16 Feb
Why sometimes getting a cease & desist from Biggie Smalls can be a good thing

UPDATE: Dan Black’s album ((un)) drops today, available from iTunes or Amazon for $8. Moreover, today he also released his video for “Symphonies” with Kid Cudi, so we’re re-posting his Q&A from a couple weeks back along with the new video…

After years of languishing around in London cover bands, Dan Black dumped the slackers and began to spend some quality one-on-one time with his home studio gear. After experimenting with various indie rock/hip hop hybrids, Black produced a video of Biggie’s “HYPNTZ” over his own beat. It went viral, played on BBC Radio One, and soon he received a cease and desist letter from the Notorious E.S.T.A.T.E. Undeterred, Black went back in the studio and dropped his own lyrics, which became the track “Symphonies”. Signed last summer to Universal, his debut album ((un)) has already been released in the UK, but will see stateside release on Feb 23. Also look out for his collab with Kid Cudi — they’re about to drop their single very very soon.

Hit the Jump to see the “HYPNTZ” video, tour schedule, and read the full Q&A, including who’d win in a deathmatch between Chuck D, Biggie, Adrock and Jay Z, Black’s favorite sample-based album of all time, and why he locked himself in a Paris cellar for 30 days straight…

Dan Black’s new video for “Symphonies” with Kid Cudi

So you started out in cover bands – what was the worst song you were forced to take part in?
Maybe doing “Ballroom Blitz” by The Sweet.

Now that you’re solo, you said you spent 30 straight days in a dank cellar in Paris recording your new album, ((un)). Why?
I only seem to be productive when I am working in an intense, obsessive, break-less manner. So I was sleeping and working in a windowless cellar when I made the album. And yes at one point I went 30 days straight! I remember at the end of that run meeting a friend for coffee and the look on their face as I arrived. I think through lack of light and human contact I’d turned into Gollum.

Doesn’t it seem then like you’re putting yourself through more torture than you did as a band member?
Not at all. In my last band I worked in the same crazy way. I wrote and produced a lot of that too, only this time, I don’t have insensitive jerks saying, after I’ve slaved for 2 weeks on something, “Nah – don’t like it, try something else…”

What’s the most interesting place music took you in the last 12 months?
God, so many. Tokyo was pretty fascinating. Or Senegal. In the hotel I was in, which was way, way out in the bush, the chef got wind of the fact that I am a musician and insisted on taking me to his village — which is one of the last still traditional villages of the area — where he is the head musician. He then had all the children on the village perform a traditional dance ritual for me and my friend. It was so unexpected and kind. Utterly amazing.

Holy crap, that sounds insane. What instrument did the chef play? Did you guys end up playing together or with the kids?
I know — insane is the word! It was drums and voices. He played “lead” drum I guess. Our communication was pretty basic as we had to talk in french and his accent was hard for me to understand. I didn’t play but they got me to join in on the dancing… a lot of laughing, I probably seemed pretty hilarious, particularly to all the kids.

What was your last lie?
I can’t remember. I try to avoid lying as much as possible. Probably protecting someone’s feelings. Telling them I liked their new shoes or something, when I actually hated them.

Do you have any magical power?
Making music can seem a bit like a magic power – from out of thin air appears this invisible spell that can change a person’s emotions….

Chuck D, Biggie, Adrock and Jay Z gather in an onstage vocal battle-thon till the death. Who do you bet on?
Biggie by a mile.

You don’t see Chuck D dropping some huge political bombs on Biggie’s mink coat?
Well, sure. On the right day any one of them could take the crown. I guess Biggie’s my knee jerk response. It’s cool you mention Adrock. The thing they all have, and it’s something that I think can get missed when evaluating great rappers, beyond technique and lyrical dexterity, they all have that “could rap the phone book” and it would still sound incredible thing going on. They all have it, even though that “ingredient x” is so different in each one.

Absolutely, there is nothing more undervalued than the X-Factor. I think Adrock is pretty under-rated in general, in the big scheme of things. What is your favorite sample-based album of all time?
Too many. Tricky’s Maxinequaye or De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising maybe…

Dan Black covering Biggie’s “HYPNTZ” over his “Symphonies” beat…

Have you driven anyone insane?
Many a neighbour. Repeated 3am inspiration can drive people pretty nuts.

What were you doing at midnight last night?
Falling asleep…

What is your most recent extravagance?
Kris Van Assche boots.

Which ones – the ones with the crazy swirling zipper?
Ha! The ones with crazy fat velcro straps – they were in sale, but still made my eyes water at the cashier!

If you were lost in a supermarket, what aisle would we find you in?
I have the taste buds of a small child — so either the cereal or biscuit aisle.

UPCOMING DAN BLACK TOUR SCHEDULE

2.18 – NEW YORK, NY @ Mercury Lounge
2.19 – MONTREAL, QC @ Belmont
2.20 – TORONTO, ON @ WrongBar
2.23 – LOS ANGELES, CA @ Cinespace
2.25 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ Popscene / 330 Ritch

Dan Black’s “Yours”…

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