Daniel M. Nakamura is the name on his bills, but he’s better known to the world as Dan the Automator. A hip-hop producer extraordinaire, the Automator was instrumental in many releases during what could only be described as a hip-hop renaissance during the mid-to-late ’90s. From his first major release in 1996 (Dr. Octagon) through the Gorillaz project in 2001, Dan the Automator had his hand in a little bit of everything. Fast forward to today and he has many shows, projects, and tunes in the works as 2013 brought upon Pillowfight, which is a collaboration between Dan the Automator and Emily Wells featuring Kid Koala (Creative Spotlight #175) and Lateef the Truthspeaker. We talk about a myriad of topics as I had the chance to sit down with this legendary producer. Read below for the full Q&A…
Today, I often look for music production tips online. How did you learn how to work the software and ultimately do what you do? Are you self-taught?
Dan the A: I have basically learned to work pretty much everything I use trough trial and error. Occasionally I refer to manuals when working on some detail of a software device or a sequencer. I guess, pretty much self taught with a bit of manual reference.
You have classical training and yet worked with a wide variety of hip-hop artists and have produced records and formed bands. It’s really hard to nail down your career path. How do you go about making conscious decisions on what to work on and which projects you want to be apart of?
Dan the A: I just make what I feel like making. My choices of who I work with or what kind of record I’m going to make are all based on feelings. I don’t know if I know exactly where things will end up but I do have a reasonably good idea of the direction.
Is that what initially drew you to working with Emily Wells? Since you both had a similar background and appreciate for violin and hip hop?
Dan the A: I thought she had a beautiful voice and an interesting perspective. Maybe our backgrounds had something to do with it but it wasn’t the primary reason I decided to work with her.
So, let’s say there is a relatively unknown act that wants the chance to work with you. What kind of artists do you prefer to work with?
Dan the A: I work with whatever I’m feeling. I often work with new artists because they have a fresh new perspective. I also work with established artists because I like what they do.
Late last year we interviewed Kid Koala and asked him at the time Deltron 3030 came out, if he found it difficult to excel in an over-saturated market? Being formed over 10 years ago how have you focused on remaining unique and fresh?
Dan the A: Sometimes things become big hits, sometimes they are more cult, but overall I feel like they are pushing my particular vision forward.
Now we’re in the year 4010, what can we expect from Event II and what was the creative process like on this album?
Dan the A: 3040 took a long time to make. Ultimately it just came down to a time when Del and I were on the same page. As far as creating, the tracks were just what I was feeling the Deltron progression was supposed to be.
There is also talk about you working with Kimbra, Could you go into any detail about how you will be approaching that project and what you can add?
Dan the A: A little to early to get into.
Now that Del, Koala and yourself are in your 40’s, do you have a more mature approach to music or perhaps a different outlook?
Dan the A: I just make the music that I’m feeling. It’s always new to me and exciting to see how it comes out. The outlook always changes based on exterior situations and forces. Essentially everything is its own inspiration of sorts.
Share with us a few of your favorite Asian films if you would!
Dan the A: Hard Boiled, Suicide Club, Cold Fish, Heavenly Kings, and Old Boy.