Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #54 Dan the Automator


The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#54 Dan the Automator

Dan the Automator is all over the place. He's one of only two artists on this list that has made more of a name for the acts he's associated with than he has for himself. The roll call of projects / collaborations is endless: Dr. Octagon (Kool Keith), Handsome Boy Modeling School, Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, Head Automatica, a couple projects with Mike Patton, and even work with Primal Scream and Beck.

Automator’s appeal is his ability to resist convention. Trained as a classical violinist, his interest in hip hop is flavored by anything and everything you wouldn’t expect from the genre. Take kitschy retro television samples, overtures drenched in tongue-in-cheek bombast, anything beyond the drum / bass / keys trifecta of run-of-the-mill hip hop and dump it all into the mixing pot – that’s Automator’s approach, and the result is a swimmingly nifty atmosphere. Take the space-luau that overwhelms Deltron 3030’s “3030” or the ghost symphony of Dr. Octagon’s “Blue Flowers,” two tracks that would fall flat were it not for unconventional backdrops. In Automator’s world, weird is the only thing that works.

Most impressive is this, though: where he goes, a dedication to The Album follows. Dr. Octagonecologyst is a tightly-wound homage to a sleazy malpracticing surgeon, and every track churns with the squeamish theme of overexposed sex and gore. Deltron 3030 is hopscotch in orbit a millennium away – the beamed transmissions Del against the futuristic world. Handsome Boy Modeling School wears the smirk of some superstrange male modeling underworld. On and on – it’s all handled so superbly as to redeem the bewildering concepts. (“Let’s do an album about a perverted nonhuman surgeon.” “Uh, what?”) Point being: in a genre perennially focused on padding a multimillion-dollar, too-safe single with ten pieces of trash and calling it an “album,” Automator is going to bring the strange, and every second of the offering is going to be worth it. If he’s on the bill, you know it’s going to be a classic.

Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.

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