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1. Hey Dave Aju, thanks for taking the time to talk to MI4L. How are you today?
Hey, my pleasure and I’m doing well thanks.
“At some point I just became fascinated with sound and realized that the aural sense is the most powerful yet undervalued in a way, with the level of visual fixation and reliance we all have”.
2. Firstly, we believe you studied English Literature at college. When did you decide to pursue music as a career instead?
Yeah, I ended up with an English degree after trying a few other things, with a focus on writing as I felt it could help round out my skill set.
Before that I was actually more involved in graphic design and visual art, until I fell in love with sound instead. At some point I just became fascinated with sound and realized that the aural sense is the most powerful yet undervalued in a way, with the level of visual fixation and reliance we all have – and this was way before peoples’ eyes were stuck gazing into phone screens all day. I’ve always been a music lover, as I believe most people are, played some instruments as a kid for awhile and had been dancing and DJing more as a hobby for awhile but once all that was combined with that sonic epiphany of sorts, I guess the choice was clear what I wanted to do, if not chosen for me by default.
3. We would love to know your five favourite songs at the moment and how they have inspired you?
“Na Boca do Sol” by Arthur Verocai, as I grew up with his incredible self-titled album, and just got to see the legend perform it twice over the weekend, with a 20-piece orchestra, on Father’s Day no less for a RIP blessing to my pops who introduced me to it. Pure musical magic all around, and a perfect start of summer soundtrack if there ever was one.
“Nont For Sale” by Sudan Archives, as I also just saw her perform a great show out in the park at Fig@7th here. She has such a cool and mesmerizing style, combining elements from various cultures, times and spaces. This may not be one of her newest pieces, though I love everything I hear, it’s just stuck in my head at the moment in the best way. There’s a dope video for this one too!
“Igor” by Tyler The Creator, which to be fair is not a single track but whole album, but it is so incredibly made and cohesive as a whole that I think qualifies here. It’s refreshing to know that full front-to-back albums can still be done this well by today’s generation of producers. Also watching a controversial young artist like Tyler mature to this degree before our very eyes/ears as he has across the last five or six albums and years is amazing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he scoops up a Grammy for this one.
“You’re The Man (Alternate Version)” by Marvin Gaye. Like a lot of his fans I jumped at the opportunity to cop a copy of the recently-issued unreleased album. Though opinions differ on the strengths and weaknesses of it, some apparently the cause for it being shelved initially, this alt take on the title track is fucking genius. I remember hearing one of the Triple Threat cats, maybe Shortkut, drop this years ago at Justice League in SF and also on Henrik Schwarz’ DJ Kicks mix awhile back as well. Nice to have it in hand finally and trip on the vocal layers and pitching and undeniable soul on display in it on repeat. The political message being extra relevant right now is big bonus points too.
And finally, another stretch perhaps but I just made a quick mash edit with an unreleased track called “Freak Shit” by the Warehouse Preservation Society and “U Can Dance If U Want To” by Moodymann that I can’t stop hearing in my head throughout the day. One of those quick freestyle studio experiments that deliver way beyond hopes because the components are solid gold grooves. Besides being good buds of mine, the WPS are making some killer cuts at the moment and will undoubtedly be a name on many lips and lists very soon. They come from the DJ Harvey school of eclectic retro-not-retro deep-crate thought with a dirty twist and it works wonders. Combined with KDJ’s now-rare and infamous Prince B-side rub, and the two sides of my own floor roots come together like the bombest PB&J ever made. Real West Coast current underground vibes + classic 3 Chairs styles from the D, yesss please!
“The world could be ready and maybe even use a little of its unusual musical range right now I feel.”
4. You are known for a very eclectic approach to music, mirrored in not just your Dave Aju pseudonym but your other aliases as well – The Invisible Art Trio, The Sol Percussion Ensemble, KAMM. Can you talk to us about some of your other projects and how they differ from Dave Aju?
The Invisible Art Trio and Sol Percussion Ensemble are fictional groups that allowed me to focus certain projects a bit more, a spiritual/free jazz-leaning approach and a semi-literal concept angle of using a single percussion instrument to build a whole track, respectively. KAMM was an actual band or group with a few good friends that made similar moves from SF to Berlin at some point. We pooled our collective ex-pat status and desire to do something outside the boom-boom club-music box we were surrounded by out there and dealt with in our solo material. The first release came out on Intimate Friends, appropriately, awhile back now but there is actually a fully-finished 8-song second album as well that has yet to see the light of day. Hopefully that will change one day soon. The world could be ready and maybe even use a little of its unusual musical range right now I feel. I’m also working in a new LA-based band that was the co-brainchild of and now a tribute to a dear friend of ours who died tragically last year, the material is coming along slowly but surely, and is definitely taking things in very different directions for me.
5. You’ve been allied to Circus Company since 2003 with your debut release ’The Unorthodoctor’. How did your first release initially happen and how did it develop into the partnership you have today?
I wrote the label a message back then around 2001-2 after hearing those first few V/A comp EPs they did, wondering where the next releases were as it had been awhile since Vol 3 or so. They wrote me back that one of their guys was actually in SF at that very moment, so I put Mathias/Sety on the list at a gig I played at DNA Lounge that night. He came out, we hit it off, went back to my place after, and realized we had all the same records and similar tastes. He asked me if I was working on any music so I played him the latest few tracks I was working on in my home studio at the time and he signed them all as that first EP on the spot. The rest as they say is history, and he is one of my best friends and favorite humans on Earth to this day, as well as a pure pleasure to work with after all these years. The passion for honest creativity and playfully trying new things while maintaining the soul of the music is always there, regardless of the hype and trends that come and go around us.
“Love In Zero Gravity” was initially just a live one-take freestyle jam that I did when I first moved to LA, while practicing for a live show.
6. Following on from this, your new release ‘Love In Zero Gravity’ drops on Circus Company on July 4th. Can you take us through your processes for each track?
Yes indeedy! “Love In Zero Gravity” was initially just a live one-take freestyle jam that I did when I first moved to LA, while practicing for a live show. I left it alone and kinda forgot about it then when digging around for some other tracks found it and gave it a little stem mix love and arrangement update. It’s a bit more rhythmically top-heavy and relentless than usual for me, and it got edited down from the original 21-min jam to 9:30 now. But I have seen it light up a few floors nicely at the right times, at larger day parties especially.
“Aubergine Dream” is a newer piece, a darker late-night cut that started out as a potential track for my new album but morphed into the third addition to this EP with a tempo bump and acidic excursion added.
And finally “Gatadu” is technically the oldest of the set, I started it back in Berlin a few years back as a stripped-back club tool, but gave it some new textures and atmosphere with a Cali smile here recently to wrap it up. I imagine it like a subdued CdV summer anthem of sorts… if the club moved to Malibu haha.
7. We saw that you were recently part of Machine Limited’s first compilation which bought together West Coast talent, something that you were very proud of on social media. Do you believe West Coast talent is underrepresented in the electronic music industry?
Yeah, I’m definitely proud to be a part of the Machine Limited comp and their fam in general. As mentioned with the WPS track earlier, as well as with my studio partner and super-homie SONNS and the other artists onboard, I feel like what they’re doing as far as creating and releasing original music that represents multiple cross-sections of the West Coast dance floor sound of today is vital.
And yeah I think that some talent out here can get unfairly overlooked in the industry at times, part of that may be simply geographic and partly because it’s always been a newer frontier, with less direct historical links to a singular or specific period, sound or style, label or genre. But I feel a shift taking place again, as peoples’ need for something fresh and different always comes along as part of the cycle. Another thing I’ve been reminded of since moving back from the EU is that most people in the scenes out here have other hustles and sources of income, which makes them a bit less careerist by nature and more in it literally for the music. So while some of their names may not be all up in global lights, we’re lucky to have them around playing world-class sets in our backyard most nights.
“I once had a classical composer from Italy write me that after hearing my album Heirlooms… he began composing again for the first time in over 15 years since his father had died.”
8. What can we expect from Dave Aju in the future?
Aside from this new summer EP that’s about to drop, I just finally wrapped up my fourth album, and couldn’t be happier with it. I’m in some talks with a few labels right now about where it will land, it’s all very positive and exciting, and a brand new live set and show will be coming in tow.
I also just started a new side-career in teaching sound design and production courses at MI, an LA-based music academy which is feeling good so far too. Giving back, passing along skills and knowledge, and most importantly above all, inspiring others and being inspired are beautiful things. When I think back on the fortunate career I’ve had so far, the moments that really stand out are not the big gigs or money moments, or the busiest tour schedule periods, but those special connections where the work touched somebody to the point of true inspiration. I once had a classical composer from Italy write me that after hearing my album Heirlooms, even though he was not interested in electronic music at all, he began composing again for the first time in over 15 years since his father had died. There’s no number of likes, followers, gigs, agents, cash, fame, ratings, or reviews etc that can ever touch things like that. That’s the bizness. Love.