| Who’s DATGirl?
| Monday, February 27, 2012
Who’s DATGirl? It’s an interesting question with a plethora of possible answers. She’s been a train hopper, fire spinner, comedian, and playwright, but currently at the top of her resume is electronic artist, emcee, and creator of a drum and bass offshoot she’s dubbed Slutstep. Her music is oftentimes cheeky, occasionally thought provoking, and has created a “you either love it, or you hate it” divide the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite a while.
Having heard her album, Slutstep, and taken the time to do a little research into her past, I hopped on the phone with this fascinating individual to find out more about her music, as well as her train hopping, fire spinning, past, and why she feels being taken seriously is overrated. DATGirl also opened up about her feelings towards an especially vitriolic review of Slutstep, and her fans’ reaction to the write-up.
Adam Bernard: You have led a very interesting life so far, and cross quite a few genres musically. Is there any way you can succinctly sum up what you do? If you were to attend a family reunion how would you be introduced to your relatives?
DATGirl: At this point in time I make electronic music, but I throw so much of what I have done into that with comedy, performance, traveling, and being part of a crazy underground culture. I play all live hardware equipment, so I take drum machines and synthesizers, I don’t use a computer. I actually make music on the spot and I throw funny, experiential, narrative stories into my music, and I think people really relate to that.
Adam Bernard: You mentioned life stories. I really want to hear about your exploits hitchhiking across the West Coast with your, according to your bio, “nomadic hardcore punk activist/artist freak friends.” What kind of Kerouac-like adventures did you go on?
DATGirl: Coming out of the Bay Area you have this culture of these bike activists, crusty environmentalists, art friendly train hoppers. That’s where I learned how to spin fire. I had a couple of good friends who basically hopped trains for two years straight. It was all about the journey, not the destination. They made puppets and they spun fire and they did these crazy circus things, so I dropped out of school and I joined the circus. I dropped out of Berkeley and said I want to dedicate my life to spinning fire and performing and having these crazy adventures. I took off with this friend of mine and we hopped freight trains up the coast. I ended up going to jail for a few days for that. They found us on a freight train when they were looking for a serial killer. I was actually spinning fire chains in the boxcar when Roger Dodger the Bull in Climate Falls, Oregon, found me and my friend and put us in jail. Hitchhiking and doing the circus thing showed me a lot about travelers intuition, seeing how good people can really be out there, and also performing without a stage. It’s different. Nobody's telling you you can do it, you just get out there with a bunch of kids and puppets and fire and a little sound system, throw together a show in a town and make enough to get to the next town. It was a good time.
Adam Bernard: Kids and fire don’t normally go together.
DATGirl: Yeah, they don’t. When I was really traveling fire was a huge part of my life. I spun fire and had all sorts of fire toys, then I started combining it with theater and poetry, so I would do spoken word with that. I’ve always been a cross-genre person. I’ll take one thing and throw another thing in there. It’s really interesting, some people love that, and some people hate that. I’ve noticed how many purists there are in any given field that you have.
Adam Bernard: It sounds like that’s how DATGirl was born, but when was DATGirl born?
DATGirl: DATgirl is the DAT in DAT Machine, the Digital Audio Terrorist, and is when I really came into using sound as a medium. Before that I was doing theater and character based comedy. I think my trajectory was theater, fire spinning, improv comedy and one woman shows, and then it went into emceeing and music, and each step along the way I took whatever I had in my previous adventures and pulled them in there. I started making music just as a hobby. I had a lot of DJ boyfriends and I would get bored just kind of hanging around. I wanted to have fun and make music, too, so I got my very first sampler, a Roland MP5050, and I filled it up with movie samples and started doing vocals in live jams with friends of mine. When I got to LA I moved here to pursue screenwriting and improv comedy. I was studying at The Groundlings, which is where a lot of SNL people came out of. Dubstep was just hitting LA and The Glitch Mob kids were here, and it was this ripe time for LA’s underground culture. There was a venue called Space Island, which was our underground club. You couldn’t find it online. You had to be escorted there. So I arrived here to pursue one thing and all of a sudden I found this culture that embraced me as an emcee. I would perform with DJs and just do vocals and all the while I started acquiring hardware gear, and, for my own pleasure, play every night. That’s kind of where DATGirl was from.
Adam Bernard: You describe your music as Slutstep. What is Slutstep? It sounds like a word that would describe sex in a dirty nightclub.
DATGirl: Oftentimes I’m the slut behind the step, oftentimes I see it as this is the music I make, and oftentimes it’s being referred to as more of a movement and more of a genre. A slut to me is somebody that enjoys life and that doesn’t give a fuck what people think, does what they want, enjoys what they want, is a connoisseur, and has a decadence to them, and I like to reflect that musically with the wompy wobble and broken beat that people are into, but on top of it add a real girl powered flavor that’s sort of sassy and makes people think. Slutstep is the opposite of Brostep. Slutstep is made by sluts, for sluts.
Adam Bernard: A lot of your lyrics are tongue in cheek. How concerned are you that people will hear this kind of levity and not take you seriously as an artist?
DATGirl: Seriously is an interesting word. Being comedic and pushing the comedy element, people need to know that about me. When I write it’s very ironic, it is tongue in cheek. I guess I just don’t give a shit about being taken seriously. Giving people something they don’t expect in an arena where they’re not expecting it comes with an incredible amount of joy when you hit upon people who aren’t expecting to laugh in a club. If you’ve been to a club recently everybody takes themselves WAY too seriously. They take their music too seriously, they take this whole experience, not just DJs, but everybody there is on the dance floor looking at themselves in relation to this greater pool and it’s all a clusterfuck of seriousness. I’m not just hiding behind the idea that I have to be funny all the time, because I think every artist has small elements of them. I think Scorsese said it, you can’t categorize comedy versus drama, we all have that in us. Maynard from Tool is one of my heroes and his new project is very comedic and everybody wants him to do Tool. “We want you to be a tortured artist.” I often think if I were to put out a project that wasn’t tongue in cheek, and wasn’t hilarious, then I’d get all the people that are like “we want the Slutstep, we want the funny stuff.” I think being taken seriously as an artist is something that artists have to not think about when they’re creating. You have to let the muses speak for you. You have to just do what’s in your heart, and when we create we don’t think about what it is we’re making, we just make stuff. It’s only in retrospect that we have to define it, and characterize it, and describe it, and defend it. When we’re making it it comes out in a stream of joy and fun, and that’s something that I never want to lose.
Adam Bernard: Some reviewers have not been kind to your album, most notably the folks over at Vice, but for each negative review you have a legion of fans that leave comments in support of you. Why do you think there’s such a huge canyon between those that like you and those that don’t?
DATGirl: Oh my gosh, it’s crazy. I did not expect that at all. My dad expected it, which is hilarious to me. “Did you really think everybody was gonna love your music?” I’m just putting out an album, some of these people act like I’m bombing a third world country or something. You don’t have to listen to it.
Adam Bernard: And thanks for the support, dad.
DATGirl: Yeah. It’s funny, my dad loves my music. He’s a real pioneer creatively and always went against the grain with what he did. He’s a computer scientist, and developed a lot of the work that Windows is based on. When I first heard that I’d gotten such a scathing review I was upset until I read it and then I was really happy because I felt like it was the epitome of hatred of a voice that I was bringing up. One of my supporters on the board posted a Portlandia sketch where you have these lesbians in a bookstore talking and then Heather Graham walks in to talk about her journal entry about her boyfriend and they didn’t like that at all. I really got that. I was like here I am (on my album) getting smacked and slapped and being an American apparel model and people without a sense of humor can not like that. They don’t see the tongue in cheek in it, they don’t see the intelligence in it, and they don’t see the backhanded comments that I’m trying to make about society. I also can see, I create electronic music, and that genre is known for its cleanliness, and precision, and layering. Everybody’s using the same sort of sample packs, using the same sounds that are produced. I make all my stuff from my machines start to finish, so it’s more gritty, for sure. At this point in time I can see producers being up in arms about that element of it. I mix everything on the spot, it’s live hardware, there’s human error in it. It’s much more like seeing a band than it is seeing a DJ doing a clean mix, and people who are about that precision, about that... blandness, I guess you could say, they don’t like anything that’s not bland. They’re used to a polish, they’re used to Auto-Tuned voices, they’re used to people saying something but not really saying anything, their ears are used to this blandness and I think when something comes out and shocks them they just don’t know what to do with themselves.
Adam Bernard: After all you’ve seen and done, is there anything left that could possibly make you do a double take?
DATGirl: Oh wow, that’s a great question. I’ve seen so much kindness in the travels that I've had, and that’s often made me do a double take. People going out of their way, not only for me, but for other people, still shocks me. It’s strange to say, I’m trying to think of the most shocking thing that could shock me and at the end of the day I think it’s just people being real with each other. It’s still shocking.
Labels: Music Interviews
|posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:23 AM