Daniel Wang *
1) Introduce yourself?
Hallo this is Daniel Wang - I suppose I am known for making "left
field" disco music and playing DJ sets with lots of
obscure (and not so obscure) old disco (and other) music.
I am Chinese American, born in California, lived in Taiwan
for 7 years of my childhood. Studied psychology and literature
in school, lived between 1990 and 2003 in New York City,
worked in a vintage synthesizer and a record shop... and
now I am living in Berlin.
2) Present your music style. "Where
do you come from, where do you go" "..if from
the stars.." IDEALISM: your album on Environ was and "is" a
pearl for disco electronic lover and inspire the current
fashion DJs, labels, electro rock music style. What do
you think about? Influences: Italo, boogie, electronic,
IDEALISM was a compilation of several vinyl EPs I did.
My honest critique - it has some lovely moments, but some
things I would like to change of course!! I'm a bit self-critical.
The beat on Rings of Saturn sounds too stiff to me now;
I wish I could have recorded a much better theremin piece
- that would happen AFTER the Cd release, on the Environ
E.P. ... I want to write better key changes in the future
(like Cole Porter songs), and I still have a long, unreleased
master version of my favorite piece, ALL FLOWERS MUST FADE,
which is a synth instrumental about Zen Buddhism, time,
and reincarnation really. The beginning is like the end,
and the melody has two reincarnations....
I know that my music seems to be full of influences from
the 1970s and 1980s, but I hope that is only because MUSIC
from those periods was much more "musical". For
me what matters are melody, harmony, texture, ... like
hip hop now or trance or techno - its all just idiotic
computer loops or stolen samples - who cares? It's shit.
I always try to add some modern touches - like with my
Yamaha formant synth, the filters change over time. This
is not always obvious but it is in there.
I used to be obsessed with making A GOOD BASSLINE (that
was very Paradise Garage, like "Magnificent Dance" or "Nothing
going on but the rent") but now of course I feel the
overall structure and composition are more important -
like ALL FLOWERS MUST FADE is an example. I think the French
disco band VOYAGE made real classics - their structures
(like "Souvenirs") were really well-developed!
3) Your Italo most strange-played
Oh I have a few italo favorites: Mr. Master "Dog in
the Night" on Il Discotto; strange ones are Black
Devil Disco Club or Pink Project of course (I never play
it, but it is so funny).... but I love Azoto, and TANTRA "Macumba/
Tarot Suite" - Celso Valli is a genius; and Gaz Nevada "Special
Agent Man" - we are remixing it for Environ.
4) Your "escape from NY":
Berlin at present and European world, peoples!
I have a marvelous book from 1980 called "NIGHT DANCING".
it was a comprehensive guide to ALL THE DISCOs in New York
at that time - not just Studio 54 and Paradise Garage,
but also all the unusual clubs like Ice Palace, Crisco
Disco, Xenon, Cotton Club, Empire Roller Rink....
Basically, I escaped from New York to Berlin in 2003 because
(1) New York is just too expensive, and all my DJ work
is now in Europe, (2) I had very few close gay friends
in New York and discovered a very open gay atmosphere in
Germany, (3) I could not stand looking at G.W. Bush's face
on the television. Bush makes me want to vomit - and all
the stupid people in America who voted for him. And you
know why American pop culture is awful now? Because when
you have to pay so much rent every month, MONEY becomes
more important than LOVE or NEW IDEAS.
When I look at NIGHT DANCING, I realize something: we are
all living in a FANTASY of New York's disco world in 1980,
but that world does not exist in New York anymore. New
York now is Nike, McDonalds and Starbucks Coffee, and all
the people with talent and ideas (Metro Area, DFA for example)
got work and got famous OUTSIDE of New York - i.e. in London,
Paris or Berlin. Morgan gave the first 2 Metro Area records
to all the New York "house" DJs like Timmy Regisford
- those people never played it or cared! The gay clubs
are filled with idiots who think Junior Vasquez is a god!
And all that stupid unmelodic AFRO BRAZILIAN house still
dominates the "house" scene.
So of course New York is NOT the Center anymore. It is
just one of many cities where little things are happening
- like London or Berlin or Tokyo, or better yet, Oslo or
Barcelona or Helsinki. I am not cynical; I just didn’t
want to live in one place for the rest of my life, and
believe this silly illusion. Maybe there isn’t one
CENTER any more!
5) Your songs are influenced by
the 80's music; which of those artists are your favourites?
There are too many, but the few on my CD walkman right
now are TOO SHY by Kajagoogoo (prod by Duran Duran)! Gwen
Guthrie's PEANUT BUTTER and Grace Jones PRIVATE LIFE (Sly
and Dunbar) and Tantra (Celso Valli).
6) Midtempo discobeat: talk about
Panoramic trax and Leather Video experience.
I LOVE midtempo disco because I think there is a special
groove in there - like Maze "Twilight" at 109
bpm is a good example. And lots of soft disco rock, like
Bee Gees "Night Fever". That is "sleeze
tempo" - it's the club at 5 am, when the old disco
queens are REALLY now feeling each other, having sex in
the darkroom or just "grooving". Panoramic is
not the best example I think, but the B-side - the leather
video music I made was really for a porno film from San
Francisco, but it was about that MOOD - not bam bam bam,
but more sensual.
7) Philosophy of BALIHU: disco,
sampling, rhythm and future plans. When do you work on
a new track what kind of approach do you prefer? Immediate
and instinctive or technical and rational?
ACTUALLY let me be very specific. I basically hate sampling
old disco records. If someone has not enough originality
to make a bassline or melody, they shouldn’t make
music. But lately, I sampled a rhythm pattern from a record
- just because I haven’t done it for a long time,
and I don’t want to be too dogmatic!!
I am not sure if music has INFINITE variations, but I am
both instinctive and rational when I make something. A
good bassline or melody is from instinct, but that instinct
comes from accumulated knowledge. Just instinct is not
enough - you need to develop the idea with techniques.
There are so many things to add or subtract - arpeggios,
obligattos, solos, 7th and 9th and 11th chords, major and
Most of all, I believe every idea has a possibility. Pop
music is full of good ideas which weren't well developed
(like italo disco tracks); or bad ideas which are overdeveloped
(like Celine Dion). And sometimes, the idea and the development
are perfect - like Giorgio Moroder's "Evolution" for
8) Do you prefer to work with synthesizers
or on your desktop?
You mean laptop computer? I only use it to do some sequencing,
and I never do the whole piece on it. But Ii do use the
KORG D16 - only 16 tracks - and with a 2 x 15-cm wide LCD
screen and real faders. I really think computers have killed
people's creativity. The screen is deceptive. So many pretty
colors, but so little harmonic content... I like to touch
my keyboards - ARP odyssey, Korg Poly 800, Yamaha TX81Z,
Roland SH 101 etc. I like to tune them with my own ears.
9) When you are creating a new track,
do you think at the reaction that people might have listening
to it or just at the reaction that you get in that moment?
In the latest electronic music there are no emotions, your
music although is full of personal feelings; how important
for you is to give a soul to your tracks?
Of course I want people to react to the song, but the best
way is just to put all my emotion and energy into it. Of
course I still dont feel im emotional enough - if I start
singing songs like Gladys Knight or Karen Carpenter, that
will be really great soul music! All this instrumental
disco I make seems to me like a sublimated, "aesthetisized" soul
music, to be honest.
But at the same time, I think for many musicians, good
music (= good harmony and melody) becomes an expression
of emotion itself, and that is also ok. I listen to Satie
at home much more often than black "soul music".
So you dont have to scream or cry - a beautiful electric
piano glissando can express the same thing. But of course
there must be emotion in it, and maybe thats why IDEALISM
is good - besides Buddhism, theres a Tokyo love story in
there, and a song for my scottish boyfriend.... it is all
personal. But these people who make a few loops on their
software synth – that’s not music, to me.
10) Talk about your latest gig around
the world, about your public and fans.
Well, in this last month, I traveled to Gran Canaria (Spanish
islands near Morocco coast), Tel Aviv (Israel), Vilnius
(Lithuania), and London. A beautiful Spanish boy named
Ilya and I exchanged emails about music for one year, and
I decided to go visit him in Gran Canaria. It was wonderful
- althought there were maybe 5 people on that island (5
million people) who understood disco music like he did.
I think disco-style dance music speaks to certain instincts
in people (beauty, sublimated sexual instincts), and in
some cultures (like in Spain) those are suppressed or diverted
into other forms of expression.
Lithuania was freezing cold, but spring was coming. The
people were wonderful and I think a lot of my disco records
sounded fresh there - one girl just wanted to hear me play "I
will survive" - Lithuania was soviet communist before
1990! Tel Aviv was not at all dangerous. It was a bit like
a big hebrew-speaking section of Brooklyn, New York - the
American influence is strong. But most people there didn’t
quite know where my weird disco music was coming from...
11) Music and your preferred colors.
When I was a child I thought that I was supposed to have "favourite
colors". For a while it was purple (radiant, deep)
then yellow (bright) then red and silver (absolute, imperial,
blood and metal).
Then I realized I have no favorite color - it depends only
on the mood and the shade (tint). And the combination of
colors - green with orange can be ugly; or it could be
12) Music and fashion.
Well you know on my CD label i wrote once - I wish i could
make one beautiful classic simple pop song (like a Cole
Porter jazz tune - that would be like a simple black dress)
but my mentality is more like Comme des Garcons (strange
textures, technological touches).
Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, Alex McQueen are still
my heroes, but I couldn't wear those things in public.
Well, maybe for performances I will. If I earn lots of
13) Explain, describe what music
is. imagine to describe, talking to a little child!
Wow! Heavy question. Actually I am very scientific about
this. Perfect harmonies do exist in nature - it is physics.
Like perfect "4th" and "5th" harmonies.
You know plants grow faster when they hear pure harmonies?
Chinese and Greek musicians calculated the mathematics
of it all over 2000 years ago, but of course i think music
is "the language of the subconscious" - our brains
experience and store emotions as groups of frequencies,
like the beeping of a fax machine or modem. And of course,
these sounds follow a certain steady rhythm, also like
the "data speed/ baud rate" of a computer modem.
That's why a beautiful rhythm "feels so good".
A few times, between sleeping and waking up, I was able
to hear these beeps in my brain ....
If we use machines - guitars, violins, synthesizers - I
think we are manipulating these emotions and thoughts.
If we do it well, we are making beautiful music... So,
to a child, I would say - music is just the secret language
of your brain - not like German or Italian, but the code
underneath these languages.
14) Your friends around the world,
crew, most interesting Club, the peoples you thank on your
records (I love it, read it!)
Oh god I have made so many friends through these records
was really among the first, from Balihu)....
I cannot name just one person! But it really makes you
think - there might be war and poverty and disease, but
in tiny moments, it's like world peace is possible through
music, because it gives people something in common beyond
language and politics. ABBA is playing on the radio in
this internet cafe (where I am now) and that is DEFINITELY
some kind of universal music!! Ha ha! Maybe one day they
will all play ABBA DANCING QUEEN at Weddings in Iran and
we won't have Islamic terrorism anymore.
As for favorite clubs - I HAVE noticed that the best moments
are the clubs in smaller cities, where all the friends
in one city come together. The big clubs have better dance
floors and lights maybe, but the sound is often boomy,
and the public will be more commercial. A smaller club
(like Seminfinal in Helsinki, or Erste Liga in Munich)
is often more intimate. Oh - but I did have a wonderful
night in Liquid Room in Shinjuku Tokyo. It was a huge club,
but all these boys came to hear me (hetero AND gay) and
they all took off their shirts...
Traveling so much, I never forget that this is a rare opportunity.
I mean, in the 1950s, only HYPER RICH people could travel
to 20 or 30 countries in 3 or 4 years. If I died in an
airplane crash tomorrow, I could not complain!
15) Do you mix with rotary mixer
(like Larry style-Levan UREI) or prefer mixer with effect?
I really need to have a crossfader. Of course I think the
Urei sounds better than a Pioneer and Allen & Heath,
but I don't believe in "the myth" of the Urei.
I LOVE David Mancuso but I disagree with his "no mixing" philosophy.
Some records are made for mixing, with beats and breaks
which do make magic with certain other records.
You cannot exploit those sounds with knobs. The best DJ
is someone who improvises with the equipment and the club
16) "Let's go to Mars" I
think this trax is really magic, atmospheric, sweet . Why
Mars fashinated you and how actually is the red planet
Actually I like "Lets go to Mars" also. The bridges
have a nice key change, and the synth "obligattos" (the
little acid bleeps) are complex, carefully programmed.
It is not only about Mars - but you know, I really believe
in life on other planets, or maybe they are just humans
from the FUTURE.
(In the 1970s a Danish researcher named Erich von Daeniken
was a popular author - look at those strange space / UFO
drawings in Mexico and the Middle East, and there are even
clay "astronaut" figures from ancient Japan.)
I am serious!!!
17) Message to everyone:
Dont believe all the hype about DJs and dance music and
blah blah blah. Especially samples referencing "this",
or experimental electronic "that".
The reality is so simple - groovy music made by humans
who care about a good bassline or a good song. It's just
about love, falling in love with some beautiful boy or
girl or thing on the dancefloor.
It's about fantasy, so forget the expensive Gucci bag and
go out in a leather harness or a ballgown instead. Or....
just go naked.
Crazy questions made by Dario "Dax
www.family-house.net © 04.2004
Thnx to: MOG, DJ
Kent (Japan) 4 helpin' me!
Daniel Wang - Presents Balihu 1993-2008 - Rush Hour