Music

20 Questions: Dev

Success has been a long time coming for the former swimmer with a sassy mouth. Yet Dev has worked hard, and after making the phrase "gettin' slizzard" ubiquitous, she has now put up several solo hits of her own while taking time to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, revealing affinity for Brand New, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and . . . her fiance's Mickey Mouse socks.

Dev has made a lot of buzz by doing the opposite of what is told.

She burst onto the scene in 2010 when she sang the hook on a song by the Far*East Movement called "Like a G6", which went on to top the Billboard charts. Yet that song itself was actually based off of another song Dev (born Devin Star Tailes) had already recorded called "Booty Bounce". What got Dev into singing in the first place, aside from choir and a love of Amy Winehouse? Why, recording a diss song to her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. As legend has it, the song was then uploaded onto MySpace before the production team known as the Cataracs took notice, and once the connection was made to "Like a G6", history was made.

Yet launching Dev as a solo venture proved tricky: she put out numerous singles, filmed music videos for each one, and even her hits -- like the throbbing "Bass Down Low" -- didn't wind up making the final track listing for her disc The Night the Sun Came Up. In fact, since 2010, Dev has appeared in an astonishing 19 music videos counting her numerous guest spots (with the likes of JLS and Timbaland). That debut disc features a bit more of a confessional songwriter edge than what most people are used to, but it's that very same edge that has made Dev stand out from the electro-pop crowd, and all of her hard work has finally paid off: her single "In the Dark" peaked at #11 on the Billboard charts, and her track "Naked [ft. Enrique Iglesias]" topped at #2 on the Dance Charts.

Now, touring at numerous radio events during the summer, the ever-busy artist took some time to sit down with PopMatters and answering our 20 Questions, here revealing a strong affinity for Brand New and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, her fiance's Mickey Mouse socks, and why she almost made it as a champion swimmer . . .

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I'm very emotionally involved in all of Janet Fitch's books. She has such a beautiful and interesting way with words. I've actually read her books a few times each; I’m addicted. 

2. The fictional character most like you?

The main fairy girl from FernGully. Or Ducky from The Land Before Time. When I picture myself being a fictional character I imagine myself as them. They’re sick. Very fantasy and cute. 

3. The greatest album, ever?

This is a crazy question. I'd be here all day, there's too many. My debut album is pretty amazing. Probably Brand New's The God and the Devil are Raging Inside Me. I've recently been listening to this album again, it was my favorite in high school. The lyrics and melodies and vocal harmonies are all too good. It's a very emotional album but it soothes me. 

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I was never really in too deep with these two. I’d say Star Wars. The characters were way more fantasy-like and magical to me. I'm into that type of shit. 

5. Your ideal brain food?

Well, music, I listen to all genres across the board, I played the flute for ten years, I love music. Live shows. Live shows with great production, live shows with the worst grimiest production. I like festivals. I grew up going to Warped Tour and Rock the Bells, I remember being 13 and being so inspired watching my favorite artists live. Food. I love Mexican food. My dad’s side of the family is all Mexican, so I've been fortunately spoiled with the best homemade Mexican food. I also love books and fashion. Traveling offers a lot of fashion inspiration for me. Different cities, and people, and cultures. I get inspired a lot. Art, I like to paint with pastels, painting always offered a cool outlet -- not too many people know my love for painting.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Accomplishments are always something to be proud of, right? I've been able to experience and play around a lot with music, clothes, and art, and the fact that I have created "accomplishments" out of my love for those things is rad as fuck. 

7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?

For loving my art, for loving music. I want people to remember my love and appreciation for being able to create freely. Inspiring others. Inspiring other women. In an artistic way, from a mother's stand point; from a creative stand point. I never really expected, growing up, that anyone would ever ask me these types of questions or give a fuck about my answers, so it's really cool for me. Even if that sounds vague, just knowing I could inspire others to love themselves, that's enough. When I think back to artists I loved that have passed, I get inspired to be bad ass like them. I hope to do the same to kids. Inspire them to be brave, fearless, comfortable, and creative.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Selena. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Bob Marley. Johnny Cash. Audrey Hepburn. 

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Anything Alexander McQueen. The album Fever to Tell by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. 

10. Your hidden talents . . . ?

I was a swimmer for 14 years. I love being able to have that as a talent and a therapeutic thing. I love to swim. I played the flute for 10 years. I can sew. I'm really good at getting wine stains out of t-shirts. And I'm great at eating chocolate.  

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Anything out of my dad’s mouth. He's insane, but brilliant. He's celebrated my success with me and also prepared me for failure. He always made sure I was comfortable enough with myself just in case I do fail; when I do fail, it's okay. And I really appreciate that. 

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

  

I recently bought a vintage Chanel belt that I'm very proud to own, and I hope my daughter will love it! It's hers as soon as it fits her. It's thick black leather with gold Chanel buckles all around it, I never thought I'd have such a cool piece [laughs].

13. You feel best in Armani or Levi's or . . . ?

Levi's. I like boutique shopping, vintage spots, Opening Ceremony, American Rag, Supreme, Hellz-Bellz, even like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, Virgo and Cinema. Just depends on my mood, of course.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Danny Brown. He seems like he'd be a great conversationalist. I enjoy his music and personal style, his haircut is rad, and his missing tooth. I'd invite my DJ, DJ Sourmilk, my fiancé Jimmy Gorecki, and Danny Brown. However I'd prefer the taco truck on the corner of Grand and Olympic in downtown LA.

15. Time travel: where, when, and why?

I like where I'm at now, I'd love to travel to the past, but women like me weren't accepted, I couldn't really create and have tattoos and shit, unless maybe I was a pirate. I'd time travel back to the 1700s and become a pirate, but that also seems like a very insane lifestyle. So yeah, I'm good.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

Spa vacation all day. In Hawaii, with champagne and ice cream. 

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?

Coffee for sure. I stay drinking coffee all day. I also need juice from Nature Wellness in LA. Toothpaste, deodorant, my finance’s Mickey Mouse sock -- they're my favorite. My daughter, and the Real Housewives shows, and love and hip-hop. I'd also need my iPod. And cereal, I love cereal. 

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

There are so many places I have yet to visit. For now I love California and Brazil. But California is home, and home is where I can sleep in with my family in a big bed hidden in our secret world and write good music. 

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

If I was 45 and single, I'd be all over that! (Haha, JK Jimmy if you're reading this.) I'd give him props for doing his thing and tell him I voted for him and I think it's rad he has a basketball court at the White House. 

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

A new album. I'm taking the summer off to write and record. I have so much cool shit in my notebooks, I can't wait to turn them into songs. I've experienced so much these past few years with my child, touring, meeting tons of new people, I can't wait to get in the studio. I've never felt so comfortable in my own skin, so this shall be awesome. 

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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