When Dallas Austin takes the stage tonight to close out the Peachtree Music Fest, he’ll be doing so under a bit of a different guise. Operating as half of electro duo DGAF (you’ll have to read the interview to find out what the acronym stands for), he and DJ/producer Cory Enemy will put their spin on the dubstep/moombahton craze. If it seems like a stretch for Austin, it shouldn’t. Despite producing for pop stars ranging from Michael Jackson to Madonna, it was the organic sound he created for such hometown acts as Joi, Another Bad Creation, TLC and Monica that earned him his rep as one of the most progressive musical minds behind Atlanta’s organic rise in the ’90s. From his days as a producer/member of Highland Place Mobsters to DGAF, he’s become something of an unpredictable elder statesmen for the culture. In preview of DGAF’s big hometown debut, we talked about his eclectic taste, the musical foundation he laid alongside Jermaine Dupri and Rico Wade, and why he feels it’s so important for musicians not to give a f#ck.
Now that dubstep is on the verge of going mainstream, it seems like everybody’s starting to get in on the sound — even Kanye and Jay-Z — but that YouTube video of you and Corey Enemy in the studio together was uploaded in 2009?
DA: Yeah (laughs).
I was surprised to see that but I guess I shouldn’t be because you’ve always been way ahead of the curve in terms of music taste. How did you meet Cory Enemy?
DA: I met Cory in Vegas. From that point on I started talking to him and bringing him down to work on records with him…. Around 2008/2009 we started off with dubstep and moombahton. Everyone was just kind of experimenting and then it just kept getting better and better. He’s the man. He’s my production partner; we’ve been working together on all kinds of shit, like Chris Brown. The thing about Cory is he’s dope. You know, I’m a very musical person, and it’s a lot of people who think they can do it, like producing dubstep and electro by grabbing a computer, but Corey is a full musician. He’ll break out a harp and we’re doing strings on songs. He’s the perfect person; I’ve never had a partner so I was like let me scoop Cory up because he’s been here for the last eight years.
He worked on the Eight Daze A Weakend project with you too?
DA: Yeah, he worked on “Hot Girls In the Bathroom.” That was like when we first met and we were working on his Pink Enemy record, so I was like man let’s just call you Cory Enemy, and you come in. He’s a genius…. We did the whole Alex 242 album coming out on Interscope. We’ve been getting it in. You’re going to see a lot of records come out from us in the next six months.
Like what? Give me a clue, you mentioned Chris Brown, what else?
DA: We’re headed to do some stuff with M.I.A. in the next few weeks. We’ve been getting a lot of people, Leona Lewis, and everything is different so it kind of goes across a different spectrum.
So what kind of live setup should we expect at the Peachtree Music Fest? Are you and Cory going to be in the booth together?
DA: Yeah, it’s almost like when you see DJ’S DJ. We’ll have our big machines and big equipment up there with us and stuff.
What does DGAF stand for?
DA: It means "Don’t Give a Fuck.” It’s our way of getting back off into the creativity and not thinking about [it]. The one thing about art is, you have to wonder how they did it and when you take the “how you did it?” out of art, you take art away from it. Like when people start saying, “Oh, I know how they did this song,” and everything sounds the same. So in order for you not to pay attention to that and not give a fuck and get back into your creativity and go hardcore on the creativity, you have to turn yourself off of everything and not chase the same kind of thinking. That’s how we came up with it.
How have you balanced having that progressive ear with typical pop taste — which is usually behind the curve — throughout your career?
DA: I grew up on underground music and underground turned into the Smiths. One moment it’s Prodigy, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Funkadelic — I always had to leave myself a little bit in the middle so I could make the records I made and still incorporate those things, but in a pop sense. I also like U2, Run-DMC, and New Edition. This is the first generation I think to be born so heavily cross-cultured in the music like we’re starving for. It’s just like this is that one generation that kicked off this generation of everything being understood in one world.
I’m asking the next question knowing you have a name you didn’t have when you were first starting out, but is it harder now in this current music environment to push the pop cats and the industry heads to be more progressive? Is it harder now to do that or is it easy because you’re Dallas Austin?
DA: Yeah it is harder because there are no good people in the industry anymore. Everyone has just kind of been chasing that one dead sound. If it wasn’t the dead sound it was the Neptunes sound, if it wasn’t that then it was another until it’s like over.
One of the things we did in Atlanta was we never burned out on one type of music. It was so many different types of music that we all could take the luxury of dipping in and out of. “Fuck You” from Cee-Lo is just as fresh as [Goodie Mob’s] “Black Ice” or “Get Up, Get Out,” so it’s no different from us being from here because that’s what we do. We’ve always looked at music from the South as a different thing than everyone else. We can incorporate everyone else’s stuff into ours, but when they try to incorporate ours into theirs, it sounds like they’re just trying to be like us. We’re always taking bits and pieces and turning it into Southern gumbo. We’ve been doing this for a long time so we weren’t scared to jump off into different types of music at an early point. You know when I was [producing] Joi and Jermaine was [producing] Kris Kross, everyone had such different groups and culture. Jermaine had his group and all of us really just sprouted out in our own ways to make this one music trio and all of us from the south have different influences. We’ve always been influenced by everything else.
I kind of look at you, Jermaine Dupri, and Organized Noize as Atlanta’s version of Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash in terms of comparing that era of Atlanta to early New York hip-hop.
DA: Totally. It’s funny because I was telling a story today about meeting Jermaine at a car wash, like when he was in high school. When me and him became friends and started working on the TLC records we didn’t even know it was going to be a TLC. And then Rico [Wade of Organized Noize] came in, and I knew Rico from the skating rink. Everybody around him, I grew up with. There’s not a person in Atlanta that didn’t start off at my studio or I didn’t start before them and give them an opportunity, or you have a friend and you’re starting off at the same time. When it gets down to it, we’re all still friends and all still hang out with each other. It’s definitely like that and we keep it progressive, we’re always doing the next thing or doing something whether we’re DJ’ing or doing clothes, we’re always keeping it progressive around here. The magic part about it is us still being friends and being cool. Me, Jermaine, and Rico did every record on LaFace Records, so if it were like the Motown we were the band behind it, the Funk Brothers.
If you were the same age today that you were before you moved from Columbus, would Atlanta still be a place you would come to realize your musical dreams?
DA: Definitely, I think everyone has felt the energy of the city change compared to when it was just outrageously a music city. It still is and will be. Atlanta had a decade or more of running, but the thing is just like everything it has to resurface itself and reform itself in the industry. I think it’s much more like the time before, because when we were doing it before there weren’t a lot of labels and there weren’t things here that made us make organic music, and music that made people want to hear. I think that’s what time it is now — time for creativity, the real Atlanta creativity, to come back and bring the magic back to music because it’s a void of magic in music.
Peachtree Music Festival with Under the Flood, Aunt Martha, Tesla Rossa, the Young Rapscallions, Ocean is Theory, Ben Deignan, Levi Lowrey, the Kingston Springs, Stokeswood, Modern Skirts, the Dirty Guv'nahs, Open Air Stereo, Civil Twilight, Freesol, Shiny Toy Guns, DJ Khaled, and DGAF: Dallas Austin and Cory Enemy. $35. 12:15 p.m.-10:15 p.m. Spring St. and 8th St. Sat., Oct. 1. www.peachtreemusicfest.com.
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