Written + Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey  |  Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker

Growing up in the Midwest, I frequently felt restless and ridden with the irresistible desire to escape. Often times when I found myself unable to sleep, I would climb out of my bedroom window and lay up on the roof of my parent’s suburban home, silently examining the streets and homes below while contemplating life in large capitals around the globe.

I wanted to trade the agricultural spreads, valleys of clouds and deep wooded forests for turquoise seas, crowded city centres, bustling markets and confusing streets signs (this one later to regret). Maybe it’s the intimidating vastness of the heartland or the simplistic language of the plains, but there is something about the Midwest that stirs up yearning to “get out”, explore and wander the world.

Daniel, an international DJ, founder of BlackBlackGold (formerly known as Gucci Goth) and current online editor for the Berlin based publication Electronic Beats, felt the same way.

Articulate and driven (and in possession of a wardrobe even Rick Owens himself would applaud), Daniel’s perseverance and mindset are not only admirable they are contagious. Combining his adventurous nature with his craving to better understand how the world works, Daniel is living proof that travel and change are essential to both personal and professional growth.

Like myself, Daniel was born into the sprawling abyss known as the American Midwest. Raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Daniel’s mother always encouraged him artistically and introduced him to a wide range of music as a child, instilling his love for the arts.

“I grew up listening to The Velvet Underground and Nico. As I got older I began buying a lot of industrial music and became interested in the sounds of Biggie Smalls and hip-hop, but also transcended into the punk scene. But I’ve always been kind of pop friendly.”

When Daniel was a teenager he started to dress as he puts it, “really punky and a bit trashy… Growing up I did not have access to fashion magazines, so I based my own style off of record covers. I started going to thrift stores when I was 12 and searched out old vinyl albums from the 80s and created DIY clothing inspired by what I saw. Music was always the biggest inspiration in my life.”

Adhering to the strict counterculture aesthetic of the punk scene, Daniel traded his basic haircut for big Nick Cave-like hair and pierced his nose. Despite this out of the ordinary look for a place like Omaha, Daniel did not let this detour him from playing basketball while in high school.

After graduation though, Daniel knew it was time to leave his hometown and see what the universe had to offer him.

“I didn’t want to grow up and just be surrounded by people who were content with what was just in front of them. I like the chaotic nature of things. I’m driven by change.”

Dressed in a vintage Cardinal’s hat, black Underground Creepers and a very architectural inspired black wool jacket designed by Kyle Callanan for Don’t Shoot the Messengers, Daniel sat down in the kitchen of his Berlin flat, took a sip from his coffee mug, backtracked and divulged the series of events that led him to Berlin and the explosion of his creativity and career.

Having always been inspired by his Italian roots and grandmother’s cooking techniques, Daniel decided to pack up and move to Las Vegas, Nevada to pursue a career in the culinary arts at the Las Vegas Culinary Institute. However, it was through a series of psychedelic experiences while living out in the desert that Daniel discovered his love and ability to write, something that would later become a large part of his career and life.

Daniel spent time in California and Pennsylvania before he decided, completely on a whim, to move to New York where he started doing promotional work for a musical festival called Drop Dead Festival and began gaining an interest in DJing.

“I remember my first DJ gig clear as day. I played in a crappy room that was about the size of a bathroom and probably only fit like 10 or so people. The gig was geared toward a post-punk, goth and hip-hop crowd.”

Then Daniel began his European tour to promote Drop Dead Festival.

“We started in Germany and travelled to France, Hungary, Austria, Spain, Italy and Slovakia for five and a half months. It was an absolute disaster, completely disorganized and an endless nightmare. But, it was a life lesson. I took away from the experience a lot of knowledge and discovered a lot about myself.”

After the tour ended Daniel went back to New York and decided it was time for a serious life altering change.

“I came back and basically had an emotional breakdown. I was paying a ridiculous amount of rent to live in a closet just outside of Williamsburg and just was not happy with the overall atmosphere of my current situation in life. I stayed inside for two months after the tour, didn’t talk to anyone, shaved my head and then made the decision to move to Berlin. Out of all the cities I visited while on tour, Berlin was the nicest.”

Once settled into Berlin, Daniel launched his blog Gucci Goth (which crazy enough, I began following nearly a month after it hit the cyber waves in 2010). Daniel created the website, which showcased more abstract, avant-garde and futuristic designs and Gothic wear to show people that they should not take subcultures so seriously, and to appreciate them for what they are. Such an international success, the Gucci brand themselves contacted Daniel demanding that he change the blog’s name.

“People should be more flexible with their looks and more flexible with their tastes. It creates fewer boundaries. I do not like separateness nature.”

Within no time, Daniel landed himself a position with Electronic Beats, a print and online publication revolving around music, fashion, travel, lifestyle topics and events.

The real magnificence though is the evolution of Daniel’s journey as a DJ (BlackBlackGold) and musical influence.

“Music is about having a willingness to put yourself out there. DJing is an art. You have to have that unpredictable element to it and truly want to inspire and connect with your audience and to art. It’s an entire full body experience.”

With the recent creation of PURGE, a series of bi-monthly parties that Daniel promotes and DJs, he strives to give each party its own theme and give birth to an atmosphere where people can get sucked into another level of sound and encounter a party with multiple ups and downs.

What I find most interesting about Daniel is his unbelievable knack and talent to construct such vivid visual and audio experiences – a 3D kind of fashion.

Whether he is describing his own personal style, a “mixture of some sort of high fashion priest, urban wizard and hip-hop warlock huddled in a pile of black mixing music” or throwing down a killer set like the one Sean and I caught in Berlin at Mindpirates, Daniel’s presence transforms, inspires and ignites passion.

God Bless the restless American Midwest.

Music By Daniel Jones


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