Other artists might be frustrated by these circumstances, or even tempted to change their artist name, but Gomez takes it all in stride. "I find it funny, and I actually like it. I love changing people's perception. I'm hoping it changes, but I'm not going to force it upon anybody." After all, he's been Danny Daze—a name his mother actually came up with—since the age of 13, and he's faced much bigger challenges than being labeled as just another deep house artist. When Gomez was 18, he went to jail in a drug bust, and almost lost everything before his music career began.
The son of two Cuban immigrants, Gomez was born and raised in Miami. As a child, his life was particularly musical, largely thanks to his father, a trained opera singer who also played in a salsa band. "I actually used to play in the salsa band," he remembers. "I would play either the cowbell, the triangle, shakers, something really simple. I'd be eight or nine years old, up on stage playing with the band. On the way home, we'd be tuned into Power 96 and we were listening to freestyle and Miami bass music."
Gomez's parents divorced when he was in the fourth or fifth grade, which meant he was largely raised by his mother. She wasn't very musically inclined, but she did support her son's passions, one of which was breakdancing. "There was a place called Hot Wheels out here, which was a roller skating rink," he says. "I remember I would go during summer camp, and on Friday nights, as we were leaving at around six, I would see all these cool kids coming in with windbreaker suits and stuff like that. I remember it vividly, the first time seeing somebody breakdance live. It just freaked me out."
Over time, Gomez threw himself into breakdancing culture, and although he admits that he "definitely had rhythm," he gradually noticed that he was interested in more than just dancing. "Every time I would go and breakdance or people would come to my house and we had sessions, I was the one consistently choosing the music." More importantly, when he went to breakdancing events, "I always noticed myself looking at the DJ." Gomez cites Miami artists like DJ Laz and DJ Craze as major influences, and before long, he hatched a plan to join their ranks.
At the age of 13, Gomez decided to become a wedding DJ, and in an effort to help her young son with his entrepreneurial venture, his mother bought him his first set-up. Pretty quickly, he started making money, although his earnings ended up going towards a new habit: vinyl. "The electro breakdancing scene out here, you'd hear Afrika Bambaataa being mixed, then after that you'd hear a Soul Oddity record, which is the guys that own Schematic. You'd start digging and you'd be like, 'What the hell was that one record? I know Afrika Bambaataa, but what was that one record that he played after?' I started buying Kombination Research records and Electrolux records, even experimental stuff on Schematic and M3rck out of Miami."
In hopes of hearing these sounds live, he also started delving into Miami's rave scene. "I went from DJing a wedding, I would end at maybe one or two in the morning. Then, at two in the morning, I'd go to Malibu Castle Park, which was an arcade store out here that had a full moon rave. You had batting cages that were happy hardcore, you had the golf course that was drum & bass. You had the inside room, which was experimental, breakbeat, electro. Then, you had another room that was like goa trance. They weren't rooms, they were like the batting cages, or where you drive your go-kart. All these areas were different things, so there were maybe 10 genres going on in completely different atmospheres."
Incredibly, Gomez's mother was the one driving him to and from these raves. "I was never really a bad kid," he explains. "I never did drugs. She knew I was in it for the music. The raves she was concerned about, obviously, because I could easily fall into something, but after a while, she noticed the type of person I am. I was strictly just there for the music and for dancing."
Gomez was doing a fair amount to establish himself as a stereotypical good kid. Aside from his various musical exploits, he was also an athlete. "I was a baseball player at first," he says. "Most Cuban kids in Miami were kind of just thrown into the baseball field. As I was playing at one of the baseball camps, there was also a tennis court. I was just hitting on the court, and somebody comes along and says, 'God, you got a pretty nice swing. Just keep hitting, I want to see what you're doing.' Turns out, this guy ends up sponsoring me and paying for classes. I just flipped. I went from being a baseball player to playing tennis every day, five hours a day, then competing on the weekends."
"I was on the way to turning pro," says Gomez. "I was short, but I was very fast. My idols were Andre Agassi and Michael Chang. Michael Chang being that he was extremely short and fast as hell, then Agassi just because he looked really cool." By the time he was 18, Gomez was balancing DJing and raving with his burgeoning tennis career, and even earned himself a tennis scholarship to the University Of Miami.
Gomez never turned pro, though, and never got the chance to use his scholarship. "My mom was a single mother with two kids, and we had no money to eat," he says. "I had a car that broke down, and I needed to make money somehow. I got arrested for dealing 2,000 pills of ecstasy. The first time I ever tried to actually do anything at all, literally the first time, I got set up in a bust where I was talking to a detective, and that just basically ended my career, ended everything. I did jail time and I did two years house arrest. That completely changed my life.
"My mandatory minimum was something ridiculous," he says, "something like 20 years for the amount of pills that I had… I would've committed suicide straight up, that's pretty dark. Had they given me 20 years, I would've jumped off a bridge, man. I would have never gone into prison. I don't even think I ever got a detention in high school, let me put it like that. Never got suspended. I was in honors classes in high school."
The legal ordeal alone stretched out for more than a year, during which Gomez was "going back to court every month, or every month and a half, delaying the process and trying to get the best sentence possible." In the end, he only wound up spending nine months in jail. "I was able to plead a youth offender plea," he says, "which means you're not an adult, so they don't put you in prison, they don't put you with the murderers and stuff like that. They put you with people that are trying to better themselves, so I was basically in a place where it was a bunch of decent kids that just committed a couple of errors, or maybe committed an error in their life."
After getting out, Gomez was on house arrest, and he also found himself $75,000 in debt to his lawyers. For two years, he was only allowed to leave the house for work, and the job market wasn't exactly welcoming. "I started killing cockroaches," he says. "I just did pest control. I'd kill rats, snakes, that's all I had, that's all I could do."
At this point, Gomez's existence was pretty grim, and within a few months of getting out, his friends had largely stopped coming over to visit. So he turned to music for help. "I had nothing else to do," he says. "That was pretty much the only thing that kept me sane for a very long time. This record by Two Lone Swordsmen called 'Sticky' is something that I would listen to every single day. I started learning about the way music was made. I would actually speak to DJs online—these guys were consistently keeping me sane, teaching me how to make music. One of them was The Wee DJs, the other one was this guy named Dark Vector from Barcelona. He's an electro DJ out there. Literally, these guys spent hours and hours teaching me how to use Cubase through the internet."
By the time his house arrest came to an end, Gomez had learned quite a few production tricks, and he re-entered the electronic music scene with a single goal: making money. On the DJ circuit, he "basically played the same way I played at house parties and weddings. I started doing it in clubs where all these people were buying bottles and shit. Instead of playing the really commercial crap that was on Power 96, I was going from Elton John into Paula Abdul into Tones On Tail, punk rock music into electro, into absolutely everything. This started making a wave in Miami."
He didn't stop there. On the production front, Gomez teamed up with brothers Joe and Matt Masurka, AKA Joe Maz and Gigamesh, to form DiscoTech. The trio also made original music under the name Señor Stereo, but they specialized in bootleg remixes of pop songs, tunes that Gomez describes as "sort-of-cool tracks that you can play in Vegas and you can play in these cheesy clubs." Using the Crooklyn Clan message board—a sort of clearinghouse for bootlegs, mash-ups, and remixes—as a jumping-off point, the trio found an audience, both with DJs and the mainstream music industry. "Before you know it, we were getting hit up by The Rolling Stones, Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and Kanye West to remix for them," says Gomez. "It was fun, but it wasn't me at all. I was just going to save money to then go back to pursuing what I'm about. I had started off with Underground Resistance, Direct Beat, Twilight 76 and stuff like that. I knew what I was going to do:—I was just going to save money, take a year off, and continue doing my techno stuff."
Gomez didn't actually have to wait that long. Right before 2011's Winter Music Conference in Miami, he completed "Your Everything," a song that he thought of as a combination of Miami bass and new wave. "I gave it to one of my friends, and he sent it out to Jamie [Jones] and Seth [Troxler]. I was DJing somewhere during WMC, then all of a sudden, I start getting text messages like, 'Yo, both Seth and Jamie are fighting over your record over here basically. Both of them played it as the first record on their sets.' I went to the party they were playing at, and within two minutes of me getting there, I had somebody introducing me to Jamie. It was very quick, it happened literally right on the spot. It was like, 'Hey man, we want this record.' I was like, 'Alright, cool.' That's it."
"I didn't know anything about Jamie Jones," says Gomez. "I had absolutely no clue who he was." Still, he was excited to be putting out the record, and within a few months, Hot Creations released "Your Everything" along with "Falling Away from Love," a track that Gomez refers to as an "ode to old Chicago jams." The record was a massive hit, and almost immediately, Gomez found himself on the international DJ circuit. "The first place I ever played at in Europe was fabric," he says. "Imagine, you're playing at one of the best clubs, or what's known as one of the best clubs in the world, as the first club you're playing at when you're going overseas. It was pretty shocking. That first run that I did, I was playing like five gigs a week for basically a month. I came back 20 pounds lighter."
While Gomez obviously enjoyed his newfound success, it didn't take long for him to realize that his career was suddenly racing in a direction that he hadn't intended. "That first tour, I felt it," he says. "I was like, 'Man, this is not me.' I'm a guy that was listening to Schematic and Merck and electro. My idols were The Advent, who owns Kombination Research, and Cari Lekebusch. I got thrown into a world where it really wasn't about the music too much. It was way too hyped up for me, and I just didn't know how to fit in it.
"I was playing at parties where I knew the promoter wanted me off the turntables. I was playing electro and I was playing techno in these parties where they wanted me to play that [deep house] sound. It was very weird. The record got me noticed, but I definitely was not part of that scene. I definitely did not fit anywhere in there, it was extremely tough to try and fit and play this music that I just was not into."
This problem went beyond his experience in the clubs. Eventually, Gomez realized that he was also being perceived in a certain way by the dance music community at large. "There was a point where I was like, 'Everybody that interviews me thinks I'm the same as all these other guys,'" he explains. "It really was bothering me because I was like, 'Man, I'm nowhere even remotely close to these people. I don't play the music. I don't even act the same."
However, Gomez did find one like-minded individual in this corner of the DJ sphere: Eric Estornel, AKA Maceo Plex. Estornal is a fellow Cuban-American from Miami, and the two bonded over electro. "He used to make music under the name Mariel Ito," says Gomez. "That's really what connected me to him. It was very well produced, crazy glitched electro music." For a time, they also formed a collaborative side project called Jupiter Jazz, taking the name from an Underground Resistance track. The duo only released a single EP, Booty Jazz, which came out on Estornel's label, Ellum Audio, in 2013.
Around this time, Gomez started releasing new solo music as Danny Daze. In the wake of his Hot Creations 12-inch, he had been tapped for a number of remixes by artists like Flight Facilities, Justin Martin, Tiga & Jori Hulkkonen and Daniel Avery, but his original output had come to a halt. While there was talk of more records for Hot Creations, nothing ever became of it. "I definitely don't want to offend anybody," says Gomez. "But I just wasn't into the music. The way they were DJing and everything just wasn't for me. Any music that I had for them, it actually never came out."
Instead, Gomez took a step back, focused on DJing, and let the releases come more naturally. Following a brief stint in Barcelona, he'd begun splitting his time between Miami and Berlin, and started forging new connections and rekindling old ones. In 2013, he dropped The Calm EP for Ellum Audio, and returned to the label in 2014 for the Flange EP. He also linked up with Jimmy Edgar, an old friend from his days in the electro and IDM scene, and released 2014's Silicon EP on his label, Ultramajic. This year also saw him landing on the Omnidisc label with Four, a collaborative EP on which Gomez teamed up with 214, Deroboter, Drvg Cvltvre and Comeme's Philipp Gorbachev.
He didn't stop there. After playing a gig with Michael Mayer in Peru, the Kompakt stalwart asked him to join their roster. "I was completely honored," says Gomez. "They were one of the labels back in the day, even when I was playing electro, that I would always buy their stuff. For me, Kompakt, Clone and Viewlexx were the record labels that were really huge influencing me when it came to the dance world." So far, the partnership has resulted in last year's Speicher 80 EP and a remix for Terranova that's due out later this month.
In the midst of putting together all of these releases—not to mention a forthcoming EP for Omnidisc and an album that's slated for 2016—Gomez has been running his own label. It's not his first time doing this; as a teenger in Miami, he briefly ran a white-label electro and IDM imprint. His approach this time around isn't that different—for the time being, he's chosen not to tell anyone what the label is called.
"I want the music to speak for itself," he says. "Then later you can say, 'OK, this is Danny's label.' A lot of artists have made a big deal where their whole press campaign is, 'So and so has a label, check it out.' Then, the music just sucks. I don't want this to be about me, I want this to be about the label." Moreover, he wants it to grow and evolve naturally—there's no master plan in place. "I want the label to have that feel of just family, homegrown shit," says Gomez. "I'm not asking people for demos, it's all coming in organically."
He's taken a similar approach to Sunday Morning, a podcast series he launched earlier this year that focuses on downtempo and chill-out sounds. "Guys like Ruxpin and Lackluster have been huge influences in me when it comes to production in general," he says. "This is some of the nicest music I've ever heard in my entire life."
"I remember when I would come home from a gig, I would want to listen to their stuff, but I could only listen to it on my iPod. I started looking online to see if there were mixes that had this, or a podcast series. I was like, 'No, there isn't.' I just said, 'Alright, let's do it.' I hit them up directly to just do these types of mixes that are very downtempo, trip-hop, IDM-influenced basically. It's for Sunday, something you might want to listen to while eating breakfast or something."
Of course, Gomez still remains focused on dance floor sounds when he's DJing in the club, but when it comes to his bookings, he has made an effort to change things up. "I've actually tried to strip back and simply do exactly what I like," he says. "I used to try to straddle two different ends of bookings, where you try to make money playing somewhere big, then go and do some Rex Club or Concrete or Panorama Bar. It's very confusing, I think, to people. The last year-and-a-half to two years, I've been saying no a lot to a lot of different things.
"When I first started touring, I was like, 'Yeah, man. I'm going to go into Essex right now, in the middle of the UK where these people want to hear Hot Creations, and I'm going to force The Advent and Cari Lekebusch down their throat.' Then I realized, 'Nah, this shit ain't working. I tried, but nah, it's not working.' The last couple of years, I've been playing at parties where I can be myself, and not have to conform or feel like you're forcing something."
Like many artists, Gomez simply wants to follow his muse, regardless of the consequences to his "brand." He may not be the faceless deep house act that many people have assumed him to be, but even those paying close attention would struggle to succinctly describe exactly what he is. "I don't think it's a good thing for an artist to be so across the board," he acknowledges, "but at the same time, it's who I am. It's the way that I DJ, it's the way that I make music."
Danny Daze plays this year's South West Four festival, which takes place at Clapham Common in London between the 29th and 30th of August.