DJ Forty Fivan on how music has shaped his career and vice versa

FortyFivanSan Francisco’s rare groove DJ and vinyl enthusiast, Forty Fivan, will be opening the show with some soul on Dec. 12.

Tell us about your music career. How did you get started? How long have you been at it?
Back in high school, I was really into the golden era hip hop that I heard from watching skate videos. It wasn’t until I got to college that I actually started DJing after walking up and down the freshman dorms looking for someone with turntables who could show me the ropes. I’ve been a DJ for 15 years now, and could make a beat here and there, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I really started learning how to make my own music. I’ve been immersed in teaching myself the piano, drums, music theory, arrangement, and sound design so I can become a well rounded producer.

Who are your major influences?
It was when I first heard DJ Shadow’s Entroducing back in high school that I wanted to become a DJ myself, and he’s remained a major influence on me over the years. I have a long list of DJs and producers who continually influence me, but I look up to pretty much anyone who makes music for the right reasons regardless of whether or not I’m into the sound. I have always mostly been into obscure artists old and new, but since I started making my own tracks, I’ve been opening up to some current well known artists like Pretty Lights, Beats Antique, Bonobo, etc.

What’s the ultimate direction? Are you seeking fame and fortune in the music business?
It’s fun to dream sometimes, but I have zero expectations for a viable music career. It’s always been on the side of my professional career as a way to stay balanced and creative, not for any fame or fortune. Even so, I have been putting the time in to take it to the next level with my own productions, so we’ll see what happens when I put myself out there. 

I have always wanted to get involved with the music business in a professional sense as it’s increasingly challenging for artists to sustain a career. Generally speaking, technology has done many great things to give artists more control, but I’d argue that they have less power than in the past music industry. Giving both artists and fans a great experience while maintaining a healthy music economy is something I would love to solve for some day.

What is your day job?
After nearly 10 years with the same company in a variety of marketing and business development roles, I recently left to start an independent consulting agency named Maravil to partner with technology companies looking to expand overseas. I’ve built a strong global network over the years through my business with governments and companies throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, so hopefully I can help some tech companies grow outside of Silicon Valley. There is strong investment globally for infrastructure, enterprise, and educational technology, so I see a great opportunity for a lot of companies to get involved. I’m here to help!

How does your music influence your work or vice versa?
Music has had a profound influence on my work both directly and indirectly. My first job fresh out of college was as the webmaster maintaining the corporate website for a mobile software company that was then bought by a major Japanese company a year later, but I had no involvement with the product or business. The company made big plans for 3GSM in Barcelona (now Mobile World Congress) one year, and they asked me to come along to DJ the party. For the trip to be worth it, I was to also work the booth. I had a knack for it, so I spent the next few years traveling the global tech conference circuit as both a marketer and a DJ, getting more and more involved in the business up to the point where I was heading up global business development. That was always my intended career path, but being a DJ accelerated the process by giving me the opportunity to prove my worth in the business early on. 

It was also my passion for Brazilian music that led me to the area for business, which is where I’ve spent the past few years focused on partnering with the government, mobile operators, and major content and service providers. My deep knowledge and appreciation of Brazilian records from the 60s and 70s is always well received and a great conversation starter in meetings. I even named my company Maravil for the Brazilian Portuguese word “maravilhosa” that is often used in song to mean marvelous. 

Most importantly, music has been a way for me to stay grounded and cultured. It’s real easy to get caught up in technology and business to the point where it’s all consuming, so I’ve always used music as an outlet to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Something as simple as collecting records over the years has really made a profound difference, and now that I’m making my own music, I feel even more in touch with my creative side than ever before.

Why is music education important?
As someone who has been self teaching music as an adult, I often look back and wish I had been educated as a child. I’ve always been in favor of a well-rounded education over a narrow path towards a specific trade as it gives you an adaptable skill set and mindset that allows you to thrive in any situation. Music teaches patience and persistence, while cultivating creativity. As the world becomes more and more technology driven, I strongly believe that art and music will play a larger role in maintaining the human experience, and that starts with education.

What was your own experience learning music as a kid? Who flipped that switch in your brain?
Interestingly enough, I grew up in a very musical house as my mom has been playing and studying music her entire life, but I didn’t find it on my own until I was an adult. I took it for granted that the piano was playing in my house nearly 24/7 as while I was growing up. If it wasn’t sports-related, I wasn’t interested. I kick myself over it and give my mom a hard time for not forcing it on me, but she was right not to because I likely would have resisted and maybe never have discovered it on my own. It’s great now because we talk all the time about music and even started collaborating on some Ableton tracks long distance using Dropbox. It’ll be a long time before I can even come close to hanging at her level, but I’ve been putting the time in, so maybe a family album is in the cards!

 

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