“I come from a place where everyone has a backyard, there are trees, it’s quiet outside. Coming here, especially in Harlem, it’ll be 3 in the morning and I’ll just hear noise and people yelling, traffic noise and stuff. And I’m really not used to that, because my street at home, when it comes to night time it gets dead silent. And it’s not busy, you can go outside and kick a rugby ball in the middle of the road. You don’t have to worry about anything like that.” – David Dallas
Don’t be mistaken, David Dallas is not from Texas. The self-proclaimed islander moved to the United States towards the end of 2010, after reaching number one on New Zealand’s iTunes charts with his premier solo album Something Awesome. During a last minute meeting with Duck Down Records, Dave’s management team got the label excited enough to eventually follow through with a record deal. His third album, The Rose Tint, will be released later this April.
The three most famous things to come out of New Zealand are their rugby team, the HBO series Summer Heights High, and the DJ software Serato. Dallas breaks down the dynamic of these three phenomena, in addition to talking about having a degree in Computer Science and living in Harlem. He’s yet to live in the United States for a year, but he is one good album release away from turning from a hometown favorite into a bonafide internationally renowned rapper. Check out his first episode of “Coming to America”, a mini-documentary about how his new life is playing out thus far.
Hit the skip for the full interview.
Benz and a Backpack: First, things first, New Zealand is famous for it’s rugby team, were you ever a fan?
David Dallas: Yea, you can’t be from New Zealand not be a fan of our national rugby team. It’s kind of like a religion in our country, they are the biggest stars in the country, ya know?
BAABP: Did you ever play?
DD: Yea, everyone plays as a kid. I guess the equivalent would be football? Ya know, the way football is here? During the winter season it’s our only sport. There is no really competitive sport like basketball or baseball is out here. It’s rugby, or there is an abbreviated form of rugby called rugby league, which is also big. That is kind of the more working class game, and rugby is the more national game.
BAABP: Do you feel like the sport and music culture crossover at all? Is there any kind of connection? I know hip-hop and basketball, in the US, are often compared with each other. Do you feel like rugby has any connection with music?
DD: Nah, not really. I guess a a lot of the people that play it listen to hip-hop, especially rugby league. A majority is played by Polynesian people, like islanders, Samoans and Tongans. Us Polynesian people have more an affinity to hip-hop and R & B.
BAABP: So you moved to America, when did you actually arrive here?
DD: I spent the last 2 months of last year here. I’ve had an apartment here since then and I’ve kinda grown accustomed to it, and met the team at Duck Down and stuff. I went home for summer cause I didn’t even wanna be in New York when it was that cold. New Zealand is on the opposite side of the world, Christmas is our summer time. It’s really hot, so I went home to do shows and spend time with the family for Christmas and New Years. I’ve been back in the states since late February.
BAABP: Do you think there is a song, movie, or album that stands out in your mind as representative of your experience moving here?
DD: A song or movie….I’m trying to think of something that will explain the culture shock. Nothing is really coming to mind, but it is a culture shock, ya know?
BAABP: What would you say specifically about the culture shock?
DD: Definitely New York in general. I come from a place where everyone has a backyard, there are trees, it’s quiet outside. Coming here, especially in Harlem, it’ll be 3 in the morning and I’ll just here noise and people yelling, traffic noise and stuff. And I’m really not used to that, because my street at home, when it comes to night time it gets dead silent. And it’s not busy, you can go outside and kick a rugby ball in the middle of the road. You don’t have to worry about cars coming or anything like that.
BAABP: I was watching this interview of you on this New Zealand news channel, and it was kind of funny because at one point you guys start talking about Serato and Whitelabel. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the DMC World Championships for turntablists, ut this is the first year they are allowing the use of Serato in their routines.
DD: Yea I heard about that. You know Serato was invented in New Zealand right?
BAABP: I did not know that.
DD: Yea, the interview you saw, the girl works for that TV broadcast company, but her actual day job was at Serato.
BAABP: No way.
DD: Yeah, Serato was invented in New Zealand, so the main base is still there. The guy who produced a lot of my songs, I don’t know if people have heard a song of mine called “Big Time”, the guy that produced that actually does a lot of the demonstrations and stuff for Serato. I don’t know what you would call it, but he’s kind of like a product specialist, so he’s just been doing all the trade shows and stuff.
BAABP: And your also a computer science guy by trade, right?
DD: I wouldn’t say by trade, because I haven’t had a proper job. But yea, I got a degree in Computer Science.
BAABP: Do you feel like this whole connection between Serato, and you being a programmer, do you feel that that helps your process of producing music?
DD: It definitely helped, as far as starting my career. I don’t actually make any of my beats. I’ll get on Fruity Loops or something and just bang some stuff out for fun. But, as far as when I started, I just jacked some recording software off the net, just because I knew places to go, and I was able to use the internet to figure out how things work. So I jacked some recording software, bought a cheap mic, read up on things. If I didn’t have a computer background I wouldn’t have been have to do it. But kids that are coming up now, all kids can do that, ya know?
BAABP:: So you moved to the US, what are you long term goals here, besides music?
DD: As far as being here, outside of my musical ambition, I just felt like it’d be good to live somewhere else for awhile. I just feel I wouldn’t have really lived my life if I stayed the entire time in New Zealand. As great a place as it is and as much as I love it, I still felt like I had to go out. I’ve gone away on holidays and all of that, but I’ve never spent longer than maybe a month away from New Zealand. The only places we could tour was throughout our country and Australia, because our music didn’t get exposed anywhere else. Outside of music, I just wanted to see more of the world really.
BAABP: Have you ever heard of the show Summer Heights High?
DD: Yeah, of course man.
BAABP: Is that really popular in Australia and New Zealand?
DD: Yeah its huge, hugely popular. Especially in Australia, because of that kid Jonah. It’s real crazy, because Auckland, my city, is the Polynesian capital of the world. There are more islanders that outsiders. It’s kind of weird, because, we look at Australia like it’s almost a racist country compared to New Zealand. But then everyone has to swallow it. The dude playing the Tongan kid, that’s the best representation of a Pacific Islander I’ve ever seen. Ya know what I mean? Islanders themselves don’t really nail the picture of an islander as well as he did on that show. It’s crazy man. Jonah is the man.
BAABP: Duck Down, how did that first come about, who contacted who?
DD: That came about because of my management team back home. Two of them were actually over here in New York on other business. One of them chanced upon a meeting with Duck Down, and he was like “do you think we should bring them Dave’s stuff, think they’ll be interested?” And yeah, just happened on the last day of their trip and they were real into it, so it all went through from there. And it’s funny, because the other business that they were here for all fell through, but the Duck Down deal for me happened.
BAABP: In terms of the Duck Down roster, is there a producer or rapper you want to work with?
DD: I’m down to work with any of them. I got to do something with Buckshot, that people are gonna hear. And for, personally, that was kind of the biggest one, because I’ve been listening to Buckshot since I was a child. He was like, the dude. Doing something with Sean Price would be sick.
BAABP: To finish it off, what’s next for David Dallas?
DD: Next thing is my album, which will be coming out the end of this month. It’ll be online on my website DavidDallas.net. It’s gonna be free, and it’s good.