In a dark corner of a dark bar on a rainy evening in the concrete heart of downtown Los Angeles, Daniel Goldstein is drinking a hefeweizen and recapping a show there is little evidence of him actually playing. The energy was excellent, he says. The crowd was into it. The sound was impeccable. While there would typically be thousands of grams, tweets and snaps verifying this information, minimal social media was posted about last night’s set. This is exactly how Goldstein, who produces and performs electronic music as Lane 8, wants it.
In the past several years, Lane 8 has become synonymous with “This Never Happened,” a live concept that encourages attendees to leave their phones in their damn pockets and experience the music as it’s happening. Pragmatically, this is achieved by having security tape over smartphone cameras as crowds enter the venue. Fans can decide whether or not to leave the tape on. Why does he bother with this somewhat symbolic gesture? Goldstein fell in love with dance music while attending college in Los Angeles during the city’s late-aught electronic golden era, finding the best part of these nights were how special untethered from reality they felt. When he began making and performing his own music, he found cellphones killed this feeling, along with the general vibe of each show.
This Never Happened was thus launched, with its success eventually spawning a record label of the same name. It was through this label that the California-born, Denver-based artist released his latest album, Little By Little, ten dreamy, transportive tracks together forming one of the year’s best electronic albums. The LP is the follow-up to 2015’s Rise, a debut that established Lane 8 as an arbiter of smart, emotive music on the deep/progressive end of the house spectrum.
Bearded, thoughtful and darkly funny, Goldstein is currently touring behind Little By Little, taking This Never Happened across the United States, Australia and Europe and with it ensuring audiences have nights out that that are recorded only in memory.
Instead of dancing and putting their hands in the air and hugging their friends, people were just recording. That destroys the vibe in so many ways.”
You’ve been doing This Never Happened for years now. How has discouraging the use of phones changed your shows?
It's completely changed the vibe. Before we started doing this, if I played one of my better-known tracks, a ton of phones would come out as soon as people recognized it. Instead of dancing and putting their hands in the air and hugging their friends, people were just recording. That destroys the vibe in so many ways. You’re not in the moment; you're watching it through a screen and also shoving a bright object in front of everybody standing behind you.
I'm curious what effect the phones were having on you. Reading and responding to your audience is particularly important in the electronic world, so f you're not receiving anything from the crowd, it has to affect your output.
Every performer would like to tell you they can do a good job no matter what, but if you're being honest, if the crowd is giving you energy back, it's 100 times easier to get into it and give them a great performance. If they're obviously not into it, it's really hard. Even if they're into it in theory but disengaged because of a phone, that can make it difficult for me to stay focused. I'd be lying if I told you it doesn't affect me. I'll perform better if everyone else is into it. There's a give and take.
The only other artists I know of that have explicitly asked the audience not to use their phones are Prince and Jack White, so you're in good company.
There are a few others, too. There’s a techno DJ called DVS1 who's done a “no phones” tour. There are also venues that have that policy, the most famous one being Berghain in Berlin. Output in Brooklyn also. You'll see big EDM DJs taking selfies during their set, so I feel like This Never Happened is a really different experience particularly for fans coming from that world.
How do you navigate the EDM scene, as an artist who’s not totally of that world?
I think it's just important to like play to the crowd that's there without sacrificing your artistic integrity. If I'm playing a big EDM stage, I'm not going to play my deeper shit. I'm going to play my 15 biggest tracks and just pray that it goes down.
You have a reputation for making very emotive music, and that aspect feels even more pronounced on your new album. How do you achieve that sound?
I've certainly had more practice just through the passing of time. If I could criticize my 2015 self when I did my last record, I would say I didn't pay enough attention to having a cohesive sound and body of work that really fit together sonically and atmospherically in terms of the vibe. The number one thing in my head when I did this new record was that I wanted it to be—I’m not in any way comparing myself to Pink Floyd—but I wanted it to have a cohesive sound in the way Dark Side Of the Moon has a cohesive sound. It's made up of individual songs, but it's 60 minutes of music that fits together purposefully. That's where my head was at and where my focus was at in terms of trying to improve on my last album.
What's the through line you were trying to achieve?
It starts quite melancholic. One of the ongoing themes I always feel comes out in my music is a sense of melancholy that’s also somehow uplifting. If you make dance music, the uplifting aspect comes through the peaks and valleys of the build and payoff. The palette is sort of like going on a long drive at night and getting in the mood to think about things.
How do you know when a track is done?
I just give up. I surrender. I've not really been a hundred percent happy with anything I've ever done. I usually think it was a good idea that could have been executed a bit better. There are only a handful of songs, I feel, that nailed it in terms of idea, performance and execution. It’s like, "Billie Jean" and a few others. To do that is so rare and so difficult.
The reason I just release songs rather than being grumpy they're not exactly how I want them to be is that ultimately, it doesn't really matter. None of my stuff is produced or mixed in a way that’s technically amazingly, but the right melody, the right idea and a good presentation can move people. That's the whole point of music. It doesn't need to be perfect. It's okay to just put it out and accept that you've failed in certain aspects, but it's still going make some people happy.
Which when you say it out loud sounds kind of negative, but is actually great in the sense that it’s freeing. Like, 'This is the best I can do, right here.'
I have friends who are really obsessive, and it stops them from moving onto the next thing. It's like suicide because, especially now, you need to be productive as an artist if you want to continue growing and pleasing a fanbase. Getting too hung up on the small stuff is not good for your mental health. It can be really frustrating and it can affect your whole sense of self, if you can't execute something the way you want to. Anyone who does anything creative that people then judge is susceptible to things not going down how they were hoping they would.
It's an intensely vulnerable experience, because the work you're making is an extension of you. Releasing it is essentially saying, 'Well world, here’s the deepest part of myself. Why don't you give me a rating with numbers?'
If you're an accountant, you're not posting your Excel spreadsheets online being like "Anybody, critique me!" You're not like putting the your tax return that you filed for someone on YouTube and subjecting yourself to commentary. At the same time, nobody is putting a gun to my head, forcing me to make music and post it.
I play anywhere from two to three hours; if I drank beer the whole time, I’d pee my pants.”
Where are your favorite places to play?
I've found that places like Australia and India, where not many people tour that often, have a level of enthusiasm that's kind of unmatched in the rest of the world. But my absolute favorite place is Denver, because I get to sleep in my own bed.
Denver's craft beer culture is really robust. Are there any breweries in particular that you frequent?
I love beer. I cut gluten from my diet about five or six years ago, but luckily a ton of really great gluten-free beers and ciders are available at the moment. New Belgium has a lot of really solid options under their Glutiny line. Colorado Cider Company makes great cider. Glider Cider in particular is my favorite. Holidaily has a really nice gluten free blonde as well. It’s a great place to be another annoying gluten-free person in search of beer!
What's your favorite type of beer, within those parameters?
In general I like a nice Czech or German pilsner. The best gluten-free beer I’ve come across so far is Estrella Damm Daura from Spain. It’s amazing.
When do you typically drink beer?
At home, on the couch, on Sunday evening after an exhausting weekend of shows. Best time for a beer. Before and during shows would be bad news. I play anywhere from two to three hours; if I drank beer the whole time, I’d pee my pants.