In autumn 2012 when I began to research the book more thoroughly I went to visit Danny Breaks in his Essex hideaway (the location is secret, on penalty of death). I’d known Danny for years by this point – originally connecting through my work on Turntable Radio – but we’d never met properly and this was the occasion to do that and spend time talking about his career, music and his take on the ideas underpinning the book.
The resulting 4 hours or so of interview have provided me some fascinating insights into just how early rave music and hip hop were intertwined and how someone like Danny has managed to make a name for himself within one world – electronic dance music – while remaining obsessed with another – hip hop, especially of the instrumental variety. I’d originally set out to do an extract of the interview to celebrate the 20 years of Danny’s Droppin’ Science label, but this has been shelved for now. Instead I ended up doing another Essential for FACT magazine, running down ten key productions from Danny’s 23 years in the game, and trying to pay particular attention to his self-admitted desire to make instrumental hip hop and how that manifested across his work, often resulting in little known b-sides on drum n bass 12″s with weird experiments.
Those with a particular interest in instrumental hip hop will likely know Danny for his Dimensions series on his own Alphabet Zoo label, on which The Jellyfish was issued – somewhat of a 2000s anthem for many.
As always the Essential provides an overview of a subject, and a character, that I’ll be going into deeper for the book.
Longevity in the music game takes different shapes, with some sticking to their guns while others choose to reinvent themselves. On the surface, Danny opted for the latter: he started with rave as Sonz of a Loop da Loop Era, then moved to drum’n’bass as rave split up, renaming himself Danny Breaks and setting up the long-standing Droppin’ Science label, before finally leaving dance music for instrumental hip-hop with the Alphabet Zoo label. And yet there is a thread running through all his incarnations and output: hip-hop, one his first musical loves. In a way, Danny’s journey has always been about establishing his own place in hip-hop’s ever shifting landscape.