So, just yesterday I did an interview with Ben Elkins from the band Heypenny. I have gotten some feedback that people enjoyed the interview feature, so I decided to do another one, though maybe a little longer this time.
I had first heard Dert’s music from a post on GvB about his newest album, Sometimes I Rhyme Slow, which mixes Jose Gonzalez tracks with hip-hop artists such as Common, Kanye, and Talib Kweli. I was fascinated with the two songs I heard, so I wrote a post a few days ago about Dert (see here). I decided to ask him if he we would like to do an interview, and of course he accepted. Our conversation shifted from influences to current artists to Ted Leo (always a good conversation piece), and it is very clear that Dert is an articulate and intelligent artist. Without further adieu, I give you The All Things Go Exlcusive Interview with Dert.
Zack: First off, tell us a little about yourself. How’d you get into the whole music scene? Where are you from and whatnot?
Dert: I started making pause loop beat tapes in high school. I am from an LA suburb called West Covina. I used to rap at first, then I realized I was much better at making beats so I stuck with that. I got involved with a group called The Tunnelrats around 2001. We did a lot of projects on a label called Uprok which was a tooth-and-nails hip-hop label for a while.
Zack: So you did the beats and DJ’d for them, or did you dabble in the rapping?
Dert: I just did beats, I can’t DJ for crap.
Zack: Haha. So what kind of music influences your beats? I know on your upcoming album, Sometimes I Rhyme Slow, you use Jose Gonzalez songs, which is rare for a hip-hop mashup type CD.
Dert: Right. Well first off it’s not really an album. Like I sat around and was like this is going to be hot. It was a random idea I did over the week of my birthday in January 2006. I listen to pretty much everything since hip-hop music pulls from so many influences. It started with crate digging, going from jazz, to rock to electronic stuff to just about anything. After I started making beats, my musical palette really expanded, before that I was “strictly hip-hop.”
Zack: So, any particular bands out right now that you think are making quality original music?
Dert: Well I don’t know about the newest or freshest bands because that isn’t really my scene, but right now I dig Broadcast a lot, Bloc Party, The Arcade Fire…um that Tapes n’ Tapes group is tight too. Oh and Wolfmother, they are super hot. The EP has such a grimey sound to it. But I can’t vouch for rock bands because I may like something that rock fans think is complete crap.
Zack: Yeah, we’re big into Bloc Party, and Arcade Fire as well. I think that some music blogs, newspapers, and websites (*cough* Pitchfork *cough*), put too much emphasis on whether or not a band is cool or hip, and not whether or not the music is actually good.
Dert: Yeah, those Pitchfork guys are a bunch of bitches. Oops, I am sending this [album] for a review…whatever. I mean, they dissed The Mars Volta and those guys are the illest. I think it’s too much soul for them.
Zack: Yeah. I think they realize their audience will eat up whatever they give them.
Dert: Tastemakers gone bad.
Zack: At least they gave love to my favorite group of all time, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists.
Dert: Oh really, I have to check them out. (Zack’s Note: After the interview, I introduced Dert to TL/Rx, and he enjoyed them. Even more proof that everyone loves Ted Leo)
Zack: So, new topic. Mashups have become huge in 2005, and now into 2006. What do you think it is about mashups that people love?
Dert: I don’t know what mashups people love, I am not all that hip to all of them. But I think it’s a new spin on an old concept. Hip-hop has been doing that for years. Listen to Paul Boutique or Midnight Marauders or any classic hip-hop record and listen to the records they mix together. I think the Grey Album [DJ Dangermouse’s breakthrough album mixing together The Beatles White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album] was a great IDEA but to me that isn’t a mashup. It’s just a remix with a Beatles sample. The Linkin Park thing with Jay-Z was pretty wack, but so is Linkin Park. I heard this one that mixed all of Queen’s music with hip-hop, another great idea but not the best execution.
My friends from Antagonist Records, The Legion of Doom, are doing some really dope rock mashups.
Zack: Yeah, we actually just made a post about Legion of Doom (here), they do some interesting emo/hardcore mashups, and I believe they have a new CD coming out soon.
Dert: Yeah. I did a little drum programming for one of their tracks on the myspace page that KRS-One rapped on. It was originally (slower) and for his new album but it was scrapped.
Zack: What programs do you use to make your beats? Or does a true artist never give away his secrets?
Dert: I started with an mpc 2000, now I use a mpc 1000 and for other sounds and efx I use logic pro 7. I love everything native instruments does. Shoot I want to get free gear and sponsorship, I will tell!
Zack: They can probably hook that up. I try to make some beats with Reason, but mine are absolutely horrible. So, if you could work with anyone in the hip-hop or rock/indie scene right now, who would it be, and why?
Dert: Anyone on the Sometimes I Rhyme Slow CD. Those are really some of my favorite emcees…except Kanye West. His songs just happened to have some dope guest features. I think I could make a wonderful album with Jose [Gonzalez] as well. I really admire the Stones Throw Crew, they are the new Hieroglyphics or Diggin’ in the Crates. I wouldn’t mind working with Goapele on the soul side of things. And also Pigeon John. That guy is amazing. both of our crews (Tunnelrats and La Symphony) go back a lot but I have never hooked up with him. Now he is getting too big so i better get big too!
Zack: You hinted that you aren’t a big fan of Kanye. Is that because you think sometimes he might sample too much and is slightly unoriginal, or do you think it’s his arrogance?
Dert: His arrogance is sickening. Sampling is a core element of hip-hop so I will never criticize someone for sampling too much. I dig his tracks, especially Late Registration (he beat me to working with Jon Brion!) but his emceeing, while it has improved, still irritates me. I mean look at J Dilla, so humble, so quiet, so brilliant. Your music will speak for itself.
Zack: I don’t mean to make you look like a jackass, but are there any other rappers or hip-hop groups out there that you think are fake? For instance, I don’t exactly think D4L or Dem Franchise Boyz’s songs can be considered music.
Dert: Haha. Everyone that knows me knows I love to criticize. I am not a hater, just picky. D4L and DFB are the equivalent to Kris Kross or Vanilla Ice back in the day. It’s music geared to 8th graders and younger. Due to corporate radio, you can’t hear much expression on commercial radio.
Zack: But, Kris Kross totally made me jump, jump. I was feeling the backwards clothes thing. I think i just noticed a trend of Jermaine Dupri backed groups.
Dert: Dogg, I went to school one day with my clothes on backwards! Dupri knows how to make a hit, I cannot criticize him. He does what he does very well.
Zack: Have you ever contacted any artists about doing possible collaborations? Like, for instance, Talib or Common or someone along those lines? Or should i say, have any of them contacted you?
Dert: Not yet. Talib’s name was thrown around as possible collabs for KRS-One (an album Dert is working on). The hip-hop industry is pretty hard to navigate. It’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s not like the indie scene where everyone is cool with each other
Zack: I know we talked about this much earlier, but you said you grew up around LA. How much did the birth of West Coast Hip-Hop influence your music styles growing up, and your current music style?
Dert: I fell in love with hip-hop by listening to NWA, Ice Cube and Ice-T. the original kday was IT. Then it was the Pharcyde, Heiroglyphics, the Likwit crew. LA hip-hop has been a major influence on me, Not necessarily “west coast” stuff like Dre or Tupac. That just wasn’t my style. It just sucked because some of the strongest groups out of the west were always mistaken for “east coast” groups by those who were not aware. I think LA hip-hop was a little more laid back too.
Zack: I didn’t know Del and Heiroglyphics were from LA
Dert: Yeah. That production changed my life.
Zack: Do you have any plans to make beats for a particular artist, and maybe go on tour with them, or is that not something you’re interested in?
Dert: Touring isn’t really my deal. I am more of a studio lab rat. I am doing my darndest to get on with cats right now, it’s just hard to breakthrough without a big name.
Zack: Speaking of which, how did you come up with the name Dert?
Dert: Ah man! Well first I was called D-Illicit in attempts to be hardcore. But nothing about me was illicit so I came up with Dert. Which just started as a stupid acronym “Don Eternally Represents to The Fullest” But now the name to me just is a reflection of my personality according to what people have told me. Pretty much being well grounded, down to earth and willing to do hard work and not being concerned about getting full recognition for it. In the trenches.
Zack: I think the switch from D-Illicit to Dert was a good one. So, where do you see yourself in the near future? What’s up next, after Sometimes I Rhyme Slow?
Dert: I am working on my 2nd instrumental project tentatively called BlackBerd. I produced a majority of the next KRS-One project. I did an album with a new group called the Footsoldiers which is featured on that KRS album. I also did tracks with this cat Braille from a group called Lightheaded. And a random thing, a remix for the band West Indian Girl. Hopefully SIRS will get some more remixes coming my way too
Zack: Well if it does, I’ll be glad to buy them. Thanks again for granting us an interview, and we here at ATG wish you the best in the future. Any last words?
Dert: Thanks. I want say what’s up to my boy Ryan who introduced me to José González. And to José and Imperial Records, I hope you don’t send me a cease and desist. Haha. Lastly, shouts to my crew and family the Tunnelrats and watch out for this female rapper named Zane. She is going to hit a lot of people. I have a track from her on my Myspace page, its called Plan B
Zack: I’ll be sure to check it out
I hope everyone enjoyed the interview. Here are two tracks from Dert’s upcoming album, Sometimes I Rhyme Slow, which will be released on March 7th. I have an advanced copy, and I demand that all of you purchase the album when it comes out, as it is well worth the price.
Dert – The Light + Heartbeats (Common feat. Erika Badu) [download or die]
Dert – 2 Words + Slow Moves (Kanye West feat. Mos Def & Freeway)