Daniel Biltmore has been interviewed by h-blog.com, where he talked about his relationship with Chad Hugo and traveling around the globe, check it out below.
Q: Who are you?
My name is Daniel Biltmore. I’m a Baltimore based DJ/Producer, and I work with former N*E*R*D & The Neptunes member, Chad Hugo, for a crew called MSSL CMMND.
Q: Where are you from?
I’m from Silver Spring, MD, a few miles outside of DC. I spent 25 years here before moving to Baltimore for school.
Q: What inspired and/or motivated you to start DJ’ing?
It was mainly out of necessity. When I was 14, I started realizing that a lot of the music that I wanted was only available on vinyl. So, I started buying records without even having a record player. Then one day, I dug out my dad’s old turntables and hooked them up to a mixer that I got for my birthday.
Q: How old were you when you started taking music seriously?
Well, I guess I have two answers:
– First, was when I was 16. That’s when I started to learn, but I wasn’t quite taking it seriously.
– Second, was when I was 29 (in 2009). That’s when I decided to devote 100% of my time to do it professionally.
Q: What would you say have been the biggest obstacles in pursuing your dream?
Ah man, there have been a lot of obstacles. There’s been many times when I thought “I made it”, or “things are gonna be smooth from here”, but things never go that way. You can never take time off or stop working.
You have to look at music like freelancing; you’re essentially working for yourself. Getting on stage and performing is the easy part and the reward, but the hard part is making sure to network and improve your craft.
Simply put, the main thing that I’ve learned is that there are very few shortcuts. Although it seems like there are a ton of overnight success stories, they’re very uncommon.
Q: Have you had any doubters along the way? If so, who?
It’s tough to say, really. I come from a very loving and supportive family, but at the same time, I’m doing something that isn’t considered normal coming from a place like my hometown.It’s not that they haven’t been supportive, but they’ve definitely been frustrated and have wondered when I was gonna do something else with my life. No matter if it’s friends or family, people just don’t understand or respect art as an occupation. I remember a few years back, when I worked at a place called Sound Exchange, when the head guy left, he sent out an email to everyone summarizing his time there. One main point in the email was this: In America, you’re expected to do something else in addition to your art. This just goes to show how little respect there is for the arts.
Q: Who are some notable artists that you’ve worked with?
First and foremost, I should probably mention Chad as being an extremely special person to have had the opportunity to work with. Simply put, being around him introduced me to an entirely new echelon of artists and a new tier of talent. He’s a very open-minded and exceptional musician; and his mind moves at a different level than most human beings can compete with. The amount of ground he can cover musically in the time it takes most of us to blink is unfathomable. Not only can he play just about any instrument you throw at him, but his comprehension of theory is unparalleled. Although nothing was released commercially from these sessions, I really enjoyed some time Chad and I got to have with Big K.R.I.T and Slim Thug. K.R.I.T. was just a really cool customer, super-approachable and comfortable to communicate with. And Slim Thug was just an absolute pro, able to hop into the booth, knock out a verse in one take, and hop back out. It was impressive. Another guy that I really enjoyed spending time with was Om’mas Keith. He worked with Frank Ocean on Channel Orange.
It turned out that he was dating a mutual friend’s sister. Plus, we used to share the same manager. He’s incredibly talented and a very good-natured person. Pharrell has also been a great person to be around. He’s a very inspiring and patient person too. He really has a presence about him. The first time that I met him face-to-face, I could literally feel that someone was in the room. It was a very distinct vibe. Last but not least, Chad and I were able to be a part of the first hip-hop jam session at Bonaroo, and I was able to be in rehearsal with countless artists. Of everyone involved, Jazzy Jeff and RedMan were head and shoulders above the other musicians. Jeff, because of his obvious work ethic and passion for what he does, and Redman for his energy and presence. Red came into his rehearsal and just shut the place down; it almost felt as if there was no more room or need to work after he was done.
Q: How long did it take for you to feel like you were a part of the ‘In-Crowd’?
To be honest, it took a number of years to be accepted into the circle. When I met them back in 2009, NERD & the Neptunes had already been around for quite some time, so they weren’t really receptive to new faces. They wanted to make sure that I wasn’t coming around for the wrong reasons.
Q: What would you say has been your “Big Break”?
I would say that I’m still working towards that. However, I don’t think that I’ll ever stop per se. Personally, I want to develop and brand myself to the point where I can do shows with all original music. I don’t want to be a DJ who just plays other people’s music. I think that the goal of most DJ’s is to transition into production. That way, we can set ourselves up for something with a bigger picture down the line.
Q: So, I’m curious how did you and Chad connect?
We had a mutual friend, named Jason Rodman, who just recently started designing at Play Cloths. Jason has known chad since 1996. He called me one day and said that Chad had a DJ gig in Baltimore, and wanted a local DJ to open. Jason suggested me, I immediately canceled all my plans and DJ’d my hardest. Since that day, Chad and I stayed in touch. Some time later, he invited me to the old Neptunes studio in Virginia beach. Since then, I started working as hard as possible. One day, Chad said that he wanted to start a DJ collective. He never wound up adding any others to the collective, so we just became a duo.
Q: How was the transition from Maryland to L.A.?
I spent a lot of time in LA. Music industry is based there. My manager grew up in New York and moved to LA. It wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve had connections to the city even before meeting Chad. One of my oldest friends moved out there when we finished college, and the first time that I went to visit, I immediately fell in love with it. Overall the vibe is great, and I can understand some of the things that people may not like about it (i.e. fakeness, insincerity, etc.) But as long as you surround yourself with the right people, everything will be good.
Q: Where are some other places that you’ve traveled?
Bali. I’ve gone to the Philippines three times: twice on my own in 2008, and once with Chad. It was a different experience, and I loved the culture. Hospitality is super important there and I still keep in touch with people that I’ve met. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. If it weren’t so humid, I wouldn’t mind living there. Thanks to working with Chad, I’ve gotten to see a lot of cool places such as: Abu Dhabi, Bali, and Dubai. Bali was particularly beautiful. I’ve also visited quite a few places on my own. Rwanda, Angola on my own. It was truly an eye opening experience. Angola was only 8 years out of its civil war when I went, and it’s already developed so rapidly. Believe it or not, the cost of living is twice as much as London.
Q: What did you study in school?
I did English for undergrad, then publication design for my Master’s. When I finally graduated from Grad School, I met Chad and took that as a sign to start focusing on doing music as a career.
Q: What’s your Go-to DJ Software and Hardware?
In terms of hardware, I go for the classic turntables. But lately, I have gotten a little sick of using them. There’s so many variables that could go wrong with little to no notice. In terms of software, I’d have to go with Serato. It’s one product that I really believe in. It’s got a very quick learning curve, plus it led me to taking DJ’ing seriously.
Q: What’s your opinion on the state of music as a whole?
I always try to be optimistic about and not get cranky with age. I like hearing new things, and it’s very interesting to see how music has evolved over the last few decades. Back when I started DJ’ing, it wasn’t common to hear different genres of music. Now, it’s become the norm to hear mashups of all sorts. However, being a DJ over the years has taught me that many things are just trends. This is especially true in electronic music. For example, dubstep is something that became huge, but has somewhat tapered off. That’s what’s unique about Hip-Hop. Very few genres have gone global and stayed relevant for so long.
Q: If you could give 1 piece of advice to your younger self and other aspiring musicians, what would it be and why?
SuccessI would definitely say to be patient and steady. I didn’t reach certain places until until my late 20’s, going into my early 30’s. And sometimes, it’s hard when you look at a lot of artists who’ve made it around 17-18 years old. It always kinda drove me crazy, because I wanted everything to happen in my early 20’s. But one day, my manager calmed me down by saying this: “You’re here now, and when you achieve these things in your maturity, you can appreciate them so much more.” Along the same lines, I saw a picture online which explained success with a straight arrow vs a curved arrow.