Cover photo for Michael Denney Down's Obituary
1970 Michael 2024

Michael Denney Down

May 21, 1970 — March 22, 2024

Michael Denny Down, then Michael Richard Denney, was born May 21, 1970, to Vonnie Jean Varner, and Dr. Myron Denney in La Jolla, California.

He is survived by his loving Family, Mother Vonnie, Aunt Patricia Barham, and Stepfather Roy Martins.


Michael was a self taught artist, songwriter, musician, producer, and mixologist who called San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, and Hawaii home.  


Raised in Crown Point, California (famous for its thunder-boat races) Michael loved going fast, skateboarding, racing BMX bicycles, sailing, and listening to fast music. He learned to bar tend from his grandfather during Sunday family card games, and found a love for collecting vintage Gucci at a young age. 


Graduating from John Muir Alternative for Humanistic Studies, Michael fought for the rights of women, and minorities with his “End Racism”, and “Support Women In Music” T-shirt campaigns. When the Chula Vista band, Amenity, needed a new singer - Michael tried out. His exuberance won over the straight-edge punk band consisting of Tim Gonzales, Sergio Hernandez, and Barry Kellman. Amenity, with Michael singing, soon opened for Dave Grohl’s Scream, and later Rage Against The Machine opened for Amenity. Mike used his promotional creativity to make merchandise for the band. Mike learned how to play guitar, formed his own band Forced Down, and forced his new friend Rob Osborn to become the singer.

Michael Denney officially became Mike Down and started DownSide records, production, promotions, and helped create the San Diego Hardcore sound. The documentary, “It’s Gonna Blow!!”, shows some of Mike’s contributions. He helped to put together over 200 shows at the Che Cafe, at UCSD.


Mike moved to Los Angeles, changed careers, and worked at Campaniles as a bartender crafting creative cocktails. He met his bride to be, Lana, and they moved to Las Vegas where Mike curated the P.F. Chang’s bar menu, inventing the “Pool Side”, and becoming one of the top 5 bartenders. When Mike and Lana divorced he moved to New York opening SOHO House, B.E.D., The VIG, Black & White, Tribe, and Niagara as he began his 20 year takeover of the lower east side of Manhattan in 1999. He was always wearing his signature bedroom slippers.


In pursuit of a solo music career Mike met Terri Baker, Esq who became a close friend and confidant. While living in New York Mike made a music video, recorded with Sean Paul (Liquid Candy), DJ Rob Dinero, Sergio Vega (Quicksand & Deftones), Big Audio Dynamite, and DJ Mary Mac. He collaborated with his NY crew Kareem Bunton, Brad Worrell, and Robb Hart at his second home Von, on Bleeker Street, owned by close friend Charles Von Herlich. Mike also supported graffiti artist Claw Money, DJ Honda, and Fab Morvan. 


During the pandemic Mike moved to Maui and helped with security at the Lahaina Jodo Buddhist Temple. He enjoyed gardening, and saving trees that were thought to be too far gone. The trees Mike revived ended up surviving the Maui fire. Michael loved plants and animals and they loved him back.


In his last years he lived in San Diego and was a frequent visitor and supporter to both Vonnie and Roy. He built many street bikes, and reconnected with friends thru bike riding. Mike put into motion a re-release of all the music from Amenity and Forced Down. He was excited and working on a new song to add to the release. 


Mike said of himself, “I’m a gentleman, a rockstar, and a m-f-gangster. In that order.”


Mike Down led a remarkable life, leaving a significant impact on the music scene on both coasts. From his activism to his contributions to hardcore and hip-hop music, and his adventures in bar tending and mixology, he embraced creativity and passion in everything he did. His legacy will surely be remembered by those he influenced and touched along the way.




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