My name is Daniel Wingmalm. I was born in Sweden and I've been a DJ for as long as I can remember. The earliest memory I have of DJing is when I was about 5 or 6 years old, playing around with my brother’s record player, changing the records before they finished – even at such an early age I was beginning to master the art of the turntable!
My DJ story started for real when I was 11 years old. My brother, who is four years older than me and was a local youth club DJ, started to explore interests other than music. Rather than playing the latest hits for the kids in our neighbourhood, he turned his attentions to girls, smoking and bikes, all subjects he believed were more interesting than playing records.
Now that my brother had other activities to keep him busy, he needed someone to help him balance his time, so he asked me if I would like to help out by taking one of his gigs off his hands. It was a DJ event playing for a group of kids, more or less my own age, and of course I jumped at the chance. With that came my first ever DJ set.
I had no idea what a graphic equaliser did, no clue how a needle on a turntable worked, or that you weren't allowed to poke it whilst it played, and only basic knowledge of a mixer...but I learnt quickly and somehow made it through the gig. I was instantly hooked and from that moment my life changed. I started listening to music every minute of every day. I sorted my record collection into genres, years and BPM ranges, and began teaching myself about beats and mixing. In every possible way, music became part of my life. From an 11-year-old taking his first steps on the DJ ladder, to the present day when music is still a huge part of my life and career.
Whilst my friends found sports, computers and video games, I stuck with DJing. I read every album cover from front to back and became a DJ nerd. I researched all there was to know about the various pieces of DJ equipment available, and over the next few years I started to build up my own mobile disco. I was still only a young boy, so I got a lot of financial help from my father who, seeing how happy his son was, wanted to do all he could to help me further my chosen career. He helped me secure a sponsorship deal that delivered a range of DJ gear and CDs to enhance my music collection.
In the early days I had to work hard to achieve bookings as a DJ and would go around my home town of Norrköping, Sweden, arranging discos in youth clubs and a few private parties. It was all good learning experience for what was yet to come in my DJ career, but before that finally kicked off there was still a lot to learn. And then one day, my father sat me down at the dinner table and said: ”I know you like this DJing stuff very much, but you need to start thinking of your future. If you don’t make it through school and get a proper job, you will have a hard time making money.”
As much as I respected my father, I did not enjoy that talk at all. I'd set my heart on being a DJ and now I was being told to find an alternate career. But even though his words at that time were not the words I wanted to hear, something stuck from that conversation, and I took my father's advice, working several jobs over the next few years. These included mechanic, teacher (wood and crafts), prison guard, and I even enjoyed a spell on the cash register at the local supermarket. But even though I had taken on many ”proper jobs”, it was my career as a DJ that I longed to pursue. So, whilst working, I continued to develop my skills, learn my craft, and steadily build my reputation.
My mobile disco work was steady, but after a few years I found I needed a new challenge. As much as I enjoyed being a mobile DJ, I felt the events were becoming too similar and I needed a change of direction. The inspiration for this came from a friend of mine who asked if I'd like to try out for a DJ vacancy in a local nightclub. It didn't take me long to say yes and a few weeks later I was invited to perform a DJ set at the club. Although, it wasn't quite what I was expecting as it turned out to be an electronic underground club specialising in psy-trance and hard-trance! Whilst I was familar with those styles of music, I had never played them as a DJ. I was a mainstream DJ playing the big hits of the day, mixed in with the classics, in order to create a sing-a-long party vibe on a dancefloor. So, when I turned up at the club it's fair to say I was not well prepared.
I was met at the door by one of the other club DJs, Magnus, who showed me to the DJ booth and remarked, ”show us what you're made of.” My knees were trembling and my hands were shaking, but somehow I managed to compose myself, open my record bag, select two of my favourite tracks of the time (Modjo – 'Lady (Hear Me Tonight)' and Spiller – 'Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’) and mix both together seamlessly.
I had nailed my first mix in a nightclub, and I thought it sounded great. Magnus looked over, placed two CDs in the players, stood back nodding his head, and commented, ”well that was good but can you mix this?” Both were psy-trance tracks, the softer style of trance music, and whilst this style of music was alien to me, I somehow managed to nail the mix and secure my first ever slot as a club DJ.
It went well and I became best friends with Magnus, a friendship that is still going strong to this day. I'm hugely grateful for the chance he gave me, and he's still got my back after all those years! As I spent more time at the club so my interest for electronic dance music grew, but during the next few years my passion for mobile discos was still there. So I set about combining the two of them into something new and innovative, something that had the potential to be big!
As a mobile DJ I had travelled to many places, met some awesome people, and made some amazing connections. Now, as a dance DJ, I was making new connections, but by creating a fusion of both worlds, I could create a unique concept. I wanted to remove the stigma associated with electronic dance events that I felt made them unpopular with the general public, and offer a new concept that would keep both audiences and residents happy. I focussed my attentions on electronic dance events, combining the latest dance hits with classic dance anthems to create an upbeat party vibe that had a cooler edge...and it worked!
The brand was gaining recognition, the audiences were growing, and DJs from across Sweden were traveling to my little town to play at one of my parties. I was eventually approached by a local club owner, already a nationwide name across Sweden. He came to me with a crazy idea that he wanted to make electronic events with international DJs and artists from around the world. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of that and, in return, he would help my brand grow, including help with advertising and marketing, all at no cost to myself. I wasn't really going to say no, was I?
We called the brand Club Aqua and set about world domination. The first steps were shaky but once we found our feet there was no stopping us. The first party we hosted under the Club Aqua brand featured Rank 1 and Signum and had a trance flavour. It was a huge success, and other events soon followed with guest DJs and artists including Tiësto, Scot Project, Bas & Ram, Technoboy, Headhunters, Angerfist, DBSTF and more. This helped us to quickly become one of Sweden's biggest dance events for the harder electronic music styles, such as hardstyle, hardcore, techtrance and psy-trance.
Over the next few years the brand continued to get bigger and bigger, and I was really beginning to make a name for myself. The events went from small clubs to large arenas holding 4000+ crazy party-goers who would travel from all over Europe to be part of the experiences we were creating. It was insane how it took off, and all the time I was still holding down a normal day job whilst trying to build my DJ career. At its peak Club Aqua was regularly booking arenas for events, which lead to us creating a second brand called Majestiq 12. This was to become Sweden's biggest electronic dance brand.
But they say that pride comes before a fall and ironically it was the success of Club Aqua and Majestik 12 that was to eventually lead to their downfall. The local authorities had started to get concerned over the number of people descending upon their towns and cities to attend our events and, given the reputation associated with the style of music we were playing, they started proceedings to close us down. Despite our best efforts, that's exactly what happened and I'm sad to say that none of those brands exist today!
After brushing myself down it was time to go again. I had created the DJ name Mr Dee and had started to receive interest from across the country from local clubs, dance events and private parties. I decided to put more effort on promoting myself as a brand and moved my attentions away from nightclubs and specialist dance events.
These were swamped with DJs happy to perform for nothing, and were also playing music that I was no longer interested in. I went back to my DJ roots and rekindled my affair with mainstream pop, dance, r'n'b and hip hop. I wanted to be on stage, playing the music that made people happy on the dancefloor, and allowed me to do what I was born to do – entertain!
I took more interest in the music, researching the tracks that would work best and creating innovative sets for my audiences. I took gigs that I would have previously refused and started enjoying my life as a DJ once again.
One day I was asked by a club promoter and event organiser if I wanted to play at one of his retro events called Euro4Ever, a night dedicated to Eurodisco music from the 90s. Well, that sounded fun, as it was part of my youth and the music I was playing when my DJ career started out. So I accepted the gig and headed straight for the loft to dig out my old CDs. Having found the box and cleared away the cobwebs, I sifted through many CD compilations of all the big hits from the past, evoking memories of my youth.
Some of the CDs were so worn out that you could almost see through the plastic, and I spent hours flicking through them. What a flashback, wow, so many great tunes. I spent the next few days and nights ripping them all, listening to all the individual tunes and sorting out my digital music library.
The night of the gig arrived and I don't mind admitting I was a little nervous. After all, it had been several years since I stood on stage to play this style of music. The nerves soon turned to adrenaline once the doors to the club opened and the venue filled up. It was a small club that held around 400 people and it was quickly packed to the rafters.
The audience were up for a great night and I called on all my skills as a DJ and entertainer to deliver them something special. I had an absolute blast on stage and smiled so hard that night that my jaw muscles ached for days after. I felt rejuvenated and after the disappointment of losing Club Aqua and Majestik 12, this was exactly the tonic I needed. The promoter loved what I did and booked me for their other events. It was a shame they only held three or four events a year, but I was happy to take and build on them. The 90s music I played had resonated with me and there was no way it was going to leave my side, it was there to stay!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 106, Pages 14-20.