MENU Interview with DJ Dials

Interview with DJ Dials

August 24, 2011

Noah Bennet Cunnigham is not one to rest on his laurels. Weather he’s on the road managing bay area’s electro-glitch duo Lazer Sword or working on music videos for Teebs, the bearded mastermind is always locked on some sort of creative venture.

As DJ Dials, he plays a main roll in San Francisco’s beat scene by pushing experimental endeavors through his parties; Change the Beat and Soundpiece. Production wise, Dials’ style is idiosyncratic to say the least. Disregarding genre classification, Dials’ often rework tracks to fit into his boisterous West Coast style. This is not to say he can’t get deep with his music. As a self confessed heart break producer, Dials’ ambient production also bears personal narratives.

It is then no surprise that Brownswood has taken a keen interest on the fella. Recently releasing Pillowforts in the well received Brownswood elect*c 2, his haunting melodic hip hop gelled well into the musical ethos behind the compilation. With a forthcoming remix lined up for Gang Colours single Fireworks in Pocket, we’re thrilled to see what DJ Dials delivers next.

In between his busy schedule, we caught up with the man for a quick chat about his releases on Brownswood, the SF beat scene and plans on growing a six pack someday!

Who is DJ Dials and what do you do?

DJ Dials is kind of like batman, except my super power is drinking coffee and doing emails. Same cape though. I’ve been Djing for 15 years, hence the Dj part, and I throw little raves around town and listen to lots of music. I’ve also been producing this whole time, but it’s a secret. I live in the mission district of San Francisco and when I am biking in the street, people in cars angrily scream “get out of the way, you hipster.”  I think it’s probably my beard, hat, and glasses.

Music aside, are there any other projects your involved in?

I do video art, that’s what I went to school for. I just finished shooting and editing 3 videos for Bjork’s Cosmogeny live show. I’ve also worked for a great company called Snibbe Interactive, and I’ve assisted the artist Scott Snibbe on all of his major art projects for the past 6 years.  On top of that, I shoot end edit videos with a collaborator, Paul Trillo. I just finished helping him finalize the latest music video for Teebs. To add to the mess, I book and throw epic parties in San Francisco- some parties I have done have been with Mount Kimbie, Madlib, Low End Theory, Just Blaze, Araab Muzik, Hudson Mohawke, Gold Panda, Sbtrkt, RJD2… the list goes on.

Who are some of your favorite artists you’ve been playing as of late?

Sepalcure, Disclosure, Shlohmo, Jimmy Edgar, Boddika, Obey City, RL Grime, Lando Kal + Low Limit, Hudson Mohawke, James Blake, Krampfhaft, The Dream, The Weeknd, Jacques Greene, Holy Other, Lunice, Star Slinger, and so much more.

When the crowds looking a bit tired, is there a tune you’ll drop to get them going?

If the crowd is tired, maybe I will play a really beautiful poetic song, something that they can light their lighters to. Then I’d play Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs “Household Goods.” I like that song because it’s catchy, has a huge hook, and has little breaks. It’s not too hard, but it’s epic. Also, I think that Swims (Joy O. + Boddikka) is a good one. Maybe some super epic grindcore dubstep if I am in the right place. Maybe not.

Most memorable gig you’ve done this summer?

Summer? I played alongside Flying Lotus and Thom Yorke at Low End Theory LA this spring. This summer has been slow, because I’ve traveled. I played a warehouse party and the guy who lived there tried to start a fight with me because too many people came to see me play. That was memorable. I remember I played TLC’s “Creep” and drank a beer, looked up and people were going apeshit.

When writing music, is there a particular formula you go for?

I am still trying to figure out the formula. I think it has something to do with adding cinnamon.  However, I’d say that if I can listen to the song with my eyes closed and it touches my “special place” I think it’s good to go. Lots of coffee, a bit of heartbreak, grey SF skies… that’s been working. Really I try to make sincere music with my own original productions, and that can be hard. Maybe if I try to make insincere music I’ll have a top 40 hit!

Your resume suggests you’re a keen remixer, how do you know when you want to rework a track?

When everyone wants to hear a song and I want to surprise them with something different! It’s also a fun way to just play with music and not take it so serious, as I often do.

That’ll explain the well received remix you did with Lil’ Wayne’s vocals over Joy Orbison’s Hyph Mngo! You have a forthcoming remix on Gang Colours single Fireworks in Pocket; how have you approached this remix?

Oh man. This one was hard. I wanted to make a Timbaland style hip hop song with the parts. I love how bouncy the original is, and yet it’s so sad. I ended up not doing that because I am not Timbaaland. I used lots of field recordings of water, axes, etc. I tried to give my remix a softer, gentler approach. Less clubby, tried to make it dark and brooding because I was feeling left out of someone’s life. All my music is personal.

You recently released Pillowforts on Brownswood Electric 2, can you tell us a bit about this?

I made Pillowforts on boats. I was taking a ferry back and forth everyday from San Francisco to Sausalito working on a video project and I was very sad about this girl I was in love with. I wrote it for her. Later, I finished it on my friend’s sailboat when he took me out one day to cheer me up. It’s a lamentation. Also, people think it’s called Pillow Farts because they read it wrong. They are reading it wrong.

How has living in San Francisco shaped you as a musician?

San Francisco boasts an incredible electronic music scene. It has really helped me as a musician because of all the great shows and people here in the scene. Lazer Sword taught me about side chain compression. That helped a lot. Also the weather here can be hit or miss, a general rule is that even if it’s nice outside, the fog rolls in around 5pm so you have to go indoors and work on beats.

Brownswood Electr*c 2 features 3 SF producers (Jus Wan, DJG, DJ Dials) out of 14, what’s the beat scene like in SF at the moment?

The beat scene here is incredible! There are lots of people doing good and supporting great music. In the bay, we have E-40. Also, we spawned Shlohmo, Lazer Sword, Ghosts on Tape, DJ G, and Bassnectar. Never forget that Bassnectar is from the bay, haha Seriously! But to be fair, we have a really great thing going on here and there is something in the air.

Any producers in particular you’ve been keeping a close eye on?

Disclosure rules. I also think this guy D33J is doing well. Shlohmo may turn into the next big thing. Also really enjoying Krampfhaft and Holy Other. For bay area producers, check out my boy Salva.

What’s installed next in the life of DJ Dials?

Well, I want to keep working on music and write an album. I also want to shoot and direct a short film for it. Also I am throwing some major raves here. Someday, I’d like to go to grad school.  I’d also like to go to the gym, work out, get a 6 pack and walk around with my shirt off all the time. Ah, the dreams we have.

3 things you’re going to do after you’re done with this interview?

I am going to go home, charge my phone, get some batteries for my field recorder and call up Phoebe Kiddo and try to get her to teach me some yoga moves. Also, I think I want to go buy a Harp.­

Brownswood Elect*c 2 is available here on Digital/CD/Vinyl

DJ Dials remix of  Fireworks in Pocket is forthcoming on Brownswood Recordings.