Annalog embraces It Girl attitude
Before this blog was so rudely interrupted earlier this year, I introduced you to Elora Tahiti and the concept of an It Girl — someone who, as I described Tahiti back in April, is one of those “magnetic and charming ladies who are a rare find amongst the abundance of supermodel hot, perfect 10 women who frequent Honolulu’s nightlife scene.”
Speaking of an It Girl, I'll never forget meeting Anna Dang, aka DJ Annalog. It was a special all-female lineup at Addiction Nightclub. I was spinning and she came into the DJ booth during the middle of a major girl power moment, telling me she was a DJ from New York. I was immediately intimidated and prayed the next transition I made was on point. I remember her texting me later that night, saying, "Great music! I danced all night!"
The thing with girls is the ones who prefer to support and build up rather than tear down are the ones who will truly win at life. Dang is one of those girls. From the night we met a year ago until now, she has been supportive and made a point to come to my gigs. We have similar taste in weird indie music, but she also loves hip-hop and proved at the recent LUX at the Trump Halloween party that she knows how to hold a dancefloor.
I recently spoke with Dang via e-mail and discovered you can't judge a book by its cover. Just because she is a model doesn't mean she can't also be obsessed with music and sports, or be super down to Earth.
HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER: Who are you?
DJ ANNALOG: Full legal name: Anna Nguyen Dang. Known as: DJ Annalog and Dangasian. Website: www.djannalog.com.
SA: Where did you grow up?
DA: I was born in Lancaster, PA and then moved to Orlando, FL when I was seven. I pretty much grew up there until I finished high school. After that I followed a boyfriend to Louisville, KY for my freshman year in College. (I know, Louisville? It was awesome though) After that came and went, I returned to Florida, where I finished my liberal arts studies at USF and Rollins College.
SA: How old are you?
DA: I'm in my dirty thirties, 31 to be exact, my birthday is coming up in April though on the 14. Which means a LA/Coachella birthday extravaganza.
SA: When did music become a big part of your life?
DA: I guess music was always a part of me growing up. I started playing the guitar when I was seven and then took up the alto sax when I was in middle school. The funny thing about that was, in middle school, band was the only elective class that offered a field trip to Busch Gardens every year. To answer the question more specifically though, I'd have to say music was my every living moment when I moved to Louisville and got a radio show on my first day of school. It changed my whole scope of living "the college life."
SA: Do you have early memories of music?
DA: Man the first live show I went to was when I was in eighth grade, I had just gotten into ska music and there was a spot in Orlando called DIY records. It was this hole in the wall space that sold punk 7-inches, cassettes and CDs.
As far as my earliest memories of music, I remember listening to a lot of Mozart and Pavarotti at the dinner table with my family. My parents went through a phase were they insisted on listening to classics and "enriching music." My mom was a singer and my dad played the guitar. They had a band together with some of their Vietnamese friends from church. On Sundays after church we would go to their friends house in their basement and listen to them jam on a stage with streamers and all the kids would play hide an go seek while our parents played music and partied. It was pretty epic.
SA: Can you tell me about the first show you ever played?
DA: First show I ever did was back in 2006? I think? It was opening for Ghostface Killer at (Cal State-Fullerton). It was intense. I got the call to perform about an hour before the how started. I was sitting on a trampoline with another promoter who got the call looking for me. He turned to me and said, "You mean, Annalog? She's right in front of me..."
Next thing I know, I'm driving back to my crib to pick out some records and speeding down the toll roads to the college campus to perform. I roll up and call the PA and stage manager of the tour to meet us and we get walked in through the back entrance where they had a stage set up in the common area. There were probably 3,000 students there jamming out to Witch Doctor, who was the supporting act on tour with Ghostface. The whole production was sponsored by Cornerstone and Adult Swim. I had maybe 15 minutes to prepare backstage before I had to perform. I didn't get to sound check or anything but I felt semi-anxious to get out there and wow the crowd.
I wore a blue zip Sector Nine hoodie, with a yellow and red racer back American Apparel tank top underneath. Stretching my legs, I took a deep breath and strided casually in my plaid Vans high tops and Obey dark denim jeans. I had my hood up over my head and looked down at my feet. Looking up into the crowd I put my record crate on this wonky foldout table that had a wobble to it and picked my first record. I took my hoodie off and everyone in the crowd was like, "it's a girl!" I got on the mic and introduced myself and within seconds I could feel even more anxious as I realized how imbalanced the table was.
Nervously I spoke into the mic and said,"You know what, this first song will explain everything and exactly how I'm feeling right now." I put the needle on the record and let A Tribe Called Quest's "Stressed Out" play through the airwaves. In that moment I felt the stress in my body just melt away. Song after song though I felt like I was diffusing a bomb on stage because of how wobbly the stage an tables were. It was so bobo. But I made the most of the experience and played my gems.
The show ended and I had made lifetime fans who asked for my autograph and where I'll be next. Then and there started this snowball of club, festival and house parties... I will always remember that day.
SA: When did you start producing?
DA: I started seriously producing music when approaching the Major Lazer remix contest in 2008-ish. I had fiddled around with a Roland 808 and reason when I was in college but DJing stuck to me more than producing had at that point. The first full track I ever made was a minimal electronic remix of "Pon de Floor."
SA: Did you have a mentor or were you self-taught?
DA: As far as production goes, when I first started, I had a co producer show me how to use the program, Ableton 8 Live, in its simplicity but not in depth as I had grown to learn on my own as I began to get a real feel for it. If you know anything about producing music, Ableton almost feels like working in DOS sometimes. There are way simpler programs out there that are user friendly, like Fruity Loops, but if you sample or mix down multiple pre recorded tracks, Ableton is the way to go. You can see the wave forms in the immediate skin vs clicking a couple of drop downs to get to the wave.
SA: What is the greatest reward from DJing?
The greatest reward is seeing a crowd of people dance and move to what you're spinning. Their expressions in dance and in their faces alone are the feelings that drive you to DJ more and more.
SA: Do you have any issues with your gender/looks?
DA: I had one totally skeezer slide a sneaky hand onto my butt and I turned around and decked him. The booth and music stopped and everyone was staring up at us. I was at Don Hills in NYC. He pushed me back into the tables and two of my friends straight jumped him. We got bear hugged by security and brought outside.
As were getting pulled out of the club my friends knocked over beer bottles and kicked the guy in the gut. It was nuts.
SA: How was it living in New York?
DA: Living in New York as a model/DJ was an eventful combination. By day my life was skating (skateboarding) the city from model casting to casting. There would be days where I'd kill time baking in the sun in Sheeps Meadow and then times where I'd be squeezing my legs into size 0-2 resort pants and couture dresses.
Some people would say I've been blessed with good looks and good brains, which may sound arrogant now when I think about it aloud, but whatever. I'm so thankful my parents were good looking babes. By night I'd work on music, go to the Bryant Park Library and eat loads of Chipotle before heading into DJ an event or socialize with my model friends at promoter dinners and civic events. Life was good in NYC. It's my second home, behind here in Hawaii.
SA: How often did you play?
DA: At times I would play weekly when I'd organize my own nights revolving around the NY skateboard scene. I threw parties with pizza and skate products.
SA: What clubs/bars were your favorite haunts over there?
DA: My favorite places to kick it could be ranked from bourgeois to divey spots. I ran with different crowds that enjoyed all kinda of scenes. Most of my model/skater friends and I would party at places like Provocateur, Avenue, Up and Down and PHD at the Dream, which are places known for charging upwards of $3,000 for a table to Brooklyn spots like The Flat that would cost maybe $5 to get in when there were live bands or Epsteins which plays skate videos and has cheap wings.
SA: What genres do you like to play?
DA: I like to play a blend of moombahton, trap, tropical bass and classic hip-hop.
SA: What do you like to produce?
DA: I like producing Miami bass and bMore sounding tracks that use a mix of familiar sounds, samples and bites with accents of original sound creations.
Once upon a time, I had also made an EP called "Neon Sea Wallz" in hopes of touring with a live band and Lazer light show. The dream was to do an aquarium and planetarium tour with that album. You can hear it on http://djannalog.bandcamp.com.
SA: Can you talk about skateboarding?
DA: I started skateboarding at the age of 5 in Pennsylvania with my older brother and sister. My dad had bought a board when he first moved to the (United States) and we'd cruise and row each other behind my dad's bike with a tow rope growing up in a very suburbany rural neighborhood. It was awesome. We always had a skateboard around. Whether it was the OG deck my dad had bought, a nash or new school pro model deck we were a family that skated.
My brother and I progressed with the times and changes of the sport as we grew older and learned flat land tricks in front of our house in Florida. We'd try ollying over recycling bins, trash cans and then eventually built rails out of PVC pipes and 2x4s. We were the neighborhood skatespot for a while, then blueprints for mini ramps came about in the CCS skate catalogs and we learned to build in our friends backyards who's parents would allow it. Nowadays, I like to skate flow courses at concrete and wood skateparks. I cruise and throw an occasional trick here and there.
SA: What other sports are you in to?
DA: I'm really into all board sports really. All the cute boys in Florida either surfed, skated or wakeboarded when I was growing up. It helped having attractive and active guy friends that were into the same sports.
SA: Were you always active?
DA: Yeah, I was always outdoors as a kid and still am now. I never wanted to be cooped up for too long. If so, I'd end up painting things or designing new inventions or ideas.
SA: Do you have brothers and sisters?
DA: I have and older brother and older sister. They are funny and charismatic people.
SA: Can you share your thoughts on Honolulu’s bar/nightlife scene?
DA: So far, Honlulu's bar/nightlife scene feels like home already. It helps having good friends and welcoming (locals) to the scene guide me through. If I was completely alone and anti-social, it'd be a different feeling. Luckily, I'm pretty easy going and love to dance. The DJs are definitely up to par with the current musical trends and you can see a good blend of visitors and locals on the dance floor, too.
SA: Why did you move to Hawaii?
DA: I moved out here to get back to a more organic way of living. Having grown up in Florida, New York winters equal slow death. You could say I'm a snowbird living in Hawaii.
I also wanted a challenge and a new experience. So far, Hawaii is a lot like how I grew up in Florida, but turned up to 1,000 with mountains, waves and beautiful lookout points.
SA: What do you do in your spare time?
DA: In my spare time I like to play pool, darts, hike, skateboard, go on bike rides, do yoga, camp, and anything outdoors, really. I also watch a lot of Netflix, try to cook quasi-gourmet food and take Instagram worthy pictures.
SA: What is your day job?
DA: I just moved here so I'm looking for a possible day job.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii, plays music as DJ SuperCW, is a tech columnist for Metro Honolulu and co-produces the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.