Interview: DENM

Interview: DENM

While currently residing in Huntington Beach, CA, DENM has called most of Southern CA home, having grown up in San Diego to Santa Barbara and Isla Vista. He carries the coastal cultural upbringing with him into his music as he is gearing up to release his debut album, Slum Beach Denny, this May. The 15 track record is expected to be a melting pot of Rock, Reggae, Hip Hop & Pop.

I had a chance to speak with DENM for close to 2 hours regarding his upbringing, his musical progression, meeting & working with the Dirty Heads to what we can expect from his debut album. One song that will not be on the record is “Be Mine.” We were able to get our hands on a copy of the MP3 that we’re sharing via our Youtube channel or as a FREE give-away.

Here is the FREE Download of “Be Mine” you can have by clicking HERE!

Below is a condensed transcription of our discussion. Enjoy!

Interview: DENM

The Pier: Lets just jump right in! Who is DENM?
DENM: I’m a guy who grew up in southern, CA and just started creating music. I started a band that I was in for a few years and then I started creating beats in my room to make money. Some electronic label really liked it and they wanted to give me some money so I took it and started making electronic music, even though I wasn’t really that kind of artist. But once I realized that I wanted to become a solo-artist, I kind of stopped doing that and started making music that I believed in. Like growing up in San Diego, Slightly Stoopid were heroes.

I was living in San Diego when I got kicked out of my dad’s house. I was 14 and ended up on the west side of Santa Barbara at my moms and got kicked out of that house when I was 16.

The Pier: The Pier: So it seems like music became an outlet for you. You said you started a band, what was the name of the band?
DENM: It was called FMLYBND, with no vowels. It was more alternative rock, indie stuff. We never signed a record deal or anything, but we toured a lot.

The Pier: And who are the other guys in your current band? Same members from FMLYBND?
DENM: Asa Stern, the guitar player, played a couple FMLYBND shows with us toward the end and he’s with me now. And then my boy Michael Cambell on drums. It’s just the three of us and we’ve had a lot of fun. Asa and I both play guitar with over-driven hip hop 808’s for the bass, so its grimey and loud! Sweaty, loud, party music. [Haha]

The Pier: When I do a deep dive on DENM beyond 2019 the songs are much different. Songs from 2016-2018 are more of an EDM style production. Is 2016 when you started doing the Electro type production after FMLYBND?
DENM: Yeah we kind of put FMLYBND on hiatus after 2015. I got married real young, we have 3 kids, so I’ve always had a family to look out for. I’m in my later 20’s now, but I was just trying to provide for my family. So when this label came along and said: “Here’s this amount of money to make this kind of music,” I was like: “Dope, sign me up!”

The Pier: If I’m going in order of listening to your music, from 2016 to present day, I noticed that it was in 2017 you started to display a little more of your alternative side…
DENM: Yeah, the alternative side of me has always been there. I started producing music in 2015, that was literally the very beginning of my production. Now, I produce or co-produce everything that I do. It’s just me having to grow as a producer. The drummer in my old band was a very successful EDM producer. That’s why it seemed like easy money, I’m watching my homies make these beats and I’m like: “I bet you that I could probably do that.” That’s how it all started.

The Pier: So what changed going into 2019? It seems like you opened up 2019 with a new musical identity that started with “Lifes Too Short.”
DENM: Yeah, exactly. You can kind of see my process, but everything is almost two years delayed. So the electronic stuff released in 2017, but I was making all of that in 2015. The stuff that was coming out in 2019, like “Lifes Too Short,” I wrote in 2017. I wrote “Fallin” in 2017. I’ve been sitting on a ton of music because I was stuck in this label situation. Now that all of that is cleared up, and everybody’s happy, I’m able to put out the music that I want to put out.

The Pier: I noticed that you have covers of Outkast, The Pixies & Sublime – Would you say that eclectic bunch sums up your influences?
DENM: I mean its pretty close, obviously, there’s a lot more. For me, I love music. I’m not trying to just be a reggae guy. I just want to do music and that’s how its expressed out of me a lot of times. That’s what I grew up with. I was a little kid when Brad Nowell passed away but his voice kind of raised me. I was a pissed off kid, getting into all kinds of trouble. I got kicked out of every school, every house, I was just a troubled kid. I found peace and solitude in Brad’s voice. I love one of those quotes where Brad says: “We’re not trying to write a reggae song, a punk song, we’re just trying to write a good song” and I’m like “Bro! YES!”[Haha] Just write a good song and if it feels like it needs to be reggae, make it reggae. If it needs to be hip hop, then make it hip hop. Just focus in on making great art.

The Pier: I never would have walked away thinking you were an artist influenced by Sublime until you did that “Badfish” cover. All of your music before that sounded nothing like Sublime. How did covering that come about?
DENM: I just knew the song. I use to play it for girls in High School. I been playing the song since I learned how to play the guitar when I was 14. I didn’t want to have to learn something new, I wanted to do something that I felt really confident in. And honestly, I derive a lot of inspiration from the culture of southern California. It’s San Diego, Orange County, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara; That whole section right there has such a unique culture. It’s like a melting pot of humanity and it’s a grind if you’re not rich. It’s this crazy weird world that you grow up in and I think Brad grew up in that. Sublime was doing stuff that was modern for their era. So I thought let’s do a production that’s pulled from the 90’s that’s also modern to my era. It’s a vibe and it’s the direction I’m trying to go in as an artist. Kind of a good stepping stone for me to say what’s up to the reggae world.

The Pier: So in 2018, you got the attention of a production team called Rock Mafia. What can you tell me about that? I understand they’ve worked with the likes of Eminem, Diplo, Miley Cyrus to Mariah Carey in the 90’s?
DENM: So Rock Mafia is Tim James and Antonina Armato. They’re just special songwriters and producers. They have a consistent resume of making really big songs! Antonina is like a songwriter extraordinaire and Tim does a lot of the mixing but is also a killer songwriter.

Tim was a fan of my earlier stuff from my FMLYBND days and my early DENM stuff. He asked me to come in for a writing session. When I showed up that day Tim was sick so it was just me and Antonina in the studio and we talked for like four hours. Before I left, we pulled up this instrumental I made and she loved it. I hopped in the booth and 30minutes later we had the song done. Tim called me back the next day and said he heard the song we did and loved it and wanted me to come back so he could get to know me more and find out who I was.

The Pier: And which of your songs was it that you guys did during that session?
DENM: “Life’s Too Short.” I had a demo for it, and they were like “This Is great! We want to pitch it to someone,” and I said “No, I have to sing this one. It’s about me and my dad and it just has to be me.” Antonina said “Okay, but can you get back in the booth and re-sing it because the way you’re singing it on the demo is stressing me out.” [Haha] It’s stuff like that I never thought of and working with them elevated a lot of my potential.

“Good Morning Sun” was the second song we did together and we’ve had that song sitting in the arsenal for almost 3 years. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever been a part of. I think it’s special. I feel like this song could be played for people all over the world, just saying: “Good Morning Sun!”

I Just feel very honored to be working with them. They’re amazing people that helped changed my life. I was legit ready to give up on music. This is a job, you know? First things first, I have a six-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old and I’m not even 30-years-old. It’s crazy!

The Pier: And you pull from quite a few genres as influence to translate your story…
DENM: People who only listen to Reggae, 24/7, are odd to me. Same way with pop music. If you only to listen to stuff like Selena Gomez & Ariana Grande, that’s odd to me. I just love music and I’m all over the place.

The Pier: A perfect example of that is your song “Califas.” It’s Punk Rock, Hip Hop, Reggae and all in one song. Speaking of “Califas,” how did you get linked up with Jared Watson & the Dirty Heads?
DENM: I just straight up DM’d Jared on Instagram last summer (2019). I sent him a Youtube link to “My Wave” and just said “What’s up, man? I’m an artist, I live in Huntington, I doubt you’ll ever see this, but if you do, I hope you dig it.” I’ve probably done that to a million people. Then Jared told me: “A lot of people send me stuff and I listen to everything. I don’t immediately hop into sessions with everybody.” It just felt very humbling.

This is funny, but I found Dirty Heads from that movie Surfs Up while in High School with that song “Stand Tall.” I’m like a decade behind the Dirty Heads guys so when they were at the age of releasing music, I was at the age of being a grom and watching Surfs Up on my Dell computer. Its crazy to be working with Jared and we’re just like homies, now. I’m so thankful for him. We put out “Califas” on Friday, Dirty Heads hired me on Sunday and I’m in the studio with them on Monday. It just feels right. It feels like preparation meets opportunity.

When Jared came back from Summer tour he was like: “Yo, me and the fam are going to the beach with some homies. Come down and hang!” So I brought 2 of my 3 kids to the beach, my 2-year-old and 6-year-old. Jared has a 2-year-old and we just got to talking… 6-7 months later and we have a song out together. He’s also featured as Sword Beach on this song called “Cereal For Breakfast,” which is one of the interludes for the record.

The Pier: That’s fantastic & now you’re in the studio writing music for the Dirty Heads?
DENM: The songs were already written by them, I’m just producing. I’m essentially taking their vocals and building a song around that with them. Obviously, Duddy’s playing guitar parts, building the song, and Jon Jon’s in there doing percussion. The music is like nothing Dirty Heads has ever done, but it’s exactly who Dirty Heads are.

The Pier: Dirty Heads are from Huntington Beach. You live in Huntington Beach and grew up with the same southern CA culture. Is Huntington Beach what you refer to as Slum Beach?
DENM: Slum Beach was actually coined when I lived in Isla Vista, CA. I lived there from when I was 18 to 27. There’s no place like it – It’s grimey, its dirty, it’s overpopulated, and its technically a slum. That’s kind of where that whole idea came from, but it also came from living in San Diego, and Santa Barbara. It’s just my coastal upbringing.

The Pier: So Slum Beach will be the name of your new album? When does that drop?
DENM: It’s actually called Slum Beach Denny and as of right now, we’re looking at before Memorial Day if possible. There’s 15 tracks and I wanted it to feel like it’s a proper album with intros, interludes, and outros. You’ll hear the diversity of the influences and it all flows like a mix-tape. I wanted to put all these different vibes together and make it flow as one body. I’m really proud of the record and I’m ready to start touring.

The Pier: You have Jared Watson featured on the record, any other guest appearances you collaborate with?
DENM: Yeah, Jared of Dirty Heads is on it. He also did a Sword Beach Interlude. We have Casey Veggies on a track, Darnell Williams, JAG, who is this dope rapper from south central… I made it a point to put a lot of west coast rappers on it. I felt very strong about encapsulating the west because this is where I’m from! This is where my dads from, my grandpa and I feel very connected to my roots with this record.

The Pier: I’m excited to see what your live show is and how your songs & vocals translate live. We haven’t seen you on tour or festivals, yet. I know you played a show opening up for Sublime with Rome and Jared jumped on stage with you to perform “Califas,” but nothing outside of that…
DENM: That was fun and that was a tough crowd. They were not there to be DENM fans, I’ll tell you that much. You’re in Anaheim with a bunch of dudes in theirs 40s & 50s like vatos, biker dudes, the Long Beach, North Orange County scene and they ain’t ever heard of me. [Haha]

The Pier: How was the reception compared from the start of the set to the end?
DENM: That’s what’s so cool, man. Tim from Rock Mafia text me afterward and told me: “My favorite memory of 2019 was watching you convert that crowd!” Because by the end of the set they were singing along to songs they had never heard.

I taught the fans this song “Be Mine,” because no one’s ever heard it before because its not out. I taught it to them on guitar so everyone was ready to sing the chorus and when the song finally started and came in, everyone had this “Ah-Ha” moment. By the time we got to the hook, people were singing it. By the end of the set, people had loosened up and were enjoying themselves. It was such a vibe! By the time Jared came out for “Califas,” people were like “Okay, we get it now!” And that song with Jared slaps, live! It goes so hard!

The Pier: As of now, what is your favorite song off your new album?
DENM: At this point in time, I’d say my favorite track is “’91 Cadillac” featuring Casey Veggies. I also like “Blow It Up,” that song goes super hard. The order of the album is an experience. It’s kind of like: “Get in your car and go for a drive for 45minutes.” Its music you want to listen to while cruising. It’s something you want to cruise down PCH with and just vibe to.

The Pier: One thing I’ve noticed with your music is you seem pretty conscience with the length of songs you’re writing. I don’t think you have a recent song that’s longer than 3:08.“Califas” is only 2:39. Is that intentional as part of your formula?
DENM: Oh yeah, songs get BORING! The Beatles are arguably the greatest band of all time. Look at their albums and look at how long their songs are. Some of them are a minute and a half, but they’re mostly around two, to two and a half minutes.

Sometimes the longer songs are a vibe and it works, but for me and what I’m doing, I’m looking at this album like it’s a playlist. Something you can just devour. I want people to be obsessed with the music. I want it to be so good that you listen to it again & again. A lot of these interludes are a minute and a half. Some of them have hooks, some of them are just straight bars of hip hop. People don’t have a lot of time and they have short attention spans so I just packed as much art as I could into one little project.

The Pier: Thank you so much for the time. I’m looking forward to your album, Slum Beach Denny, set to drop in May. Be sure you grab a FREE MP3 of “Be Mine” by clicking HERE!

Watch: DENM – “Blow It Up”

Watch: DENM – “Badfish” (Sublime Cover)

Related Links:
DENM Store
DENM Music Stream

Interview By: Mike Patti