Dent May is known for his amazing ukelele skills, his witty songs and his suave vocal performances. He also listens to R Kelly and plans on making a futuristic R&B album, as soon as he figures out how to do it. ’Cause according to Dent it’s all about combining the past, the present and the future into one thing that no one’s heard yet.
‘I never want to be one of those grouchy record nerds bitching that music isn’t what it used to be.’
Interview by Koen van Bommel, Photos shot by Glynnis McDaris at Dent’s home in Oxford, Mississippi, USA
Hi Dent! We’re talking about the ‘best before date’ in music. What’s the best time to consume music?
Any time is best to consume music, but the time of day does dictate what I’m listening to. I wake up to songs that pump me up for the day, then I fall asleep to calm ambient music.
Do you listen to the same stuff over and over, or are you done with an album after a few listens?
I’m trying to discover new stuff every day, but there’s tons of albums that I’ve played hundreds if not thousands of times. Then there’s albums like Brandy’s debut from 1994. That was one of the first CDs I ever bought. A few days ago I sort of rediscovered it on Spotify. It’s been on pretty much all week.
What’s the latest thing you’ve discovered?
Not necessarily 2012 new. It’s usually something from the past that I hadn’t gotten around to checking out. There’s actually this guy James Taylor, not the famous one, a different guy. He put out a private-press synth boogie funk LP called No Way Out in the ’80s. He’s actually from Mississippi, where I’m from, so that’s exciting.
I’m always looking for weird stuff from down here, because most people think of the blues, which isn’t really my thing. I like a lot of homemade pop music, but I also like expensive pop music that time sort of forgot. Like this album called Cheers 2 U by Playa. It was produced by Timbaland in the late ’90s. I guess it was kinda big at the time, but I didn’t know about it.
Would you say that older music has a more timeless quality than some of the new stuff that’s coming out?
Actually, no. I always think the coolest shit is in the present and in the future. I never want to be one of those grouchy record nerds bitching that music isn’t what it used to be. The most interesting sounds to me are those that haven’t been made yet. I listen to a ton of current music too, especially rap and R&B and dance music.
It’s been a big thing with my own music. I realise that a lot of my stuff sounds kind of retro, but that’s something I want to get away from. As a songwriter and producer I feel like I’m just exploring the possibilities of music, and I have a long way to go.
Your next album will be a futuristic R&B record? I’d like to hear that.
I definitely want to push things in that direction, but who knows how it will turn out. I’d like to buy some contemporary keyboards and workstations, rather than use vintage synths on the next album. But I do want to use real instruments; pianos, guitars, horns and whatnot.
The truth is, I don’t really know how to make futuristic-sounding R&B music at the moment. I’m just doing things the best I can. I try to turn my critical thinking brain off, search inside myself and naturally channel my interests, my emotions, my influences… And just see what happens.
Would you rather collaborate with someone like Drake, or a veteran player like R Kelly?
R Kelly is a personal hero, so he might be at the top of my list. I really want to work with some current producers like Hit-Boy or Danja, but I don’t have any money to spend on it. Doing everything myself just makes the most sense at the moment, but a boy can dream.
Have you heard R Kelly’s new album?
Not yet, but I was disappointed to learn that his ‘Love Letter Cruise’ was cancelled. I would love to have been on that boat if the plans had worked out.
Something else, the press release of your latest album said something about it being Pet Sounds for the Smirnoff Ice Generation. Do you like Smirnoff Ice?
I don’t care for the way it tastes, but I did enjoy that one summer when everyone was ‘icing’ each other. I guess that phrase, ‘Pet Sounds for the Smirnoff Ice Generation’, kind of describes what I was talking about.
I want to combine the past, the present and the future into one thing that no one’s heard yet, but still taps into those basic human emotions like Brian Wilson was able to do. And have a lot of fun while I’m doing it.
There’s also a song called ‘Fun’ on the album. What do you think is funny?
The funniest thing I’ve seen this week is Hedo Rick. It’s an old one, but I watch it often to remind me what’s important in life.
Wow. He sure can dance. Can you dance like that?
Dent May plays on 08 September at MC Theater in Amsterdam and on 09 September at dB’s in Utrecht. Both shows are free for Subbacultcha! members. Other live dates: 11/09 – Merleyn, Nijmegen.