Inside the VOYD: Exploring SVDDEN DEATH’s Dark Odyssey
With his signature heavy metal logo, iconic deer skull and antler adornments, and a formidable persona, few characters electrify the dance world quite like SVDDEN DEATH. He consistently stirs up reactions with his bold aesthetics and groundbreaking style, particularly through his VOYD side project. Yet, behind thia façade lies a whimsical and somewhat reserved character named Danny Howland. This 30-year-old artist’s journey to the forefront of dark electronica is as intriguing as it is unexpected.
Recently, MP3 MAG had the opportunity to catch up with SVDDEN DEATH, following his standout performance at Electric Forest. We delved into a retrospective exploration of his career, the roots in the underground scene, and a sneak peek into what the future holds.
SVDDEN DEATH, an electronic music producer and DJ, is known for his unique style, connecting with the underground scene through dark electronic music, humorous online persona, and ability to resonate with various dancefloors.
Born in San Jose, SVDDEN DEATH grew up attending local shows in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here he discovered the open-minded warehouse rave scene and culture, which he credits today for his open format approach to music. In 2008, he discovered dubstep via trailblazing acts like Rusko and Skream.
With background interests that varied from jazz to metal, he learned instruments such as guitar and piano and even played in bands. Later on, Howland moved to Los Angeles, where he furthered himself into the dance world.
Howland first moved into a house with multiple friends also making music, which provided a supportive environment for him to learn to produce and grow as an artist. Los Angeles also offered a vibrant underground community, in which Howland and his circle became embedded. “I’d definitely say that a lot of my inspiration comes from being a fan and being part of the underground scene,” SVDDEN DEATH told MP3 MAG.
In 2017, the producer delivered his first hit with “Take Ya Head Off,” sitting at a cool four and a half million streams today, followed up by a collaboration with Somnium Sound, “Angel Style,” both of which also helped put SVDDEN DEATH on the map for dubstep fans all over.
Despite the success, the producer was already experimenting with mixing up his approach, theorizing that more simple production and execution would still resonate with fans while allowing him to cater to the fast-paced nature of the electronic scene. “I basically decided to make an alias where I could do more minimal songs. Stuff that has a lot more of like a call and response and melodic elements,” he explained. Infusing it with a visceral, horror-like image of the skull and antlers, VOYD was born.
This experiment yielded “Behemoth,” a track that captured significant attention after he played it at EDC. The positive response encouraged him to release it, despite initial plans to keep it under wraps. “After I played [“Behemoth”] at EDC, people were talking about it, and I still hadn’t revealed that that project was me, so then I dropped [VOYD Vol. I]. ‘Rise’ and ‘Behemoth’ just started getting a ton of play out pretty much right when I dropped it.”
His explorations haven’t always followed a set plan, as was the case with the VOYD project. “Back then, I didn’t really have a concept for it visually [but the reception] kind of pushed me to make stuff that was in a similar vein.”
In the realm of electronic music, an artist’s persona can often be as significant as their sound. This is a balance SVDDEN DEATH wrestles with, manifesting a unique duality in his brand: a dark, intense style of music paired with a surprisingly approachable and humorous personality.
SVDDEN DEATH’s music, revered for its fierce, heavy bass and dark electronic vibes, offers a stark contrast to his interactions with his fans. Known for his friendly banter and openness to being “roasted” online, he has created an environment where his fans feel a deep connection with him, often through humor.
Maintaining this balance is not always straightforward. As SVDDEN DEATH shared, “A lot of people are receptive to my creativity, even when I change things dramatically within a project or a set. People appreciate the variety in my sets, and they’re cool with me experimenting.” It’s clear that his willingness to take creative risks has played a significant role in striking this balance. It’s about more than just music for him – it’s about ensuring his fans enjoy the journey, appreciating the unexpected and embracing the humorous alongside the intense.
This interplay between his dark music branding and personable nature represents the inherent challenge he faces. It’s a fine line to tread, ensuring the music’s intensity doesn’t eclipse his approachability, and that his humor doesn’t undermine the serious craftsmanship of his sound. Yet, it’s a challenge he seems to have mastered, fostering a community that appreciates his multifaceted approach to music and artistry.
In a music landscape where many artists maintain a polished and often distant image, SVDDEN DEATH’s approach to fan engagement is refreshingly different. His navigation of the fine line between his dark music persona and his light-hearted engagement with fans has played a pivotal role in his success, establishing him as an artist who understands and values his fanbase’s nuances.
He explained, “I think my relationship with a lot of these people is funny. People seem to enjoy the darker aspects of the electronic music, and they’re entertained by our playful banter on the internet.” This unconventional approach to fan interaction serves as a guide for aspiring artists aiming to establish a unique brand without losing authenticity.
SVDDEN DEATH’s online presence has effectively humanized his brand. Fans aren’t just passively consuming his music; they’re participating in a shared experience, connecting with him in a way that’s far removed from the norm in the industry.
His successful navigation of these contrasts not only differentiates SVDDEN DEATH from other artists in the electronic music scene, but also offers an unconventional blueprint for other musicians.
SVDDEN DEATH’s commitment to experimentation and unpredictability stands out in an industry often criticized for its repetitiveness. His sets are renowned for their variety and flexibility, showcasing a wide range of elements that keep fans on their toes. This approach isn’t just a tactic; it’s a reflection of SVDDEN DEATH’s creative ethos, one that values flexibility, novelty, and constant evolution.
SVDDEN DEATH’s music and persona have undergone a significant transformation over the years, driven by a desire to continually evolve his artistic expression and push the boundaries of his craft. “I plan on doing more vocal stuff and presenting SVDDEN DEATH as a more personal expression outside just music production,” he shared.
Looking forward, SVDDEN DEATH has significant plans that showcase his constant drive to innovate. His major focus for the rest of the year will be a significant project for SVDDEN DEATH: “It’s not exactly an album, but I’m writing a huge project,” he shared. In addition, there’s an exciting collaborative project in the works. “I can’t share much about it just yet, but it’s something I’m excited about.”
SVDDEN DEATH’s success lies in maintaining a unique balance between his dark music persona and light-hearted online presence. The positive reception from fans and their continued engagement with his music demonstrates his success in navigating the challenges of brand identity.
SVDDEN DEATH’s journey in the music industry has led to a significant transformation, not just in his music but also in his persona. As he moves forward, his future plans hint at a transformative approach to his art. This continuous evolution, guided by a strong connection with his fan base, is what sets SVDDEN DEATH apart in the dynamic landscape of electronic music.