Behind the Music: Interview with WheelUP AKA Danny Wheeler

‘The people I collaborate with shows I respect the older generation, but equally want to support the new.’

Following the recent arrival of ‘More Life’ ft. Abacus and Victoria Port, I chatted with WheelUp to discover more about his forthcoming 13-track release, ‘We Are The Magic’, how he chooses which artists to collaborate with, and how to transfer a studio album to a live setting.

Hi Danny, thanks for taking the time to chat with Listen to Discover.  Briefly introduce yourself to your future fans.
Hi there, my name is WheelUP aka Danny Wheeler and I’m a Broken Beat producer/ DJ signed to Tru Thoughts Records.

What 5 words best describe the tracks you create?
UPfull, UPlifting, Positive, Feel Good and West London Sound (that’s 8 words isn’t it!!!).

When did you first realise you wanted to be involved in the music industry?
When I was 12 years old, my music teacher at secondary school – who really believed in me – put me forward for an audition in the West End musical ‘Carmen Jones’ at The Old Vic. I got through and actually had a paid job in the music business and realised at this time that music and entertainment was going to be my vocation. I was also in The Royal Opera House at the same time – thanks to the same teacher – and worked with Jose Carreras in Samson and Delilah, after this I got into DJing, pirate radio, and underground music culture, and from there my progress as a musical artist began.

Turning to your forthcoming album ‘We Are The Magic’, what is the story behind the title?
‘We Are The Magic’, as it says on the tin, that is what I believe we all are, we – collectively and individually – are magic. Life itself has a magical essence in my view, interactions with love and loved ones, and I just think life is beautiful. I am quite the optimist, but when I say we are the magic, I mean, people, life and existence is in itself a magical experience. I think we make it so, so that is what the title means. When I made the title track with Ansushka’s Victoria Port (Tru Thoughts label mate), the lyrics really also explain the meaning.

‘I feel my music more than over think it.’

For those who missed the release of your debut album, why should ‘We Are The Magic’ be their introduction to you?
If you like uplifting music and positive vibrations then I think you are going to enjoy ‘We Are The Magic’. Everyone who has contributed to it and who I have collaborated with in the construction of this album is talented and good hearted, therefore that expression is captured in the recordings.

Some of the same artists feature on ‘We Are The Magic’ as your debut. How did you select them for your previous release and what made you want to work with them again?
I have worked with some of the super talented and good hearted collaborators again because we vibe together in the studio. I work with like-minded creators and positive people so hopefully that energy is translated into the musical compositions. 

And also on this, how did the contributions from other artists impact the development of the album?
Working with new collaborators like Kaidi Tatham, who is one of the most important Broken Beat / Nu Jazz artists ever and one of the best keyboard players on the planet too, has been really exciting and fun to work with. I think the people I collaborated with shows that I respect the older generation but equally want to support the new generation of artists at the same time.

With there being links to the theme of humanity running through the release, how would you like it to affect people when listening?
I would like the listeners of the album to have a positive listening experience. Enstein’s idea is that everything is energy and Tesla’s idea is that everything can be explained in terms of energy, frequency and vibration. Without being to esoteric, I want people to enjoy a connection with the energy and artistic expression that we put into creating this album.

Reflecting on the process, which of the tracks on the release took you on the most surprising musical journey?
For me, ‘Black Joy Freestyle’, was fun to create as it is a fusion of Bruk with Trap, something I have never heard before and can fit well into both musical eco-systems. I think ‘More Life’ was an interesting track to make. I love Victoria Port’s lyric about having “two heartbeats inside” written while she was carrying her first child. Its quite touching to me, the music on this track was pretty exciting and deep to construct.

So how do you approach blending the sub-genres we experience so that there is a balance of musical cohesion and diversity?
I feel it more than think it. The balance and cohesion comes from feeling in the process of creation.

What was the biggest challenge you faced throughout the creative process?
Any challenge I face means something to overcome. I believe in what I am doing and have good people around me who believe in me too, the Tru Thoughts label and my mentor also support me and help shape my creative process and decision making.

Turning to live performance, what are the similarities and differences in approach when taking studio tracks on the road in a live band format?
Performing at festivals and live shows is great as we get to test out brand new tracks early to new audiences. When we played at Shambino festival we tested out ‘Soze’ live with Toya Delazy (taken from the new album) and with the full WheelUP Live band. It was great to get that impactful audience reaction and makes me excited to see the reaction it will get from the track when it is released on the album. Also, when we have played tracks like ‘Good Love’, ‘Take Me Higher’ and ‘Elana’ – which were on the debut album – it is always great to see the reaction as the audience often know those tracks, and when constructing a live set that features both new and released tracks into the set, it is a really fun process culminating with an exciting live show and performance.

Many artists and producers, including yourself, are continuing to release both digitally and physically on vinyl, even though production costs may be higher. What led to you choosing this route and how do you think it impacts reach?
I think it is important to create and release music in multiple formats, the costs are higher which means a bigger investment in the album, but I think longer term it is a good strategy and people will appreciate the effort, time and thought that is put into these musical creations.

And finally, which artists have you not worked with yet but would like to feature on a future release?
Many people I would like to collaborate with in the future, watch this space…

Thanks WheelUp for chatting with Listen to Discover
Photography by: Luke Bryant
WheelUp’s forthcoming album ‘We Are The Magic’ arrives later this year and can be pre-ordered here.


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