By Poppy Tohill
If you don't know Dan Aux the DJ, the producer or the man behind the Selectah Show on George FM, you are about to find out who he is, through the ultimate playlist. That playlist being his debut album of course. Due for release this Friday August 1, I had the pleasure of catching up with the chatty and cheerful man of many talents before ‘Playlist' drops at the end of this week.
"I'm pretty excited!" Aux chimed when asked how he's feeling about the upcoming release of his album ‘Playlist.' "I guess it's been a long time in the making, so I'm totally excited. Even though the songs didn't take that long to get together, all the paper work and admin that goes with putting an album together was something that I have never been through before so it's all been a great experience, but I am very excited," he added.
When asked if an album was something that was always on the cards for him, "Not really," was the honest response I received. "I never really imagined myself putting together an album or being in a position where that would be something that I'd do," he explained. "I guess in this day and age, people don't really buy albums anymore. They tend to buy singles, and pick out their favourite songs to buy from an album so then they can put their own playlist together. So, the whole reason behind doing this project as an album is to create my own playlist of my own music. Which is exactly how I came up with the name for the album," he laughed. "I was very cautious and a little bit kind of worried that people don't buy albums anymore, traditionally. Obviously there are people out there who still do buy albums, but it's not as popular as jumping on Spotify and putting together your own playlist of all your favourite songs that you love and playing them at a party. So I hope with this album that it kind of bridges the gap between being an album and also being a collection of tunes of different styles and genres that people can get down to," Aux exclaimed. "Because I've noticed that particularly amongst my friends, everyone's into all different music these days, it's not just ‘I'm a rock fan, or I'm strictly into drum & bass music," he added.
When asking if ‘Playlist' would be a one off release or not, Aux enthusiastically replied, "I love the whole process and concept of putting together an album. I haven't made any definite decisions but I think in the future when I do do it, it'll probably be more of a particular sound or style," he admits. "I think with this album it was just me kind of experimenting with all different kind of genres, because that's what I'm into and that's what I listen to and play on my radio show each day. I wanted something that represented what I do on the radio as well to come through in my production, rather than just making strictly pop music or house music. So yeah, I think so, I'm really stoked to be able to get this album out there and then maybe in the future they'll be something that's maybe a little more focused on the finest points of what I wanted to get on this album. There are a few songs that are my favourites,especially the stuff with Randa, she'd be great to do more music with, and Ed Waaka," Aux declared.
With the mention of favourites, Aux went on to let me know just what songs on the album are his favourites. After laughing and momentarily pausing the interview while he ran off to find a copy of the album he went on to admit, "I know track one (Open Season- ft Raiza Biza) had to be track one as soon as I heard it. It's just got that sound of what you'd want to listen to when you first press play on an album. It's like ‘hey yo, what's up!" he laughed. "So yeah there's obviously that track which I love, and there's the last track as well (Hunt Me Down-ft Allday & Steven A.Clark) which is something that I wrote with my flatmate James aka Faster Than Light. I've been a long time fan of Allday also, I've played their music on my radio show for the last few years and being able to get him rapping on a track was a pretty big deal for me personally, so that's another big favourite of mine. They're all favourites though," Aux went on to admit. "I go through different phases I guess, because they're all quite different to each other. Another one though is ‘Japanese Soul.' I'm a big Avalanche's fan, so to get something that is sample based and has the influence of that old school Avalanche's sound, for me personally was awesome and I'm really stoked about that because I love that type of sound. I wish I could write more music like that. I wish I could do a whole album of that stuff!" he chuckled.
Looking back to the early days, we went on to chat about Dan's past and he filled me in on how his love for music came about, some of his early influences and what he thinks his career would have been like if he had stayed in Australia. "I moved to New Zealand six and a half years ago now, it feels like it was only yesterday!" he began. "I moved over here one reason, for love and also I had a bunch of friends over here, but the main influence was to focus on music and DJing, and just things that I'm passionate about. So if I had stayed in Australia working a shitty job, then I definitely would never have been able to achieve things that I've always wanted to do, from writing music to doing my radio show and working at George," Aux explained. "Being in Australia would have been very different because there's not many radio stations like George over there and the music scene in Australia as well is very trend driven. So if one thing is popular at the time then everyone just kind of goes with that but I think in New Zealand you've got the freedom to be a little bit more creative with what you do. The Kiwis kind of respect you a bit more if you go out of your way to do what you want to do and not follow any particular trend. So I think we're very unique here in NZ and I guess, for example in Australia there is that whole Electronic Dance Music scene which has really taken off and a lot of the kids over there just want to be the next big dance act and I think with New Zealand there's obviously less focus on that and more focus on being original and being yourself," Aux remarked.
"Holy shit! It probably came about when I was in high school, messing around with cassette tapes and not studying," Aux laughed, responding to the question of when he first discovered his love for producing, beat making and music in general. "Then I met some mates who were just nerdy, production guys on their computers. I went from being a DJ to a producer in my mid twenties and then I just wrote music on my laptop," he laughed again, "because I guess that's just how it has evolved as well," he added. "The programs in the computers have gotten so much more powerful in the last 10-15 years, that you can write a whole album on your laptop these days and not have to go to any thousand dollar a day studios and record and all that kind of stuff. Even the rappers and all the people that have featured on my album have recorded their vocals at their own house, with their own studio set up, so it's pretty awesome to be able to do that. This album was put together in so many different places around New Zealand, even when I was in Fiji I was working on music for it. So it's been about 10-15 years that I've been fiddling round with music. I've been DJing for about 15 years, just after I left high school," he concluded.
Putting Aux on the spot, he had a great time trying to inform me who some of his early musical influences were. "Oh man!" he chuckled, before launching into it. "Avalanche's definitely, I'm so pissed off they haven't released a follow up album, it's been like 15 years now!" he added in all seriousness. "The Prodigy as well," he declared, continuing on. "I remember when I first started fiddling around with music and I just really wanted to be like them so they were definitely a big influence early on. Someone that's on this album who I'm great friends with today is P-Money. I've been a fan of his since I lived in Australia, going out to see him and Scribe perform in Sydney. I was a big fan of Scribe's music back in the day as well, so being able to work with P-Money over the last few years and then having him on a couple of tracks on the album is awesome. In terms of New Zealand music, State Of Mind have always been a big favourite of mine as well so it's great to have them on the album, I'm always playing their music on the radio too so it's cool to have that crossover onto my own stuff. There's so many to name but yeah, I guess early on it was The Avalanches and The Prodigy," he stated.
Having covered a lot of the past and lead up to now, Dan went on to talk about the concept of the album, and what he wanted to accomplish inreleasing ‘Playlist.' "It wasn't so much me putting out an album, that's like ‘hey check it out, Dan Aux is here, this is my album," he began, "it was more just doing something fun with my friends which is why there is a lot of features on the album and co-productions as well. I kind of find that with bands each member is talented in their own individual way and can come up with something amazing and I think just utilising those talents of my friends, everyone had something different to offer, so being able to write a bunch of tracks with different producers you can get a different result each time and it's probably maybe better than what you could have come up with if you just tried to do it yourself," Aux exclaimed. "So yeah it's like they're all my band members in a particular way and I really wanted to kind of put forward a few artists that people may not have heard of before," he continued. "People like Raiza Biza have become quite well known in New Zealand in the underground hip hop kind of scene especially, and he recently released a little album of his own that he recorded at red bull studios. Randa as well. I was a huge fan and absolutely played her Frankenstein tune to death on the radio. I remember the first time I heard it, I just emailed her and said, ‘hey I'm writing some music, do you want to do something together," he laughed. "Just the others like Ed Waaka and Allday too," Aux exclaimed.
"I guess the whole concept as well was to bring forward these New Zealand artists that not everyone would have heard of before, so this album could maybe serve as a platform for them to go on and find other music from those particular artists," he continued. "It definitely tells a story of what I've been up to in the last last six and a half years of my live living in New Zealand too. There's been ups and downs, good times and and times and its all on this album which is really cool. The best part about it though is that all of my friends are on the album so I'm really stoked with that," he acknowledged.
On the topic of collaborating and working with other artists, and having so much fun previously putting Aux on the spot, I decided to go ahead and do so once more, asking Dan who he'd love to collaborate with some day. Conscientiously slipping this question into interviews as I do with numerous artists, it proved a tough one for Dan, resulting in fun fill in chatter about all things music. "Oh geez, that's a tough question aye," we both began laughing. Having stated that it could be either a national or international artist in the question, he responded confessing, "It's weird, I don't really think internationally, because I just love being a part of this New Zealand music landscape. There's definitely people I would have loved to have on the album as well though," he remarked. "Like PNC and David Dallas, because I guess as an Australian coming over here and being able to look into the music scene, there's so much richness here and so much awesomeness that I wanted to tap into. So maybe on the upcoming releases I'll be able to collaborate with those guys," he added. "Even Kora, who I'm a huge fan of, would be cool. But, internationally, I guess the big ones," he momentarily paused, again admitting how much of a hard question this was, he took to his playlist of tunes that he plays on the radio to ensure he answered the question precisely. "I guess the first guy that would come to mind would be Flume," he slowly began. "But fuck, the thing is, I guess everyone would love to collaborate with Lorde and she's a New Zealander, so again that's another awesome person I'd love to collaborate with some day," he continued.
Meanwhile, back to scrolling through his playlist, "Chet Faker would be awesome!" he responded, still scrolling through. "Rufus, I love Rufus, or Disclosure would be another cool one." After joking about sitting around all day just thinking of various artists, Aux enthusiastically jumped in, with "Oh, Jamie xx, that's the one, that's what I was looking for! I just love his production, style and crazy drums, he's awesome. So yeah definitely Jamie xx," he excitedly repeated, before we both burst into laughter and celebration of finally getting there in the end.
Once returning back on track, after majorly heading off course, (as should happen in any good interview), we returned back to the topic of the album, this time chatting about the album artwork. Wondering if there was a story behind the image on the cover, Aux chimed in, "Oh that's a great question actually, because there is! There's a couple of versions I could tell you actually," he exclaimed. Cracking straight into the first version explaining, "I guess I was influenced by classic album artworks that I grew up with as a kid, like Ween I think have done a similar thing. There was a big theme with girls on the cover of albums over the years, especially when I was growing up. Red Hot Chili Pepper's, ‘Mother's Milk' also comes to mind and more recently Kimbra's album ‘Vows' is kind of very similar as well. So I guess I was influenced on that kind of more feminine side of things, with that classic look. It also ties into the song ‘Kelly Bundy'" (which appears being drawn in the music video). Which nicely tied into my next question of did the cover artwork idea originate from that video or had that already been decided on before hand. "I actually don't know what came first," Aux truthfully admit. "Kelly Bundy had definitely already been made, and then when we went to do the video, I came up with the idea that we could have Missy who did the drawing, be actually doing the drawing in the video of the girl who was playing the Kelly Bundy character," he continued. "So yeah, it does kind of represent that as well, and having my tattoos on her arms is just a cheeky little surreal kind of way of looking at things and I thought, I could put my own face or a picture of me on the album, but I guess the album's not just all about me, so it's just something nice to look at that kind of represents parts of me and parts of the album seemed like a good way for that to go," he concluded.
Moving on to the other visual side of things, Dan went on to explain what kind of things we can expect from his live shows, considering he has a nationwide album release tour kicking off this Friday in Auckland. "I think just basically what you hear on the radio," he replied. "I do a live DJ mix everyday, for three hours, so it's just like a more awesome version of that and I obviously realise a lot of people come to listen to the songs that I play on the radio, so all of that stuff gets represented alongside my own music from my album, so yeah it's just a good time," he continued. "It's always really fun to do the live DJ shows, because I guess I've got a little bit more freedom than I do on the radio. But yeah, just playing the big party tunes and the anthems is always going to be essential. Lots of energy, jumping around and most likely shots of alcohol," he laughed. "It'll be a non-stop party around New Zealand!" he enthusiastically added.
While filling me in on his habits of browsing ebay for expensive sneakers he cant buy, going to comedy gigs and enjoying the culinary delights of Auckland City when he's not busy on the radio, making music, or performing live, Aux then went on letting slip something we can hopefully look forward to receiving later on this year. "I want to put out a deluxe version of the album as well which will have special VIP versions of the songs," he announced. "Particularly the instrumentals on the album which will have rapping and other artists on there that were demos originally but didn't make it onto the album," he continued. "I kind of wanted to save them and let the original instrumentals speak for themselves and then put out special versions of those tracks. So hopefully later on this year, a few months after the album's been released I'll release the deluxe version online."
Realising it had been a good half hour we'd been chatting for, (realising I had another artist to interview in just 10 minutes) I pulled out one more (probably quite mean question-considering how hard the collaboration question was to answer) to finish with. That being: As the host of the George Selectah Show, you've come across some pretty incredible and unique acts, whose on your current top five list at the moment that you recommend we listen to... "Oh man, wow. Another awesome question!" he politely chimed, (probably not liking me very much by this stage). I did however suggest to cut it down to three to make it easier, but being the trooper that he is, we managed to successfully reach five artists, so I suggest you check these people out, because I can assure you that a lot of thought was put into this answer, as we collaboratively listened to some of the 121 songs he had on his most recent playlist.
So here you have it:
1. Elliphant - a Norwegian chic, who in the words of Aux is "fucking cool."
and... lucky #5 - Maya Payne, "Who is a totally awesome chick from Christchurch," Aux explained, also stating that "I've just added her song onto the George playlist recently, so she gets played a lot here, she's wicked!"
Dan Aux NZ Tour
Friday 1st August: Backstage (Studio), Auckland - Tickets: available now from dashtickets.co.nz
Friday 8th August : Sky Bar, Queenstown - No door charge
Friday 15th August: Winnies, Christchurch - Tickets: available on the door
Saturday 16th August: Powder Keg, Ohakune - Corona Winter Tour - Free entry
Saturday 23rd August: Outback, Hamilton - Tickets: available on the door
Saturday 30th August: Bosuns Bar, Howick - Tickets: available on the door
Friday 12th September: Smart Bar, Pukekohe - Tickets: available on the door
Friday 5th September: Shipwreck Bar, Gisborne - No door charge