DJ Dan Sena: From Playing in Punk Rock Bands at Koo's Cafe to Collaborating with Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
Orange Country DJ Supreme, long-time resident spinner of the Detroit Bar, Dan Sena, recently released his newest EP titled, Candy Floss Art Capitalism. From being part of the indie-emo band Give Until Gone to punk-rock group Bullet Train to Vegas, the Santa Ana native has done it all. Now, Sena is focusing on a more lyrical tone with his latest track, "Song of Siren," featuring Del the Funky Homosapien and Kylee Swenson. We caught up with the mix master to discuss his most recent creations: OC Weekly: How did you first become interested in DJing?
DJ Dan Sena: Actually Steve Aoki encouraged me to become a DJ. At the time, I was touring with a band and he suggested it as a way of making money in between tours. It was fun to do and made a little extra cash. I, on the other hand, was a little reluctant to get into it just because I only knew one way to do and present music, and that was playing in a band. I started playing in 2005. It was when the band that I was last in, Bullet Train to Vegas, broke up that I went into DJing full time.
How did you learn how to DJ?
I just learned by kind of noodling around with vinyl and then I learned Serato. Serato was a lot easier to me. It was like DJing with training wheels but at the same time it doesn't really matter because DJing is kind of another way of moving an audience, you can't just open a laptop and say you're a DJ.
How would you categorize your music?
Right now, all the stuff I've been producing is electronic based. I just had an EP come out on Dim Mak Records and it's electro house. Then there's a dubstep track that I have with Del Tha Funky Homosapien.
Speaking of that collaboration, how did it come about?
It's a pretty cool story. I started writing that track just as an instrumental and when I finished I felt like it needed something a little more. The first thing that came to mind was it would be kind of cool to have an MC on this. But MCs are a dime a dozen so if I was going to do this I wanted to pursue someone that was really special and I thought of Del. At that point, I was just kind shooting for the stars, but I remembered that my friend Sam Spiegel, who is part of N.A.S.A. (also he is Spike Jonze's younger brother), knows Del. Sam liked the tune and sent it to Del. I contacted Del on a whim not even thinking he would respond and two weeks later they sent me a response and we waited for Del's schedule to wind down. It was a six month process and we got that done. From that point we got the music video sorted out and that was kind of the next step, which was pretty exciting.
Did you have any creative influence on the video?
The concept was pretty much my idea. Some neighbors of mine were getting rid of an old piano and I said I would take it, thinking I would restore it. I did some research on the particular model and realized that it was going to cost a lot more to restore than it was really worth and I knew that my management team was talking about the video and I wondered, "hey why don't we use this as the basis of the video?"The piano could be used as an evil force and we can destroy it in the end. From there, the director got his treatment based on that.
A lot of musicians say different things inspire them when they create music. Take us through the trajectory of producing instrumental music that has few lyrics.
Coming from playing in bands and being a very integral part of the song writing process, it was definitely different because you are writing instrumental so it has to carry enough weight to bring the audience into the music. It was definitely a new way of looking at music but the track with Del is definitely lyrically based, and I wanted that to be a song. I really don't know how to explain that, I guess I kind of see it as an experiment. Most of my stuff is original, I don't take samples from disco records or anything like that, I try to stay as original as possible.
Tell us about your relationship with Steve Aoki. How much influence does he have on your music?
I've known Steve since 1994. He is originally from Orange County and grew up in Newport Beach and I was in Santa Ana. He was really interested in a band I was in, an old band called Pale Fire which was one of the first bands to play at Koo's Café. That is how I first met Steve, and he did a house show we played at and we became friends after that. If it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't have gotten into electronic music at all, he kind of pushed me into this because he knew there was more of a future in it for me, so I would definitely have to credit him for that. Reluctantly, I had to reinvent myself musically and I was kind of weary about that because I spent so much time playing in bands and being a part of the whole indie-punk scene.
What is the best venue you have ever played at in the OC?
Definitely my whole real OC experience starts with Koo's Café in Santa Ana, that played a huge role in my life from 1994 to 2000. I think that almost all of my bands played there. The guy who runs it is now running the Yost. I mean that's the most fun I have had at any venue in the OC. Another music venue I've spent a lot of time in is the Detroit Bar.
Worst venue in the OC?
Man, there are so many. I've played at so many awful venues all over the country. It's probably so bad that I just wanted to put it out of my mind.
Pretty bad birthday party?
Yeah. If it was a venue that bad I probably made it a point to never play there again.
You will be a resident DJ at the Yost on Wednesday Nights starting August 10th. What can we expect?
It's kind of like Dim Mak expanding their brand. The Yost is definitely the perfect spot for this. It's new, it's fresh, there is such a large community of kids who are really excited about what Dim Mak is doing and the whole electronic music world, I just expect it to be a lot of fun.
Do you typically make sets before you play?
It's one thing to make a set but ultimately you have to keep in mind that you have a crowd to attend. It's more second nature to me to pick at the crowd when they are not really feeling a song. Being in a band, it's a little different, where if the crowd isn't feeling you, you just make a shorter set. With DJing you have more options, I have an idea of how I what to present it and I do put together different ideas based on that.
How do you feel about the revamping of the Yost?
I think it's a great opportunity for all Orange County musicians as well as national and international acts. There is so much that this community has to offer but there isn't enough being done to show that. I mean, there is a lot of talent here and it's kind of gotten ignored and it takes someone like Dennis, people who have been involved for years in OC art, to do this. It's really cool and it's definitely going to benefit the downtown arts sector. If people are having a problem with it, it's because it's something new, there is always going to be friction when something new comes along.
You will be playing at the Pacific Festival on August 13th. Any artists you are looking forward to meeting?
I don't really have expectations, thinking I'm going to meet so and so ... I know I'm going to meet a lot of people, which is what I look forward to doing.
So what's next for you?
I'm always working on music I have a single coming out, it's called "Poison The Air." It's a song I wrote featuring Penny, she sang on SKRILLEX's last EP, "All I Ask of You." There is no permanent release date set but we hope to have it out sometime in August.
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