A Conversation with Samurai Del

Photo by Tre James

Photo by Tre James

Written by Alexander Hume

Samurai Del is a name that has become a staple in the Seattle music scene. Del founded the PNW producer collective Northern Natives in 2015 and his last album, Hodgepodge, achieved major success both locally and internationally. As avid listeners and fans of Del, we here at Big Slide Records were not-so patiently waiting to hear his newest EP Tangerine, which released November 28. We caught up with Del and chatted about his new release, inspirations, studio processes and more.

We really appreciate the nostalgia-charged release. What are some of your musical or creative inspirations that influenced the EP?

When I first started making beats I started out sampling. Digging through thousands of records put me onto music I normally would have never listened to had I not been looking for that one gem to flip. I was pretty keen on sticking to cool jazz (Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bill Evans, etc.) and 60's/70's soul records (Smokey Robinson, The Stylistics, Brothers Johnson, etc.) I always HATED wasting my time digging through 80's R&B/Soul records cause they were so synth heavy, which wasn't great for my dusty, lofi approach I was going for at the time. Eventually this style of music really grew on me and I discovered how much great music there is in synth funk. Modern artists that turned me on to this style of music have been Gorillaz, Pomo, Sports, Wild Nothing and many more.

The production on Tangerine goes above and beyond your last few releases. What techniques or tools have you been utilizing in the studio? What're some of your latest production discoveries or achievements?

Samurai Del performing at Q Nightclub. Photo by Jason Woo.

Samurai Del performing at Q Nightclub. Photo by Jason Woo.

I wouldn't say Tangerine has gone above and beyond my last few releases, from a songwriting standpoint definitely though. It's just a completely different approach on how I make music. I've been honing in on my theory chops, even though I do mostly everything by ear, but this EP is very Jazz/Funk influenced, something directly associated with digging through all those records over the years. Every album/project I release I aim to go in a completely different direction with. I'm all for having a "sound" but when influenced by so many different kinds of music, I get bored doing one thing. Just like Kanye has done with his albums, he takes risks and is innovating. Just look at the longevity that guy has had.

Tangerine exemplifies your unique sound and style, however each track has a featured artist other than yourself. How did these collaborations come about and how did the format of the release affect your process?

I always love working with vocalists, have it be singers or rappers. I want to make songs, man. I do miss releasing instrumentals, but I feel like most people don't give a shit if there isn't a top line over beats anymore. Funny thing with this project is that a few of these songs passed through a couple different hands before becoming the final product which is out today. It worked out for the best, but f*ck it was stressful… I have specific people in mind most of the time when I'm making a new beat, so it's always painful when it doesn't work out like I had see in my head. Thankfully everyone brought their best that did make it on the record, & I'm really proud of how it turned out. This was supposed to be released no later than September, but it was out of my control and I'm not into rushing the process.

What's the next step for Samurai Del?

I'll be throwing my EP release show for Tangerine at The Sunset Tavern in Ballard on December 28 with the homies Jamie Blake, J'von, Campana and Portland based emcee Donte Thomas, who is featured on the EP. Super excited to play these songs out live for the first time! It is 21 plus so bring your friends! As for future releases, I am currently working on another album which I hope to release sometime in 2019. Complete 180 from Tangerine, and I'm excited to start releasing some singles off the project early next year. Stay tuned!

We want to thank Samurai Del for talking with us and praise him for the diverse music catalog he has shared with the world. With his music and fanbase progressing rate it is currently, we cannot wait to see what the future holds for this musician!