Three Great Things: Dan The Automator

Dan “The Automator” Nakamura talks Cambodian pho, Radiohead, and long walks around SF.

Three Great Things is our series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To celebrate his soundtrack for the new movie Booksmart — out today — Dan The Automator told us what he’s been into lately. Check out his choices below!
— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Associate Editor

1. Walking

I live in San Francisco and instead of going to the gym, I’ve been going on long walks — I’m talking four or five miles. I listen to a lot of records and try to stay off social and the internet, and just try to clear my head. It’s been really great; it’s been very refreshing. This week I’ve been listening to a lot of the Radiohead catalogue. I was a really big fan of theirs all these years, but I had not been listening to them all that much recently — when I’m caught up in work, I tend to not listen to anything specific because I don’t want to get unduly influenced. So walking gives me a visual perspective, and I get to really enjoy music again. I haven’t been able to enjoy music a lot because I spend a lot of time in the studio — you appreciate music [in the studio], but this is just purely music for enjoyment.

2. Radiohead’s Kid A

I’ve been listening to Kid A by Radiohead a lot. It’s just such a well-put-together record, and because I’ve been able to spend time just enjoying music, I get to hear the nuances of it. I would say it’s one of my favorite albums of all time — but out of hundreds, not out of ten. It’s been rotated out of my favorite records, but currently it’s one I listen to fairly often. In that regard, it’s a favorite for now, but in the bigger lexicon of records, it’s probably one of my top rotating hundred.

I think it came back into rotation because I had an inkling it would be a great soundtrack for walking. It’s not too frantic — it can just put me into a mood. When I walk, there’s a lot of hills, hills over the whole city, so when I walk it soundtracks not the way I’m feeling, but the mood that works well for me, and it has been working well for me recently. I’ve listened to it several times in the last few months.

3. Cambodian Pho

This one is totally new to me, I’ve only had it a couple times. First of all, let me say: I thought I knew about foodie things, but I was really, really late to the game on Cambodian pho. I started having it a little bit, and it’s just basically a pork-based pho that’s totally similar, but different, to traditional Vietnamese pho. It’s kind of been an eye-opener for me. The first time I had it was in Long Beach, which apparently has a very large Cambodian population, and for someone who travels a lot and eats a lot, it’s pretty rare that I miss a whole thing altogether. The first time I ever had it was probably five or six months ago — I was in Long Beach doing an event, and a couple of people told me, “you gotta go try this.” I was totally unfamiliar. I want to shout out this one place, Phnom Penh Noodle Shack in Long Beach — similar ingredients on one level, but a totally different experience than Vietnamese pho.

(Photo Credit: Josh Rose)

Dan “The Automator” Nakamura is one of the most celebrated and successful music producers of our time. The Automator sound is unique, an eclectic yet deliberate storm of burr and jangle, spattering off slow-grinding plates of rhythmic bedrock and slashed through with expected flashes of light and heat. It’s the sound of new creation; the sound of the end of the world. It has sent acts like Gorillaz, Cornership and Kasbian to the top of the charts, and it has turned visionaries like Kool Keith and Del tha Funkee Homosapien into underground legends.