Interview: Dao Jones

Sometimes you search the internet for hours and hours looking for new music entries, rediscover something you haven’t heard in years or simply hoping to come across something interesting that can fulfill your musical needs.

In a vain quest to great enjoyment, sometimes you discover a gem you can hold on to for the rest of the day, week or even a month. Saratoga Springs, N.Y based rapper Dao Jones is one of those gems you are hoping to find when you’re looking for some fresh new hip hop. Although he ironically puts himself in the space of “another one of those white boy rappers”, he ensures that A&R’s are going to love it. Let’s see…

What’s the story behind Dao Jones?

I’m Dao, a.k.a. Cole King. I thought I was going to be the best soccer player in the world when I grew up. When I realized that wasn’t happening, I figured I’d be the best hip hop artist in the world. So I’ve been working on that for about seven years now.

According to Wiki resources Saratoga Springs is mostly known for horse races and it being the home of Americans oldest still-performing porn star Dave Cummings. But, it is not particularly known for music related input. What’s it like growing up in this city near New York and how would you describe the music scene over there?

Haha, I’ve never heard of Dave Cummings or the fact that he lives here. Damn, I can think of a few other porn stars that I would prefer lived here instead… Can’t I get Rachel Starr or something?

Saratoga is a tourist city (because of the racetrack), so naturally there’s too many cover bands. There are some really talented cover bands, but honestly there isn’t too much originality up here. My business partner Mike Murphy and I have been working on building more of an original hip hop scene here. We have great artists up here, I just hope we inspire some originality at shows.

Living next to the capital of hip hop music, do you feel like it’s an advantage not being swallowed up in the mass of artists walking around in New York, or more like it’s a disadvantage not directly being surrounded by the buzz?

It’s a disadvantage. I go to the city a lot, though. Some of my closest friends and collaborators live there, so it’s no problem to go and just chill for an extended period of time.

In ‘Little Things’ off the Cole King EP, you state that the music industry teaches you how to live like a broke man. Is rap equivalent to an unsecure, possible escape from a typical nine to five?

It’s definitely unsecure if you’re just trying to be a rapper and escape a nine to five. You have to learn to do everything yourself; production, artwork, websites, videos, et cetera.

I just really hope I don’t come off as a bitter musician in that song, I was trying to be ironic and humorous, kind of poking fun at myself and who people that don’t know me think I am. I really can’t complain, I have this gift that most people aren’t blessed to have and it pays the bills. It’s a beautiful thing. I just think it’s funny sometimes, like if I was this good at some other profession that involved math or science. I’d be rich! (laughs).

You are both producing and MC’ing on the Cole King project. What takes longer; building a beat or writing a verse?

It depends. Sometimes a verse just works out perfectly and draws itself in five minutes, while other times I’ll spend a whole day crafting four bars in my head. I’m very particular with my words, wordplay and metaphors and I usually try to get a general point across by the end of a verse.

When it comes to production, some beats really work out easily and before mixing, the beat is generally done like five minutes. Then other times when I hear something in my head that I want to add to a beat, it might take me a while to actually figure it all out. I’m not trained musically, everything is by ear, so sometimes it’ll take me a minute to figure specific chords out.

What’s your working method when building a track?

When I’m ready to record, I’ll have a beat that’s pretty much already done and ready to go. I’ll play the beat and just write the song in my head. Then I go in. I prefer to have someone recording me, but sometimes I have to do it myself, so it’s one of those “hit record and run to the mic” type things. It’s all good though, it keeps me in shape. (laughs) Then when I like a take, I usually take a break from listening to it for a little bit, go eat or something. That way, when I come back to the song again it’s a little more fresh to my ears. Then I start mixing and working everything out.

In ‘Japan’, you describe your love for East Asia fantasizing about the good life over a catchy, dreamy instrumental. In the recently released ‘Leather In The Summer you say that Dao stands for Daoism that, together with Taoism, are both the subject of an ongoing controversy over the preferred Romanization for naming this native Chinese philosophy and Chinese religion. Where does your interest for East Asia come from?

I don’t know how to explain it. I just have a lot of respect for their cultures. Ever since I was in first grade and grasped the concept of yin yang, I’ve been interested in Chinese philosophies. My affinity for Japan is just more of an image thing. Japan just seems so cool for so many different reasons. Their fashion and art have always been influential to me. Their history is bad ass, too. My cousin and brother and I also watched karate movies all the time when we were kids, that has something to do with it.

 

Are you a traveler by nature?

I think so. I’m pretty sure I have some native American ancestors and some of my French ancestors were explorers. I really enjoy long trips and adding new places to my mental map. I like witnessing the cultural identities that different places have.

Where did the King’s Ransom Tour brought you so far and is there any kind of tour story that you can share with us?

I went to a lot of places during that tour. St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Burlington, Connecticut, Boston, to name a few. As for tour stories, I’ll give you a quick PG-rated one. One of the coolest things that happened while I was on stage was in Milwaukee.

People buy me drinks a lot while I’m on stage, but this time someone handed me a PBR with a hole in it, shotgun-ready. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and shotgunned the beer for the crowd. They loved it, and it took the performance to the next level. There’s my PG-rated tour story.

What are some high priorities written down in the agenda of Dao Jones?

I need to finish up my next album and get a tour together. I want to either take it all the way down the east coast to Miami or all the way to the west coast to Cali. We’ll see.

The ‘Dao Jones – Cole King EP’ is still up for download over here on Bandcamp. Go get it if you haven’t heard it yet, or watch his new music video here.

Words by: Jordi Keulemans
More info: Dao Jones
Free Download: Cole King EP