Get to Know the VMA's New Underdog
Dan Black has 2 million YouTube views under his studded belt for his "Symphonies" video (click here to see it), he just finished touring with Robyn and Kelis and he's even got a celebrated mashup, "HYPNTZ" (mixed with the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" and Rihanna's "Umbrella"). Plus, the Brit-bred Parisian just nabbed two MTV Video Music Awards nominations for "Breakthrough Video" and "Best SFX (Special Effects)" for "Symphonies," putting him on par to compete with Eminem and Lady Gaga.
So how come you may not have heard of him? Well, retire that notion because I spoke to him so you can't make that mistake again. And if that isn't enough, read up more on him at danblacksound.com -- or, better yet, vote for him at vma.mtv.com.
UsMagazine.com: I want to start by saying congratulations on being nominated for two VMA's for your "Symphonies" video! How are you feeling?
Dan Black: Good! I'm in the middle of a tour, so everyday I'm in a whirlwind of things to do. I'm not given much time to think about it. But when I was told, I was confused and pleased, all at the same time. The people I made the clip with are super good friends of mine, so it feels especially good, and they work with me on all my visual stuff. So if I'd made the video with a random director, I'd feel good but less good. But because it's people I know really well, it's like a double whammy of good!
US: You just wrapped your All Hearts Tour with Robyn and Kelis. How was that experience?
DB: Amazing! It's such an unusual mix of people, but I guess there's a common thread of creating dance-filled crowds. Despite Robyn, Kelis and I coming from really different backgrounds musically, it works amazingly well. We are sold out everywhere. Independent of anything. I'm a massive fan of Kelis and Robyn. So it's super fun to watch them play every night, let alone share a stage with them and get paid for the same audience. It's a triple win.
US: You've been inspired by R&B before, sampling pieces of Rhianna's Umbrella and taking inspiration from the Notorious B.I.G. How are you inspired now working with Kelis?
DB: I'm a massive, massive fan of the Neptunes, in particular. And I remember when her first album, Kaleidoscope, came out and Super Thug, it was because of her. This was the late 1990's and I thought it was a massive game-changing event. And the album came out, and with the stuff she did with O.D.B., I became a super fan. So it is practically surreal and amazing to be on a bill with her. She's an artist that practically affected me when I was younger.
US: How is it now? Are you getting to know each other?
DB: Not really. I've hung more with Robyn. Kelis, in quite a glamorous way, appears and then disappears right after the show. I've spoken to her briefly, but now that we're in New York maybe we'll have more time to hang. I've been spending time with Robyn. She's from Sweden so we have that whole European thing in common.
US: What can we expect from you in the future?
DB: When I made my last record it was all in a bubble -- in a cellar in Paris -- and now I've played live and have seen what people connect to, and bring some of that energy in more. I'm going to start writing on the road, which I've never done before. It's kind of fun to be able to come off stage and sit in a bus with my laptop when I have an idea sparked by the show.
US: What was your latest idea?
DB: On stage, I use live looping and each night it's kind of different, so I thought it would be cool to do that on a whole track.
US: Were you touring by bus?
DB: It's spilt buses. So Robyn and Kelis are slightly higher up the food chain so they have sleeper buses, and out here we are having to drive eight hours to the hotel and then wake up and do more driving. But the pluses way outweigh the minuses.
US: Has Kelis's son, Knight, been on tour?
DB: He has been around at some of the sound checks, but he has to be kept away from the noise. He's a very young boy to hear all that!