Music To Do Graffiti To By Danny Daos

Danny Daos is working so intensely, he barely notices us arrive. The diminutive, quietly-spoken graffiti artist is one of the originators of the scene in Saigon. Check out any wall around town, and you’ll probably see DAOS tagged in the corner. 

Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt

And he’s working so intensely, partly, because he’s on a deadline. After this piece at Wink Hotel Saigon Centre, he’s finishing an installation for hip, local craft beer brand Deme Brewing, and there’s an upcoming show at Rei Artspace, his second at that venue, of canvas works. Behind him, a portable stereo he’s brought along is playing Vietnamese hip hop and a small gang of friends have gathered to watch him work. As Danny Daos does, we ask him about his artwork, and for his guest mix of music to do graffiti too.

“People often assume I have this deep knowledge of color, but a lot of what I do is random.” – Danny Daos.

“Actually,” he begins, nodding at his piece, “people often assume I have this deep knowledge of color, but a lot of what I do is random, just experimentation. And often, a highlight of the piece I’m working on will happen by chance.” So far, his favorite piece is the first work Danny Daos did on canvas. “I still have it,” he adds, “it’s a memory and a joy to look at because it reminds me of the feeling I had graduating from walls to a canvas but keeping the same aesthetic, the same clumsy lines.”

We wonder how music relates to his artistic process. “First off, I got into this after seeing graffiti for the first time in a music video! In Blue’s ‘One Love’,” Danny Daos laughs. “But the first experience of music I remember is way before that. When I was very young, my family ran a coffee shop that had this garden area. I remember one weekend, they invited a band to come and play. I could only hear it from afar, but the sound of live music captivated me,” he remembers. 

Danny Daos, one of Saigon’s graffiti OGs, working on his piece at Wink Hotels.

How have your listening habits changed since you first started listening?

Maybe it’s getting richer. There’s more good Vietnamese music to listen to. As I get older, I tend to seek out old songs to enjoy. They tend to have more poetry and more meaning to me now. As far as genres go, I’m not too fussy – as long as the song has some appeal to me, I don’t care which genre or even which language it’s in. 

Which song would you play someone to know you better?

I guess it’s ‘One Love’ by Blue, the track that changed my life. 

As Danny Daos works, a portable stereo bumps Vietnamese hip hop in the background.

When do you usually listen to music?

Besides listening while I’m working, I especially like listening to music in the morning. It sets the tone and the mood for my whole day ahead. 

What song would you like to play at your wedding? And at your funeral?

I’d play the same song for both! ‘Just A Dream’ by Nelly. The ‘Opened my eyes, yeah, it was only just a dream’ lyric is as applicable to love as it is to life. 

Can you tell us about the mix you’ve selected for us?

I’ve chosen the theme of music I listen to when I’m painting. I guess, overall, it’s pretty chaotic – a bit like my working process. 

Danny Doas thinking of the songs that remind him of the journeys he’s gone through.

How do these songs reflect your personality and life experiences? Please explain why you chose these songs?

These songs always remind me of the journeys I’ve gone through. 

Tell us about the ten tracks you’ve chosen.

First is Sol7 feat. PjnBoys. I like how both artists combine on this track, ‘Sống Vì Tao’, and deliver some real lyrics. Then LK’s ‘Một Cái Tên’. I’m just a big fan of LK since way back. Then we have a couple of Nelly tracks. First is ‘Just a dream’. After listening to lots of darker, heavier hip hop, Nelly provided an antidote, buzzing, melodic club music. So after that we have ‘Dilemma’ which I think is his best song. 

“Always be cheerful and confident and grateful for the blessings you have been given.”

Next is BigBang’s ‘Flower Road’ and then Twista and Faith Evans’ ‘Hope’. As the title says, every line is infused with positivity. After hope, we have ‘Home’, by Bone Thugs N’ Harmony feat. Phil Collins. It’s the perfect combination of two very different generations and genres. Then we have Akon’s ‘Blame It On Me’ – a reminder to look at ourselves any time things go wrong, or we’re in too much of a hurry in life. Then we have The Game’s ‘Better Days’, a song in which you feel every word of the lyrics, and finally Blue’s ‘One Love’, a song that got me into this, and a song about passion and love for what you do. Always be cheerful and confident and grateful for the blessings you have been given.

Note, we switched ‘Sống Vì Tao’ to ‘iceman’ due to availability.

Follow Danny Daos on Instagram. Photos by Nghia Ngo.


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