Daniel Bell is somewhat of an enigma. Born in Sacramento, California, grew up outside of Toronto, Canada, and later moved to Detroit where he went on to collaborate with Richie Hawtin as Cybersonik for three years on Plus 8 records. In 1991, he started his own label, Accelerate, where he released a string of influential releases as DBX.
Influenced primarily by Chicago House as well as Steve Reich and Philip Glass his productions are characterized by minimalist house grooves accentuated by blips and bleeps and twisted and morphed bizarre voice effects and eerie atmospherics.
Moving behind the scenes to set up 7th City Distribution in 1994. When this wound to a close in 2000, he relocated to Berlin, Germanyl.. but let's not bang on about his history, in a rare occurence from the elusive Bell we have a whole interview to get through ahead of his apperance at Secretsundaze Roofttop party at Bussey this weekend.
Hi Daniel, thanks for taking the time to talk to us…
Steve Reich has said that minimalism is about breaking down barriers between the rarefied world of classical music and popular music. Your own music did a similar thing, to an extent, in that it brought techno into a new sphere and that arguably made it more accessible, outside the confines of Detroit. Do you feel proud of that legacy?
For most of the 90's, I was running a record distribution company, was co-owner of a record store and also putting releases out on three three record labels. So I had to stay close to home and wasn't traveling too much. It's nice to know my music made an impact, but outside of hearing it on visits to Chicago, I rarely heard my music in clubs.
After moving to Europe, I had a better handle on how my records were being received. It's nice but I feel like I still have a lot of unfinished business to take care of. I think people have some preconceived ideas of what my music represents but I'm not sure it's entirely accurate.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you don’t feel like you are from anywhere in particular, and identify more with a kind of nomadic lifestyle. Having lived in so many different places, do you go along with the theory of psychogeography in music – that a place has its own sort of unique psyche that feeds into the creativity of it’s inhabitants?
I would say there is some truth to that. In Detroit people rarely walk, they spend many months indoors in the winter and public transportation is almost non-existent. So people end up living a more isolated existence than compared to most cities. And I think you hear that in the music – the isolation, the emptiness, the space. It can be a bit wistful or hopeful at times but it's largely an introverted music that is a bit of out of step with the rest the world.
What new music are you working on these days, and what is your production set up now?
I have a very simple set-up. I made a move to software when I first moved to Europe, but after returning to the U.S. I've gone back to using just a few drum machines and synths. I've found that by limiting myself I get the most out of my equipment and I'm able to focus on the arrangements more. Also, the older equipment tends to add a unique flavor and I feel one of the more interesting elements of Techno music is the exploitation of those idiosyncrasies found in older technology.
What would you say has been the standout high point of your career to date?
I can't isolate one event in particular. I'm just glad to be able to continue doing what I do and to go about it in the stubborn fashion of I've become accustomed to. The early years had their ups and downs but I feel like I'm in a good place now. I've cut back on my dj schedule and now I ble to spend time on some new projects. I'm even able to keep a few plants where I live now. Before they would always end up dying because I was never around to water them.
I hear you’re quite keen on late 90s Uk house music. Any artists in particular and what is it about the sound at that time that you’re into?
There are many but I'll mention Steve O'Sullivan, Josh Brent, Matthew Herbert and Nail Tolliday. So much of the music of that era is incredibly funky and original. Obviously, American House and Techno were an influence but the UK guys evolved that sound without losing any of the groove.
Finally, what is currently floating your boat in terms of modern music, and what kind of material can we expect to hear during your set at Secretsundaze on July 1st?
There hasn't been too many new releases that have really caught my ear recently so I've spent more time digging back in the collection. I don't preselect records for an event, I just go along with whatever the atmosphere lends itself to.
Daniel Bell plays Secretsundaze rooftop this weekend alongside Braiden, Flori & James Priestley & Giles Smith