It’s an all-too-common misconception that DJs in today’s EDM culture do nothing but stand up on stage, push buttons, and lead a rockstar, party-all-the-time lifestyle. If you watched British DJ-producer D.O.D’s music video “Bananas” without knowing much else about him, you might think him a party animal as well. And if I told you that D.O.D (Dan O’Donnell) had recently finished a bus tour across the U.S. with Laidback Luke, this might further reinforce the DJ rockstar idea for you. But after sitting down with D.O.D for a Skype interview, I instead found that his career, with the bus tour and “Bananas” as milestones in that journey, is built on a rock-solid work ethic and a refreshing humility.
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D.O.D is rapidly establishing himself as a technical wizard on two fronts: DJ’ing live and producing. His sets are a versatile mix of house, techno, electro and progressive accentuated by fine-tuned, rhythmic effects that he has mastered over the past decade of DJ’ing. His original tracks are expertly engineered, ranging from the signature kickdrum in his Beatport No. 1 best selling “More Cowbell” to his most recent release “Stomp,” arranged in triplet beats, which many producers aren’t bold enough to attempt due to its complexity. D.O.D’s unique sound and uncanny abilities have caught the attention of many renowned DJ’s, including Laidback Luke, who signed him to Mixmash Records last year and brought him along on his Musically Driven bus tour across the U.S. Beyond the tour, D.O.D consistently plays the hottest clubs and festivals in the UK and abroad, including Tomorrowland and a residency with Mixmag for their Ibiza tour.
You recently accompanied Laidback Luke on his Musically Driven bus tour. What was the dynamic like on the bus between you and Luke? Did you work on music and tend to business the whole time, or were you able to party together?
We had good fun on the bus, but it wasn’t this rockstar lifestyle that everybody’s expecting it to be. I work very hard when I’m back at home and it was no different for me on the bus. It was good to be surrounded by such professional, hard-working people. Luke’s a really hard-working guy and I have a lot of respect for what he does and what he’s done for me. We worked on music every day just like we would do at home. There’ll be some exciting stuff coming up soon. I can’t say much more, but it’s very exciting stuff!
You hit a lot of different cities and states on the tour, including a stop at TommorrowWorld near Atlanta. What was your most memorable fan or crowd moment on the tour?
It had to be San Francisco at the Warfield. I had two favorite shows last year: Cream at Amnesia - I was with Laidback Luke hanging out on the terrace with Benny Benassi - and San Francisco. It was one of those moments where I was just like man, this is what it’s all about, this is all the hard work and everything that goes into it. People are putting you down all the time, and it’s just getting past all that stuff and then getting to that level. I had the crowd in the palm of my hand, and you can literally kind of do anything, and they were just so responsive. Even afterwards, there were people queuing for about two hours that wanted photos, obviously mainly with Luke, but also with myself. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that event, to be honest.
Going back to the history of your working relationship with Laidback Luke, you’ve said before that your big break came when Luke signed your track “More Cowbell” to Ones to Watch Records. Where were you when you heard he was signing you and what led up to it?
Yeah, I was sitting right here in my studio. I had been DJ’ing with Eddie Halliwell, who’s a good friend of mine and brought me up through the DJ ranks, and Laidback Luke at a venue called the Warehouse Project in my home city of Manchester. I handed Luke a USB stick with a track called “Again.” I got an email a couple of weeks later saying that he loved the track and wanted to sign it. While I had his attention, I sent him another track I’d been working on and he said, why don’t you try and go for this new vibe and do a big kickdrum? It didn’t really work well on the track he was talking about, so I made a new one. I tried to think of something quite quirky. Me and my friends used to go to a club where there was a bongo player and we always used to shout at him, more cowbell! And there was also that Saturday Night Live skit about it. That’s how the track was born.
You released your track “Bananas” about a month before you went on tour. The music video is hilarious. Is that you in the banana suit?
Yes, that’s me. Keeping a low budget, I thought to get in there myself!
I read that the girls in the video are actually friends of yours. How long did it take you guys to shoot it?
It was basically a day. Again, we were trying to keep costs low. We did think about getting some models, but we just thought why bother spending more money, when it would probably be a bit more awkward with people you don’t know? So I just got a couple of friends in, one from Ibiza, and one that I went to university with. We just shot the video in a day in a white room. I bought three huge boxes of bananas and we were throwing bananas everywhere. I think there’s a certain limit of bananas that you’re allowed to eat before your potassium levels get too high, I think it must have been at that level.
I know you said Eddie Halliwell and Laidback Luke have been really big in taking your career to the next level. Is there anyone else, on your management team or in your personal life, that has gotten big results in moving your career forward?
There have been so many people along the way. I’ve worked very hard and things haven’t happened overnight for me and it’s been a long process. I still feel I’m very much at the start of my career. I feel like in this game, the harder you work as a person, the more you get back out of it. So if you’re working hard, the people you surround yourself with work-wise, if you give them the tools, they can take you to the next level. For any aspiring DJ’s or producers reading this, you’ve got to absolutely work your ass off because there’s so many talented young producers who are ready to take your place. People fly past you. And if you’re not constantly focused on what you’re doing, you won’t get the results, unless you’re super talented and it comes natural to you to make a banger. Otherwise, you’ve got to put absolutely everything into it. That’s the way you’ll get the longevity of your career as well, by being a hard-working person and surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. And having the right attitude as well. There’s no room for egos in this game. You’ll quickly just get shunned off by potential people who could help you. Always stay grounded.
D.O.D’s most recent track, “Stomp” is out now on Beatport via Mixmash Records.