In Depth: DaDa NaDa – We Can Feel
Hi DaDa NaDa, thanks for taking time out to have a chat, tell us a bit about your new single ‘We Can Feel It’
Sex and love are experienced through our own unique personal lens incorporating thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions. Like anyone’s, mine is not only comprised of all my sexual and loving experiences, but also years of spiritual study and practice in a variety of schools – Judeo-Christian metaphysics, Korean Zen, Jainism, Buddhism and Self Realization Fellowship, plus the study of Tantra – the practice of using sexual union for spiritual growth. “We Can Feel It" expresses a tiny slice of those experiences in words and music.
Now its been a pretty long time since you’ve properly been on the music scene, roughly 26 years if I’m correct? How come such the long wait?
The answer to that is so deeply personal – I know you didn’t mean it to be – but I’m not ready to answer that one out loud for just anyone to hear. I never, ever expected or intended to be in the public eye again as a recording artist – this whole re-entry into a public, artistic profile was almost an accident – so I don’t really have a solid sense of just how intimate I want to be with the world at large. Forgive me – I’m gonna leave it at that.
What else have you been up to apart from music?
If you can get very, very quiet, and then even more quiet still, you’ll be able to see that your life occurs on a variety of planes simultaneously. You don’t have to be a guru to do this. Anyone can. Life happens in a “doing” plane, a psychological plane, your body’s plane, a feeling/sensation plane, and on a number of spiritual planes.
I could tell you about the films I’ve written and produced; the big name directors and film companies I’ve worked for; the sick, twisted, darkly destructive therapist I had, the truly beneficial ones I subsequently had, the amazing monastics and lay volunteers I’ve encountered, the stressful-to-the-max jobs I held; the abusive pieces of shit I’ve worked for and the inspiring people I’ve worked for; the life-changing illness and 18 months of excruciating pain I endured, the plethora of doctors and tens of thousands of dollars spent and all of that would be what I’ve been “doing.”
I’ve also been doing bisexual advocacy on a local and national level, raising children, getting married and divorced and married and divorced again; having extraordinary love affairs, making and losing money, nurturing friendships and ending others. I’ve been “doing” a helluva lot.
These all give rise to a theme of one’s existence. That’s what I’m ultimately interested in. If you get me in one of those deeply quiet moments, I’ll tell you I don’t give a flying fuck about what I’ve been doing – other than my kids, my relationship with God and Guru, creativity, friends, family and love – and it would be the truth.
What my existence says to me, to the world, to my children, to those I love – that’s what I’ve really been up to. That’s the answer to your question.
The theme of my existence is: germinating, growing, blossoming and dying – dying horribly, really. I cannot say I do it yet with a lot of grace – though I’m working on it. I suffer like a motherfucker.
A Buddhist definition of suffering is “arguing against what is.” Not only is it succinct and perfect it ain’t graceful, brotha. It’s clumsy as fuck. So an important element to my life’s theme is the development of grace so that I may experience Grace. I’ll let you mull that one over.
You seem to be juggling a variety of passions. What helps you keep a comfortable balance in life?
The one I keep trying to balance is my bisexual advocacy. I am awfully passionate about being of service to other bisexual, pan, fluid, queer people – the umbrella term is “Bi+.” A big turning point was when I was invited to the Obama Administration’s White House Conference on Bisexuality in 2016 right before the Trump transition.
It was just a few weeks later that “Je Suis Paris/I Am Orlando” broke the Music Week Top 15 in the U.K. things in my life changed unexpectedly.
After that, I found there were even more demands on my time because suddenly I wasn’t just a creative professional who was bi+, I was an out, bi+, male recording artist with a hit record and there are hardly any of us (as opposed to a number of out, female bi+ artists). So, I put a lot of pressure on myself to represent, in addition to the outsides pressures I receive as well.
As for keeping a comfortable balance – I don’t have one – it’s not for lack of trying. The closest I come is when my spiritual practice is in sync. When I’m meditating regularly, attending services, being mindful of my thoughts – you know those tiny, flying landmines that bombard your inner cranium like bottle rockets ricocheting off the top of a wind tunnel – so that I can dissolve them before they do any damage, then I feel a sense of balance.
For your original track, what styles were you going for?
“We Can Feel It” is 100% Classic House with an acid flava. Why? Because jazz inflections and colors, a bass line that stands on its own melodic signature and a rhythm pocket that offers the space and support for a crooning vocal – not a wailing one – gives rise to a smooth sophistication that fits the lyrical theme of the song.
Any particular artists who inspired you for this release and for your other projects?
My childhood and my 20s in lower Manhattan still serve as a huge source of inspiration. Everything was played. Genres and styles erupted like volcanoes. Clubs were on fire. There were no fucking red velvet ropes anywhere back then. People just piled into those places – all classes and races and ages mixed together – which is a very New York thing – till the police and fire department kicked us out. Velvet rope exclusivity was some jive-ass midtown Manhattan trip. The downtown club crowd poked fun at it. All that mattered was The Music. I was exposed to every style of music, other than country, 24/7. Nowadays, there are phenomenal musicians and you have to seek it out – online, in clubs, and on non-commercial radio. Back then it was in your face. Nowadays, it’s up to you to go get it.
My influences are so vast – I absorb art like a tornado sucks up a thunderstorm – J.D. Salinger, Keith Haring, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Picasso, Frankie Knuckles & David Morales, Larry Levan and The Garage, the late great Billy Long of LA’s Catch One; Marcus Wyatt of Deep who can mix a freakin’ 5,000 year old Hindu Kirtan chant with an 90s house record and make the ghetto rock; Chainsmokers for pop sensibility meets restraint – they’re elegant, man; Mylie Cyrus for reminding us that it’s all rock n’ roll and fuck the rest; Frank Sinatra & Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Bad Boy Bill, one of the greatest living American DJs to ever grace a deck – if they ever put him into a club in Ibiza the place would explode all the way to Catalonia; Oliver Stone, one of the toughest guys I ever worked for who knew his shit upside down and sideways and got all my respect; Remixer Richard Cutmore, who knows the craft of how to inspire a dance floor, unlike many who think it’s about showing off how cool they can be; KCRW Radio – if you don’t know it, hit the podcasts and listen and learn; Rogers & Hammerstein, Beastie Boys, 90s Hip Hop, Bowie for his amazing melodic sense, alt rock sensation St. Vincent – for her unswerving commitment in her work; Jazz bassist Christian McBride; Jazz pianist Lyle Mays, the only real genius musician I ever met, where are you Lyle? Come back. Zero Mostel, the only genius actor I ever worked with, who taught me so much about acting; Talking Heads for their integration of multiple genres into a viable dance based rock style; Betty Buckley, the greatest female musical theatre singer of her generation; k.d. lang, the VOICE; Patsy Kline, the STYLIST; two of my acting teachers Larry Moss, the first real entertainment professional to tell me I should be making records, and Wynn Handman of American Place Theatre.
There is quite a big variety of styles on the remixes on this release. We’ve got the likes of House of Virus, Classic Acid Flava and Mntna on the remix duties. How did these collaborations come about?
House of Virus remixed my last record, “Je Suis Paris/I Am Orlando” and it was a perfect fit for the kind of vocal, melodic House that I write. It was also a wonderful collaborative experience. We stayed open, supportive of each other and really LISTENED. I just knew HOV was gonna fit like a glove once again.
“Classic Acid Flava” . . . well, my brotha, that’s me. It was my original production on the track along with my writing/producing partner on that song – an extraordinary musician, Steve Wight, who’s conservatory trained, like I am – though he can kick my ass all over the room when it comes to technical chops. Besides having a Masters in Composition from Cal Arts, he’s one of the very few people in any of the big music centers, who can program electronic music software for dance music and write for every instrument in an entire symphonic orchestra by hand.
Mntna also worked on the last record. He was only 19 years old and it was his first-ever proper remix job. He had no resume whatsoever. But he did have some very cool tracks and that’s all I needed. His ensuing remix was very successful with the Deep House DJs, clocking 21,000 listens on Soundcloud within a few weeks. And remember, no one knew who the hell he was. He’s got great ears for the sub genres and I wanted to use him again.
For the record, I trust my instincts when it comes to hiring musicians, remixers and engineers. Yes, of course their resume matters, but I seem to be able to recognize Great Ears and how they’ll fit in with a track. God passed over me when she handed out many gifts, but she did indeed give me that one and I’m ever so grateful.
Is there a certain production method you go when making tracks like these?
Absolutely. Song first. Song first. And then. . . . song first. I understand and respect that there are those who find the track is the thing. But that’s not so for me.
In my experience the track is a malleable, living, breathing being that can be adapted to fit any need.
But the song is the framework for everything. It’s the structure of the house – pun most definitely intended. I, and anyone who works with me, build everything around the song.
Sure, we often start with a track – a beat, chord changes, perhaps some interesting sounds – and then write a top line – words and melody over it. However, once that process is completed, a song is born.
At that point, for me it’s imperative that the integrity of the song come first and everything else is designed to support it.
That’s why I think historically I’ve been able to offer DJs and club viable, eclectic remix packages for all my releases – because there’s a true, unique song that remixers can then re-structure their own design around. There’s no square pegs being shoved into round holes because when they strip away the track and are left only with words and melody, the efficacy of the material is readily apparent and they can then give it their own take.
Which software packages, plug-ins and VST’s were used to make this record?
Dave Smith OB-6, Nord Lead 4, Roland Integra-7, Roland TR-8 and Akai MPC. Also VST's: Kontakt with REV of Output and UAD plugins.
All mixed on Cubase 9 Pro.
What’s the reception been on this release so far?
It has been outstanding and I’m truly aback. I know it’s hard for people to get their head around when I say it – hell, it’s hard for me to get my head around – but I had no plan to make dance records again.
Yet now, here I am being told that 76% of all U.K. Music Week reporting club DJs are playing “We Can Feel It!” And now I’m having an interview with the most legit iHouseU.com. I’m sitting here in La La Land thinking “WTF?! How did I get here?!”
So when I get reports back from the clubs that not only all these DJs are into my jam, but that their crowds are digging it, I’m positively thrilled.
Finally, whats next for DaDa NaDa?
Funny you should ask, because I just made the decision today. I’m going to make an EP or an album and if all goes well, drop it in January.
Thanks again for talking to us!
Thank you, iHouseU!. I so appreciate you taking the moment and shining a light on my music.
Available on iTunes
DaDa NaDa Online