With over 20 years releasing music, Detroit’s Filthiest f.k.a. DJ Nasty, would be forgiven for finding a comfortable groove and getting complacent with his productions as so many producers do. But Detroit’s Filthiest is just getting started. Invigorated by a high profile sampling of a collector’s item record from 2002, his prolific output has found new direction and diversity, as is evidenced by recent tracks like “Handprint,” “Legendary,” or the recently released “Midnight Funk Association” and “Champagne Music”. I spoke with Detroit’s Filthiest for 5 Magazine.
So let’s get right into it, tell me the story about Disclosure and “Bang That.”
The story came about in 2015. I got an email from Ed DMX who I would speak on-and-off with throughout the years, he was on a few of my records released overseas. When I started releasing records I was mainly releasing with Detroit labels. I always had to take a back seat behind someone, so I was lucky putting out one or two records a year. All I wanted to do was make music. So I started branching out and sending demos and Ed DMX was one of the people who picked a few tracks out and released them, and one the records was 313 Bass Mechanics’ “Pass Out.” He was a fan of the records I produced. Instead of [releasing them under] DJ Nasty he figured he could push the record further under “313 Bass Mechanics” because of the whole Detroit 313 thing. So I said OK, I just wanted to release music.
Come to find out a few years later, Disclosure was looking for vocals. When I met them at the Detroit festival I asked them, “How did you guys find my record?” They found my track, “Pass Out,” the same day as the vocals for “A Fire Starts To Burn.” What they did was they got on one of these music websites and punched up “Detroit” or “Detroit Acapella” or “Detroit Vocals.”
Universal Records UK contacted Ed DMX because he was the one who released the record. I made the song in 2000, it came out in 2001, so all the rights had reverted back to me. Ed passed on my information. They got a hold of me, told me they wanted to license the sample. I asked for more information, and they said it was for a group called Disclosure. Now, I had no idea who Disclosure is. Maybe I’m living in a bubble, but even the “Latch” song I had no idea about. I’ve heard of Sam Smith, but beyond that… I live in my own world, ya know?
So when they told me I didn’t get excited. It wasn’t until I hit up a few of my friends who are still actively DJing and told them Disclosure was interested in licensing one of my songs. They were shocked. I wasn’t aware what a big deal it was until they brought it to my attention.
This got me motivated, re-energized to start putting out music again. I never stopped making music, but I went from dance music to hip-hop to other stuff. You want to grow as an artist. Times really changed from when I was releasing vinyl, the whole industry fell apart in 2005 or 2006.
Your output since Disclosure sampled you has become more house-centric. Talk to me about the influences the last few years have had on your music.
I was never a househead, I was never into house. One of my best friends, Aaron-Carl, who was a superstar waiting to happen, but passed away at a very young age – we used to have these producer battles. I was constantly working on music. That’s all I did. As a joke, we made this bet. I told him I could produce house music. Now, I respected it and appreciated it, but it just wasn’t my thing. To me, it was too slow, too mellow. I was into the faster, harder stuff.
“I had no idea who Disclosure is. Maybe I’m living in a bubble, but even the ‘Latch’ song I had no idea about. I’ve heard of Sam Smith, but beyond that, I live in my own world, ya know?”
As a joke, I had produced a house song. This was back in 2006, I want to say. I did a house song for the hell of it, just to see if I could do it. When he heard it, he was like, “Wow, this is nice,” and he ended up putting it out on his house label.
I started producing house music but I just never had a way to put it out. I figured, “Nobody’s going to take me seriously. DJ Nasty? Automatically, they’re going to think it’s a ghetto song, and probably now it’s a different generation, nobody even knows who DJ Nasty is.”
After this Disclosure thing, I thought maybe this is a good vehicle to get me out there. I’ve got this exposure, let me start releasing music.
If you look at my releases from January 2016, the first new record that I put out in 10 years was a techno song. After that, I did another techno song/ghetto song, and then I did a drum and bass song. I have so many different influences, and I get bored easily. I cannot make just techno music, or house music. To me, I need something more challenging. I might do a drum and bass song, and then a house song, and then a hip-hop song. I shift back and forth. When I got a chance to do house music, I was trying to do something that I had never done before. I had put out “Handprint,” and Handprint got licensed to Defected Records. That was something that I’d never done before. I was trying to do something different. I think to have longevity in the music industry, you have to try to do something different. Just imagine back in the ’70s, how disco was huge, by the ’80s, you couldn’t make disco. You had to move on.
That was what that I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to do the stuff that I did back in 1998, 2000, 2002. It’s a whole other generation, so I said, “Okay, I can’t make a song that’s 150 beats per minute, 170 beats per minute, I’ll make something 125 beats per minute.” Keeping up with times, but I added my own style. The house music that I liked was the house music I was growing up. The Bucketheads, “Chunk-A-Nova” by Taxi C.A.B. Those were huge Detroit records. These records, we used to play them on 45, to mix in with the ghetto records. You’d be amazed at the house songs that we took and flipped … That’s when I was like, “Well if I want to do something different, I want to take it back to my childhood. What influenced me to get into music.” Stuff like that.
In one of your interviews you talked about your father’s Italian vinyl. Was that a big influence in your interest in the sound? What was playing in your house when you were growing up?
Well, being born to Middle Eastern parents, as long as I could remember, my father used to always play Arabic music. He would sing all day. It was being played throughout the house, in the car. My father was very, very into that, and I think that’s where I learned my love of music, but at that time, being that young, I was more embarrassed. “My dad’s sitting here, singing Arabic music. How embarrassing.” It’s amazing that the music that he was into, the music that he loved, was all the stuff that all these hip-hop artists sampled. Samples from fifty, sixty years ago. “Big Pimpin'” … That’s what he was listening to. As I got older, I started appreciating it.
It went from, “How embarrassing!” ’cause you’re always embarrassed by your parents, to, “Wow!” It had a very big impact on me, and also my love of heavy metal, or rock music. All that, all these influences, comes out in the music that I make. You can tell. “Midnight Funk Association” is from my influence of funk music, soul music. George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, stuff like that. You always tend to make the music that influenced you, that you love.
I’ve tried to branch out. I did a couple of songs I wrote and produced with a classically-trained opera singer … After “Handprint” came out, I sent Defected a whole bunch of stuff. They loved everything that I sent them, but they were like, “We love these. We just need vocals for these. We can push them further if they’re more vocal-orientated tracks.”
“I don’t want to make something that’s hot for today. I want to make something that 10 years down the line, you could play it and you’d be like, ‘Damn, this still holds its value.'”
I’m the type of person … Music, to me, means more than fame, or money. It’s very personal, to me. I make music because it’s more of a therapy. I said, “Okay, no problem.” They were like, “We can get people to work on these.” I said, “No, no, I’ll do it myself. I’ll write.” You can’t get inside my brain, when I made the song, for you to know what kind of lyrics to put to it. I was looking for a singer, and one of my friends, from New Zealand, he was like, “Yeah, I know this girl. She sings, blah-blah-blah.You can get in contact with her.”
Come to find out, she was a classically trained opera singer from New Zealand. I sent her some music, she was like, “Yeah, I love this.” She was like, “I like this song right here.” I sat down and started writing some lyrics. Now, if you think the stuff that I was doing is different, this is even more different. I’m trying to push it to another level.
You’ve performed before in Belgium and Paris. Now that you’re having a resurgence, is traveling something that you’d like to do again?
Yeah, I’ve had offers, but the thing is, Tristan, I haven’t DJ’ed in a while. I just don’t want to go out there, and suck. Being a … shell of myself. I want to go and put on a show. Right now I’m taking care of my father, who’s sick. I’ve got a five-year-old, a seven-year-old. Being married, it’s not that easy.
Fans, okay, they’re your fan, but tomorrow, they might not like you anymore. They’ll be somebody else’s fan. But friends are going to be there for you. Let me give you an example. The first time that I went out to Belgium, they flew me out there. Oh, these people were so excited. I was more excited … I treated them. Of course, they had a bad experience flying artists out, where artists are just being pushy and thinking they’re better than everybody else. They were surprised to see somebody that was so humble. That was back in 2005, and I still talk to these people, to this day. They always shoot me a message, “Hey, how you doing? How’s it going?” But if they were just fans, they would have been long gone. They couldn’t care anything about me.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I used to get depressed, and down on myself. I used to see friends of mine traveling the world, making all this money, and I’m sitting here, busting my ass, waking up at 5:00 in the morning to punch the clock. It used to get me very depressed. But one thing that my mom said, she was like, “You’re lucky. You have it better than them.” I said, “I’m driving a piece of shit car. How do I have it better than them?” She’s like, “You’re married. You have kids. What do they have?” She was right. They didn’t have anything. They just had traveling, and this and that. I was like, “You know what? Sometimes in life, you have no control over where it takes you.”
There’s a cost to everything. There’s an opportunity cost. If you travel the world, it’s harder to hold down a relationship.
Absolutely, and that was the thing. I got more fulfillment. Because the thing is, Tristan, there’s a big difference between fans and friends.
People like novelty. That’s the thing about fans. They’re going to go to the next novelty. They’re fans because you’re new to them. Your friends love you. Your family loves you. That’s the difference.
Right, absolutely … That’s the thing that I got. I realized that sometimes, like I said, I was always behind somebody else’s shadow. I was on a record label where I got an opportunity to release one record a year, where another artist was releasing 20 records a year. Throughout my career, it always has seemed like whatever I make, it doesn’t get appreciated until it comes out, years later.
How about I tell you the story? “Handprint,” we shopped it to everybody. Nobody jumped on it. My manager was like, “You know what? Just put it out yourself. At this point, nobody wants it. Just put it out yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose.” I did.
My manager passed it on, sent it to Defected. They passed on it. It wasn’t until we started promoting it ourselves, and a couple of people jumped on it and started playing it because it was different, it was unique. Then, everybody was like, “Oh, what is this? Oh, we’ve never heard that.” We said, “Dude, we sent this to you.” They’re like, “Oh shit, really?” That just goes to show you, even on a good song, on a good record, it’s not until somebody else plays it, and you hear it, if that makes sense.
That’s what my career has been like, all my life. Down the road, people are like, “Oh, what is this?” I’m like, “Dude, I put this out 10 years ago.” “Oh, well, we’ve never heard of this.” I’m proof. The Disclosure thing, “Handprint” … a whole bunch of other stuff.
That’s okay, though. You know why that’s okay? Because I don’t want to make something that’s hot for today. I want to make something that ten years down the line, you could play it and you’d be like, “Damn, this still holds its value.”
Detroit’s Filthiest’s “Midnight Funk Association” (Motor City Electro Company), “Descent Into Darkness” (Bass Agenda Recordings) and “Champagne Music” (Motor City Electro Company) are out now, and will be followed by “Hustler’s Anthem” in March, also on Detroit’s Filthiest’s Motor City Electro Company label.