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Q&A: Tittsworth and Dave Nada

Excerpts from Vivian Host’s interview with B-more’s merry pranksters, DJ duo Tittsworth and Dave Nada.

XLR8R: How did you guys begin working together?

Jesse Tittsworth: I used to throw a party in DC called Crunk. I guess it was your run-of the-mill dance party. I think after throwing just one or two of these, a mutual friend of ours who used to be involved with a radio station recommended Dave. I had him through once and then before the night was even done I immediately offered him a residency. We’ve been like-minded musically ever since.

Dave, do you know that Tittsworth used to be a drum & bass DJ?

Dave Nada: Yes I did. When I actually went up to meet Jesse [Tittsworth] at his party when he started doing it, I had heard his name and I kind of affiliated it with the whole kind of rave scene that was going on in DC. I had an idea but wasn’t really too familiar; I was just kind of getting into DJing. It wasn’t 'til afterwards that I realized.

Tittsworth: It wasn’t 'til I gave him his first pill and backrub.

Where do you guys actually live, or where are you actually from?

Tittsworth: I live in College Park, which is right outside of D.C. by the University of Maryland. I pretty much grew up there all my life and uh… I live there right now.

Dave: I’m a military brat, so I spent the first half of my life bouncing all over the place. The DC area is the only place that I’ve kind of been for more than a decade. I was born on Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.

Is it hard when you’re trying to collaborate people here? It seems like everyone lives in different places. Or do you think people make more of an effort because it’s like that?

Tittsworth: I think it’s affected who I am and how I look at things. Personally, from the beginning making club music, or any music for that matter, I’ve always looked at it from an outsider perspective and gained a lot of inspiration from what was going on inside of these cities. I never made it a point to make things that completely coincided with them or to emulate them.

Dave: I would always be inspired by the music scenes in cities like DC, as well as in Baltimore. And then having moved here for a little while and just soaking up as much club music as I could and being a really big fan of the homegrown stuff, the really gully club music that was coming out, that helped influence a lot of stuff that I was making. I’m also just inspired by aggressive music in general. I have a hardcore/punk background, so that was the scene that I grew up in mainly in DC.

Tittsworth: For me, I got a bit of backlash too. When I first started doing club music, being from DC, it was like ‘Well, that kid’s not even from Baltimore.’ Nobody really took it seriously.

Who was saying that? Older dudes?

Tittsworth: Yeah yeah yeah. I remember when I was first putting out records people would be like ‘Oh yeah, Technics was in here asking about you.’ I know initially there were a bunch of people that were like ‘Well, you know, who is this kid, this kid’s not even doing things the right way.’ And now it’s like ‘wait, this kid’s doing things a different way and maybe we should be paying attention to that.’ It’s kinda shifted a bit, you know? But yeah, it definitely made me different and kind of required a tougher skin initially. But I think it made me who I am.

There’s a difference between the parties Scottie B and Technics are gonna play versus a party you’re gonna play. Now there’s a crossover, but initially there really wasn’t. When you started, even if you did it the right way, you wouldn’t have been able to play that party that they were playing, right?

Tittsworth: Yeah, Dave and I talked about this a long time ago and I think, at least when I first started, I made it a point to not necessarily want to do the same thing that everybody else in Baltimore was doing. There were a lot of people making really good music and I didn’t see the need to rehash that. But you’re absolutely right, there are people who are fans now that wouldn’t give us the time of day a few years ago.

Dave: And that’s also when the vinyl game was a lot stronger, and for you to put out the first EP, it was tough. We were literally going to the Baltimore club record spots and selling it. Like driving to Philly and being like ‘Here’s a product… this is Baltimore club.’ And then, on the strength of the tracks, people were down. And I think that’s what it is. Even if you’re an ‘outsider producer’ and you’re making club tracks, if it’s good, it’s good. It was also fresh. Even people that would disapprove of it early on in the game now appreciate it as a widespread genre. People come around and times change.

Tittsworth: It’s funny. Diplo tried to shoot an M.I.A. video at the Paradox, what was that, like a few months ago?

Dave: That was August.

For those who don’t know, what’s the Paradox?

Tittsworth: The Paradox is a classic Baltimore club venue. It’s been there forever. You can go there on a Friday night 'til, like, five in the morning and hear the “Dick Control” beat play for two minutes and people go crazy to nothing but the drums. It’s just the classic club ‘doon doon, doon doon doon’. But my point is that a few months ago, Diplo and I had to essentially sneak into this venue because there was a long line of black people and it was seen that if these two white kids were cutting in line it could be a problem. I guess what I’m saying is that its still very much segregated, its still very much like, you have to have thick skin if you’re one of the few white guys at the Paradox on Friday night.

What year did you stop having to drive to the record stores or you were just like ‘Oh fuck this, let’s do it on the internet’?

Tittsworth: After my third record is when Turntable Lab was like ‘Hey do you want us to distribute these for you?’ and I was like, ‘Sure.’ That was about three years ago…

Dave: Once we were able to get support. Once we were able to get the record out. Once Turntable Lab was in we were pretty much covered. Because they were hittin’ the same spots we were hittin’.

Tittsworth: And more. Which is good, because now, Baltimore club doesn’t really sell in Baltimore on wax anymore. If you go to Dimensions there are no new records. Nobody’s really pressing it anymore.

You guys play all different kinds of parties—like bars, big clubs, overseas. What’s your ideal set to play?

Tittsworth: The ideal scenario is that the harder you push, the more they like it and you start getting into some of Blaqstarr’s toughest cuts and instead of people being scared off it kind of picks the energy up. Usually when you can get that far into it and you can play the authentic really really gully club music and it goes off—I’m happy.

Dave: Same here. Getting to the point, you see what works, you see what you like, but really, if you can get 'em in the zone where you can push really hard.

Tittsworth: By the same token, having seen Baltimore club in the '90s and early 2000s, where it kind of got in this rut where it was nothing but Lil’ Jon samples for years, I enjoy when it gets super super aggressive and you can play “Get Your Hands Up” and the place goes off. But ideally, I also like to kinda fall back a little bit on my electronic background as well and go a bit ravey. I like playing places that allow me to deviate from not only playing the true Baltimore club, but some of my background stuff too.

Dave: For me, to be doing sets, it's not just doing straight up Baltimore club, but also to mix it with other new genres, like basically anything that really pops. Gel it with club tracks. Any kind of club track, not just from Baltimore. I try to put the two together, not just for the sake of it but just to create new sounds. If I can pull that off and the crowd is into it, I’m pretty much happy.

Tittsworth: And you can’t really tell it from this interview just yet, but we do have a retarded sense of humor. So I guess an ideal sort of club night too is where we do something asinine like drop “Who Let the Dogs Out” or “Barbie Girl”. The Muppets.

What is your savior record? When shit is going down the tubes and you’re like ‘Ohh, I know if I play this everyone’s gonna get back on’.

Tittsworth: I guess it would have to be your go-to Baltimore club remixes like the Rocktagon remixes and the Cars remixes and the really really familiar stuff where its like, ‘Ok, I’m here to play club, I’m gonna play club for people that don’t know or care about club.’

Dave: Just giving something that’s really familiar or even something really hilarious like “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”. Something like that. Or even flipping a really big cheesy song that has a club remix to it.

Tittsworth: “What is Love.”

Dave: DJ Sega did a “Barbie Girl” one.

What is the dirtiest song ever?

Tittsworth: Oh man, that used to be our thing. I told Ayres that I wanted to do a pussy medley for the Ayres & Titties mix because at one point in time we just collected the dirtiest club records we could find. How many were there? Let’s see. There’s “Pop My Pussy”, there’s “Where Dat Pussy At?” I should just pull up my Serato and type up ‘pussy.’

What is the best song to woo women with?

Tittsworth: One of my favorite songs is “After the Dance” by Marvin Gaye.

Dave: On the same Marvin Gaye tip, “If This World Were Mine”. Stevie.

Tittsworth: Masters At Work we’re both fans of.

Dave: “All I Do” by Stevie. Any Sam Cooke song.

These are the ladies’ jams? Or just jams you like?

Dave: They’re just jams that, I think, are… yeah, both.

Tittsworth: You’ve got Dave’s girl right here, you should ask her…

Dave: I’m wooing her with Luke.

Tittswoth: [singing] Sexual seductionnn…

What’s your drink of choice?

Dave: Ginnnnn.

Tittsworth: I actually quit drinking about a year and a half ago. It’s been a painful thing for me initially but it turned out to be a good thing. So I guess I’m a Red Bull guy. It does the trick.

Bug juice… That’s it.

Dave: That has yet to be marketed. In a can. Fuck, get it!

Tittsworth: That shit is the cure for everything.

Dave: That shit is the cure. Cancer. War. Just send a big ass bowl to the Middle East.

What is the most romantic place in Baltimore?

Dave: Hmm…Martin Luther King Boulevard.

What’s up with Martin Luther King Boulevard?

Dave: It’s just gully.

Tittsworth: Same thing that’s always up on any Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Okay, where’s the weirdest place?

Tittsworth: We have a place that’s called The Block that’s known for porno stores and strip clubs…

Dave: Oh, The Block. I think that’s Baltimore Street. Either that or Gay Street. It’s pretty intense. You can buy slingshots, you can go to a peep show, stunna shades, buy drugs.

Tittsworth: Actually, we left a strip club one night and went across the street from The Block and had friend chicken and bought stunna shades from the same place. Its cool. You can go there and get your oil changed, you can get a college education… you can buy anything at these stores, you know? What else is interesting in Baltimore? I saw a bum fight not too long ago, that was kind of cool.

Dave: I would say I think Hamden is pretty freakin’ weird. You’ve got your mix of locals, like working class heads, and art school kids and then… but that’s John Waters’ spot. Like in Pink Flamingos.

Tittsworth: I played in Dundalk last weekend and I thought I was gonna see some shit like that. No disrespect to these guys, but I was lured into thinking that I was playing in Baltimore a few nights ago and we drove from Studio B and showed up. We were following these directions and it was like ‘wait a minute, we’re getting further and further and further outside of the city’ and next thing we know we pull up on this dodgy looking place in the middle of nowhere and it was Dundalk, a place known for citizens that don’t always have all of their teeth but make up for it with heart and personality. It was a cool gig I guess…for all 30 people that were there.

Dave: Didn’t you say they had like a massive system?

Tittsworth: Yeah. Yeah, it was really crazy. Massive system. We had the dog running around the club all night.

What’s the best dating advice or love advice you’ve ever gotten from a song or an artist?

Tittsworth: “International Player’s Anthem”, Andre’s entire verse.

Dave: I can’t top that, that’s pretty great.

What TV duo do you guys most resemble?

Dave: Ambiguously Gay Duo? Milk and Cheese, you know that comic? This is the one comic book I have ever really been into. And they go around fucking everybody up.

Which of you is more aggro?

Dave: Maybe Jesse. I dunno. I haven’t bodychecked anyone in the club yet with my turntable. That was rightfully deserved though.

Tittsworth: I had to stop taking bottle service gigs in DC for my own well-being. Taking crappy gigs where you have to show up and play Top 40 music. I had to stop doing that before I caught a charge, I guess. Dave’s the easygoing guy. I’m the guy you send in when the promoter doesn’t want to pay you or something like that.

Dave: But then again, you’re probably one of the nicest dudes to work with. Having gone on tour with you, you’re probably one of the nicest dudes in the world.

When they make the caper movie of you guys, what scene has to be in the movie?

Dave: Aw man, Winnipeg. It just got to the point where a full-on moshpit broke out. Just 800 people bugging out. It was funny because at first the crowd was into it, but it didn’t really pop off. Next thing you know, probably the last hour, it just erupted and we were slamming them with really hard tracks.

Was there one track that set it off?

Dave: I think it was “Smells Like Teen Spirit”?

Tittsworth: It was Rage Against the Machine; it was everything.

Dave: Girls running and stage diving and shit. I was climbing these beams.

Tittsworth: We were tagging and I look up and Dave was on the roof. You had to step onto the turntables in order to jump onto to this bar to climb up the railing. So that was kind of weird.

Dave: There’s a bunch of pictures of me holding a whole handle of gin and dousing people with it. It was just really unruly.

Tittsworth: There was this small little hole that he just jumped out of by stepping on the live turntable. At one point he was falling out of the DJ booth and we kept having to hide his beer. Calgary was pretty cool too. I looked over and all of a sudden you were on the sound guy’s shoulders.

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