Daniel Steel

StudioHis Turn to Escape

Written by Brett Levine

Photo by Jerry Siegel

Standing in Escape, the new nightclub comanaged by promoter, DJ, and all-around hard-worker Daniel Steel, you would not know what a grind it has been getting here. “I started out DJing at Club Chaos in 2003,” Steel says. For those with long memories, or those who are counting, that is more than a decade ago. In a business known for being tough, Steel makes no secret of the fact that it has not been easy personally or professionally. “I saw the ups and downs of the club scene when I was 19,” he says. “I was DJing in Tuscaloosa, and it was really wild. Nightlife took a toll on me in a number of ways, but being involved as a DJ also made me focus on what was important. It was there I learned that music should always come first, and as a business, not a hobby.”

Steel has been everywhere in the DJ and nightclub scene, promoting some of Birmingham’s biggest parties. A series of personal losses led him to leave for New Orleans in 2009. There, he secured residencies in three different clubs and found the time to focus on himself and his love of music. “Thankfully, New Orleans is a tourist city, so the nightlife and the economy were much better than they were back in Birmingham,” he explains. “I was able to use the time to focus on my DJing, producing, and promoting skills.” A family emergency brought him back to Birmingham in 2010, but when he returned, he found a music scene that was still challenging. “I saw the success of Kids Got the Disco and TKO, but Birmingham’s venues still weren’t like New Orleans’s,” he says. “It took some time, but I was able to get regular residencies at NV and Crush, which allowed me to DJ for my job. That was fantastic, but I knew that what I really wanted to do was to use the experiences I’d had from working with great people like Rick Albright and Adam Townsend to manage a club of my own.

“You see, my biggest challenge is understanding the relationships between performing, promoting, and managing,” he continues. “I’ve had a lot of experience with performing and promoting, and I’ve always felt like the success of Bad Robotz, my project with Wes Kane, or Fine Spun, my production company, came from a willingness to simply do the work. What I wanted to do was to be able to focus that energy in one place, and with Escape, I finally have that opportunity.”

So what exactly is Escape? Escape is a new venture in partnership with owner Nick Davani and comanager Randy Toole in the former Aqua space on Fifth Avenue South. What Steel feels separates this venue from others is its capability to serve multiple audiences at once. “What is so unusual about Escape is that it is actually always two venues, catering to two different audiences. There is literally a wall that separates the two, and we will have different entrances,” he explains. “We’re also going to refurbish the outdoor courtyard space and, subject to zoning approval, we’d even like to have a rooftop deck in the future.”

Steel likes the idea of Escape being a place for everyone. “I want Escape to cater to really diverse groups of people,” he says. “One area will focus on high energy electronic dance music, but from the 80s to today. We want to have DJs who play more than just the standard Top 40 hits. The other room will be even more varied, with a focus on country, rock bands, live acts, or something even more unexpected. We know that the idea is to create the spaces for people to simply have a good time.”

He knows that managing a new venture won’t be easy, but he’s up for the challenge. “People get engrained where they are, so it can be hard to get people to try somewhere new,” he explains. Taking the idea even further, he understands that this fear of the new even affects how people approach and experience the music he DJs or the songs he produces. “I think the biggest challenge as a creative person is simply understanding that people’s lack of experience with something keeps them from experiencing it—It is almost as if people are afraid of the new.”

For now, Steel and his team will simply focus on his direct approach to doing business right. “Sometimes I think what I do is not anything new. It is what I’ve learned from years in the business,” he says. “Get back to the streets. Put out flyers and posters, shaking hands and connecting with people. You have to make people aware of who you are and where you are.” And will Steel be in the DJ booth at Escape every weekend? “No, hopefully that’s not where you’ll find me. I love to DJ, but it’s time to move onto bigger things. For now I want to bring the best DJs I can. You might find my feet in the booth, but that will just be so I can get a great look at the crowd and make sure everyone is having a good time.”

2 Responses to “Daniel Steel”

  1. Rodney Anderson says:

    I’m a bartender and would love to open my own bar someday SOON. I found this article very interesting and motivating best of look and God blessings to you Mr Steel.

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