The maestro, Danny Calderon or Mr. Calderon, is on his way to becoming a household name in the nightlife scene. The New York native can be seen mixing top 40 hits with calypso vibes during his residency at places like The Living Room at The W Hotel Times Square, NY, or during New York fashion parties. The DJ, who also produces, balance’s the tempo of his budding career with being a mentor to up and coming disk jockeys in NY. While preparing for an exciting series of events during Art Basel Miami 2016, Mr. Calderon is also preparing to debut his debut album boasting a heavy list of features.
Last but not least, Mr. Danny Calderon himself. At this point my assistant and I were huddled in a corner surrounded by a pile of notes and empty glasses, a tad frazzled to say the least... but the moment Danny walked in we were immediately re-energized by his presence. Find out why Danny Calderon is about to be New Yorks favorite DJ.
J: What attracted you to the Sherman|Preston and the #HYPE campaign?
D: I think Sherman and Preston, their presentation of art, it transcends everything. What I mean by that is that it's youthful, it's cultural, it's colorful, and decadent. There's a quality to it that brings out the best in the individual who wears it. Another factor is comfortability. It's very comfortable. You know you're going to look good and feel confident.
J: Walk me through your personal style journey. The evolution of your personal style.
D: Growing up as a New Yorker I was very much into the hiphop culture and I always had a passion for the preppy/varsity look. As the years went by, I was able to define what I feel comfortable in and that is Americana meets street wear. You know also the preppy look as well. All those elements combined, I tend to fuse that...incorporate that into my own look.
J: I tend to think I created that look. Back in high school, I was the first person wearing Hollister clothes with fitteds (laughter).
D: (Laughter) My thing was more Diesel. Like I would buy Diesel, Coogi, Iceberg, etc. At the time that I was in school and that was what was hot. Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Helly Hansen, those were all staple New York City looks. So all those things really drew an inspiration to me. The hip hop culture, the New York City culture was very impactful on my fashion taste and sense.
"Not being so selfish. As a music curator, a music selector, a music maker, you have to be keen to what people's expectations are."
J: How did you get into being a DJ? How did it all start?
D: I started out producing at the age of 17 right out of high school. I decided to attend a music engineering school where I received my certification and then I pursued music production. But my background is really in art. I'm a visual artist. I paint and I draw.
J: Oh wow, really?
D: Yeah. I went to Art and Design, the high school of Art and Design. A specialized art high school here in midtown. Music and art is relative.
J: I went to art school as well. I went to the Art school of Boston. I was originally going to be an Art teacher but clearly that didn't happen (laughter).
D: I was going to be a music teacher.
J: Look at that. (Laughter). Two teachers.
D: Actually my day job, I'm a technician. So I deal with software but aside from that, to get back on topic (Laughter), my background is in visual arts and it evolved into the sonic, musical style of art. So I have a passion and a background for that. This then evolved into an interest in DJ'ing. That's what I currently do professionally. I think it coincides because it helped sharpen my listening skills, my instincts in production, understanding what makes a person move, what makes them recite words, what inspires them to have a good time on the dance floor. In lieu of that, being the catalyst in providing that inspiration and that mood of making people feel a certain way and giving people an experience and a story in the nightlife. I have a very keen connection to how people feel and collectively it feels good to get the energy of the crowd and reciprocating that. The DJ'ing helps in my production because it helps me understand what will make a person react. Getting a sense of what the trends are and getting beyond that trend.
J: When it comes to your personal style, fashion and DJ'ing, how big of a role do you think your style plays in actual DJ'ing? You know how popstars are sort of forced to kind of marry the two. You have to be talented and be fashionable. Do you feel this same pressure?
D: I think with fashion, it says a lot about the individual and their preferences for sounds and genres of music. I think ones fashion and music exemplifies the persons individuality and creates an identity to which people can relate and connect with. A lot of times the look transcends the actual sounds. I think people's first perception is going to be the look, your appearance and then everything falls into place.
J: When it comes to your production and your singles you want to mix, how do you go about picking that? Is it based on your personal preference or what's hot at the time and turning into something even better?
D: I think it's a combination of both factors but it's essentially keeping your eyes and ears in tune to society. You know the demographic of listeners, the people you're going to perform for, you have to know that in advance. You have to know your crowd and I think that's very essential. Not being so selfish. As a music curator, a music selector, a music maker, you have to be keen to what people's expectations are. In a way you have to be unselfish and selfish if that makes any sense. It's like a double standard. Selfish in the sense that you're going to put your own style into the curation and music making/production and then you want to test it out to see how the people react. If it doesn't work out. You know you always want to give people what they want with the sense and taste of what you like. It has to be a collective matter.
J: When it comes to your shows, have you ever come to a point where it didn't go how you thought it was going to go?
D: Of course. I've had times where I misread the crowd and I've played music that emptied out a dance floor.
J: That would be my worst fear in DJ'ing. Playing a song and all the people walking away.
D: I think you're right. I was like that in the beginning stages of my career but then you learn that you play what you like but you also play according to the crowd. When you have that sense of what keeps people reeled in, then it's all about instincts and your music knowledge from there and giving them that journey, that musical experience to feel familiar, give them something fresh and keep them connected at all times of the night.
"When it comes to DJ mixes, it's all about the season. You know fall, spring, all these seasons demand a certain sound."
J: When it comes to your mixes, how long does it normally take? Or is it like a process every time? Different time frames?
D: When it comes to DJ mixes, it's all about the season. You know fall, spring, all these seasons demand a certain sound. I think it's all about the seasons, and it's about the mood I feel. So how I feel and the seasons coincide with the output and citation of my music. It's the year as well, like what's in trend, I also see music as colors that tie into the season as well.
J: Would you consider yourself a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to making mixes? If you were to make something that didn't turn out how you wanted it at first would you start from scratch and go back to the drawing board or would you take pieces that you like out of that?
D: I think there's a demand for that. When you want to evolve and be at your best, you have to ensure that you don't settle for less. I think a lot of that has to do with just building a threshold of excellence. It coincides with my profession. If I want to be respected, if I want to be consistent that involves being the best that you can be and if that involves perfection then nothing more and nothing less. I believe in doing the best to your ability. If my projects call for that then I'm going to do the best that I can to feel comfortable with the end result. If that end result is not satisfying then I go back to the drawing board and continue to push the threshold and be the best that I can be.
J: Going back to your personal style, do you think it's the same on and off the stage? When you're DJ'ing is it the same thing you would wear on the street?
D: I think that when you're DJ'ing, that job requires a few hours, it all depends on that job, but if you're going to be on your feet 2-3 or 5-6 hours, you want to be comfortable. You wanna look good and you want to be comfortable. I think the important part is being comfortable and then the second thing is being presentable, looking good and feeling right about your look so all that coincides but being comfortable is the first factor. That being said, I don't necessarily wear the attire I wear to DJ, on a regular basis (Laughter).
J: When it comes to DJ'ing is it mainly New York City or have you been all over?
D: I've traveled around the world when I DJ. Here in NYC, I've DJ'd in big clubs, lounges. It ranges from the Delancy to the Gansevoort. I was a resident DJ at the W in Times Square and at the Living Room. I've DJ'd in Sweden, Stockholm, Japan, LA, so I get to bounce around.
J: How would you go about judging the vibe of different crowds, cause I know in Japan, according to my good good girlfriend Beyonce (Laughter) they're very polite and they don't make a lot of noise.
D: Well in Japan they just passed a law where they can actually dance now.
J: So they couldn't dance before? You were playing to people standing there.
D: Before this law, the Japanese when they were clubbing, or out and about were not allowed to dance.
J: And all this time I wanted to go to Japan. (Laughter)
D: But now you can actually dance when you're in Japan (Laughter).
J: Good to know.
D: A New York City crowd, depending on the clientele and the venue, there's always an expectation and you have to play according to that expectation. That expectation usually meets the demands of the crowd. So if you're spinning at the Gansevoort, they expect something posh, trendy and catchy. As DJs we can do open format, where we can play all sorts of genres, ranging from classics like Michael Jackson to EDM to Future and Drake which I really like because Gansevoort is an example of a mixed crowd where as in the DL it's Latinos and African Americans and that venue demands HipHop, and more of an urban style of music. Let's say for example I fly out to LA and I'm doing a gig out there, LA people are really chill, so I can play some west coast urban music like DJ Mustard, Bay Area music to east coast music, trap, and they also like the classics so they appreciate a wide range. Sometimes they're a little posh/bougie about who they are and what they expect. I like LA vibes. Japan they're all about culture so you have to bring that NYC style.
J: What's next for you? What do you have coming up?
D: So I took a little hiatus and did a lot of ghost production in the music industry which led me to grow as a musician and helping me become a DJ and accept that role. Taking this hiatus has helped me develop my ear and my production ability to be a little more keen about that. I'm going back to my production and I'm working currently on an EP with a legendary DJ brand ambassador, his name is Peter Paul, he's NYC staple. Peter Paul is actually a partner of mine. I'm actually a part of his DJ collective, Super Journey DJs. We're working on this EP, which involves classic house/hip house, we're going back and bringing it back to NY and the globe. It's a forgotten genre and I'm focusing on that.
So that wraps up our exclusive BTS #HYPE feature. I hope you all had as good a time reading as I did interviewing.
- Later, Jomario
Danny Calderon / DJ, Producer
New York, NY