February 14th, 2010 | Published in Artists
Andrew David Vilaythong decribes himself as a s a twenty-something music artist and dreamer living in Chicago. Here’s more in his own words:
Describe your family background.
I was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1984. My mother is Lao and my father is Vietnamese; they met in their teens when they both lived in the same neighborhood of Vientiane in the 1970’s. In 1976, they immigrated with my newborn older sister to Thailand and later the United States – first, Binghampton, New York, and eventually Wichita, Kansas. When I was 3, they divorced. Through 1998, I stayed in Wichita with my mother after she remarried. We then bounced around every few years, living in Panama City, Florida, and Fairborn, Ohio. At the start of highschool, I returned to Wichita to live with my father. At age 17, I moved to Chicago, Illinois, where my older sister was living. I’ve been in Chicago ever since, and I think the move here was pivotal for my path in music. My siblings are: older sister Panida, younger step-sister Samantha, and younger half-brother Zachary.
Talk about your music. Describe your style. What are some of your influences?
When people ask me what kind of music I do, the short answer I like to give them goes something like, “If Kanye West and Justin Timberlake had a kid, and he was an Asian-American who grew up in the Midwest breaking hearts, and surviving on a diet of cartoons, video games and sarcasm – that kid might sound like Andrew David.”
The longer answer: My family was already musical – dad, mom and then 8-year-old sister Panida traveled the Midwest and rocked many Lao parties and weddings performing both traditional Lao music and popular American rock/new-wave. Dad sang and played bass; mom and sister both sang in Lao; sister also sang in English (they say my sister was so cute!).
As a kid, I was extremely shy. Moving to different places and schools constantly, I was forever The New Kid. Video games became my best friend that I could always have fun with. I spent most of my childhood days zoning out and immersing myself in the awesome (at the time) graphics and super-simple-but-super-catchy music on the original Nintendo Entertainment System – games like Super Mario Brothers and Excite Bike and Kung Fu. Classic! I think those melodies’ beeps and boops planted the seed for my music-making later in life.
I’d say my approach to making music is rooted in hip-hop, but you can hear my interest in electronic music peek out here and there. People say my more recent stuff sounds like Kanye West. I was definitely listening to his “808’s and Heartbreaks” album when I was working on most of my tracks for my EP. Production-wise, people can probably hear some kind of mix of Kanye’s simplistic synth style, The Neptunes’ spaced-out quirkiness, Dr. Dre’s crisp and darker-sounding production, and Timbaland’s syncopation. Lyrically, I’m like a Kanye East (far east, haha), Justin Timberlake, and Eminem (just not that angry).
When did you get started with music? Who turned you on? Did you receive special training?
After upgrading to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, my sister gave me the game ‘Mario Paint’ as a gift when I was 9 or 10 years old. It was an art and music game, and it came with a mouse and mousepad. In it, you could draw and color pictures, make animations, and compose music. It was such a cool game that most people don’t even know! Search “mario paint” on YouTube; some of the compositions people have made are pretty amazing and hilarious. I’d say I produced my first beats in Mario Paint.
In sixth grade, I joined the school band playing trumpet. Around age 15, I bought some turntables and taught myself how to mix and scratch. DJ Qbert and DJ Shadow were huge influences around this time. My DJ name, DJ Dookie, came from a childhood nickname: my family called me the Lao word ‘choy’ because I was so skinny. Later, they’d call me ‘buk kadook’ (bones boy). They shortened it to just ‘dook’, and my sister started calling me ‘dookie’.
As DJ Dookie, I moved on from mixing to remixing. I was into freestyle/breakbeat/techno then. Artists like Rockell, Buffy, Crystal Method, The Prodigy. Plus whatever was on the radio at the time: Jay-Z, Britney Spears and N’Sync (yeah, I said it!).
Once I got to Chicago, I went from remixing other people’s music to producing my own music. At first, it was instrumental hip-hop compositions. Producers I studied: Timbaland, The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, The Alchemist. I decided to take some music classes at Harold Washington College (HWC); this was a major step for my path in music.
At HWC, all the teachers and staff in the music department were wonderful. I immersed myself in the school’s music curriculum: piano classes, music theory and ear-training classes, music appreciation courses. I worked as the recording studio tutor just so I could get more time in the school’s studio. I took courses for recording/mixing audio. At this point, I started writing lyrics and recording vocals over my beats. I met lots of other musicians and started producing music for them, too. I was listening to a lot of Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, John Legend, and indie/electro-rock like Kings of Convenience, Brazilian Girls, and Bloc Party. I also started taking voice lessons.
I can sometimes be a very impatient dude. I’m the kid who would get a new toy and would open the box and just start playing with it without reading the instruction manual. I’m the same way with music. I’d just grab an instrument or turn on the music software and try to play it. When I music (yep, it’s a verb for me), I’ll forget to eat or I’ll forget that I was tired after a long day. I learned to music by just being curious and just doing – constantly fiddling and tinkering and trying things out. If there is a musical instrument in front of me, I will pick it up and try to make cool sounds with it.
Explain your lyrics. What influences your writing?
I think growing up as a mixed Asian-American to divorced parents in the American Midwest and constantly relocating shaped a lot of my lyrics’ subject matter. A write a lot about broken hearts, and flying away to a better place. Being both Laotian and Vietnamese, I sometimes felt like I was never fully accepted by either community – I was the Viet kid to Lao folks, and I was the Lao kid to Viet folks. Even though Wichita had quite a lot of Southeast Asians, it was still very, very white. Switching schools every few years also made it a little difficult to feel rooted in any one place. As a result, my friendships and relationships were always pretty temporary. I think that’s why, as a kid, I used art as an outlet – cartoons, video games, and comics were my dreamland escapes that never let me down. Drawing, writing, and composing were all my quiet kid way of ‘talking to the world’. I think my lyrics are some mix of candy-coated playfulness with a slight sting of honesty. I tend to poke fun at the painful, uglier sides of life and love.
Where do you want to be in 2 years? In 5 years? Is this project a hobby or career building?
In the next 2 years, I’d like to have released one album per year, and I want to have grown as a writer and live performer. In 5 years, I want to have traveled the world because of music. I hope to have inspired people. In 5 years, I want to cruise the streets on my hover-board and be able to visit friends via teleportation! In 5 years, I still want to be learning and inspired and motivated and curious and hopeful. In 5 years, I want to be making good music. This is career building. Most definitely career building.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me!
My website: http://andrew-david.com
Facebook musician page: Andrew David
My EP is out now on Amazon.com: Andrew David – “The Starry-Eyed Kid In The Corner”
Andrew David Vilaythong