Dan the Automator Makes “Doing Whatever He Wants” Sound Good

The model for the polymath producer might as well be 46 year-old Daniel Nakamura, or Dan the Automator as listeners know him. He's the all-purpose musician, who started out making unorthodox, alternative hip-hop and ended up creating sci-fi rap masterpieces alongside full-fledged, fully-trained orchestras.

“It's always organic…I kind of go wherever I feel like going musically, it's just whatever I feel like at the moment,” explains Nakamura.

Nakamura's whole career appears to be a shining, successful example of going wherever an artist feels likes going. At the age of three, his parents propelled him into learning the violin, but by the time he had began growing up the allure of DJing, Run DMC, and LL Cool J had swayed him towards another direction.


“I really liked records, and when I saw rap music and people DJing I wanted to DJ,” he says. “Then I wanted to make beats, and by the time I was DJing in high school I was making beats.”

Nakamura's focus on creating beats earned him his place in music, among the other long-time greats of production such as Pete Rock and Prince Paul (whom Nakamura once worked with). Alongside musical outliers such as Kool Keith and Del The Funky Homosapien he crafted some of the most eccentric-yet-listenable masterpieces in hip-hop's canon. Kool Keith's seminal album “Dr. Octagonecologyst” was produced entirely by Nakamura, and the producer assumed the role of co-conspirator and collaborator alongside Del as the group Deltron 3030 which comes to the Observatory tonight.

“Dr. Octagon came from more 'I don't really care, fuck it, I want to do what I want to do and I don't care what people think.' I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do with no rules. People at the time were very normal-oriented and didn't really get where I was coming from, and I did what I wanted to do to the fullest,” he says.

Nakamura and Del had collaborated previously when Nakamura worked alongside Prince Paul for the Handsome Boy Modeling School project, and they had discussed the prospects of a “futuristic space” sounding creation and the general feel of it. From there, the legacy of Del, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala as Deltron 3030 took hold. Now, they are touring off the release of Event 2, the sequel/follow-up to 2000's Deltron 3030.

“Del and Koala are two of my great friends, so it's great to make music out there, especially because it's something we believe in. We wanted to make this record, and it came out exactly how we wanted it to come out. To be out there and to play it for people and get a good response is really, really fun. Nowadays with the way records are selling we have to do more live stuff. So if we do it, we'll do it well,” he says.

From the start of his career to the point he's at now touring as part of Deltron 3030, you could label Nakamura as a music-making prodigy, and he didn't need any outside help to foster his beat-building talents and abilities or point them out for him. He saw hip-hop and others DJing, got involved, and immediately began evolving into the highly-renowned and respected producer he is today. If the artist and the work was right, he could set forth on making something memorable and unique.

Elaborating on his process, Nakamura says “I go in with a different approach, but the same approach in terms of I want people to sound good, and I want to do what works best for them. By nature, things are always difficult, and I just want to make the best music possible for whoever is singing of rapping on it.”

Deltron 3030 plays at the Observatory tonight at 8 p.m. For full ticket info, click here.

See also:
10 Jazz Albums to Listen to Before You Die
20 Greatest OC Albums of All Time: The Complete List
10 Douchiest Guitar Players of All Time

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