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In a beautiful written piece for the New York Times, Trevor Noah paints a picture of his childhood with his mother

Danny K: Unstoppable - Danny is doing it for himself

2006-03-29 10:57

M-WEB: Singer, songwriter, producer and now a record company executive - are you a control freak?
DANNY (smiles): I'm trying to be the Puff Daddy of South Africa! (laughs). No, you know down here you've kind of got to do everything - if you want songs to sound the way you want them to sound, you've got to write them, sing them and produce them. And I guess if you're lucky enough to be able to afford your own company, to have that luxury, then that's the ultimate step for an artist.

M-WEB: Was this why you did your postgraduate degree in business?
DANNY: No, I was just a kid after Matric who didn't really know what he was going to do. I was writing demos at like four in the morning in studios around Johannesburg and didn't know if I was ever going to get a deal. So I did what any good boy would do and went to university...I went to business school and as I was finishing my business degree I got a record deal. So I was kind of at this crossroads: I had a job with Investec Bank in their asset management division or I had this music career that could work or might not. But I couldn't do both. It was mad. So I said to myself, "you know you're young once, you've got one shot at this, you can always go back to being a businessman when you're 25 or 26. Let's give it a shot". So I told my boss who thought I was mad, "I said listen buddy, I'm sorry, I'm going to become a rock star!" (laughs).

M-WEB: You must've been pretty bummed out when the international deal imploded?
I was devastated. I'm not going to lie to've got to understand, there was a lot leading up to it. I mean this is how close I actually got to having a single in the charts in London: I had met with the top music video director in London to do "Hurt so Bad" as the 1st single off my album. It was done. We were flying to Miami that week. Two weeks later, the guy who signed me from my record label got axed and so did my deal. At a record company, if people don't know the way that it works, it's kind of like your champion is that guy. And everyone else in the record company has got their own Danny K's you know? They've been investing in some other kid, they found him, have been working on his material. So after my guy got the axe, they said "sorry, but call us when you get your new album out." I was like "what are you talking about?"

M-WEB: For a young artist poised for international success that must've been tough?
You know, looking back at it now, it was the greatest blessing in disguise for two reasons. Number one, I got to record this whole album, had to finance it myself without my record company, had to A&R it myself, chose my producers, booked the studios myself, I mixed the stuff, I was in total and utter control of my whole project. Which was great because I didn't have to follow a formula or take instructions. I was just creatively free. And secondly because I left London to come back here, I got to spend a year with my brother that I lost. It never would have happened. If you would've given me the option now of a number one album and single in the UK or US or a year with my brother it's not even a choice, you know?

M-WEB: Your new album moves from R&B love jams to sexy club tracks and even some Afro-pop - sounds like a sure fire recipe for crossover success?
I'm a fan of all music. If you listen to the radio or watch TV these days you're exposed to everything from Coldplay one minute to Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly and 50 Cent and kids are growing up and it's "what music do you like?" And they go, "Lenny Kravitz and Eminem", you know? So when it comes time for me to write my thing, I don't see myself going in a direction and say "hold on, hold on, it's too rock-ish or too middle of the road pop. I can't go there." I just write what I think sounds good to me coming out the speakers, you know? And that just for me is a little bit of everything.

M-WEB: A final message for the fans?
I urge people to just give it a chance. Let them go into a record store, pick up my new album, put a set of headphones on. You don't have to buy it - you know, just listen to the music - because that's what must win your over at the end of the day. It's not the hype, the marketing, the sexuality, how pretty you look on a frickin' sleeve or in a video! It's about putting a set of headphones on, scrolling through the album and saying, "shoo, I want to play this in my car, I want to play this in my bedroom, I like what it's about."

- Miles Keylock

Forget about the flash in the pan succession of pre-packaged TV talent show pop fodder. When it comes to authentic South African Idols, Danny K sets the standard. Having weathered the disappointment of an axed international record deal and the loss of his brother and manager earlier this year, the sexy singer is back in the game with a seriously sophisticated set of urban contemporary grooves, J23. Self-financed, penned, produced and yes, released on his own record label, it could just transform
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