A house & techno queen known for her captivating performances and Burning Man art car Camp Charlie, divaDanielle just dropped a recap video highlighting both of her sets during the first-ever One Love Experience music festival in Lake Perris, California.
We caught up with her to discuss her experience with the underground music scene, the inspiration for her giant Charlie the Unicorn art car, and her upcoming event in LA (UNICORNUCOPIA at The Mayan Theater on November 22nd which you can win tickets to this by entering this Facebook giveaway).
M: You've been involved in LA's underground music scene for a while now, tell us a little bit about how you got your start and how the evolution of the scenes has affected your musical career.
d: I had been into house music since I was a teenager and traveled around Europe. But the whole desert party scene is very unique to California. Through going out to shows here, I started to meet like-minded people and eventually someone took me to a Moontribe. Slowly I started discovering more and more music in the city. I used to go to Deep every Sunday night religiously. A co-worker actually invited me to my first Burn! I think getting my start in the Burning Man community really spawned this idea that I could make my passion - music - my actual career. It's hard for me to imagine having not gone to Burning Man and still having quit my old day job as a video editor to become a music producer/DJ. Burning Man is so focused on art and participation, and it really inspired me to be an activate participant in my own life.
To stop doing things just because that's what I thought I should be doing. I am really very grateful for that. I caught a record that a DJ threw into the crowd in Hollywood. After that, I started to teach myself to spin records. I did for a long time as a hobby until one day I realized it was starting to take over the vast majority of my life. And it was all I wanted to do. My old editing job was amazing actually. Great hours. Lots of vacation. I was nominated for an Emmy. I worked for a great company. But I still wasn't happy and that's when it occurred to me, music was really what I wanted to be doing.
M: What is the significance of Camp Charlie and the Unicorn art car in your eyes, and where did the inspiration for that project come from?
d: I had a thing for unicorns for a while. Admittedly due to an acid trip one NYE. I always sort of considered myself a fantastical type of person, unicorn or not. I believe there's magic everywhere. I was always just sort of obsessed with kings and queens and fairies and all other magical beings. My now friend, Ken Feldman, wanted to build the art car based on the youtube phenomenon. Because so many people knew of my love for unicorns, they kept posting his kickstarter to my Facebook page, soo I went and I found him. I wrote him a letter that said - "I think I can help you. 1) I love unicorns. 2) I'm a DJ with lots of shameless self promotion skills." We met a week later and I spent the next 6 months of my life working on that thing. My friend, Karl, joked with me - "Well Danielle, it only took you 10 years of going to Burning Man for it finally to deliver you a unicorn to ride around on".
For me, Charlie fits right into my personal ethos. You cannot take a giant pink unicorn seriously. But so many people have come to me and told me how riding on that art car was one of the best nights of their lives or changed their life in some way. I think Charlie has become this place where everyone is welcome. There's no pretense. There's no feeling that you have to look or be a certain way to get on. Everyone is invited to the party. Through making people feel welcome, just as they are, we create this magical fun place that really inspires people to be themselves. Maybe that sounds cheesy but in today's world, I've come to see how few opportunities there are to be welcomed just as you are. That's the space I wanted to create and I hope I have.
M: You recently played two sets at the inaugural One Love Experience in Lake Perris, can you talk a little bit about your performances there and your part in making the festival come together?
d: I played the ABunDance Main Stage as well as the Charlie the Unicorn After Hours. I was B2B with DJ Dan in the after hours. That location was just beautiful. I played right around sunset on the main stage. I love that set time. Everything's cooling down, people are ready to start the party. I played a really bouncy kind of afternoon set. In the after hours, Dan and I went way more techy. We were 3-5am. The perfect time for that. So it was nice to play 2 very distinct sets. Liam Campbell put together and awesome video that not only captured my 2 sets but also the 2 stages, really captured each of their essences.
I have played for AbunDance before in LA several times. We've teamed up with them and done a unicorn party as well. They like my vibe and the vibe of the unicorn. They kept commenting on how fun we are. So I think they wanted that for the festival. During the day, we were more a play area. Tons of kids on the car, people watching the main stage from the car. At night, everything lights up so it takes on this unicorn tron sort of look. I am the Creative Director and Music Curator for the car. So I oversee the design and build. I booked all the talent as I do for all of our shows. Our next event is at The Mayan in DTLA on Nov 22, where DJ Dan and I will be going B2B again
M: So how do you translate the Camp Charlie translate the unicorn experience into a club setting?
d: I really try to bring that silly, welcoming vibe no matter where we go. We've taken over many clubs around LA. When people come to our shows, they know they are going to have fun and they know the music is going to be good. That seems simple right? But I think the fact that people enter this fantastical world of rainbows and unicorns in clubs that on other nights are so insanely different, they really feel like they are in our world...or at least that's what they tell me. Sometimes I look around and think to myself - Oh man, 5 year old me would be so happy with me right now! I don't tell people to dress up but we ALWAYS see tons of people with all sorts of unicorn horns, some bought, some homemade. It's amazing! The Mayan is a pretty spectacular location because of the giant screens so we can really take over the whole club visually. We always feature our residents on the main stage and more local talent in the downstairs room. Super excited to have Fleetwood Smack and Erik Nelson joining DJ Dan and I on the main stage. Musically, these acts really define our style.
Get tickets to Unicornucopia here.