AUTOMATOR (Dan the Automator)

Interview by Bevan Jee

B: What's up with your solo stuff?

A: I've got a couple of records coming out right now, I have this
record with a girl called Storm and we have a song on the new Lois
and Clark soundtrack, the groups called The Franchise. I've also got
another group featuring Myself, Prince Paul from De La Soul, and
Mike Simpson from the Dust Brothers, we're called The Good the
Bad the Ugly Ugly. We just finished up 24 tracks for our record but
we are only going to use 12 of them, we're going to get some
vocalists on them, we already have De La Soul, RZA, Beck, John
Spencer, and a couple of other people on there. We've had a few
offers and we're looking at a few labels right now but it's going to
come out on a major label.

B: How did the three memebers of Dr. Octagon hook up?

A: I've known Keith since the late '80's, probably '89 and I've know
Q-Bert since he was a freshman at high school. I was helping Keith
do his demo for another record deal he had and it was just a real
case where the A&R sucked and everything was terrible. I ended up
wanting to do another record with him because it was no fun and I
was like let's just do something that's a little more fun. We did
Octagon and it was natural for me to grab Q-Bert because he's the
best DJ there is and it just makes sense!

B: What are your feelings on today's rap music, its gotten pretty

A: Yeah, pretty much, I've been following rap since Rapper's Delight
and this is probably the worst it's ever been. There was a period
somewhere between '82 and '84 before Maxtronix really came out that
was pretty bad but this is the worst it's ever been, once all this
gangster, guns, Alize, and Lexus stuff came in, that's not really
rap music that's like some other shit.

B: Do you feel that Rap's Dead?

A: It's not dead but it's been the longest poorest period it's ever
been, there's still a couple of good records out there and there's
a couple of good MCs out there. I think J-Live is real nice and I
think Sadat X is real nice and I think Premier makes some nice beats
but there were a lot of people who were good who fell off too.

B: The people you mentioned, are they some of the artists you look
up to?

A: I don't look up to them but I respect them. The way I look at it is
they are doing good things and I like it. No one right now is
putting out records that makes me go "Wow it's a whole new thing!" I
like what Shadow does, I like what we do, I like what Sadat X,
J-Live, and Blackalicious do lyrically. I'm not trying to say that
the West Coast is getting really big because the LA stuff is getting
kind of similar and New York stuff is getting kind of similar. Up
where we are in Northern California we are not really following in
anyone else's footsteps we are just doing our own thing, people tend
of forget about us because we don't talk about it as much. Northern
California is responsible for more record sales than all those
regions, at least proportionately. We had Hammer, not that I like
hammer necessarily but he was doing his own thing, We had Too $hort
doing his own thing, E-40 doing his own thing, Digital Underground
doing their own thing and we have Octagon doing their own thing, DJ
Shadow's doing his own thing, and Blackalicious is doing their own
thing. Northern California has invented more different styles than
anyone wants to notice. It's like Del doesn't sound like Hammer or
Digital Underground or E-40. We've always been trailblazers in that

B: One of the albums which personally blew me away from out there
was Boxcar Sessions by Saafir.

A: Saafir, there's another one, we have a bunch of people who do
their own thing. I work with DJ Shadow and Blackalicious all the
time but none of our records sound the same. Digital Underground are
from right across the bay and they have a totally different vibe.
We've always done our own thing and released our records and people
are finally starting to notice a little bit we have always had this
sound. People are always like New York or Los Angeles when in
reality we've sold more records than anywhere has. What's Too $hort
on? Nine or ten platinum albums, What did Hammer do? Eleven million
one time. Not like I'm a big fan or anything, it's a fact.

B: I got your record "Music to be Murdered By" wasn't that one of
your first records?

A: That was my first record, I mean I done some remixes and stuff
before that. Basically it was my coming of age or sound at the time.
That was a time when that kind of sound was what I was into, of
course all your old stuff sounds a little weird to you after years
and years but it's still my sound. If you listen carefully you can
hear shades of Octagon in there, maybe in its infancy. That was when
I was making my first moves!

B: It might be a collector's item now!

A: We sold like almost 9,000 copies of that record independently.
It came out at the end of 88, start of 89.

B: What do you think about the rap groups without DJs?

A: It's terrible because the DJ has always been the backbone of
hip-hop, for us as a rap group and us as where we are from, we've
always respected the DJ. If you notice all the good DJs come from
Northern California, I don't mean that to disrespect any other place
but come on can anyone ever touch Q-Bert or the Space Travelers or
any of those guys? There's now way. Who won all the DMC's all the
years in a row? Mike and Q-Bert, it's ridiculous and out here we
really respect that. For me with Octagon it was natural to have a DJ
on there it wasn't like "Oh yeah that would be cool let's have a
DJ!" it was the plan from the beginning.

B: Basically, you went and got the best and it added the whole
atmosphere to the album!

A: Q-Bert's my man I've known him since he was a pup and it was
natural, it wasn't like a big "Oh yeah, that's who I should get!" I
knew that before we started.

B: He was telling me how you called him up and said that you needed
some scratches for the Dr. Octagon project and how he went over
there straight away!

A: Dr. Octagon is really my concept in the sense that I produced and
put the music together, you know Keith brings his own flavor to it
and Q-Bert brings his own flavor to it. It's undeniable that Keith
is the whacked out bugged out lyricist and Q-Bert is just the best
DJ there is.

B: So what's going to come out next from Octagon?

A: Nothing for a while, were just going to let that stuff marinate
for a minute, right now in America it's starting to get into the
regular public's eye, it's been out for a while but people in
regular America are starting to discover it and that's cool. Do
people out there in Australia get a hold of Dr. Octagon and know
about it?

B: Yeah, we have had both the Bulk and Mo-Wax versions out here.

A: Cool, did you get the version with Real Raw and 1977 on it?

B: It's not out here yet but I have an advance copy, it's fat.

A: We appreciate all the support people have given us, it's just
proof that the underground really exists and everything, it's so
depressing hearing all these gangster records all the time. I'm just
glad people can appreciate a record which isn't a gangster record. I
don't know how it is out there but out here it's you hear the same
eight records or same five records all the time.