Every major artist’s label has at least one handpicked prodigy, a rising star who the DJ takes under their wings and brings into the spotlight. For Sebastian Ingrosso, it was Alesso. For Hardwell, it was Dannic and Dyro. Currently for Laidback Luke, it’s Dan O’Donnell aka D.O.D. Hailing from Lancaster, D.O.D is widely known for his 2013 EP More Cowbell, which dominated the Beatport charts and took the #1 spot. Like many DJs today, D.O.D not only enjoys breaking conventional labels with his diverse DJing style, but he also wants to build a platform to help other artists get discovered with his Freequence radio show. We caught up with D.O.D recently to talk about his breakthrough with Laidback Luke, and some of his more memorable social media gags.
How’s Gary the Ghost Producer?
He’s good, he’s back home, couldn’t make it to Miami this year. He’s just been making beats for everyone else.
Obviously you can’t tell us who for, right?
Yeah, never. He never, ever spills the beans about who he’s producing for, it’s totally a secret. Even I don’t know.
Can you tell us about the #TeaGang? Where did that come from?
I’m really obsessed with tea. It seems like very a British kind of thing.
What’s your favorite type?
It changes all the time. I used to be really into English Breakfast…standard, milk, no sugar. But now I’m really into peppermint tea. Laidback Luke got me into that, he always has a peppermint tea after his meal I’ve noticed.
How have you been coping with the weather here? I’m sure it’s the complete opposite back home right now.
I mean it’s always cold, and rainy. Where I live in Lancaster, it rains all the time because I live right near the lake district and all the clouds come over. But I don’t mind it. When I’m away and it rains, I feel like I’m closer to home. But I did have to go out and buy these shorts for just coming out here.
Besides the weather, what’s the greatest culture shock between playing here in the US and playing back home in Europe?
I think it still feels very fresh over here. The kids are more enthusiastic about what’s going on, as opposed to Europe where dance music has been around for so long, much longer, that they’re almost a little bit spoiled. Even in Holland, pretty much all the biggest DJs come from there and they’re so young.
Were you one of those kids who snuck into clubs and went to underground raves?
Pretty much. The first time I went to an underground club I was 16 and I went to Sankey’s in Manchester.
Have you been to the one in Ibiza?
Yes actually, I went to see Duke Dumont. It was great.
Yeah? Let’s try to track him down in Miami, we can all have tea and watch cat videos.
Oh , that sounds perfect!
What’s the perfect day to you?
Perfect day for me? I always find it very hard to switch my brain off. I always feel like I’m in work mode all the time. The perfect day would be chilling out at home, not doing anything at all. I can’t even remember the last time I just did absolutely nothing all day. I can’t; it’s illegal to try that.
You’re one of the newest additions to the Generation Wild parties. Do you think you’re prepared for the level of mayhem that tour has caused?
I’m actually really looking forward to that. I’ve been down to Nikki Beach once before with Luke and we went to see Gregor Salto. I’ve been in the studio a lot the past couple of weeks and I’ve got a lot of new material I’m looking to test out there and see how people react to it.
What’s the one thing in the studio you’re currently addicted to?
I’m addicted to getting a really good mixdown. I’ve become completely obsessed with it. I constantly reference my music next to other tracks that sonically I really, really like. I’ll listen to something and think, ‘ah yeah that’s really good’ and then I’ll finish a track and I’ll A-B them next to each other and get as close as I can to it.
But do you find that to be kinda frustrating because you’re constantly comparing yourself to someone else?
Yeah, in a way I try to not reference so much because I feel like you can tell when it’s your mixdown and master. I can tell which producer mixdowns a track just by hearing it once or twice. But that’s just because I engineer records for other people; you just pick up an ear for it.
Who are the top three DJs you’re listening to right now?
Nom De Strip, he’s from Scotland as well. Jewelz & Sparks. Perfect example of what we were just talking about – I love the way they produce their tracks. And I say Tom Staar & Kryder. The UK boys are definitely pushing boundaries right now. I think I work hard in the studio and then like they push out five more tracks and I’m like ‘Jesus Christ, that’s a lot.’
Hey now, you’ve put out a lot of tracks yourself the past two months as well. Were they tracks you’ve been sitting on, or all immediate releases?
It doesn’t usually happen like this, but the last two records ‘Temper’ and ‘Bust Dem’ came out back to back. From actually finishing a record to releasing it can take really between three and six months, but both of these were within a month. They’ve both done really well on Beatport, got a lot of DJ support; it’s been great.
You make a lot of Electro House. It was big when the big boom happened in the US, but now people are starting to shift back to house music. Do you find that you’re losing fans or have your fans been super loyal?
I think you get your loyal fans. But people get into the dance music scene and they’ll find their own path. Everyone goes off and likes one type of music and then you get your purists and things like that. People talk a lot of shit.
Do you get a lot of haters?
I’ve become accustomed to ignoring them. There’s no point getting hung up on haters. It’s not worth wasting the energy on thinking about one person’s opinion, because the haters are the people who want to be heard. Your loyal fans aren’t commenting all the time. They’ll like your post and buy your tracks and come to a show. Whereas the haters post something to get a reaction. You just don’t engage, and I found it quite difficult to not engage at the start, but thankfully I have my management and stuff. You learn it’s not worth responding to these people. Just let them carry on. If you comment on it, that’s it.
How did you and Laidback Luke link up in the first place?
I was a DJ on the scene in the UK for a couple of years and I met Luke a couple of times. I warmed up for him at a show in Blackpool and Manchester and I gave him a record – actually a mixtape…it was fire – but really, I gave him a record called “Again” on a USB. He hit me up about three weeks later and said, ‘Let’s put this on Mixmash’ and I was so excited but then I thought, ‘Shit this a big, big release. But I don’t think it’s as big as it could be.’ So then I thought I needed to make another track. I sent something over to Luke and he said, ‘yeah this is cool, but why don’t you try this new style out where people are using this big kick drum,’ so I tried it on the track I sent him. It didn’t work, but I had this idea for this other track and using more cowbell. The idea for that song came from a club night where there was a bongo player and he had a cowbell and we used to shout to him ‘more cowbell’ . So yeah I sent him ‘More Cowbell’ and that was it.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from working so closely with him?
Just how modest and how genuine of a guy he still is even after all the success and the hype and everything else that comes with being an A-List superstar DJ. I think he’s probably one of the only DJs that is just a normal guy.
Have you taken up martial arts with him?
I’ve done a few workouts with him. I don’t get near him thought, he’s too quick. I won’t do kung fu, he’ll kick my ass.
Who would win in a fight: him or Bruce Lee?
Bruce Lee. I bet Luke would win in a scratching contest though.
Can you scratch?
You know what? I can, but I don’t think I can do it well. I’ve always had pride in myself in being a very technical DJ, but it’s never been something I just got my head down and learned.
You seem to love being in videos on social media. Can we expect you to be in a music video someday?
Maybe. It’s not something I’ve planned, but I’d do it. Things can’t be taken too seriously all the time and I think if you can put a little bit of fun back into things, it just makes whatever you’re posting a little bit better. Rather than posting just a link, put a little bit of effort in. You need to give something back to people. You need to be able to engage with what you’re doing.
Oh that reminds me, you played in a strip club last night. How was it?
It was an experience, I’ll tell you that (laughs). I played a much deeper set, a strip club is not a place for playing big tunes like mine.