Producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura is best known for his contributions to such eclectic outfits as Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, and Handsome Boy Modeling School. But his varied taste in music is now tak
Producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura is best known for his contributions to such eclectic outfits as Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, and Handsome Boy Modeling School. But his varied taste in music is now taking center stage, thanks to his new mix album "Wanna Buy a Monkey." The 15-track set, which pairs hard-to-find Automator productions with tracks by acts such as Tortoise, Doves, and De La Soul, is due Feb. 19 on Sequence.
Keeping with Nakamura's off-kilter sense of humor, the album is titled after a line uttered by David Letterman in the cult favorite comedy "Cabin Boy." Among the oddities making their first U.S. appearances via the CD are Nakamura's France-only remix of Air's "Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi," an English-language version of the Gorillaz track "Latin Simone" (previously available in the U.S. only on an import 12-inch EP), and a never-before-issued Black Rob demo, "Smoothness," which was one of Automator's first major production assignments.
"'Smoothness' is the hardest one to get, because it doesn't exist," Nakamura tells Billboard.com. "That's a demo me and him made in 1992 that no one has. He was probably the first rapper I ever worked with who was a true, natural talent. It was probably for me, and maybe for him in a lot of ways, a big turning point from doing stuff at home -- or not at all -- to making something that is of reasonably good quality."
Nakamura is also gearing up for animated hip-hop outfit Gorillaz's maiden North American tour, which kicks off Feb. 25 in Boston. Even though the group has played a handful of shows in Europe before, he admits juggling the visual and musical sides of the project has been a challenge.
"It involves a big screen, about 50 feet wide, and all these guys with glasses running around programming projectors," Nakamura says with a chuckle. "The images get projected onto the screen, and while that's happening, the band is standing behind it, and we're backlit onto the screen. Working with animated characters, there are certain situations you have to deal with to make it happen. But it's a really fun show."
Other projects on his plate include executive producing the next album for performance art troupe Blue Man Group. "I'm trying to get them into more melodic and less rhythmic things," he says. "I want them to be Blue and do their thing. But I want to add a little musical sanity to it."
Nakamura says that when time permits, he plans to record sophomore albums with Deltron 3030 (featuring rapper Del The Funky Homosapien and DJ Kid Koala) and Handsome Boy Modeling School (in which he teamed with fellow producer Prince Paul). He's also trying to find time to finish his first proper solo album. "There will be a heavier emphasis on instrumentals, maybe as many as half of them," he offers.
Finally, Nakamura confirms that he will be collaborating with Beck for the latter's long-awaited new album. "We have been seen eating dinner together," he laughs when pressed for details. "We have been trying to work together for like five years, and hopefully when we get it all together, some good stuff will come out of it."