Kristina Dunn is DELLA, the name of the new solo project from the Oslo-based American DJ, producer and vocalist. She’s previously released records on Classic Music Company, Letftroom, Twirl & Defected; as a DJ, she’s played much of the US & Europe and currently holds a residency at Jaeger, one of Europe’s top clubs, in Oslo.
As half of the duo No Dial Tone, Kristina was previously featured in our old New Mix Monday series. Here she is again with a new 5 Mag Mix ahead of her new EP, The Movement, out now from Apollo Music Group.
DELLA: A 5 Mag Mix
DELLA: A 5 Mag Mix Tracklist
1. 1000 Memories (Fred Everything Remix) – Jullian Gomes feat. Sio – Atjazz Record Company
2. Work Groove (Chezz Cosmic Groove Remix) – Mark Farina, Homero Espinosa – Moulton Music
3. Touched The Sky (Joe’s Dub Beats) Dennis Ferrer, Mia Tuttavilla, Joe Claussel – King Street
4. Lelet – Tom Esselle – YAM Recordings
5. Getting Up – JT Donaldson – Amenti
6. Oddua (Steve Mill Remix) – Bonetti – Sub_Urban
7. Caves, Tunnels (Original) – Rithma – Terraform Records
9. Look Ahead feat. Sam Sparro (Original Mix) – Honey Dijon – Classic Music Company
10. The Other Man (Kerri Chandler Instrumental) – Janne Tavi, Robert Owens – Ibadan Records
11. Tribute To L (Eli’s Beatapella) – Ricardo Baez, Eli Escobar – Night People
12. In My Soul (Homero Espinosa 2017 original retouch) – Doc Martin Tony Hewitt – Moulton Music
13. It’s More Fun To Compute (Extended Mix) – Joey Negro – Z Records
14. The Movement feat. Della (Lil’ Mark’s Dirty Hole Remix) – System 5 – Apollo Music Group
15. Domino Effect – Freight Train – Salted Music
16. Shots In The Dark – CJ Jeff featuring Seven Davis Jr & Honey Dijon – Objektivity
17. A Belover For – Original Mix – Ray Okpara – Cecille
18. 808 State Of Mind – Honey Dijon – Classic Music Company
DELLA: The 5 Mag Interview
Hi Kristina, thanks for agreeing to sit with us. First, are all of your aliases public knowledge by now, or do you prefer to keep some of them as masks?
Hi Terry, it is a pleasure sitting down with 5 Mag again. It has been a while since last time and a lot has changed since then.
For those who do not know me, here is a small introduction. I am an American DJ/vocalist living in Oslo, Norway. In 2013, I took a step towards making my DJing a more serious profession and moved into the production area. I was welcomed with open arms to this new arena and my first solid EP came out on Classic Music Company, About You, together with my partner Vibeke Bruff, aka: No Dial Tone. No Dial Tone had a good run together, but we since have decided to go separate ways as artists and DELLA was born.
DELLA and No Dial Tone are my only alias and there is no need to mask either, but NDT has been laid to rest.
DELLA, all caps, one word. What does it mean?
DELLA is a dance conductor, heart synchronizer, and love reflector. She has one sole purpose, to unite people through dance music by using her voice and her selections.
Besides your production stuff, can you tell me about your history with DJing? Did you start out making records, playing records or singing? I seem to remember Luke Solomon telling me a while ago about meeting you at an event and the next thing he knew he got a demo or something like that? (Refresh my memory on that one if you will.)
DJing came after being involved in the house scene as a dancer for many years. I started raving in the Midwest around 1996 and later moved out to Los Angeles where I was introduced to crews as Wax, Futurehouse, Dynagroove, Release, Sunset, and Deep. It was a great time to be a dancer and lover of house music. Let’s say, I was schooled regularly on the dance floor by only the best.
In around 2002 I decided to buy turntables. I was quite naive when I started (and still can be), but was lucky to have talented friends who took the time to teach me and lead me forward. I then moved from Los Angeles to Oslo in 2005. Being I did not have a work permit for the first 6 months I had no other choice than to start throwing parties and making some ching ching “under the table.” This is when No Dial Tone was formed and Vibeke and I became the queens of dance music in the Oslo circuit (hehe).
No Dial Tone signed during the re-launch of Classic and it was a magical moment. We went from Oslo DJs to international producers over night.
As a vocalist, I have always been singing. It is something that comes easy to me. I am classically trained. I have studied classical, opera and jazz. I have never studied song writing or pop music, so I find this at times challenging when sitting on a loop and trying to develop a melody. I come from a strong classical background and it is a learning process for me to set the controlled form aside and flow with an idea. To help break this mold, I have been taking private jazz lessons. This really helps me lose the control from the classical training and feeling comfortable with improve.
Being introduced to Luke and Classic was through a good friend, JT Donaldson. No Dial Tone made this quirky track with a vocalist, Djamila, and we were on the hunt of where to release it. I contacted JT and he referred us over to Luke. We signed it during the re-launch of Classic and it was a magical moment for No Dial Tone. We went from Oslo DJs to international producers over night, literally.
What is the scene like in Oslo for dance music right now?
Oslo is HAPPENING! I think we have more music venues than we do inhabitants (Ha!). Norwegians are really open to music and love going to shows. I am a resident at the world-renowned club, Jaeger where the best of the best in talent comes through. We have hosted everyone from Kerri Chandler, Todd Terry, Derrick Carter, Gene Farris, Heather, Jesse Rose, Luke Solomon, Fred Everything, Kenny Dope, Mr. Scruff to techno massives as Derrick May, Ben Klock, Marcel Dettman, Ellen Allien, Steve Bug, Anja Schneider, you get the picture…
We run a serious club where everything is based around quality, from the talent to the sound. Our custom built DJ booth offers the option to rotate the mixer from an Alpha Rotary to Allen & Heath 92 at just a click. Jaeger is a literal magical spaceship. I feel privileged to be part of this crew of serious dance music devotees. Our resident DJs are some of the best Scandinavia has to offer. My Saturday residency night solely focuses on house (American house mainly), and it gives me pride that I have a platform to contribute my knowledge and love for house to club goers in Oslo.
I can recommend checking out Northern Disco Lights, the documentary about the rise of the Norwegian Space Disco sound directed by Paper Recordings label boss Ben Davis.
You played at Housepitality with our guys from San Francisco not that long ago, didn’t you? How was that? I have yet to go.
I did, and it was AWESOME! You must go soon. I met the Housepit crew on my US tour in 2016 at Sunset Campout. We are all connected through the same house music family. I had the pleasure of playing with one of my favorite DJs, Cle Acklin. Cle was part of the ’90s rave crew, Hazy Dayz, in Dallas and is a key player in mentoring me in house music.
San Francisco is an incredibly special city that beats with it’s own heartbeat. I will be returning in March 2018 and cannot wait!
What’s your perspective on being a vocalist in the industry? You’ve got the chops in both fields, producing and singing, and it’s not an uncommon complaint from vocalists about being overshadowed by producers. Do you think dance music is skewed toward praising the DJ & producer over our performers?
Hm, I personally have not felt any less respected for my contributions to a track as a vocalist. I am also making it clear from the start that my vocal will be credited and it will receive the same attention as the producers and remixers. Being that I am working with close family, we all have each other’s backs. It is not about gaining fame or trying to get heard, it is purely about one thing, devotion to this sound. The industry has its dark sides, and I have just started wading in its waters, but I have people around me who I trust in guiding me forward. I try not to let the pressure get into my head. Personally as vocalist though, I do feel this is a niche I have over the saturated market of bedroom producers and DJs, but what it all comes down to for me is: I just want to make some killer house tracks.
You’ve released records on nearly all of my favorite quirky and weird labels – Twirl, Apollo and of course the granddaddy of quirky and weird, Classic. Did you just slip these people demos and bombard their Soundcloud until they listened to you? That’s the kind of CV that people who are 20 yrs older would be proud to have, and you’re not done.
That is quite the compliment. Thank you. No, I did not slip any of these labels a demo other than Classic, which I explained that story earlier. All my vocal work as DELLA have been collaborations together with friends I consider family. I do not have a strategy of approach for my work, my approach is not having one at all actually. House music is much more than trying to pitch some idea to some label and hope to gain success from it. House music is simply life. You breath it, need it, and move through your journey with it at your side.
What kind of stuff inspires you? From music, or art, or politics – what makes you tick and what keeps you alive?
I find inspiration in many things. I am very sensitive and intensely connected to my environment. I find inspiration for my music from nature, long walks in the forest, fellow artists I admire, or the aesthetics of a space that surrounds me. Even the scent of flower can trigger a lyric for a song. But, I gain most of my inspiration through dance. The trance I go into under music when dancing opens visions for me. It is the main reason I continue to move forward with what I do. When I dance, I am free. When we all dance together, this is the purest form of freedom there is.
I must admit the political turmoil we are currently experiencing has been affecting me in my work. I have been having some emotional personal sessions where I release the pain I feel from what is going on back home in USA and on our Mother Earth. We are at a strange crossroads right now as humans and I use music to keep me in a positive state of mind even when I feel everything is falling around me.
Tell us about what you’ve got coming up, on the records side and the DJ side?
Yes! I would love to share. On Oct. 6 I have my follow up EP, The Movement, coming out on Apollo Music (for all your Chicago house heads, you all know this is the rising Chicago imprint from Heather, Dan X, and ‘Lil Mark). The EP is a rad collaboration between System 5, myself on vocals, and killer remixes from ‘Lil Mark and Torrefisk. I am really excited about this one! It’s a solid EP.
At the moment in the studio, I am working on something really saucy with Mikey V and I have a session scheduled with Homero Espinosa in Oakland to hopefully get something going for Moulton Music. High five to both of these!
As far as DJing, I am doing my regular gigs here in Oslo and am in the midst of planning a US tour for March 2018. I have some exciting spots already confirmed and am looking to fill more dates. (Wink, wink, promoters! Hit me up.)
What can you tell us about this mix?
This mix is a selection of tracks based on the root of House music: tribal drums, African rhythms, and lyrics that unify souls. It features unreleased work coming from Honey Dijon, Doc Martin, and Homero Espinosa, a few classics, and plenty of rhythmic jams. It is a mix straight from my heart. It also includes my latest with System 5, “The Movement” from Apollo Music Group (out Oct. 6).