It's going to be a particularly jam-packed Saturday for Danny Avila this weekend. The Spanish-born, electro-slinging DJ wunderkind will fly from Chicago (where he had a late-night show at the Palladium Nightclub last night) down to Texas to work a gig at the Breakaway Music Festival outside of Dallas before jetting our way to headline at Maya tonight during the Sound Wave Block Party. Oh, and then he's bound for Miami.
Luckily, the 18-year-old has tons of energy and has grown used to pulling such transcontinental treks since his rise to prominence over the past couple years. Despite his young age, Avila has become an old hand (relatively speaking) at the DJ game and has racked up a number of significant coups even though he's barely old enough to vote.
At 12, he started dabbling with mixing in he bedroom. A few years later, he was performing the nightclubs of his native Spain. And by 2011, he'd named "Best Newcomer DJ" by the Vicious Music Awards, had gotten loads of praise from DJ Mag and others, and had performed alongside the likes of Afrojack, David Guetta, and his hero/mentor Fedde le Grand, who helped discover Avila.
We spoke with Avila via telephone before his Chi-Town show last night and learned about the pros and cons of being a teenage superstar, as well as the fact he doesn't mind being compared to Justin Bieber (mostly because of their similar hairstyles), and why he'll be a tornado of manic energy tonight behind the mixers at Maya.
Did you ever think that so much would happen in your career so quickly? I don't think its went that fast to be honest. In the last year, everything's went pretty fast, but it's still been a long way since I began. And I've been DJing for six years now, so I've been doing this for awhile. But, yeah, it's true that the last two years have been pretty crazy for me.
Why is that DJs seem to be getting younger and younger? I think the [EDM] sound that we make and we play, it's goes directly to the young audience, to the young crowd. Out to the college market or the college kids, which is great. And I think we understand totally this kind of sound. And I think that's one of the reasons why young DJs are, I think, getting bigger or bigger.
You started at 12. Do you think there are kids out there that might start DJing even younger than you? I mean, maybe, yeah. I was DJing in my bedroom and making music at 12 and not playing club shows. But I am sure there are a lot of young people making music or learning how to DJ right now. And I'm sure in the next years we will hear them as well for sure.
So what is it about EDM that skews it towards younger crowds? I mean, in one case electronic music has been in Europe for 25 years. So it's always been huge over there. But right now in the states, it kind of blew up in the last years because of all pop artists are making tracks with DJs and the sound is improving so much and the quality is just like so good. Right now, electronic music is the biggest music genre in the world. And as I've said before, all the kids and the college kids love it. It's the perfect sound for them.
Are there any drawbacks to being an 18-year-old DJ? Yeah. Well, first of all I'm still underage [chuckles]. But because I'm really young, I also have a lot of stuff to learn and there are a lot of DJs that have been doing this for a long time and even more than me. And also, it's really, really tiring to be on the road the whole time. It's a like totally different life. But that's what I've been working for during a lot of years. I'm happy that I'm doing what I like.
Have you come close to burnout? Uh, I don't think so. No, not yet.
What about electronic dance music appealed to you? I was already listening to electronic music before I started DJing. And then I saw a video of DJ Tiësto online on YouTube and I was so impressed. I was like, "Yeah, I need to try this so bad." I don't know, he just took my attention. So I bought a really, really small controller and I just started mixing some of the tracks I was actually listening to before I started DJing. It was like a cheap controller and the worst DJ setup you can ever have. But it was enough to start improving my skills.
What sort of sounds were you into when you first started DJing? Soundwise, I think I was more like into a housey sound, so my biggest influences were like Erick Morillo or Roger Sanchez [and] also this Swedish guy Steve Angello, because they were playing way different. Not the big room [sounds], it was more techy or groovy stuff. And that was really cool. And also, Fedde le Grande.
Of course. Yeah, of course. He was not playing that aggressive in those days. Everyone was playing a bit more house-y. And that pretty cool.
Were you influenced by anything outside of EDM when you first started? Not really. I'd been listening to electronic music pretty much. That's the only kind of genres that I've been listening to in the last [several] years. But I also love deep house and like chillout music and indie stuff too.
So does it blow your mind that Fedde le Grand discovered you and is arguably your biggest fan? It's kind of crazy because, yeah, it's Fedde le Grand. I was honestly his biggest, biggest fan in the world. I can tell you he was a big inspiration for me. And after like I met him and then after three years we've kept in contact and its crazy that sometimes we're just hanging out and making music together. And also we played a lot of shows together this year. And in the end, it's like we're friends, so we look back four or five years ago and if you would've told me that would've happened, I probably wouldn't believe you because its kind of crazy.
How do you get a crowd going at a festival? I just do my own thing, man. I'm pretty energetic. I pretty much like to jump the whole time. And I think its like mirror: if you're energetic in the booth then you kind of send a message to the crowd, so they pretty much go crazy. It spreads the energy to the crowd. But I put a lot of effort into my DJ sets. I'm working new mashups to keep it cool and keep it fresh and I think that's a really important point for your DJ sets.
Your mixes alternate between relentless electro, harder beats, and melodies. Do you mix in all these different elements to keep it interesting? Of course. That's really, really important. I think that if you play just a two-hour set of like progressive house of electro house or trap. I respect all that, but in my opinion, I think it could get a bit tiring. That's why in-between I try playing a bit of dubstep or a bit of downtempo stuff or break the rhythm or try to keep in interesting.
You've used Tom Staar's fantastic remix of "African Drop" in a few of your mixes and Ready to Jump radio shows on SiriusXM. How come? It's like a track that has this rhythm to it -- it's housey and its pretty cool. And to be honest, I also play the original one [by My Digital Enemy and Rob Marmot] but not in my normal shows. Sometime whenever I play like private parties and deep house stuff, I play the original one. But Tom's remake is so good, because the vocal breakdown is very unique. And everybody, when you play it, starts to singing and dancing. It's really cool. And the drop is just insane and it has a bit of a groovy feeling to it too.
How much music do you consume during a given week? Man, too much. I mean, its like I'm listening to music every minute during the day.
Are you listening as a fan or as a DJ looking for potential ingredients for mixes? Both, of course. I'm a big fan of all the music that I play, actually. And I'm a big fan of who produced it, because if I play it, obviously, it's because I like the song. So first of all, I'm a fan of their music and second because it's part of my job.
People have compared you to Justin Bieber insofar as your similar appearances. Do you ever get tired of that? No, to be honest, I don't care at all. It's a totally different thing that you cannot really compare. I respect his work, I mean I don't say that I like it or hate it or blah, blah, blah -- I just respect it. But I do a totally opposite thing, like he's doing an R&B and other kind of music genre and I'm just making and playing electronic music.
So is he the Danny Avila of the R&B or pop world as opposed to you being the Justin Bieber of the DJ world? Yeah, exactly. That's what he is.
Have you ever met him? No, never had the chance.
The Biebs has flirted with EDM the past few years. Any desire to remix some of his songs? Um, I mean, if I would have the chance, I would totally do it...if the track is good. He has a lot of totally different songs....every song is different from the other. So maybe if I liked the song I would do it. Dada Life they made a mix of Justin Bieber and the remix is super-fab. So I wouldn't have a problem to remix Justin Bieber.
Any desire to do any other music-related projects outside of DJing? Not right now because I'm pretty much touring 24/7 and I'm constantly making music on the road, so I'm working on my tracks when I'm traveling, which is a really cool thing. Not everyone is able to do that. It's not better or worse, but some people [aren't] able to concentrate while being on the road. But for me, that helps a lot. But I don't have time right now to focus on other stuff.
Sound Wave Block Party is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday along Indian Plaza in Scottsdale. Tickets start at $64.
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Find other cool shows and EDM events happening this weekend around Metro Phoenix this weekend via our comprehensive online concert calendar.