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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Producer and DJ SNBRN on Championing the "Sunset House" Sound and The Influence of Late '90s Hip-Hop Jams

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 10:58 AM

click to enlarge snbrn.jpg
Whether it’s remixing the rhymes of late ‘90s rap artists with upbeat house rhythms or making creatively catchy tracks for a sound he calls “Sunset House,” it’s clear that producer and DJ SNBRN has managed to turn the influences of his adolescence into a full-time music career. Last year, the estate of the late, great Nate Dogg granted SNBRN the rights to “Gangsta Walk,” which has subsequently become one of his most successful singles and the name of his current tour. We spoke with SNBRN about his recent Ultra set, touring with friends, and his signature DJ pose. He performs this Saturday [April 9], at Ruby Skye.

Two weeks ago you played Ultra Music Festival. How was that experience for you?
That was amazing. I’ve been waiting to do that since I was 16 sixteen years old. Ten years later, I finally got a chance. It was a pretty surreal moment for me.

In your Ultra set, you fluctuated between throwback hip-hop jams and EDM. Was that your intention from the get-go?
Yeah, after being in the scene for so long, it’s often all the same songs. Like, everyone is playing the top tracks on Beatport. I was like, 'I want to throw some old school in there, and make it more contrasted than what everyone else was doing.'  
Speaking of throwbacks, “Gangsta Walk” is getting tons of shine. You were the first artist to be granted an a cappella from Nate Dogg’s estate. How did it feel to get that honor?
If I could go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self that I would one day have a track with Nate Dogg, I would laugh. I didn’t think it was going to happen, but one day it all came full circle. It actually took a year and a half for the process to get cleared. I eventually started losing hope, but one day I got a call that they love it and we were good to go. My heart just…I couldn’t believe it was happening.

The video is a throwback early '90s VHS-type of video. What were you like as a teenager?
I was a little punk kid. I grew up in the South Bay of Southern California. It was all punk rock and going to Warped Tour in the summer. I was all about the Vans and high socks. I’d listen to bands like Kill Switch and Engage, Sublime, Pennywise, Rise Against, and Pepper…all that. 
You’ve also remixed a 50 Cent song. How did your career evolve from listening to punk rock to remixing these types of tracks?
When I originally started SNBRN it was all these cut up disco records. When I started the relaunch of the brand, I was like I just want to do remixes for a year. I was so fed up with people doing the same remixes of the same songs, like “Lean On” or whatever. Let’s look back at songs that people haven’t remixed. So I decided to go back to mix songs that were more meaningful from my childhood like late ‘90s and early ‘00s. I wanted to remix Ace of Base, Van Morrison, and stuff like that. It was more special because I was remixing songs that I felt needed to be remixed.

You used to have another moniker awhile back, but now you’re solely SNBRN and known for a sound you call “Sunset House.” What’s it like to be able to just be the boss of your own genre?
It’s really sweet. I was in a very big room a couple years ago with my other alias and I just got kind of fed up with so much stuff, so I decided to combine all my favorite things and do what I want to do. At that point, it’s almost freedom. I’m not worrying about anything and no matter what I do, it’s my style, and it’s my world.

You’re also in the process of making your debut album, right? How is that process going?
I’m going to do it all as singles first, but all originals. It will probably come out in the next year. It’s going really well. I’m getting a lot of music done. I’m getting really particular about it, so I’m spending my time to make sure every track is really special.

How do you balance touring and writing?
It’s really tough because when you come back from five days on the road with no sleep and staying up until 4 a.m. in the morning, all you want to do when you get back is sleep and do laundry. But then a couple days later it’s like, 'Oh, shoot. I need to pack and be on the road again.' I had a lot of time around Christmas and early January in the studio to get as much as I could do before the New Order and Gangsta Walk tour started.

Speaking of the New Order tour with Shaun Frank and Dr. Fresch, you guys must be pretty good friends by now. What’s your tour rider look like?
All of them like vodka, and I’m a whiskey guy. I’m a Jameson guy. I also really like broccoli and ranch. That’s it, nothing else weird on the riders…yet. But we were talking about throwing some stuff like you don’t have to put on there, but you can if you want to.

In a lot of your photos, you have that signature “hands up in the air" pose. Is that the DJ pose you feel comfortable with?
I think it just kind of happens. I think everybody also DJing has their moves but they subconsciously don’t know and don’t try to do it. Everyone has his or her move or their stance. Even sitting with my photographer, he’s like you need a different move. But that’s just what comes natural. My friends say I have a baseball stance. At the drop, it looks like I’m throwing a baseball.

In past interviews, you've said San Francisco is one of your favorite places to play. 
Yeah, my family is up here. Coming up to San Francisco, besides it being the most amazing city, it’s also almost always a sold out show. My mom is there DJing with me as well, the family is there to support so it’s a really special place for me. 
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Christina Li

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