This week we take time out to introduce someone you may not have met yet: Daniel Dodd. Daniel and I have been talking off and on now for a few months now. He’s a great guy, he loves God and he loves EDM. Perhaps the most interesting thing is how he has really stepped up over the past couple of years and has actually carved out a corner of CEDM that hasn’t been fully explored yet. That corner would be a “positive culture” digital music store. Outside of Nate Carlisle’s ChristianDanceMusic.net, I don’t think there is another site on the web that focuses primarily on selling positive, clean or Christian EDM. In fact, I think Daniel has taken things to the next level with his store and label - Heaven Sound Music. Let’s catch up with him together now and see what really makes this guy tick.
TF: What got you into EDM?
DD: This is not an easy one to answer (20 minutes goes by). Okay, when I was younger I would sporadically hear the music. It would catch my attention, but I never really understood anything about it. That is until 1998 when a co-worker from California started telling me stories of electronic music and the dance scene out there. He told me about this new music that was really getting big “Happy Hardcore” and the big parties. I was intrigued so he passed me a few CDs that I would listen to when driving around with friends. All the energy and sound made my heart come alive. Really quite amazing time. Thinking back to that time kinda makes me chuckle, because just as dubstep has been as of recent, so was happy hardcore back then.
TF: When did you move from just a fan to actually being involved in the scene? How were you involved in it?
DD: So let’s fast forward about a year. It was Christmas eve 1999. My family was in Indiana visiting relatives for the holidays. My brother and I went to hang out with a close cousin of ours to get away from all the holiday commotion. Turns out that recently he had been going to raves and would spend all night dancing, connecting with friends, and having fun. We hung out with his friends and started to learn all the candy kid 101s. Dressing before the show, candy, glow sticks, liquid dancing, PLUR, etc. Now up until this point I had never really done drugs; I just smoked weed (that is how I would have put it back then). But something was different that night because we went for it, threw caution to the wind and headed for a smaller sized rave in Indianapolis, popped a pill and let loose. By the end of the night we didn’t have rave friends anymore; it was more like a rave family. To this day it amazes me how powerful something like community is – something that we were purposed for from the beginning. But as some of you may already know, that community never had a foundation in the first place. It could never be able to withstand the storm of time.
TF: What was that process like?
DD: Well it all moved pretty fast from there. It’s kind of a blur, and a lot happened over the next few years. So to cut to the chase, I would describe the whole process as a skydive without a parachute. There is that moment of no return, the exhilaration of the free fall, and in the end a crushing defeat as the inevitable has to happen.
TF: How did your faith play a role in that?
DD: At the time of this rave experience, I really did not have any faith to speak of. In fact I thought of myself as an atheist and was not interested in any of that religious nonsense. I had really good Christian friends, one of which is Luke Bodley (the guy who started Heaven Fest) but was just not interested. Looking back I am so thankful for that friendship, as it played a bigger part in who I have become today.
TF: So then what changed?
DD: So here’s how it happened for me. At a certain point I was done with the party scene; really I just got burnt out. There was nothing left. I was a person utterly spent on feeding my flesh what it wanted. Sounds depressing, right? Right! So as it turns out, our friend Mr. Luke, as mentioned before, started doing this once every other month show and invited me to spin at them, kinda like a residency. He called it “Tranceform Productions”. Sounds almost familiar, but it has a “ce” instead of an “s” like today’s Transform DJs.
So now I was on a mission; I had a purpose again. Everyday I would scour the net and record shops, finding the latest and greatest hard, progressive and tech trance I could find. As I started amassing enough music, I would work out the best ways to mix them. I was always trying to figure out what I was trying to convey with the music, and I would never play a track twice, so it needed to be done the right way the first time. But really there was something in me that was driving me to do this. It was like a small glimmer of hope or a spark that needed a bit of coaxing. I would do this for hours on end. Those hours would become days, and days weeks, and then months. Before I knew it, people were really connecting to the sets and looking forward to the next event to see what I would play next. Crazy! I realized that my experience working on the music all day, that the time by myself was not spent alone. I was in constant communication. An experience that I knew and felt but could never prove to anyone. So how does someone who does not have a context for this kinda thing put words to it? Well that’s what I needed to understand, and that is the question that put me in pursuit.
So, let me take a second to demystify this process. It was not some magic moment that happened, and all of a sudden like I heard God talking to me. It did not involve a kid from youth group using the shotgun approach to lead me to Christ through fear or guilt or even some smart conversation about theological truths. It was a long, slow experience led gently by a guide taking me to the next step. I never had to get it right first. Jesus met me where I was at. Simple.
TF: What was your drive to start Heaven Sound?
DD: My heart in starting Heaven Sound was mainly for music production. We wanted a place to enjoy the music without all the dirty stuff from the rave scene.
TF: How long has it been running now?
DD: Heaven Sound officially started in May 2010 when we became an LLC, although we had done a couple small events before that. We launched the store (heavensoundmusic.com) on April 7, 2011. And we started our record label (Heaven Sound Records) last fall.
TF: Are you happy with it’s success so far?
DD: Yes. Very much so. I am thankful for all the support we have received from people all over the world.
TF: What are some of the changes we can expect in the future?
DD: Right now we are really trying to deliver a quality product and to support those who seek to add positive influence to our culture. Most people do not know this, but we have made big changes and here are some. We now give 100% of the profits made back to the labels and artists. We have lowered our price and have added where available WAV files for no extra charge (at the time of this writing about 85% of our music has WAV files). We offer about 500 clean dance tracks and expect that to double very soon. We have raised money to help fund orphanages in Africa and to fight human trafficking. Expect more of these kinda things in the future.
TF: How can other labels get involved?
DD: Right now we are working closely with our labels. They have supported us, and we value them greatly. For the future we will be selectively adding labels that support the vision of PDC (Positive Dance Culture). If you think you are one of them or know someone that would be interested, please drop us a line by going to http://www.heavensoundmusic.com/contact-us. One thing we do get quite often is individuals that would like to sell their music on the store. Right now we only connect to labels, so the best thing you could do is get your music signed by a label that we have an agreement with.
TF: So, in addition to the store, you have started a label as well. Why run both?
The store is something I felt like I was called to do. Then once we started selling music, it seemed like the next logical step as a music entity was to start a label. There is a bigger picture with starting a label that we are looking to develop more in the future.
TF: You recently released a benefit compilation entitled Heaven Sound Sessions Volume 1. What lead up to this compilation?
DD: One of the label owners suggested we make a compilation with profits going to Heaven Sound to help us to be able to do what we are doing. We liked the idea of a compilation, but felt led to use the profit to support others.
TF: What is human trafficking? We’re not talking about the old club movie from the late 90′s are we?
DD: Um, no. Never seen that movie, but just watched the trailer. Wow. In all seriousness, human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. It includes the buying and selling of women and children, mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
TF: How serious of a problem is human trafficking in the United States?
DD: Human trafficking is a very serious problem in the United States and abroad. The amount of slaves in this day is continually growing. A quote from the Exodus Cry website: “Tens of billions of dollars are generated each year by the illegal transport and sale of human beings, making it the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.” Something must be done to stop the injustice. And we want to partner with organizations such as Exodus Cry to do our part.
TF: The compilation will be benefiting Exodus Cry. Can you tell us a bit about them and why you teamed up with them for the compilation?
DD: Exodus Cry is a local (Kansas City) organization that helps fight human trafficking through prayer and outreach. You can check out all that they do at exoduscry.com. We met Benji (founder of Exodus Cry) at one of our events last year. Upon talking with him, we found out he has a love for electronic music also. So that got us thinking of how we could partner with him and Exodus Cry…
TF: How did you get all of the labels involved?
DD: We just asked them, and they were all more than willing. They loved the cause and wanted to go for it with full support.
TF: Why did you select Transform DJs to mix and compile it?
DD:Technically, it was only DJ Omni (Tim Heil) of Transform DJs. I have been friends with the guys from Transform for many years. I used to DJ with them way back when (as mentioned before). I knew they had a like heart and mind concerning the issue of human trafficking, so I approached them about it. Tim agreed to mix the compilation for us.
TF: Since this is volume 1, what’s the next compilation going to hold for fans?
DD: We already have the next compilation in the works. More details to come soon.
TF: Thanks taking time out of your schedule to talk with us Daniel.
Well, that’s it for now. Please check out Daniel’s Heaven Sound Music store and support his efforts to help end human trafficking. He’s got a great site and a solid selection of tracks. If you’re a label, feel free to contact selling in his store.