Alex Zhang Hungtai, bka Dirty Beaches, recently released Drifters/Love Is The Devil, an ambitious double-album that dazzles with his cinematic lo-fi sound. Its latter half is filled with intensely moody instrumental tracks that make for some heavy and heady listening. Hungtai stopped by Turntable.fm to talk about the introspective album — and he brought along Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls, who runs ZOO Music, Dirty Beaches’ current label..
Melissa Locker started playing “Dear God, I Hate Myself” by XIU XIU
DIRTY BEACHES: Hey!
STEREOGUM: Hello! lo! Welcome to Turntable Interviews
DIRTY BEACHES: Mmmmmhay wasup
STEREOGUM: How are you today?
DIRTY BEACHES: I’m good thank you. How are you?
STEREOGUM: Good! I am very curious to see what kind of music you are going to play, because your music is really hard to describe and runs the gamut genre-wise
DIRTY BEACHES: Mostly just the stuff I heard in berlin
STEREOGUM: Oh, are you just back from Berline?
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeah I’m in NY now, but will be back in berlin SAT
DIRTY BEACHES started playing “Some Velvet Morning” by Primal Scream;Kate Moss
STEREOGUM: Wow that’s a serious commute. Is this typical of what’s on your ipod?
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeah its some heavy drone, or techno, or some ambient stuff to chill out to
STEREOGUM: Have you heard the new Primal Scream album?
DIRTY BEACHES: I haven’t. Curious
STEREOGUM: It’s good! Do you think you’re influenced by the music you listen to?
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeah it depends, but mostly movies influence me more. Sorry just realized we made a mistake
STEREOGUM: We did?
DIRTY BEACHES: The song playing now was picked by DeeDee
Melissa Locker started playing “Sao Paulo” by Flying Lotus
STEREOGUM: There are no mistakes! But I will make a note of it. Since you are both here, sharing a body, can you talk about your relationship?
DIRTY BEACHES: I now just put the songs in right order now. But yeah Deedee is like my sister/counselor/boss/motivator/business consultant/life coach
STEREOGUM: Ha! That’s a good job. She also runs the record label you’re on, right?
DIRTY BEACHES started playing “Don’t Change a Thing” by Yannis Rianta
DIRTY BEACHES: Yesssir
STEREOGUM: So back to what you said about your music being influenced by movies, what movies have had the biggest influence on the new album
DIRTY BEACHES: None really haha was too busy touring. Didn’t have anytime to watch anything
STEREOGUM: Really? I get all my movie watching done on airplanes.
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeah its great to catch up on the blockbuster stuff on flights yes i agree
STEREOGUM: But you’ve been making music for ten years, what movies have influenced you in the past?
DIRTY BEACHES: Wong Kar Wai, taiwanese cinema, Jim Jarmusch, etc
STEREOGUM: Have you heard Jim Jarmusch’s band?
DIRTY BEACHES: I have not ! I”m dying to check it out though, my friends have told me about it
Melissa Locker started playing “I’m A Flirt Remix” by R. Kelly featuring T.I. & T-Pain
STEREOGUM:They sadly don’t have it in the vast Turntable database, although I did find several songs by a rapper named squirrel, which I am now curious about.
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeh it would’ve been great to check it out. sing it R KELLYYYYYYYYYY
STEREOGUM: So I read that after Badlands came out, you were able to quit your job. What are you doing to mark Drifters/Love Is The Devil?
DIRTY BEACHES: Leaving Montreal, moving to Berlin. start of a new chapter. new career in a new town
STEREOGUM: Oh, you moved to Berlin! That’s impressive
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeah been living there since dec
STEREOGUM: You moved to Berlin in December? Do you like cold weather?
DIRTY BEACHES: Hahaha i hate it. but i seem to be a magnet to bad weather.
STEREOGUM: I grew up in Portland, Or., so I understand
DIRTY BEACHES: Oh the northwest got nothing on east coast winter yo
STEREOGUM: Right, but NW has rain for 10 months out of the year
DIRTY BEACHES: The Germans told me this past winter was the longest German winter in the past 60 years
DIRTY BEACHES:-20 to -30 celcius
STEREOGUM: Whoa. It definitely doesn’t get that cold here. But the endless rain is a bummer.
DIRTY BEACHES: True, I lived in Vancouver for 2 years, it was hard but I prefer rain than snow actually
STEREOGUM: I do too. How many countries have you lived in?
DIRTY BEACHES started playing “Get Closer” by Valerie Dore
DIRTY BEACHES:…..too many…? haha
DIRTY BEACHES: taiwan, canada, US, China, Germany
STEREOGUM: Do you find new music everywhere you go?
DIRTY BEACHES: Yeah, but I’m more excited about trying new food when i move to a new place
STEREOGUM:Of course! But did you move to Germany for the food?
DIRTY BEACHES:Ah hell no. but the turkish food there is awesome
DIRTY BEACHES: I live in a turkish neighborhood in berlin called neukolln
STEREOGUM: The food must be amazing
DIRTY BEACHES:Yeah lamb soup, kebabs, the works. its great if you love meat
STEREOGUM: So who is Valerie Dore? I’ve never heard of her
DIRTY BEACHES: I found out about her in berlin, 70’s-80’s disco singer
STEREOGUM: She has a really interesting sound.
DIRTY BEACHES: Oh hey Dee Dee is gonna switch over in a sec
STEREOGUM: Okay! It’s like a two-for-one dinner coupon
DIRTY BEACHES: Hello there, this is DD
STEREOGUM: Hi DD! So are you touring around with Dirty Beaches?
DUM DUM GIRLS: No, I live in New York and am spending the day with Alex, trying to soften the blow of a long day of press with various offerings. I guess it’s my first time sort of being a label rep LOL
STEREOGUM: I hear he likes meat. Maybe offer him that?
Melisa Locker started playing “Red Eye (Explicit Version)” by Kid Cudi (feat. Haïm)
DUM DUM GIRLS : Oh no, I am meat free a la Moz
STEREOGUM: So when Alex delivered the album to Zoo, what did you think?
DUM DUM GIRLS : My husband and I are true fans of Alex, I’ve all his records on my ipod, so we were so psyched to hear whatever it was he had felt compelled to write and record. People neglect all his work prior to Badlands and it’s a shame. He’s a true progressive artist. So I guess in shorter terms, I loved it. :D
STEREOGUM: I agree!
DUM DUM GIRLS : The title track from Love Is The Devil made me cry. Literally moved me to tears in my living room.
STEREOGUM: I think it’s strange how so many critics are saying “it’s a dramatic shift” when it’s only a shift from Badlands, really. And wow! Tears?
Dum Dum Girls started playing “Strandbar (disko)” by Todd Terje
DUM DUM GIRLS : I mean, I love Badlands! But yeah, he’s an inspired artist. Ever hungry for something new.
STEREOGUM: As a label rep, how do you market an album like that?
DUM DUM GIRLS :The new one, you mean?
DUM DUM GIRLS : I mean, I don’t think we did anything different from Badlands. I suppose it’s important to make sure the publicist we choose gets Alex. As long as his vision and voice is clear, they can do their job.
STEREOGUM: Right. It’s such a cinematic record. How did you choose the single?
DUM DUM GIRLS : It has been really well-received despite being perhaps a bit non-traditional. But that’s fantastic. We left that up to Alex.
STEREOGUM: GOOD CHOICE, ALEX
DUM DUM GIRLS : As a musician myself, it’s the last thing I’d want, to be told what song to push.
STEREOGUM: And yet it seems to happen a lot. How did you two end up working together?
DUM DUM GIRLS : I suppose it’s hard to maintain your opinion sometimes when you’ve so many others around you trying to explain their expertise. I am much more gut-oriented. If it feels right, it’s the one. My husband Brandon discovered Alex via Myspace, back quite a few years ago. Just contacted him and struck up a conversation
STEREOGUM: Back when MySpace was Bandcamp
DUM DUM GIRLS : We hadn’t done a full LP at that point, just 7″s and two EPs, and his work seemed like the perfect segway into full albums.
STEREOGUM: Since I have you here, can we talk about Dum Dum Girls a little?
DUM DUM GIRLS : Sure
STEREOGUM: Great! When is a new album coming out?
DUM DUM GIRLS : HA
DUM DUM GIRLS : Well it’s been a longer process than usual
DUM DUM GIRLS : But I just finally finished everything and it’s getting mastered this week.
Melissa Locker started playing “At My Heels” by Twin Shadow
STEREOGUM: It’s already getting mastered?! That’s great
DUM DUM GIRLS : I recorded all the instrumentals back in November, but suffered some serious vocal issues and had to take months off to rest and rehabilitate. It was a blessing in disguise though, as some of the songs hadn’t fully come into their own lyrically.
STEREOGUM: Are you feeling better now?
DUM DUM GIRLS : I’m still actively working on my voice but I’m no longer petrified that I’ve lost it. I wrote and demoed what became this record in the span of a week last summer, so it feels like ages that I’ve been working on this … but it wouldn’t have been ready until right NOW because that’s the incubation it required. It is like a living thing to me.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a release date yet?
DUM DUM GIRLS : No not yet
DUM DUM GIRLS started playing “Surrender Your Heart (2002 Digital Remaster)” by Missing Persons
STEREOGUM: Oh wow Missing Persons!
DUM DUM GIRLS : Yes this is the jam.
STEREOGUM: Sort of reminds me of Howard Jones. One thing that I really like about Alex’s album is that it doesn’t remind me of anything.
DUM DUM GIRLS :Yeah it’s an ideal record for so many reasons. I love that you can listen to it and it feels really appropriate, made for even, such a variety of situations.
STEREOGUM: Right. Like you could have any number of videos to go with it. There are so many stories inside it
DUM DUM GIRLS : I hope you saw his new video
STEREOGUM: I did! It’s awesome
Melissa Locker started playing “Everywhere That I’m Not” by Translator
DUM DUM GIRLS : Ok good ha ha my mission in life to make sure everyone hears and sees Alex.
STEREOGUM: I support your mission! Is there anything else you want to say about the album?
DUM DUM GIRLS : Ha ha just that I hope his music finds its way into as many ears as possible. he’s a visionary and i’m honored to know and work with him.
STEREOGUM: Fantastic! Thanks so much for chatting with me. Both of you! And Dee Dee, I hope we can do this again when your new album comes out
DUM DUM GIRLS : My pleasure xx
Drifters/Love Is The Devil is out now via ZOO Music.
09/05 – Boston, MA @ Church of Boston
09/06 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
09/08 – Washington D.C. @ Rock & Roll Hotel
09/09 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
09/11 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
09/12 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
09/13 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
09/14 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In
09/15 – Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
09/17 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
09/19 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room
09/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
09/21 – San Diego, CA @ The Void
09/22 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
09/24 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
09/25 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
09/26 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret