Dan De Leon Dishes on Remixing Madonna’s Hits, Love, COVID & More

Credit: Ryan Alvin

Dan De Leon has a lot going for him. He’s managed to build a career that began in the late 90’s that has only grown in the years since.

The New York City mainstay has developed quite a resume with his incredible gigs that he performed at worldwide while also becoming Billboard’s number one remixer for Madonna where the Material Girl herself has given him the thumbs up on some of his recent work designed with her in mind. 

He’s also kept an upbeat attitude about 2020 regardless of what COVID has done to his and many other careers in the industry that’s him. Dan seems to be more focused on the future and what he has in store for his thousands of fans when it comes to not only his DJ skills but his talents behind the camera.

Check out our exclusive interview with him below. 

Credit: Mark Bagang Photography

How did you get involved in the world of DJ’ing?

When I was 19 years old I went to the Sundance Film Festival with a feature film I had produced (Common Bonds, 1996, The Encore Channel) and was under a lot of pressure to write and direct a debut feature film of my own in order to keep the momentum going.

I made a short film that toured festivals for a couple years (Anything Once, 1998, YouTube) and then began working on a feature script about DJ’s and the underground scene in Los Angeles. I got through a first draft and was amidst a rewrite when my best friend and DJ life/character muse, Ben Berger, was murdered by drug dealers who were also DJ managers. I had introduced him to the group and thought it would be good for his career but they had made him an offer to bring him into their drug business and when things went south he was kidnapped and killed.

I ended up a star witness for the prosecution, working with the FBI, and over the next few years I testified in three capital murder trials. It was a crazy time in my life and it left me with a big hole in my screenplay. I no longer had the friend that I was basing the character on, and I didn’t know enough about being a DJ myself, so in 2003 I decided to become a DJ in order to get inside the character and better understand the universe. I quickly became addicted to the artistry within the music and to the instant gratification of playing in front of a large live audience. When my DJ career took off right away, I ran with it and began touring the gay circuit world almost immediately. 

What has been your all-time favorite gig so far and why?

I’ve been a DJ now for 18 years and an accomplished music producer for 15 years, so I don’t know if I have one single gig that has risen so far above so many others to be my favorite gig. However, I think there are favorite residencies and favorite places, the places you go to spin at time and time again over the years that really define peak experience of being an artist in this medium and the people and culture that surrounds it.

I’d have to say that my hometown of Los Angeles will always be magical for me, its where I got my start and where I feel like I know the people in the scene there the best. Year after year I have some of the most amazing experiences playing in LA. I have produced several parties in LA over the years and my after-hours “IGNITE” as well as my LA Pride Annual pool parties “FLAUNT” and “VELVET TSUNAMI” are just spectacular experiences.

A close second would have to be New York Pride and also New Year’s in Brazil. The people, the clubs, the energy is just incredible. Third after those are the Atlantis Cruises. There’s something epic and magical and unique about playing the cruise circuit and I have unforgettable memories of those experiences. 

Credit: BluePhotoNYC

We spoke to a bunch of internationally-known DJ’s recently about how much life has shifted for them because of COVID. How have things been for you through the pandemic?

The year started off great with my first remix for Madonna being released worldwide (“Crave” Remixes Pt.1, Interscope), and I moved to New York in January very excited for the year to come. Then all this happened. 

It’s been horrible for work, of course. I lived through the slog of 2008 and 2009 after the financial collapse of 2007, and frankly that was really terrible, it took two years for the nightclub business to rebound that time. This entire year of 2020 was wiped clean of scheduled events, so at first there was just a big black hole with no end in sight. Things began coming back a little bit in September but I don’t think it will be back to normal until at least summer of 2021.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to go inward, produce a new album, work on video projects, produce new original tracks and remixes, and basically work on myself. In that sense, it’s been a really incredible experience because when do any of us have all this free time to work on ourselves? I feel like I’m going through some kind of metamorphosis and at the end of this thing hopefully I’ll be better off mentally, physically, emotionally. 

Do you think you’ll be spinning at fabulous events within the next year?

There have definitely been some beautiful moments this fall. Playing in Atlanta has been magical because there has been no other outlet so the appreciation for being able to go out and listen to music and dance has been at an all time high there. I think my new residency in Atlanta with GA Boy Events for 2021 will be absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to get back there in January. My partners and I are also planning events in Las Vegas and in Los Angeles for summer 2021 so with any luck those will happen and I’m sure it will be ridiculously intense. Whenever things start opening up again everyone will go nuts, I think it will be an explosive summer. 

Credit: Mark Bagang Photography

How did you become Billboard’s number one remixer for Madonna?

My first Billboard #1 Remix was for Kristine W (“Love Is The Look”) in 2009. I had released my debut original artist single in 2007 with Chus and Ceballos’ Stereo Productions. I’ve been remixing and producing ever since and have remixed dozens of records for many different artists including working with Nelly Furtado, Timbaland and Deborah Cox. The goal has always been to get on one of the top pop records in the world, and my favorite pop artist has always been Madonna, so when the opportunity finally came beckoning to work on the #1 pop album in the world, it just so happened to be Madame X and I could not have been more thrilled.

The album made such a deep connection with me and my life in 2019. I don’t know how it worked out so perfectly but I really feel like it was meant to be. I remixed “Medellin” first, but got it done just a few days too late for her approval, so I skipped remixing “I Rise” and began working on “Crave” immediately so that I’d have enough time to get it done the way I wanted and submit it on time.

My “Crave” remix became the first mix to get approved by Madonna on “Crave” so I was really delighted and personally felt really accomplished. The record went multi platinum and #1 on Billboard as well as #1 worldwide, so it is a career highlight for sure. The song also related perfectly to what I was going through at the time. I was in a really difficult relationship with someone who was “very dangerous for me to crave”, which is exactly what the song is about! I also had multiple connections back to Madonna and the album, as some of my closest friends also worked on that album and tour with her, so it was just a really amazing, humbling and reflective experience. My Madonna story is a good one and its rather long, I suggest listening to my interview with MLVC: The Madonna Podcast for anyone who wants the full story with all the juicy backstage and behind the scene anecdotes. 

Are you dating anyone? If so how did you get together and what’s your relationship been like during COVID?

Yes! Just after finishing my work on the “Crave” remix and amidst processing the insanity of my breakup, I was hired by RAM Party New York to spin in Provincetown for Labor Day 2019. The promoter Daddy Ersin and I picked up the Gogo dancers for the weekend on our way out of New York, and one of them was this adorable, sexy, crazy good dancer named Jacob.

Jacob and I started dating long distance and a few months later in January of this year I moved to New York to take our relationship to the next level. We went to Sydney Mardi Gras together in February and immediately were thrown into quarantine lockdown when we got back. It has been an incredible growth experience to have gone through this COVID quarantine together and I’m so happy that we not only made it through but that we are still so bananas in love with each other.

I have no complaints, just gratitude and love. He’s an amazing artist in his own right, both as a dancer and as a colorist, he’s an inspiration for sure. We’re both hustlers too, scrappy and entrepreneurial, which I absolutely love. It’s hard to find this kind of energy in a partner, I’m very excited for what’s to come. 

What haven’t you accomplished, both personally and professionally, that you would like to achieve in the next 2-3 years?

My two big goals are to produce an artist original album next year and to get back into the film business. I have a new film and video production company called WORK Pictures that I’m developing projects for. I’m going to be doing more music videos next year and I’m planning to start shooting a really exciting documentary feature film in the first quarter called Where The Wild Boys Are. I can’t wait to get started. I’ve been assembling a team and doing a lot of research.

The film will be a deep-dive analysis of the gay circuit phenomenon, gay party culture, its history, artists and music, origins and future. Hopefully it will enlighten, entertain and educate those of us who love and live the gay circuit, but also be palatable to mainstream audiences and educate music and party lovers of all stripes on the indelible impact the gay circuit and gay artists have had on culture as a whole.

What do you think?