WE DON'T BUILD SPACESHIPS. WE ARE SPACESHIPS.

Dave Aju Square

DATE:DECEMBER 6TH, 2013

San Francisco Bay Area native Marc Barrite created the DJ/production alias Dave Aju as a vehicle for his unique take on electronic music. Working at his own pace, Dave Aju has come to be known as a reliable source for fresh

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interview

San Francisco Bay Area native Marc Barrite created the DJ/production alias Dave Aju as a vehicle for his unique take on electronic music. Working at his own pace, Dave Aju has come to be known as a reliable source for fresh and expressive sounds, combining knowledge and passion for the roots of dance music culture with a natural fascination with sound and an adventurous approach, unafraid to try new things.

A broad palette of musical influences can be found in Aju’s work, though his jazz upbringing and hip-hop foundation are clearly at the core, with an overall warm, laid back, unmistakably west coast vibe. Dave Aju remixes, DJ sets, and live performances are currently in demand at labels, clubs, and festivals across the globe and he will bring his slanted take on electronic music at Aer at the Four Seasons next Sunday.

The fabulous press you received on your first album Open Wide seems to have convinced a lot of listeners of your music that you only play music constructed entirely from your “mouth samples”. To dispel that notion, tell us a little bit about your take on dance music and how you came up with an album made up entirely of samples made from your mouth?

I’d been into dance music for many years before ever trying produce it; in various dance crews, then eventually as a DJ/evangelist, buying, playing and sharing the latest cuts with friends. I was also always fascinated with vocal and mouth play, whether hearing Doug E Fresh beat-box, Ella to Al Jarreau scat, or the dude from Police Academy making sound effects. In 2008, roughly ten years into production experience, I felt confident enough to smash those passions together. It was a great experience, and it still entertains me that some people don’t believe that I did it all with sounds from my mouth.

You have an English degree and have said that you are “really into verbalisation of things, storytelling…and a big fan of the oral traditions.” Can you tell us a fantastical story or myth that you’ve heard over the years that’s stuck with you?

Oh man, there are a lot, but for me the ones that I feel the most are of two extremes: deep messages or dirty jokes. For fun, let’s go with one that seems to be the former then twists to the latter. And since I’m part Ute American Indian (as opposed to Indian American) I can get away with it:

In the tribe whenever a boy turns 15, he is considered entering manhood and among various feats and tests of strength, experience and endurance, he is allowed to visit the chief one-on-one, and ask him any question in his mind that could help prepare him for his journey into manhood.

The boy enters the tepee and sits quietly in front of the chief.

The chief says, “Now you are to become a man, feel free to ask of me any question you have of the mysteries in life and I shall answer you.”

The boy replies, “Thank you chief Red Feather, what I really want to know is why we have such strange names? Some of the kids at school like Scott and Jason make fun of me.”

“This is truly your profound question?”

“Yes it is my chief, indeed so.”

The chief replies. “Well then, our names bear significance to our environment, and are thus connected to nature, as opposed to pedigree or cultural trends such as your schoolmates. When a child is born, immediately after the birth, the father walks outside to announce the arrival of new life and offers a name to the child based on the first sign from nature he sees, and this sign thus becomes the child’s character. So you see, one should find pride in their namesake as it is indebted to the depths of nature which surround us.”

“Ah, I understand.”

“And now I must ask you again, are you really sure this is your main concern, Two Dogs Fucking?”

Speaking of oral traditions and going back to Open Wide, I grew up visiting the dentist ever so often and one of the phrases I shudder to hear is “open wide” because that’s what the dentists told me all the time. You’ve said that your titles always come from somewhere: is there particular one that you are fond of?

Right now it would be “Lookout Above”, off an EP I recently did for Nu Earth Kitchen. I love the title because it works on many levels – basic wordplay as the reverse of the common phrase “lookout below” but also politically in the sense of our societal need for ‘climbing the economic ladder’ and so on. And then also in a micro sense within the underground dance music scene as the lines between commercial viability and underground sensibilities get increasingly blurred.

Staying with tongue and the mouth, you grew up in hip-hop crews. Do you recall what they were called? Do you also still have any of your freestyle and emcee roots intact? If I threw down a beat and got you started with the word Bombay, could you give me a rap?

The crew I spent the most time in was called Arcane Mass, anyone deep into East San Jose underground hip-hop surely knew us from constant freestyle ciphers and battles in schools and parks. I’ve actually started a couple new hip-hop-based side projects with some friends that are a refreshing return to those roots.

Ok, here comes the freestyle. Unh, yeah (gotta have that ‘unh’ in there, like Dave Chapelle jokes about).

Some say Bombay hotter than a long day in Pompei, but no Romans or snowmen to show the way, gotta keep it cool, my flow causes drool swimming pools, fools flock, chicks jock, Crown Aju Jewels.

Your dad was a jazz musician, your mom was into pop, your sister was into disco and funk stuff of the late ‘70s, your brother was into metal and hard rock; and your other brother was a DJ. What is the earliest music you recall growing up to? Like San Francisco itself, do you feel like your music is a chopped up influence of all these sounds? What are you currently into?

Oh yeah, I love it all. There’s so much music to enjoy from all genres and styles. My first memory of course was my dad’s bands playing, what would have been Jazz Fusion of the late 70s, but also remember funk, punk, and new wave records from my brother and thinking ‘wow, some blend of all this would be amazing.’

I really like the story behind your Dave Aju moniker. Can you tell us how it came about?

Yeah, well of course, the name is a spoonerism or inverse of deja vu, but the real inspiration for it was from ‘Geembo’s Theme’ by the Arsonists, a Brooklyn crew of emcees that just crushed it on Bobbito’s Fondle Em label. D-stroy repeats a line at the end of his verse, and says, ‘Hold on, that’s dave aju’. And another dude corrects him, ‘Uh, deja vu?’ and ‘truuue’.

You’ve also learned a little bit about 20th, 21st century classical music – John Cage and things like that. What was that process like to study music?

Yeah, I was lucky enough to attend SF State University for a while and I took some elective courses in Classic Minimalism etc. It was a trip, and really opened my eyes and ears to some things, especially how similar artistic ideas and intentions can be despite coming from different backgrounds, academic v/s street etc.

In all your interviews, you come across as the contrarian, as someone who spends time finding out what’s happening and then going in the other direction. How long did it take you to find your own weirdness and to be comfortable in it? What kind of music would you at this point never make because it all sounds so similar.

Well, I guess it goes back to my dance crew days, as we would always go way out of our way to develop our own style and not copy or follow anyone else, and the same went for the rap game and hip-hop on the whole: the last thing in the world you ever want is to sound or look like someone else, even in graffiti styles like,

it’s a cardinal sin to bite someone else’s style and imitation gets no respect. That’s how I came up, so doing my own thing came naturally in a sense. I still find it strange in dance music how the opposite is often true – people get respect (and money) for deliberately copying others. Even to the point of equipment;

you buy the same gear and copy Larry Heard almost note for note and you get props? Not me, I’ve got to go my own way, as it’s also an honesty thing; I’m an avid listener so I respect others enough to honestly deliver something original from myself where I can.

Can you tell us about your Vehicle moniker and how different it was from Dave Aju and why did you get ride of it and make the switch?

Vehicle was actually a collaboration with my dude Mickey aka The Tourist from San Francisco. He was actually my inroad into techno, since he was more involved in that scene than me. We eventually drifted work-wise, but still close, and actually have a track together on my next album.

You spent four years between your debut album and Heirlooms, where you reshaped your father’s music after his death, and synthesised it as a creative collaboration. In a sense, it feels like after you put out Open Wide, which is from your own mouth, you went to Heirlooms, which in a way is from your father’s mouth (he used to play the trumpet), made tangible and audible to listeners through you as the medium. How stressful / cathartic was it for you to put out Heirlooms?

Yeah, working on Heirlooms was a very intense trip, I’d say equally stressful and cathartic. I truly lost and found myself in many ways throughout the process, a labour of love times infinity. I like the idea of DJs passing on these kinds of codes and traditions when they play, and some certainly do; most of them just happen to be painfully absent from certain popularity polls so most folks may not get a chance to hear them.

And lastly, what can audiences expect in India?

I’m very excited to share some music and make some noise for the people in Mumbai and Bangalore. It’ll be a live set of my own music and vocals and an extended DJ set with plenty of codes and exclusives in there, respectively.

 

playlist

San Francisco Bay Area native Marc Barrite created the DJ/production alias Dave Aju as a vehicle for his unique take on electronic music. Working at his own pace, Dave Aju has come to be known as a reliable source for fresh and expressive sounds, combining knowledge and passion for the roots of dance music culture with a natural fascination with sound and an adventurous approach, unafraid to try new things.

A broad palette of musical influences can be found in Aju’s work, though his jazz upbringing and hip-hop foundation are clearly at the core, with an overall warm, laid back, unmistakably west coast vibe. Dave Aju remixes, DJ sets, and live performances are currently in demand at labels, clubs, and festivals across the globe and he will bring his slanted take on electronic music at Aer at the Four Seasons next Sunday. Here, he shares with us an intensely personal playlist that documents his music tastes, upbringing and an ode to his late father, who was a jazz trumpet player in San Francisco.

 

Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick

The Show

One of the first examples of beat-boxing and mouth-made sound effects I came across as a kid, I remember trying to recreate the patterns and sound he does with other kids in the schoolyard and then of course it's just a fun, classic jam, complete with Inspector Gadget synth riffs.

 

The Arsonists

Geembo's Theme

The track that sparked the idea for my name, which didn't hit me on first listen at all. That came around much later. But these guys were really dope emcees, takes me right back to the classic underground days, like déja vu?

Dave Aju & The Invisible Art Trio

Look Out Above

newer piece I recently did with the Invisible Art Trio with the title and theme I'm really happy with. It's a much more heady trip, good for headphones and travels, maybe not ready for just any club floor. For what it's worth, the sleeve artwork is lovely as well if you ever see a vinyl copy around.

Alice Coltrane

Journey In Satchidananda

I was lucky enough to catch Alice Coltrane live in concert literally days before she passed, and it was unreal. The spirituality and cultural melding in her music at this time was amazing, add to that her early Indian influence and the presence of Pharoah Sanders and it's golden.

Steve Reich

Music For 18 Musicians

The main piece that I was exposed to and really blew my mind during academic courses at SF State. It's a pretty long-winded composition, but it is so beautiful and my favourite take on true minimalism; it still amazes me that those players were that tight through the whole song, huge hat tip to them.

The Stylistics

People Make The World Go Round

One of my all-time favourite songs, and I recently realised I own more versions and covers of it than any other record. This is the original though, and it is always magic for me. From the opening wind chimes and iconic bassline, to the solo, it's a universal theme song; maybe someday I will cover it too when I am ready.

William Onyeabor

Better Change Your Mind

There seems to be a bit of Onyeabor fever at the moment from some reissue comps that have come out lately, which is awesome because the dude was just way ahead of his time, and funky in such a unique way. Another strong political message here, but we can also extend the message to our personal lives as well.

Moodymann

J.A.N.

One of my go-to tracks of KDJ's. For me, it encompasses all sides of his character, from the more solid Detroit techno groove in the first half, to the soul breakdown halfway, to the choice sample snippets of Mojo interviewing Prince, this one covers ground. Folks can say and judge as they will, but he is one of the few contemporary producers whose records I'll still buy on sight.

Larry Heard

Missing You

So here's an example of classic Heard that just can't be imitated, not by buying up the same old gear or anything. Sincere, deep space house music, so lovely at the end of a night or in the morning, nothing comes close.

Horace Silver

Song For My Father

And finally, an ode to my pops in more than one way. Obviously for the literal meaning, but also because he and his friends used to play the hell out of this tune, so I knew it by heart before I could talk or even knew the title. Musically, the whole album is tops for me, fusing Latin rhythms and tight bop styles. I recently rediscovered its power when unpacking records in Berlin, and it lit up the room and my spirit like only a song with that much history could.

 

Written by Kenneth Lobo