To close out this chapter with our last story for Season 4, we have our good friend, DASU. DASU has DJed at both of our Pop Up Shop events that we’ve had in Oakland, and has performed alongside some huge names in the music industry this past year.
We’re also introducing a new conversation format, and co-founder, Victor, sat down with DASU to discuss his passion for music.
Victor: Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.
DASU: DASU. DASU is kind of a late vision, because I didn’t start exploring my musical vision until after college (about 2015). So it’s really only been a few years. I’ve always liked music — diving into different genres of music. Back when I was a teen, I was an Indie guy, and hip-hop caught my attention when Lupe was up and coming. Food and Liquor was my first album where I was kinda like… this is really good. That’s where I started getting serious with music digging and dove into different genres associated with hip-hop. Discovered Kanye, Cudi, then went back with it — Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, and then you REALLY get into the history of things. It wasn’t until I hit Nujabes and Dilla which opened up the floodgates of all this artistic, soulful music for me. I wanted to start making that type of music one day. When I started my 9-5 post-grad, it felt like the right time.
V: When you get that 9-5, you really need a creative outlet and you found that outlet through your music.
DASU: I just continued to keep diving into different sources. YouTube actually has so much great content that’s undiscovered. I remember digging through YouTube and found gem after gem. And then came SoundCloud… oh man. That’s where I mainly dig now. It’s like crate digging, right? There’s DJs that just do SoundCloud diving. They literally just dig for the dopest, unknown stuff on SoundCloud.
V: Digging through SoundCloud, is there anything you discovered that influenced you?
DASU: I think I’m still trying to find my true sound. Right now, I’m especially into R&B music, and I think we’re approaching this modern/golden age of R&B. Brent Faiyaz, DVSN, Majid Jordan, Gallant… all personal favorites. I stumbled upon many of these artists through Soundcloud when they were relatively unknown, and look at them now. All making huge moves. You even got a few of those guys on OVO.
V: Because someone was just on SoundCloud, and was just digging and found these talents.
V: What are you hoping to accomplish with music?
DASU: I didn’t really think about that question until recently… when I started meeting a lot of people with similar interests in the Bay. It’s all been a documentation of my creative journey. I still look at this as the very, very beginning. When I meet people, and they’ve been working on this for a decade, I’m like… damn. I’ve kinda just been treating this like a journal because it’s my creative outlet. Have these concepts in my head, these stories I wanna tell, put out a mix that encapsulates that feeling, that moment. In the grand scheme of things, I probably will move the focus to creating original music, collaborating with singers, other percussionists. But for now, it’s always been about capturing what I feel at the moment, and putting something out that represents it.
V: So each mix you put out, it kinda expresses your current state.
DASU: Or a life event that happened in the past. Maybe a relationship. Maybe a time that I was trying to find purpose in life. Or just a time where I had some stressful moments, emotional, breakups, finding someone new. All of these things have been translated to mixes that I’ve put out.
V: How did you originally learn to make music?
DASU: I originally reached out to a friend, Leo, and he let me borrow his Traktor set-up. Let me play around with it and taught me some basic concepts. But honestly, from there I just kept playing around with the software and hardware, until I got my feel down. There’s so many resources online… YouTube, Reddit, forums… you really just gotta get in there and absorb information like a sponge. There’s literally nothing stopping you from picking up a controller and just playing with your music collection.
V: I think that’s what separates the people that always say they always wanna do something, to the people who actually just do it and try to learn it themselves. Yeah, there’s hella resources out there, but it doesn’t matter until you just go out and do it.
DASU: It’s exactly that. Even without the resources, one thing I always aim for is — if it feels right, forget the “this is how you’re supposed to do it.” “You’re not supposed to do it this way.” I’ve never looked at it like there’s a specific or correct way you’re supposed to do something. If it sounds good, and it translates your feeling that you’re trying to express, keep doing it.
V: That’s how it is with a lot of people who are self taught at creative work, and didn’t go to school for it. People that go to school learn to do things a certain way, their ABCs, and anything outside of the structure they’re taught is supposed to be wrong. But for us, when we learn things by ourselves, we figure out other ways too do the same thing. It might seem wrong in the industry, but it works out and the final outcome is good. There’s so many different ways to do one thing. We shouldn’t be restricted to that one path to doing something.
V: So you being self taught, in this digital space, what are some challenges making music and getting out there?
DASU: I think when you continue to push your craft and meet others in the community, there comes a time when you feel oversaturation in the space you occupy. Seems like today, everyone is trying to put out something and push their brand. So the challenge is: Identity. “Is there anybody out there that’s similar to me?”… you really have to find yourself and path. Many struggle with this quest. Today, you also have to stay consistent so you’re not forgotten. You’re always needing to prove yourself and release material to remind people and your audience like, “I’m Here.” So how do you stay true to finding your identity and also release material at a healthy pace? Our lives are so quick nowaday, and audiences are developing shorter attention spans. The balance between “being true to self” and “releasing material to stay relevant” is definitely a tough task.
V: Every time we put out an original project, it puts us in this incredibly vulnerable place, where we’re just exposed and open to critique from anyone. Anyone can just critique whatever you put out. But you just have to take that critique and not let it bug you.
DASU: Right, and you know we critique stuff all the time. We judge music, it’s human nature.
V: How long would you say you’ve been taking music seriously?
DASU: There’s definitely been peaks and valleys. In 2015, there was stretch where I was starting to perform. In the first year, I was at an old job at my 9-5 and had a lot more freedom where I was working on some music while I was at work. And when I got home I’d just grind through it. So those times, because I was in this honeymoon phase that first year, I’d stay up til like 2 or 3AM just working on music, even with work the next morning at 8AM. I was just so excited — like, I couldn’t sleep. If I sleep on this, I’m gonna lose that moment’s vision, and it’s wasted. Looking back at it, my output wasn’t as polished, but some of my most popular stuff came out back then. Listening now, I’d probably do a few things differently from a technical standpoint, but it was some of my most organic material.
DASU: But it was in 2016-2017, that’s when I really started doing shows. I had to take what I had built in my online presence, and figure out how to become an interesting performer. So that’s where the spectrum of dancing/grooving music expanded. I was trying to show people a world of music they hadn’t heard in the mainstream, that they hadn’t heard on the radio, or on Spotify, and let them just groove to great music.
V: What’s your favorite memory from everything you’ve done so far?
DASU: Man, I got 2 answers to that question. Thinking back to the moment where I met specific people through this music journey is super interesting. For example, meeting Darren (Move Set Records Co-Founder) at Green Acre’s pop up shop was such a trip when I look back at it. This guy just came up to me like “hey I really like how you’ve been DJing this event, let’s talk.” Now all of a sudden, he’s managing a group that’s on stage with Soulection, it’s crazy. With Joe Kay, Masego, all these incredible musicians. And you know, him and his artists are gonna be up there too.
DASU: When I think about another incredible memory… when I opened and closed for Galantis. That’s a mainstream EDM duo right there, huge artists, billions of plays worldwide. Room was jam packed for them early on, and I remember just looking at that crowd while I was performing. Everyone was all smiles, dancing, and having a good ass time. That was one of my most fun shows I’ve done, just thinking about the huge crowd, and how they would react to the music I was playing.
V: What is something important that you’ve learned along the way?
DASU: Making sure that you’re always doing it ultimately for yourself. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people that do music too, and they have these freak out moments where they have to determine… hey what’s my actual musical identity? How are other people going to react to whatever I put out? Those are the moments I think where people get the most stressed out, and create something that’s not really true to self.
V: Right, it’s just something to try to appease other people.
DASU: Try to appease the crowd, and also box themselves in because they have to answer the criticism of “is this made by you?” “Is this your sound?” What is our sound? Why can’t we evolve and change? I think that’s a struggle, and we get in this vicious cycle. Do I do it this way only because my fans are going to enjoy this, or because I’m expected to do it this way? That’s why you gotta remember to make sure you’re making yourself happy at the core of every move. “This is my expression!” It doesn’t matter if one person, or if millions of people like it, as long as you get that moment and vision right, that’s what you really need to hold high. Not to say that other people’s opinions don’t matter, but at the core… it’s yours.
V: In the end, it’s your expression.
DASU: Right, but there’s always things along your path that make it a struggle, like financials, growing an audience, I can see how artists are extremely boxed in from what they can actually make. I’m sure artists would love to just create whatever their heart desires, but they’re put into these boxes.
V: Artists always get labeled. Once you get “big” or if they started following you because of this one project, they just want to hear that one sound.
DASU: Just that one sound. You gotta make your best thing, over and over again, for the rest of your career, and it shouldn’t have to be that.
V: What’s next for you?
DASU: I wish I had a concrete answer. It’s never-ending. I’ll definitely have more material out, and getting back to my roots of just getting that feeling of organic output. Which requires a balance in life because your 9-5 has to allow you to have enough energy too. It’s always a delicate balance of how much you can spend on your passion. Definitely more mixes are coming, I know that. More shows are coming, I know that. Like I mentioned earlier, collaboration. I definitely want to work with more people and look at how they create.
V: When you say collaboration, what do you have in mind?
DASU: We’re having a collaboration, right now you know? Just the fact that we’re having this conversation might spark something in my head. It might spark something in your head that you could put into Green Acre and put into some of your projects. More talks, more studio sessions, where we just sit together and share our music projects. Maybe it’s like working on a mix together, maybe it’s working on a song together. I’ve made songs with my friends last year, which were cool. I didn’t release any of them, but it’s been a blast. And I’m hoping that as I create this network of people that are killing it in the music scene in SF. Start showcasing our original music, our sounds. I feel like it’s close, I feel like a wave is coming man.
V: There’s a lot happening right now for sure, I mess with all of this movement. It’s crazy. Sh**, let’s do a Green Acre mix.
V: So for anyone starting out right now, do you have any words of advice?
DASU: Man, as mentioned previously… today, if you want to do something, it’s LITERALLY one Google search away. Just put the time in. Reach out to people and ask about the craft. Just talk about it. It’s going to inspire you and teach you something that you never would’ve thought about. Try to soak up their passion and see where that leads you. I think the more I do music and the more conversations I have about it, it always pushes me in a different direction.
V: That’s true, because every time you do talk to someone with similar interests as you, it inspires you too. It really makes you want to improve and get better in your own way, because you see what they’re doing. It’s 2018, just shoot your shot.
DASU: Shoot your shot 2018. Shoot your DMs.
V: The worst that can happen is that they don’t reply.
DASU: That’s literally the worst thing that could happen, and that’s nothing. It would “waste” maybe a minute of your time. You’d actually be surprised how many famous or inspiring people you can get in touch with just from shooting them a message.
V: Just pinpointing one moment, was there an experience that made you think “alright, I really want to make music.”
DASU: There was a time where I was putting out a mix. And there have been a few of these moments during these few years. I remember I put out a mix that was very personal to me. Extremely personal, very reflective, very emotional. I felt emotion when I was just working for this mix for that whole week. I just feel heavy – it almost feels like a cleanse. It’s like if you log into your Xanga back in the day and you just blog a whole year-end reflection or a break up entry. I had a talk with somebody who messaged me and we talked for a good amount of time about how that mix made them feel. And it’s not like I asked somebody and said “Can you listen to this and tell me how you feel?” Somebody reached out to me and said “Yo, this mix made me feel this kind of way. Thank you for this.” There’s been a few times that people have gone out of their way to actually say “this is how I felt when I listened to your creation.” And those moments really, really inspire me. At this point you’re not really just doing it for you. Like I mentioned it at first, at the core you should be doing it for you, but man those times it’s like damn, it’s bigger than yourself.
V: When people actually share the same experience by just listening to your creation, and they can relate to it, that’s special.
DASU: That is very special. It’s like fuel to keep you going to remind you to keep doing what you do.
V: It’s definitely a good feeling.
DASU: I enjoyed this, I always appreciate conversations that push you to look back and asks the questions like “who are you, what are you doing?” And then also pushes you in the direction like “what’s coming next?” So I appreciate this, It’s a full 360 look.
V: The brand, the sprout really represents us. We’re going to keep growing. So even though we’re doing this feature now, in a year it’s probably going to be outdated. Hopefully you’ll be growing even more and we’ll get a new one.
DASU: I like that. Hopefully in a year I come back with an answer that’s more complex than just expression. Because I feel like everybody creates just to express but once you start sprouting and your leaves get bigger, then it gets more complex and you’ll have more detail.
V: That’s what I want to get from everyone. I want to see growth from everyone who’s in this community.
DASU: That’s exciting just thinking about the potential Green Acre has. You’re showcasing artists, you’re showcasing storytellers. It’s like a follow up, it’s not a one and done.
Thanks to DASU for sitting down and talking with us. He’ll be performing in San Francisco on Friday, March 16th at Elbo Room with Space2950 alongside Soulection’s Orijanus.
Check out his mixes on SoundCloud and give DASU a follow.