DJ Danny Bled is standing in the corner of West Palm Beach's Respectable Street Cafe, headphones half on, penlight in mouth, slowly nodding his head, tracking beats. As he slides the crossfader, the Revolting Cocks' grinding, pounding "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" with its overslicked, pseudosuave vocals, begins to thump; he leans over and shouts above the music to the reporter standing outside the booth. "I hate this shit," he says, shaking his head. "I hate it."
Such is the contradiction embedded in Danny Bled, South Florida's omnipresent goth DJ. For the last few years, Bled has DJ'd regularly in all three counties; his mixes of mid-'80s gloom and doom are South Florida night crawlers' bread, butter, and blood. At Respectable Street in West Palm, Groove Jet's "The Church" in Miami Beach, and, until recently, Manray South's "Sin" in Pompano Beach, Bled has entertained the black-cloaked audiences with his overextended library of goth "classics" -- groups like Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Cure, the overplayed staples that have fueled the gothic scene since its inception in the early '80s. But Bled spins with trepidation, because goth is not his passion.
Outside the batcave atmospherics, he keeps the mope-rock off his turntables. When at home making mix tapes in his room, or in the recording studio, or at parties in Tampa and San Francisco, Bled primarily mixes jungle, a loosely defined drum 'n' bass subgenre characterized by sampled and cut breakbeats and a variety of layered sounds. Unfortunately for Bled jungle doesn't yet pay the bills. "The scene isn't big enough," he explains. "Jungle was a trend like a year ago when it first hit U.S. shores, but not really anymore. People should experiment more with different styles because it'll be stagnant soon; it needs new ideas, to go into techno and hip-hop and electro styles."
What Bled brings to jungle's mix is a dark aggression culled from his background as an industrial DJ in the early '90s, when Chicago's WaxTrax Records -- featuring the bleak and ferocious sounds of Meat Beat Manifesto, Front Line Assembly, and Psychic TV, among others -- was in its heyday. Having grown fond of industrial music's aural antagonism during his angry-young-man years, Bled, now in his early thirties, incorporates its elements into his jungle mixes. "I think jungle is the logical progression of where industrial left off," he says. "The industrial school has evolved to where it's far more beat-oriented. Industrial was stagnating around '90, and I was very reluctant about jungle. I didn't think it was my cup of tea, but it totally swept me away."
With his Saturday-night residency at Manray South coming to an abrupt end recently, Bled will at last have an opportunity to spend the weekend's prime night freelancing at raves, fetish parties, and clubs where his turntable skills can be exposed. Two Saturdays ago, near the end of his shift, he noticed that the club's fliers for the Bled-christened "Sin" night didn't have his name on them. The fliers listed another DJ, K-7, whom Bled had never heard of. He approached the club's general manager, who pleaded ignorance and promised to return with an explanation, which was this: Manray South's owner simply wanted to try something new -- no warning, no notification, despite the fact that Bled has spun at the club since its opening nearly a year ago. "Honestly, I don't give a fuck. I hate that place, but that's so unprofessional," Bled says. "I really don't want them to use the name [Sin]." Manray's management did not return calls from New Times for comment, but it's common knowledge among DJs that the relationship between club owners and artists is often tenuous. Knowing that, Bled is moving on with little concern.
Danny Bledoeg moved to America with his family from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America, when he was 20 years old. After graduating from graphic arts school and working various production jobs (including two with the New Times chain), Bledoeg switched his focus to music. As a freelance reporter writing reviews and covering clubs and concerts, he wrote stories on very-much-underground artists such as pyro-percussion noise-terrorists Crash Worship. His familiarity with the local club scene led to an association with Charles Arnold, long-time area DJ and resident at the now-defunct Squeeze in Fort Lauderdale. "Charles Arnold is my mentor. He's the one that really got me into -- back in the day -- the WaxTrax stuff and all the industrial. The main reason I got into industrial was because of the beat and the aggression, the dance aggression. I would buy all the records that he would buy because he just had the taste that I totally admired. He spun amazing shit."
Arnold's mentorship quickly paid its dividends. "I would always hang out in his booth, so when he would like go take a leak or something, or if he got wasted, he would have me take over," Bled recalls. Soon Arnold recommended Bledoeg for an open slot in Squeeze's schedule, and DJ Danny Bled was born. Since then Bled has spun records "everywhere," including the nightclub he calls his "baby," the mid-'90s-era Nemesis in Fort Lauderdale, which he describes as "truly underground." The club had two rooms -- one gothic and one industrial, with Bled and partner Frank Mendez masterminding the latter. "In the industrial room, we were playing shit that was the most unlikely songs to be hits: the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Portishead -- all that shit that hit later on." After Nemesis' demise two years ago, and up until the recent "Sin" debacle, Bled's outlet for innovation was significantly stifled. "People here wanna hear the same shit," he says. "They only know how to move to one song, so that's what I have to play for them."
The bedroom in Bled's Fort Lauderdale apartment belies his reputation as a spinner of all things dark. His CD collection, which covers an entire wall (the one not covered by vinyl or turntables) plus a large amount of floor space, is arranged by genre, spanning the spectrum of cutting-edge music from the last 15 years. A quick glance at his discs reveals the scope of his tastes: the Afghan Whigs, Duran Duran, a Korn remix single, break kings UberZone, Orbital, Black Sabbath, N.W.A, Matthew Sweet, Liz Phair -- hardly a soundtrack for the batcave generation. Talking on the phone to a female friend, the extent of Bled's fascination with music is illustrated: "No way, David J (of the recently resurrected Bauhaus) has a residency at a club?... Really?... That's funny... Does Peter Murphy hang out there?... What happened to them, they're totally all L.A. glitter and feather boas now. Glam is out."
On a typical work night, Bled's personal tastes have precious little room for exposure. "If it's up to me, I start out with stuff that I like; it could be ambient, it could be more techno-oriented," he says. "When the people arrive, I usually go into the mainstream stuff, not Top 40 but stuff that people know. I hate that shit."
On a recent Friday night at Respectable Street, Bled is spinning "that shit" -- the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love," Soft Cell's "Warm Leatherette," New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." He puts on Billy Idol's 1981 club hit "Dancing With Myself," rolling his eyes as the dance floor fills with patrons outfitted in their black-and-bruised uniforms. As the song nears its end, a mischievous gleam sparks in Bled's eye. He mixes the beats perfectly into a stuttering, long-winded, aggro drum 'n' bass mix of "Rock Around the Clock" by the UK's Dream Team. The dancers don't know what to do; this kind of aural attack is outside their repertoires. The few who remain on the dance floor do some inventive flailing and eventually dissipate until only two people are left. Having struck his target and made a point of sorts -- point being that innovation and evolution are no longer factors in the gothic scene -- he fuses into the opening breaks of a jungle mix of Nine Inch Nails' "The Perfect Drug," and the audience once again settles into its comfortable, self-absorbed atmosphere.
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"I have the gigs just 'cause it pays my bills. I don't consider myself a gothic DJ; I'm an industrial DJ. And the gothic kids hate me, 'cause I spin the same shit for them over and over," is Bled's disclaimer. Nonetheless, he admits that certain adherents of the eyeliner-and-fangs lifestyle follow him from club to club, even to out-of-town gigs. "I think for a DJ to spin for themselves is very selfish, but there's always an element of that," he says. "A good DJ will always pull out the occasional classic that the crowd will go crazy for."
In March, at Miami's Winter Music Conference, dance music's most prestigious industry gathering, Bled will demonstrate how he drives a crowd crazy when he spins at the Church's annual Graver2000 party. Bled sees the conference gig as an opportunity to give his finer talents a broad platform and break from the usual mid-'80s cesspool-of-new-wave form.
"Music is my whole life, it pays for my addiction," he says. "It's a matter of, 'How am I going to get my music for free?' That's why I started DJing. I have a long way to go, my skills need to be honed. Everything I've always done has always been, how can I say it, by the seat of my pants. There's no manuals, I just do this."
DJ Danny Bled spins Fridays at Respectable Street Cafe, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, 561-832-0706, and Sundays at Groove Jet's "The Church," 323 23rd St., Miami Beach, 305-532-2002.