DJ Danny White on the Longevity of Indie Slash and the Appeal of Amnesia
Having recently celebrating its 8th anniversary, synth-pop dance party Indie Slash is still one of those consistently enjoyable events where dress code, cliques, and blinding laser lights don't interfere with one's ability to enjoy interesting music and have a good time. The idea of the party came to founder DJ Danny White 13 years ago, as he was driving cross-country from NYC to San Francisco with a car full of '80s records. It eventually came to fruition in 2005, when he was asked to fill-in at various DJ nights at the Attic. Now expanded to Amnesia, Indie Slash showcases the best of three decades of New Wave, electro, house, and nu-disco jams. We chatted with White about indie bands, why he displays record covers as he mixes, and the upcoming Outside Lands festival. Indie Slash takes place this Friday, Aug. 9, at Amnesia, with residents Danny White and Rance.
Who was the first indie band you were ever into?
Dinosaur Jr. was the first, but that's back when they were called "alternative" bands. The mid-to-late '90s were pretty boring to me, so I delved into the '80s and didn't get back into what is now called "indie" until Interpol came along in 2002. They had that fresh (or arguably a refresh) sound I had been waiting for. Obsessing over their early demos and first two albums, I was fortunate to be able to interview them twice, for Thrasher and SLAP magazines. They stoked the fire for the early days of Indie Slash, when I played a lot more rock-oriented tracks. Now, it's all about the synths.
Recently you celebrated eight years of Indie Slash. What do you think has been the main factor in keeping this party going for so long?
Aside from the music, I'd like to think the main factor is hospitality. Someone recently told me that it's the only party they've been to in S.F. where they actually feel welcome, which is a huge compliment, because I try my best to create that atmosphere: greeting new people that my friends bring, talking to random strangers, and getting off the stage to be with the crowd whenever I can. I'm very passionate about all the songs I play, so it's a dance party for me, too.
Did you always have the practice of displaying the record cover of the track you were currently playing?
No, not until I had a stage and a spotlight for them. And now it drives me crazy when the record labels won't spring for a picture sleeve (Cutters, I'm looking at you)! Fool's Gold recently put out a great picture disc for Oliver, but unfortunately I'm the only one who can see it when it's playing. I need to just start making my own covers for them.
What's one of your favorite record covers?
The "Fine Time" 12-inch by New Order. I found the purple version last time I was at Amoeba, and just bought my third copy of the yellow one to give to someone as a gift.
What's the most obscure record you ever had to track down?
Honestly, I don't have a lot of obscure records. I keep it pretty accessible, without being too poppy or obvious. So I'll go for an interesting remix, B-side, or random album track that you may not expect to hear. Like, the Razormaid remix of Depeche Mode's "No Disco." I first heard DJ Low-Life play it on CD at New Wave City, so I ran home to see if it was ever pressed on wax, and it was! On blue vinyl, no less. Thanks, Discogs.
Do you ever think you'll switch over to a laptop, or just continue with records?
There are a lot of tracks that only exist digitally, so sometimes I'll take advantage of a CDJ option, but as far as a laptop goes, I'm just not interested. DJs that play new music on vinyl are so rare these days; it's nice to stand out in that way. I think people really have an appreciation for it. And now that I'm commuting to this gig from NYC, I think there's something special about lugging around a bag of records that were carefully considered, as opposed to choosing the more convenient option.
Amnesia is a pretty small venue. Why do you choose to keep the party there and not somewhere bigger?
I love the intimate setting of a bar versus a club. Amnesia has a great vibe, a good mix of people -- it's not a scene, and the bartenders and Shawn (the owner) are a pleasure to work with. We get a decent turnout between the email list and the foot traffic on Valencia, so it's nice not to have to promote it too hard.
If you could choose one band to play records at Indie Slash, who would it be?
Well, "celebrity" DJ sets are the worst, so it would have to be a musician who actually knows how to properly mix. Top of the list: Trentem√łller. He's an amazing producer, remixes his own tracks for the club, and has put together an impressive live band. His XLR8R podcast is one of my all-time favorite DJ mixes, and the bootleg remixes he's done of Bruce Springsteen and Chris Isaak are really clever and fun. I often close the night with his "Shades of Marble" remix.
Will you guys be playing any bands that are playing Outside Lands?
It's a stretch, but there are a few that could go in my warm-up set. Chromatics are great, there's that nice Fred Falke remix of Grizzly Bear, and Phoenix are a bit played out, but the remixes from the Wolfgang album still rule. Also, I may have just tracked down a couple NIN 12-inches from 1990. Otherwise, expect to hear some of that new Austra, Classixx, Todd Terje, and my latest discovery, Footprintz.