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Interview by Khoa Ha - Photo courtesy of Dan Nguyen
Dan Nguyen, also known as Demon Slayer, is an art director, designer, artist, producer and DJ from Southern California who has been making music since 1999, in addition to making art since he was a small child. 1850 Magazine: What is your background? Where are you originally from? Dan: I’m Vietnamese, but I was born in Riverside, California. I lived there until I was about 14 and moved to Kansas for a while. I came back, graduated, and started traveling for art. 1850: Have you always known this is what you want to do with your life?
1850: Every artist has a different way of getting inspired. What influences you, and what are some of the things you do to get inspirations? Dan: There are a lot of things that influence me, but there’s only one thing that always inspires me no matter what, and that is nature. We call it nature because it’s where the human body is the most relaxed. Our bodies are built to benefit from fresh air, and that’s how nature always inspires me. When you get energy from food or people, sometimes it runs out very quickly, but energy from nature never runs out.
Dan: Yes and no. Since I was little, I’ve known that I wanted to do something with art but at the time I didn’t know much about different art careers, so I knew but I didn’t know exactly. For a while I was studying psychology but I realized my heart Also, there are so many good artists wasn’t into it so I just followed art and musicians and I’m constantly instead, even finding out about though the whole “When you get energy from food more artists. Even or people, sometimes it runs out if I see a painting time my parents were telling me very quickly, but energy from that I don’t really to be a doctor or like generally, I nature never runs out.” a lawyer. For the can always find Viet culture, most people’s vision of something to learn from it, like why success is only through those paths, don’t I like this color or this shape, but you can literally do anything as then I can use that knowledge in my long as you put your heart and mind next work. to it and don’t give up. It was hard to convince them in the beginning, but I didn’t give up and now they’re totally supportive.
1850: Did you start your music career before, after, or at the same time with your art career? Dan: I started my music career after my art career. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, or ever since I could remember. High school came around and I figured I could make a living out of making art so I started following that path. In the middle of high school I started DJing, which led to producing. I met a DJ named D Boy, who was a hip hop DJ known for the traditional turntable and scratching style. I got my own gear and started training myself. In the hip hop culture back then, it was ideal to have someone experienced to take you as an apprentice. There are lots of things you learn not through books or the Internet but you have to learn from someone passing it down verbally. He taught me a lot about DJing and from then I turned to producing. Now I make music professionally, but my main job is still both making music and art. 1850: When something negative affects you, or when there’s an obstacle, how do you deal with it? Dan: What I do is I take a moment back to sit down and just think and then find a way to settle it. If you have something that bothers you, whether if it’s from the past, the present, or the future, you have to take time and think about it. Sit in the feeling, drink that feeling, and experience it. Ask yourself why you are feeling like that. You have to do that to process it and go through your emotions. When you’re done with that, then it’s time for you to focus on what you’re going to do next and step up and go outside. This is when you plan the next step.
1850: To wrap it up, do you have any advices for people who are just starting out like us? Dan: The main thing I’d emphasize is just stick to what you do. If it’s something you love to do then just keep doing it. There’s always going to be people who would say you can’t do it to bring you down because that’s just how life is, but don’t listen to them and just go forward with it. And if you feel unsure whether you should keep doing it, then the answer is pretty much whatever makes you happy. There’s a lot of time you’ll feel like you shouldn’t do it because you don’t make enough money or you would listen too much to other people, but there are so many creative jobs out there. And on top of all that, the most important thing is to be a good person. Always think before you do. A good philosophy is win-win. A lot of people think that, if I win, then you have to lose, but that’s not true. If you win, and I win, it enhances both of us. For instance if I’m winning and you’re winning too, then I get points for helping you and at the same time I’m winning something, just like mutualism in nature. It helps to be cool with everyone and avoid cockiness. The world already has too much negativity; you don’t need to make more of that. Take time to chill by yourself to think. Think about what your next moves are or how far you’ve gotten to keep improving yourself. Everything takes time, but at the end of your journey there will always be a reward.
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Issue 2 - Feb. 2, 2013