Behind the Beat with DJ Dials (Change the Beat, Soundpieces)
Never let it be said that Noah Bennet Cunnigham is lazy. His hustle knows no bounds. He DJs, designs airport art installations, produces tracks, and manages our premiere glitch-hop outfit, Lazer Sword. As DJ Dials, he explores the depths of futuristic booty tunes and next-level bass music with edits, remixes, and original tracks full of party-starting fire.
Every Tuesday at SOM., you can catch Dials playing his reworked jams--like tweaked versions of Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" and Joy Orbison's "Hyph Mngo"--to crowds of beat-heads.
We snagged Cunningham before he plays alongside the UK's Joker this Friday, April 9 at 1015 Folsom. He discussed the pain of providing the soundtrack for your crush's booty dancing, the danger of missing flights while making remixes, and his blueprint for turning guilty pleasures into club anthems.
You seem to be a jack-of-all-trades. What are all the projects you're involved with outside of DJ Dials?
Well, I've been DJing for more than half my life, since I was 12, but I went to college for media art: videography, editing, and animation. I had a nine-to-five [job] for a while, but now I do lots of freelance, so that keeps me very busy. Too busy, in fact! Right now I am doing a huge, permanent video installation for the LAX airport. I've been working on it on and off for almost a year now for little or no pay, so that's a project. I also write for this amazing magazine called Big Up. It focuses on new and exciting music and visual art. Look it up. Get a subscription. Support independent publishing! On top of that, I manage a San Francisco live electronic act called Lazer Sword, and promote two parties in town that focus on future music: Change the Beat (every Tuesday at Som in the Mission) and Soundpieces.
How does your work as DJ Dials tie into all of that?
Well, I think DJing is at the core of my life, or at least music is, because I've been doing it for so long. I don't think I could function without listening to it, and the majority of my video work revolves around it, whether it be lyrical installation work or music videos. I work with Lazer Sword because I really like their music. For both the parties I do, I try to book music I love and music I want to share: live electronic groups or DJs that produce or play something different and special. I've played basically every kind of gig you could imagine, from weddings to car shows to massive raves, but the one thing that brings me back is the music I love, whether it's an old funk standard or a brand new genre.
Who are some of your favorite producers/bands that you've been playing lately?
The new Flying Lotus album that's coming out is next level. Also, [I'm] really loving this new single by Dimlite called "Roo." He has a new album out soon too, and its great! I really like Toro Y Moi and Washed Out and all this hipster stuff that is catching up with the beat scene. I hope no one takes that statement the wrong way, but I think a lot of this indie stuff with beats is relevant to both genres. As far as bands, I really only listen to older things: psych rock and funk/soul like David Axelrod. Actually, I really like Black Moth Super Rainbow, and the [frontman's] solo project, Tobacco. Is that a band? I listened to the new [Eryka] Badu album like four times in one day when it came out. I sort of just burn through music. It's a bad habit.
What are some of the remixes and edits you've done in the past?
Well, I used to just do "blends" back in the day, before they were "mashups" when people played "vinyl." [Around] 2005 I started just making edits or remixes. Either it was fun or I was lazy, I'm not sure. Notable recent ones include my "Snaps" remix, which is a remix of Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker," my Ginuwine's "Pony" edit, and this Ante Up remix I made with a UK anthem called "Giggle Riddim" for my friend JackMaster. I have a bunch of cheesy stuff that I made too: edits of The Beatles with David Banner, Queen, and even an old Weezer remix. I just got a lot of attention in the UK for making an edit of this big anthem called "Hyph Mngo" by Joy Orbison and Lil Wayne's "Money To Blow" [get it here ].