Dan 'The Automator' Nakamura Lines Up Slew Of New Projects

Prolific hip-hop producer working with the Prodigy, El-P; planning solo LP, Handsome Boy Modeling School follow-up.

Lately, Dan Nakamura has been truly living up to his hip-hop alias as "The Automator," with a deluge of endeavors on the way or in the works.

In addition to the Gorillaz project he created with Blur frontman Damon Albarn, Nakamura has been working on music with the Prodigy, collaborating further with Albarn, making a record with former Company Flow frontman El-P, planning the follow-up to 1999's Handsome Boy Modeling School LP with Prince Paul, prepping an instrumental companion to last year's Deltron 3030 project with el tha Funkee Homosapien, and preparing a new solo album for release later this year.

Despite all the activity, Nakamura was characteristically mellow when speaking from the San Francisco office of his record label, 75 Ark.

"I'm just getting ready to go into the studio," he said calmly. "I just did some stuff for the Prodigy. I was helping work out a mix for their record. Maybe it's the single, I don't know."

(According to Nakamura, the British techno troupe's new album isn't quite ready to see the light of day. "I think they're only like a little bit, or maybe halfway, done.")

Meanwhile, the instrumental version of Deltron is currently scheduled for a March release on 75 Ark, with the Gorillaz album likely due around the same time on Virgin Records.

Soon after, Nakamura's personal labor of love will hit the shelves: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By is the title of the debut solo album from Nathaniel Merriweather, Nakamura's Handsome Boy Modeling School alias.

"It's kind of loungey, kind of like an American Serge Gainsbourg," Nakamura said of the album. "It's not like the Modeling School thing, it's kind of like the record you put on when you want to get busy."

Nakamura has been working on Old Lady for close to a year, and has finished 20 tracks, which he said will eventually be narrowed down to 12. He also explained that unlike many of his other projects, this record will "not be a hip-hop record at all."

Nakamura's most recent solo release was the 1997 EP "A Better Tomorrow," which included several tracks with Kool Keith, his partner in Dr. Octagon, and was reissued last year by 75 Ark with added songs.

Also in the works is Sammy's Romanians, the Automator's collaboration with El-P, the lead rapper and producer of Company Flow, which disbanded last year.

"It's more of a beat record," said Nakamura, adding that the use of vocals will be light. "It's not a rhyming record. It's like 'Bomb Squad 2001'" — referring to the legendary Public Enemy production crew. "It's really heavy stuff."

Fans will have to wait a bit for that album, however, as Nakamura said it probably wouldn’t be ready until 2002; it will also be released on 75 Ark.

Nakamura has also recorded yet another track with U.K. pop star Albarn, who is a member of both Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz, for inclusion in a release for the Sony PlayStation 2, although he wasn't clear on the exact nature of its usage.

"It's a track that I think is going to be for some game that they're going to have where you can [do an] interactive remix," he said.

Finally, there's the matter of the highly anticipated follow-up to Handsome Boy Modeling School's So...How's Your Girl?, which will reunite Nakamura with fellow top-rung producer Prince Paul.

"We should be back in the studio in February or March," said Nakamura. "We're doing a couple of DJ shows together, in February, and we're going to work on our schedules, but we're definitely doing the second one in the spring. It probably won't come out until the early part of next year."

Regarding recent speculation that both Albarn and Radiohead singer Thom Yorke were scheduled to appear on the project, Nakamura would only comment cagily: "Oh, that would be nice. You know, who knows? They could use the Handsome Boy training, but we'll see."

So … How's Your Girl? featured contributions from Beastie Boy Mike D., Moloko's Roisin Murphy, DJ Shadow, Sean Lennon, Alec Empire and others.