The carousel of opinions that surrounded PC Music following their airbrushed polychrome arrival over two years ago seems to have thinned out. It was a debate that in-house producer and hit-maker Danny L Harle says came from outsiders trying to pin the label’s abstractions of pop down to one self-contained genre or style. “It kept on confusing people because it didn’t fit any patterns of behaviour which people had come to expect from either a label or a production house. It led to people obsessing over it just as anything which doesn’t fit into a pattern or a system would attract your attention.”
The dust has now settled to an extent, but the ever-evolving DNA of the PC Music entity is what keeps the debate alive. Danny’s hyperactive melodies and skewed reinterpretations of pop blueprints led many naysayers to argue that his music - and the creative vision of the PC camp - was some elaborate inside joke. Some felt as if they were a party of turbo-trendy creative types caricaturing the mainstream by turning the sugar levels up to 11. “People would be saying in sessions, ‘I like it, you’re kind of taking the piss,’ and I’d be like, ‘No. This is actually what I like’,” Danny tells Clash. “I can’t speak for the label but my music is all an expression of love for music and there’s no element of irony or sneeriness.”
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The kind of music Danny is infatuated with is unapologetically pop. He cites the bassline of Rihanna’s monster hit ‘Umbrella’ and the synth hook of Alice Deejay’s quintessentially ’90s Eurodance classic ‘Better Off Alone’ as moments that instill a certain feeling in him that he wants to emulate through his own work. “Pop music is about creating these openly interpretable objects which people can then project their own life experience to. It’s got to be abstract enough for people to connect on a personal level, but a lot of people.”
Danny has started to get a feel for what pop’s all-encompassing connectivity looks like. His 2015 ‘Broken Flowers’ EP was PC Music’s first release through an upstreaming deal with global major Columbia. It brought the EP’s title track to a huge audience. The song, a bittersweet cocktail of crystalline deep-house production and crisp bubblegum vocals, has been sincerely embraced by the mainstream.
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There’s no element of irony or sneeriness.
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Ex-JLS member Marvin Humes tweeted Danny about his love of the track, and it was recently heard soundtracking a nightclubbing scene on MTV’s flagship reality-drama Geordie Shore. Where other experimental producers might turn their nose up at such a co-sign, Danny seems to welcome this kind of acceptance. “I’m just so happy seeing it absorbed by the mainstream. I don’t want the music just to be for nerdy people. I am a nerdy person and I love nerdy people but I want to make these big expressions for people to project their own ideas upon. The fact that it’s happening to an extent with ‘Broken Flowers’ makes me really happy.”
Looking forward, the producer hopes that PC’s partnership with Columbia will put him at a vantage point creatively where he can maintain an avant-garde attitude while utilising the accessibility that comes with major label backing. “I can be experimental but also in the mainstream and I can connect people and styles that interest me without any barriers.” The debate about PC Music’s authenticity and the legitimacy of their postmodern exhibitionism has been a springboard for Danny L Harle to carry out his longstanding aspirations of entering pop’s inner circle. Earlier this year he was meeting with One Direction songwriters and clocking in studio hours with Carly Rae Jepsen. When we ask him if he thinks the early disputes about PC’s intentions were born more out of fascination or confusion, his answer is pretty telling: “They’re one and the same, aren’t they?”