For Dirty Radio, it all starts with a beat

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      In the wake of the abuse allegations revealed in the documentary Leaving Neverland, Michael Jackson has been, in the parlance of our rapidly changing times, “cancelled” in many quarters, as if erasing his contributions to pop music will somehow make it all better.

      When the Straight gets Dirty Radio members Farshad “Shadi” Edalat and Zachary “Waspy” Forbes on the phone, it’s certainly not to talk about anything as disturbing as Finding Neverland. The topic comes up, though, because one of the songs on the Vancouver group’s forthcoming third album, Pleasures (out April 12 via 604 Records), includes several references to Jackson in its lyrics.

      “You’re the baddest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on/Now let’s dance to ‘Billie Jean’,” Edalat sings over the track’s elastically funky groove, following that up with “Now you’ve got me moonwalkin’.”

      “Everyone has an opinion, obviously, and the world is full of people on the Internet typing what they think about everything,” Forbes reflects. “Regardless of how you feel about it, Michael Jackson had major impact on music and musicians and songwriters. To try and tell anyone anything is pointless, because everyone is going to have their own personal perspective on it. The way I feel about it personally is that you can’t convince anybody of anything they don’t want to be convinced of, so everybody should be free to feel how they want to feel.”

      “Zach had a good point earlier, when I watched it,” adds Edalat, referring to the controversial doc. “He was like, ‘Do you separate the art from the artist? Because a couple of people are saying this stuff happened, is his music now garbage?’ The impact he had on the music industry, and on shaping music—is that all gone?”

      Forbes chimes in again: “And then at that point, do you go back to all the allegations you’ve heard about, like, David Bowie or James Brown, or countless other massive musicians from the past 30 years who have impacted culture and changed music and inspired people, and do you go and cancel everybody else?”

      All good questions, and well worth asking, but they take the mind to a dark place that is at odds with Dirty Radio’s usual life-affirming vibe. An unfailingly upbeat stew of pop and R&B with liberal doses of electronic-dance-music styles, Pleasures is the long-overdue follow-up to the group’s last full-length release, 2012’s Cassette. Since then, Dirty Radio has largely focused on releasing singles, a strategy that has worked out incredibly well, with the act having racked up more than 40 million streams on Spotify to date. Why, then, bother returning to the album format at all?

      DiRTY RADiO X JAFUNK, "Pleasures"

      “I think the biggest thing for us was that we just had so many songs,” Forbes says. “We write every single day, we’re constantly collabing with different people and making our own stuff. We were just sitting there, being like, ‘Fuck, we have so much music.’ And it also helps when you have an agent looking at you, and management going ‘You guys should drop a record, then you can tour the record.’ You know, that whole thing.”

      Dirty Radio is nothing if not a prolific trio. (Anthony “Tonez” Dolhai is still a member of the group, but prefers to stay out of the spotlight, working in the studio but not performing on-stage, and no longer appearing in the band’s promo photos.) The songwriting process varies depending on whether the group is working with outside producers or doing everything in-house, but it almost always starts with one crucial element: the beat.

      Says Edalat, “If we’re doing a collab with a producer from Berlin or Paris or something like that, usually their management will reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, we liked that last song you did with so-and-so; here’s a bunch of beats so you guys can collab.’ And they’ll send a beat pack, and I’ll go through them, and if something resonates with me I’ll come up with melodies, and we’ll sit around and write lyrics. But if it’s our stuff, usually Zach will have a bunch of beats, or he’ll make a beat, or we’ll sit around and make a beat together—we’ll all kind of jam out on instruments. Anthony is a dope piano player, Zach plays keyboards, and both him and I are drummers. And we’ll just kind of jam in the studio. But typically a beat will start with Zach.”

      “There are so many different ways that a song can create itself,” Forbes adds. “I make beats every day, so I like to think that there’s a lot of content that we can always write on. But sometimes, like Shadi said, just jamming out and being creative inspires a lot of good stuff too.”

      Dirty Radio is looking to take that good stuff on the road this summer during festival season, and to give audiences the opportunity to take a piece of it home.

      “We’re definitely planning on making vinyl for merch,” Forbes reveals, noting that local fans will be the first to hear Pleasures, albeit in a different, less fashionable format. “The reason I’m super stoked about this show on the 5th is that we’ll have physical CDs—which is hilarious because I don’t even own a CD player anymore. You can basically get the CD a week before it goes up on Spotify and all that shit. So we’re just going to sell those and be like, ‘Please don’t upload this a week early.’ ”


      Dirty Radio plays Fortune Sound Club on Friday (April 5).