not, it’s getting better and better. I’m not projecting into the future like, “I’m gonna be this big guy”, I’m just saving money and hoping everything doesn’t go to shit.
What do you think it takes to achieve longevity in this industry while maintaining your physical and mental health?
The worst thing is narcissism. You have to remember that the only reason you’re there is because of the people around you. I definitely think you have to be humble to maintain longevity. It’s not blowing up as fast as possible, making money, then dropping out because that’s gonna mess with your head. If you can be consistent and have a nice, linear rise that’s the biggest thing – the way to that is through humility. Just be humble. That’s pretty much it, and skills. Some sort of skills. You don’t have to be James Brown these days but you need to have skills of some kind.
Do you ever find it difficult being surrounded by people who are getting high?
No, I’m used to it. The electro scene was even worse – it was acid and micro dots and all of that stuff. I was surrounded by it and it doesn’t bother me. It’s even better sometimes because they’re sinking into the music. I don’t mind, I just drink! I get drunk as hell…