devonwho has spent the majority of his life on the West Coast. He grew up in Oregon, has lived in LA on two separate occasions and now resides in San Francisco. I tried to get him to say which was his favorite, but he wouldn’t budge. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his music reflects each locale’s divergent sounds in one or another. Last month, we exchanged some emails with Devon and got the low down on his favorite food city, crowds in LA vs. SF, funk and the desire to work with MC’s. Get to know the beatsmith/taco enthusiast below and hit the jump for more.
You’re originally from Portland, but have also resided in Los Angeles and now San Francisco, right? Where are you right now?
That is all correct! I’m currently living in San Francisco. Have lived in Los Angeles twice and also, Philadelphia for a brief stint. Was born in Oregon and raised in Portland.
Which is your favorite city on the West Coast?
Tough question! Don’t think I can really narrow it down. I’ve spent time in a bunch of the different cities on the west coast and I feel at home in all the places I’ve lived. They all have their own unique charms.
Favorite food city?
I’m gonna have to say Los Angeles.. I fucking love taco trucks. All Mexican food for that matter.
What similarities/differences have you noticed between the respective scenes in Portland, LA and San Francisco?
They each have a specific feeling, and I think the environment, the locals, and the pace of life vary from town to town a lot. San Francisco is a bit more fast paced. They also have a huge love for “bass” music (for lack of better description). San Francisco tends to dance more than any other spot on the west coast in my opinion. Portland is getting there, but their taste in “dance” music is different than mine, so doesn’t interest me the same. LA is all over the board.. i typically can find whatever style of music im looking for there. However, people are much more of a listener than a participatory dance crowd member. It’s nice to have that energy when I’m performing, but I respect both crowds for their different vibes.
What setting, physical and/or mental, do you consider your music to fit into best?
I feel like my newer music tends to be a bit more upbeat and concise. A bit less going on than previous stuff. More room to dance and be happy. I suppose there is a positivity vibe happening in most things I create.
How do you view yourself in the context of the LA beat/Low End Theory scene?
I feel like I make sense in that particular music community, as I lived in LA for 2 years, and I made a lot of friends and acquaintances that helped inspire me to really structure my sound when I started taking things more serious.
That being said tho, I think it was great to take myself out of that context, and feel out how other communities and places may inspire me and my music. San Francisco is an amazing city for this!
There is an obvious funk influence in your music? Who are some of your favorite funk artists past and present?
My historical funk knowledge is pretty minimal. I grew up listening to The Meters and Mandrill (among tons of metal and rock music) and thats really about it. Just playing in “jam” bands from junior high all the way till I was 21. They weren’t even really bands in most cases, we’d hardly ever write songs, just get together and play for hours. I played drums and the “funky” vibes, especially of The Meters, really always stuck with the way I view percussion, and music in general.
Do you have aspirations to do a full project with any MC’s and/or vocalists in the future?
Perhaps down the line! I’ve lately really been vibing w/ the sounds of Zeroh. His raps and voice are super refreshing and Im pretty excited to work more with him. We’ve been working on some new things that will see the light of day before the year is out.
Do you emphasize your live show as an important part of the Devonwho experience, or is it more of just an outlet to display your recorded output?
I have a few different live sets. Most often I tend to play a Dj set through Ableton and I’ll always throw in a lot of the new things I’ve been working on, as well as things I’ve released previous. When I toured in Japan, I played live keys along with my set, and have done this a few times previously as well.. I’m currently re-working my live set to incorporate a more “live” feel of my songs with live keys, and perhaps even integrate my SP-404 and a vocal element. Wish me luck!
You’ve collaborated a lot with Mndsgn and I believe he’s done all of your cover art. How did that relationship come about?
He’s a very close friend of mine. We met in 2008, when I had flown out to Philly for two weeks to hang and meet Knxwledge in person. We just hung out on the internet, made beats, showed me around a bit. Was nice to see what other like-minded individuals were doing in other cities. I was living in Portland with no real outlet for what I was doing, so Myspace in those days, was the spot to go. Mndsgn happened to go with Knxwledge to pick me up from the airport. That week we all went over to Suzi Analogue’s house and vibed out. Coming home from that trip inspired me to take things a fair bit more serious.
As far as art goes, Mndsgn did my remix album from 2009’s Thumbtracks, 2009’s 3P (from bandcamp), and our self-released 2010 collabo album titled “Episodes”.
Your cover of “AwNaw” off of Friends of Friends’ Pop Massacre 2 tape is in my opinion one of your best tracks. Why did you decide to cover Nappy Roots?
I’ve always loved that track. I remember listening to it when I was in high school.. Just a good party track that’s dope, but super silly.
We’re big fans of Northwest collectives/labels like Dropping Gems and Car Crash Set who are furthering forwarding thinking electronic music in the Northwest. What are your thoughts on these various crews and the Northwest “sound” in general?
Dropping Gems is an amazing crew/label! Super talented, friendly, creative folkk.Met Aaron Meola in 2010 and slowly met the rest of the crew as we played a lot of nights together in Portland while i was there for a year after living in California. We were able to help each other out a bit early on, and I’m super excited to see what they bring the table in the future.
Haven’t heard of Car Crash Set, but I’ll be sure to check them out!