Back in January 2024, without any fanfare, Seven Davis Jr. dropped the album of the year.

Stranger Than Fiction is the culmination of Seven Davis Jr.‘s career to date — a syncretic mix of hip hop, R&B, house, techno, electro and pop, and each in combinations that have never been cooked up quite like this before. I listened to it five times that night and fifty more since then. I was hooked.

There’s an embrace of freedom on Stranger Than Fiction — freedom to create, freedom to live, freedom to be without apologizing. It’s a searing declaration of independence by one of the most fiercely creative artists in the scene.

“Often in life I have been told that I am too R&B for hip hop, too hip hop for R&B, too R&B hip hop for house and too house music for techno,” Davis says. “But the truth is I’m a creation of those worlds put together. This album is me leaning into that.”

Stranger Than Fiction was released on Davis’ own label, Secret Angels, as others wanted to “pick the track list apart” and “completely white wash all the other tracks that don’t fit exactly into the traditional dance music sound.”

“There will definitely be more music ahead born from this approach,” Davis says. “It’s like a new formula I’ve discovered within after years of experimenting.”

Seven Davis Jr. will be in Chicago on Friday, May 31 at Smartbar with Jamie 3:26 and Czboogie. This will be his DJ debut in the city (he played once with a live band on the Flying Lotus 3D tour, but has never DJ’d here before.) It was our dream booking, and we held this cover story for several months in anticipation of one of our favorite artists in the scene making his debut in our own hometown.

Let’s start out on a light note. For the first time I’m really listening and understanding the band Heatwave. They had this combination of earthiness and cosmic sensibilities, they were described as “Ohioan/European” which says it all. Heatwave had members who were stabbed, hit by cars, in a COMA and they didn’t give up. When I heard you mention discovering their music, that was an AH HA — another puzzle piece that made me understand something about you both musically and where you’re coming from. When did you first find out about this crazy group and how deep have you gone into their catalog?

Ok so I don’t remember when or where I spoke about Heatwave but I know it was a long time ago. The fact you’re mentioning that now in 2024 is pretty impressive.

I don’t remember exactly when or how I first got into Heatwave either. Please excuse me, I did ketamine therapy all 2022 and while it helped me greatly, some smaller memories have been kind of lost.

I know it was the song “Groove Line” that got me hooked, the ending of the song specifically. How it jams out into what I call a “vamp”, looping melodies and lyrics. If you listen to the endings of a lot of my songs I tend to go into a similar vamp.

Their entire catalog is insane. To go from “Groove Line” to making “Always And Forever” has got to take some layers of life experiences.

Okay, so jumping to your new album Stranger Than Fiction. I think it’s the fifth or sixth depending on whether you call savedbythebell an album or an EP. First though: the album format. You’re sticking with it, though culture appears to be unrelenting in deciding that “content” needs to be “unbundled.” You’re not making “content” and you’re not “unbundling” it. Why not?

Ummm I’m still very much underground and in many ways an outcast from “the culture”. I’m not booked on every line up, I’m not rich, rarely acknowledged or included in conversations. Half the time people don’t even know I exist, or they don’t know they’re listening to music I worked on.

If the culture ever fully accepted my existence maybe I would follow those rules. I would probably have to. Until then I’m a free agent and them rules apply to them people, not me.

‘Making dance music your whole personality is a recipe for depression and anxiety when the downtime hits. And downtime hits everyone, famous or not.’

You released Stranger Than Fiction on your own label. Why?

I released the Iss Good EP on Classic Music Company and was actually speaking to some labels about releasing the album to follow that up. But they wanted to pick the track list apart and only release the more clubby tracks like “Used To Jock”, “Glow – Intermission” and “Ride Downtown” etc.

As usual with dance music labels they want to completely white wash (not racially motivated) all the other tracks that don’t fit exactly into the traditional dance music sound.

Long to the short, I released it on my label because I knew I could trust us to let the music be what it is and not overthink it.

Do you feel that some of the labels you’ve released with before would pass on an album that couldn’t be easily pigeonholed or given the high concept treatment?

Absolutely. All of them.

I read a few interviews from earlier in your career. You acknowledged that your music wasn’t easily fenced-in by genre tags and pigeonholed, and I think you said in one piece that you were “working it out.” But Stranger Than Fiction, which I think is your best album, appears to be an unapologetic celebration of that not being worked out at all. To quote from the liner notes, “Often in life I have been told that I am too R&B for Hip Hop, too Hip Hop for R&B, too R&B Hip Hop for House and too House Music for Techno. But the truth is I’m a creation of those worlds put together. This album is me leaning into that.” Is this how you feel about your music going forward, or just this album? You called this a “tribute” album — does that imply there won’t be more albums that share this eclectic approach?

This is absolutely me now and me moving forward. Not apologizing for nothing anymore.

Like what the hell do I have to apologize for anyways? For not making the music everyone else makes? For not playing the same DJ sets as everyone? For not pretending to be a “good person” all the time and having real layers? For defending myself? For being ugly? Should I apologize for being alive too?

If I drive a truck through your house and kill your dog, then I’ll apologize for that. Not for making music and staying in my lane. Mfs need to apologize to me at this point.

The tribute part of the album was referring to the ’90s vibe through out the songs. There will definitely be more music ahead born from this approach. It’s like a new formula I’ve discovered within after years of experimenting.


5 Mag Issue 214
Out May 2024

LIVE ALIVE: This was originally published in 5 Mag Issue #214 featuring Seven Davis, Jr, Nick V and the long-running Paris residency La Mona, Chicago’s viral Elevator Music, DJ Rush and more. Become a member for $2/month and get every issue in your inbox right away!


The first person thanked in the liner notes for Stranger Than Fiction is John Cale and I have to ask how this one in particular happened, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen his name in the thank-yous of an “electronic soul” (if you let me tag this one) album. That’s really amazing.

I’ve been working with John since slightly before COVID hit in 2019. Doing mixing and some very light production on a few tracks from his previous and upcoming album. Honestly one reason Stranger Than Fiction sounds the way it does is a result of working with John these years. A lot of his musical techniques, writing approaches, have rubbed off on me I guess. So I simply asked if he would do the intro to the album for me.

And let me tell you, that man has so much diverse and multi genre music that’s unreleased. And that includes Electronic Soul.

I first knew him like everyone else from the Velvet Underground, later though I developed a really keen appreciation for his production work. I never knew that he functionally produced most of Nico’s albums, which sounded like nothing else being made (I think he’s officially listed as “arranger” on most of them.)

Funny I actually knew of him for ages. I’m named after Sammy Davis Jr. and as a kid I would follow artists and bands before my time. I knew about Velvet Underground but John always stood out to me. I knew of his connection to Warhol, Basquiat, Bowie etc. I followed his music and adventures. Never imagined we would work together and essentially become mates in the future.

What can you say about “Glow – Intermission” with Nina Lares? I don’t know if it was the intention, but it’s just this fun, boppin’ track right in the middle of it all, and it was perfect for it.

That’s exactly what it is. Nina and I had wanted to make a track for ages. We are actually going to make a full EP in the same vain as “Glow.”

But yeah, she called me to engineer a session for her. She was recording something for David Harness’s Moulton Music imprint. At the end of the session we had time left. So I played her the beat demo and told her the concept and she totally nailed it in one take.

I was going to shop it to Honey Dijon to be on her next album but ultimately I decided it would fit best on my project and took the track back. (Love you Honey.)

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If you were made director of programming for a radio station — let’s say it’s like Weird Al’s movie UHF and your uncle won it in a poker game and you have no idea if anyone’s listening at all and nobody but Uncle Harry is there to tell you what to do. What would a day of programming be like? Who would you hire as on-air talent and what kind of shows would you spotlight?

So if I had a radio station I would hire a radio personality I actually grew up listening to on a station called KMEL in San Francisco. A radio personality named Foxxy Brown, now an artist in LA known as Lawrence Petty.

For DJs I would hire Honey Dijon, of course. The Illustrious Blacks as well. I would let Azealia Banks do whatever the hell she wanted, she knows a lot about music and other cultures.

I would reach out to older artists and DJs from multiple genres who aren’t as active in the industry anymore and see if they wanted to try radio out. They have knowledge and stories people should hear.

The station would have a NO Top 40 rule (with a few exceptions).

Oh yeah and there’s a TikTok personality named Terri Joe who I would hire as well, but she’d probably get the whole radio station shut down. It would be a wild unpredictable station lol.

‘If the culture ever fully accepted my existence maybe I would follow the rules. I would probably have to. Until then I’m a free agent and them rules apply to them people, not me.’

I want to reverse a very cliché question and instead of asking what inspires you, I want to know what you do when you’re not feeling inspired?

Usually that has been when I get into trouble. Go off on the deep end etc. People really don’t understand that I belong to both the light and the dark. I’m from the hood, I can get dark. The love you hear in the music comes from love that I wish to have in my life.

I get a lot of shit in the music industry, maybe more than others but still music keeps me in the light.

These days being grown (old?), I have learned how to handle moments of no inspiration and control my wild impulses. If you follow me on Instagram you know I’m a very outdoorsy woodsy type of guy. I spend a lot of time in the mountains, in nature. My close friends know that I’m a very rugged dude. These are my other interests. I found having other hobbies and interests helps personally.

Making dance music your whole personality is a recipe for depression and anxiety when the downtime hits. And downtime hits everyone, famous or not.

I know people who tell me they still don’t pay attention to what other people say about their music. Unless you’re on a Beyoncé or Taylor Swift level where your time has such a high dollar value that there are literal armies of people that handle the day to day business of living for you, I’m not sure how that is possible. What do you think is a healthy approach for an artist and criticism? And is the healthiest approach the most effective way of promoting your art?

I ignore it. It’s all nonsense. You know I mind my business, stay in my lane. I don’t require much attention, I’m hardly ever seen. And even in minding my business some people still have something awful to say.

You know people never talk about the dark side of dance music (specifically dance music). Other genres in the music industry don’t allow a lot of the nonsense that goes on in dance music.

People say the worst things about each other. Try to block others from getting booked. Rumors and endless lies. Fake personalities and back stabbing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people in dance music end up in Hell.

Anyways, the best way to deal is to let them talk or catch a case and go to prison. There is nothing you can do, them people going to say messed things about you sure as water is wet.

There was a point about ten years ago where you were the new hotness, and seemingly everywhere at once. What is that experience like from the inside? Physics tells us that it won’t last forever, and I’ve spoken to some artists who carry baggage from how brutal the backside of that was.

You know I don’t have a booking agent at the moment because each and every booking agent I try to work with says these words almost verbatim to me. They say, “We’re going to get you back to where you were.” Talking about 10 years ago.

But here’s the thing, if I wanted to be where I was 10 years ago I would have never left. People forget that I chose to walk away from the spotlight to focus on my health. I made that decision not anyone else.

Why? Because I knew it wasn’t real. I watch documentaries and listen to the words of artists before me. We all have seen what happened to a lot of our legends. It doesn’t end well, does it? They tell us the dark side of fame and being popular, I listened and knew it would come.

Now if I would have stayed in that position 10 years ago I’d probably be rich right now but who knows maybe I would have overdosed and would not be alive. Or maybe my career would be over.

I have helped a lot of artists over the years. Have seen them rise to fame and disappear. Almost all the artists I’ve helped turn on me at some point and join together against me. And it just makes me laugh. They think I’m the enemy but have no clue yet. I’ve seen the rituals, all those rumors about the industry are true. And people backstab each other just to end up in line at the slaughterhouse. They don’t understand, it’s peaks and valleys.

But all I can do is mind my business, I can’t save no one from nothing. They will learn the hard way just like I had to learn. And that’s just how the world and the music industry works. It is a beast. It’s Stranger Than Fiction.


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