Danny Schwarz - Not just a pretty face
It is a sunny Saturday morning in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. We enter the beautiful apartment of supermodel Danny Schwarz and his roommates, all models. It feels like home to us, so cozy and welcoming. So clean. Not a typical models apartment at all. Danny's walls are covered with his favorite records (Michael Jackson), photos of his sisters and nephews. The bed is set, covered with lovely sheets, his guitar hanging on the wall, T.V and video games, brick walls and beautiful balcony for drinking his morning tea (he is British after all) and having a smoke.
We worked with Danny a few times, he is a different kind of model, smart, humble and has a second career in the music industry. His life story has inspired us.
Today, Danny is number four on the Forbes Most Successful Male Models list. Danny has conquered the runways and popped up in ads for Pepe Jeans, Missoni, D&G, and a steamy, controversial campaign for Calvin Klein. Few know Danny's story behind what seems like a fast track to success. Danny has come a long way from Brixton, England - a hard, violent, poor neighbor in the South suburbs of London. Danny was into drugs, theft and even spent time in jail at a young age. He was looking for a way out, a brighter future, and music was it.
Music saved my life.
"I was into music from a very young age, growing up in the south of London. The back bone of street music was drum and bass and breaks. I used to listen to DJs such as Micky Finn, Nicky Black Market and Kenny Ken with MCs like MC Det, Skiberdee and Shaberdee. I started MC'ing with friends and writing lyrics. Pretty much everywhere I went I would have my notebook, scribbling words and phrases. That gave me the urge to start Dj'ing, when I would start to hear the weaknesses in other DJs sets".
What was the first Album that you bought?
"I was 14 or 15 when I bought my first few records. I've bought a bunch since and I just obtained my first second hand set of Technique 1210's with fresh needles. I can still feel the excitement now of owning my own decks and records. Among these records was an 'Adam F' track called
Circles, and this track was one of the reasons why I wanted to mix and produce in the first place. It still remains a favorite of mine to this day. Some others were Goldie with Inner City Life and UK Apachi with Shy FX - Original Nuttah which was a huge tune growing up. I was hooked".
How did you become a DJ and a producer ?
"After learning to mix I was then interested in scratching and mixing on three or fourdecks at a time. Then I got into harmonic mixing, which is basically a continuous mix between two pre-recorded tracks that are in the same key or keys that are relative or in a subdominant or dominant relationship with one another. Basically, I spent a lot of time being a nerd in my bedroom.
The obsession with music led me to want to produce. I started begging my parents for a cheap keyboard and eventually bought one of my own, before setting up a cheap PC with FruityLoops and other basic software with some cheap speakers, basically making some crap. Having finished school, I eventually decided to take sound engineering at college where I met my good friend Tom Peeke who introduced me to raving, which is a whole different story!
We started mixing together, playing everything from DnB to hard house. We formed a DJ duo called "Opeum and started," getting sets in clubs all over London. We would put sets together in the week after spending hours digging through records trying to blend different genres and samples. We also used
to practice pre-recorded routines where we dress up and act out sometimes using friends in the audience before dropping tunes. A lot of times it would just confuse buzzing ravers but it would often go down really well.
We started producing together through college. I set up my own label "Decimation Records" and worked for N.E.C (Nu Energy Collective). I set up my own rave, Decimation, which used to run monthly at a club in Vauxhall, London. The night was a big success and funded my record buying obsession, well, it did while it was legal to sell laughing gas, but once that was banned it took a toll on the old income".
After moving to New York did you try to pursue your music career ?
"I did miss DJing terribly and attempted to set up a night in the Lower East Side of New York at a club called Katra Lounge. I called it "Sounds of London" hoping people who came, would be there to listen to something different, perhaps broaden their musical horizons a little. I was wrong. It appeared people in NY weren't interested in this style of music, (some might say I was a little ahead of my time!). They wanted to hear Britney Spears and I got mad.
However, It did give me a chance to showcase some new music I was working on, and play some tracks with the Band I had formed, Envelope.
Eventually I shipped a lot of my equipment out from London and converted a space to start recording in. I have been lucky enough to have met a lot of rappers and singers in the city and started experimenting and collaborating with these different people, many of whom have become my friends.”
At 18 I was rejected from all the model agencies in London.
When Danny was 18 he used to work out in the gym and had a much bigger figure. He thought modeling will be an easy way to earn some extra money so he tried his luck in every modeling agency in London and was rejected. Christophe from Premier modeling agency was the only agent who believed in him. Christophe sent Danny for test shoot but Danny didn't feel comfortable wearing tiny underwear, so he left.
What was your first modeling job ?
"I was 23 and asked to shoot a cover for DJ Mag. Following this, the photographer, Beth Crockatt, recommended I should try modeling. Being short on cash, I thought it couldn't hurt. I went back to Premier because I had a good memory of the wayChristophe treated me.
After finishing college Danny worked part time for UBS as a programmer and did some modeling jobs. He thought his big break will be in a Prada campaign but they didn't want him. He was too big. "They met with me every month to see if I lost weight, but I wasn't skinny enough for them".
Later he was cast to do an exclusive Calvin Klein fashion show in Milan. Backstage he met Lana Winters, founder of VNY model management, who offered to sign him with her New York agency. Danny moved to New York and was booked to work with photographer Steven Meisel on a Calvin Klein jeans ad campaign. "I knew he was a big photographer but I didn't really knew who he was or how huge he is. I set at his office for four days, there were a few models over there and he shoot everyone but me.”
I would sit at Steven Meisel's office everyday and wait, and wait. After four days I complained to his secretary. She told Meisel and he shot me the same day. He liked my attitude and I ended up leading the Calvin Klein campaign with model Edita Vilkeviciute".
Home away from home
"When I moved to New York I should have lived in a model’s apartment. I came into the apartment and looked at all the models sitting there doing nothing and I just couldn't stay there. Lana talked to model Sean O'Pry and I moved in with him and his girlfriend. I lived there for six months and it was fun. Sean showed me the city and we became good friends".
It is clear that home is important to Danny. "In New York I meet new friends like Ollie Edwards and Jamie Jewitt. We all live together and we are like big family. I love to cook and we eat almost every night together at home.
I didn't have much of a childhood. Life at home was tough. When I came to New York, all I did for one year was party and drink. After that year I stopped and started to think about my future. In New York I built a new life with new people, new family away from home. I miss my sisters (I go home once or twice a year) and I also miss my friends, especially Tom, but It was a great change and breath of fresh air to be in new surroundings with new people. It was a very exciting time for me.
I never expected it to pan out the way it did. I didn't see myself as a pretty boy, earning the kind of money I could only dream about in the music days. I'm still very humble and shy".
What is the next step for you?
"Music has been on the backburner as of late as I found acting. I studied at a few different schools for the last couple of years including Stella Adler, HB Studios and The Michael Howard Studio. Next year, I plan to do another full time conservatory at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute before
making my way to LA to join the legions of aspiring actors.
On the music side, I'm still using all the time I have to put tracks together for a debut album with Envelope and a music video is in production for my track "In-between". Recently I set up a production company called "No Laughing Productions" with close friends who are all either rappers, musicians,
directors, producers, actors or presenters. We aim to create collaborative work, such as short films and sound tracks, that we can collectively distribute. So as they say, watch this space".
To see stuff in production go to: http://www.soundcloud.com/Envylope,
For tracks I still work with Tom who's now based his studio in Barcelona
P90X I use my body weight and light weights. Because I fly most of the time, I just go to the gym wherever I am, put my cell on the gym floor and workout. I go to the gym five times a week and also do boxing and football.
I try to eat healthy. I love to cook so we eat at home every evening. We buy fruit and vegetables at the market and I cook. I love to cook Thai food (I learned in Thailand) and some British food.
Chocolate is one thing I can't live without.
Into the wild, The matrix
Actors who inspire me
James Dean, Tom Hardy, Daniel Day-Lewis
A New Earth, The Peaceful Warrior, Marching Powder, The God Delusion
Noisia, Sub Focus, Roni Size, Danny Byrd, Aphex Twin, Greg Brookman
People who inspire my music
Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin
Fun for me
Football and riding my bike, a Ducati 1098R set up to race. Back home I have a Ducati and Kawasaki. I love to clean and fix it and I love to snowboard.