Demon Slayer

DanNguyen

Demon Slayer could be living a past life in today’s world; passing you with a calm smile. He could be an ancient Vietnamese philosopher dissecting logic and creating art in the shadows. For now, Dan Nguyen resides in the underground, and is constantly pursuing to elevate his identity [Demon Slayer] within the music industry and art community. With progressive motives in mind his objective is to push the evolution of his music and art through the veins of creativity and love.

His moniker is something more than a name; it carries a stigma hidden to the untrained eye. But before understanding the characteristics behind the character, it is important for us to gain a perspective of how this all began.

Progress shot of Dan working on a collaboration mural with Teebs ( Brainfeeder )
for their two-person art exhibit at Division Nine Gallery

Progress shot of Dan working on a collaboration mural with Teebs ( Brainfeeder )
for their two-person art exhibit at Division Nine Gallery

Dan Nguyen recalls noticing his artistic abilities at a young age, but his bloodline doesn’t contain a long line of talented artists. However, he believes the essence of his creativity was a gift of his ancestry, and carries his talent with pride. He suggests that it could be a product of bloodline, passed down from respected ancient Vietnamese traditions.

A street view of one of the many windows of the “Demon Slayer: Give Love” site specific
installation at University of California Sweeney Art Gallery.
The 25×18 foot mural, roof and sculptures were on display for over six months.

Site specific mural commissioned for “The Smell” 10 year anniversary.
The installation remained in the historic Los Angeles venue for over five years.
Collaboration with Cat Cult and Corrina Corrina.

“I imagine a lot of it comes from my DNA actually,” he explained. “The Vietnamese as a race, throughout history, have been very poetic. All the emperors and educated people considered

[masters of] poetry, calligraphy, and music royalty.”

Nguyen gains inspiration and energy from the artistic lineage of his heritage. From an early age, Marvel comics, Manga, and aspects of realism were inspirations for the pre-teen Nguyen, who began to absorb the style of different animation created within his natural fascination. He began to draw as a child but ignored recognition from his peers who viewed his work as a legitimate talent. He explained that it wasn’t until a peer told him otherwise; he began to challenge himself to push the natural talent he was confident he had.

“Ever since I was a little kid people would tell me that my stuff was good and it never really stuck out to me I guess because I never really believed it myself,” he said. “I only remember one time someone told me my drawing sucks, and I’ll remember that my whole life. After I heard that in 4 grade, I was like, ‘Man, I need to get really, really good.’”

Things began to change for Nguyen during middle school, when he was more concerned with socializing than studying. Unfortunately, this mindset didn’t last long his freshman year of high school. Nguyen found himself being kicked out for only attending 16 days of school.

“From middle school to high school, I was bad quote/unquote,” he said mockingly. “I was hanging out with gansters pretty much, and doing kucklehead shit, like really ignorant stuff.” Nguyen’s behavior ended up getting him sent to a boarding school in Kansas, where his 14-year-old don’t-give-a-fuck attitude didn’t side well with the administration.

As Nguyen reflected on his youth, Nguyen associated his youthful rebellion as a rite of passage which molded him into the artist he would become.
“It was mischievous more than anything, we didn’t have any ill-will,” he said.

Around the late 90’s, a 16-year-old Nguyen began to bury himself into hip hop and b-boy culture while DJing full time. He began to concentrate heavily on music, performing under the alias ‘Ill Kid Panda’ learning from well-known Riverside Djs; DJ Kidder, D-Boy and Juicewon.

Spinning hip-hop and funk mash-ups Nguyen received a lot of exposure for his unique sound and ground-breaking style. When Nguyen was 17, he connected with jazz musician Alex Gil who was attending La Sierra Academy and inspired him to join a jazz trio as a turntablist to give the jazz sound a new flavor.

Dan performing at the FlyBall at Grand Star Jazz Club in Los Angeles

“I met him [Alex Gil] from my girlfriend’s roommate, and he totally changed my life,” Nguyen said. “The first time I met him I ended up playing music with him and his group for like 6 hours straight.”

Nguyen began to play music [on turntable] with the trio, called 3 Points of Fusion and began to gain major exposure as a public figure.

Dan performing with Daedelus at the Inland Empire’s premiere contemporary beat showcase,
Beat Cinema

Sadly, when Nguyen was 18 his turntables, mixer, and his vintage records were stolen out of his car after a show. He recalls not being upset, but rather motivated to explore other creative endeavors.
“I was like, ‘what the fuck?’ But I didn’t get angry, because I knew that they were gone,” he said. Nguyen continued, “Immediately I thought what I could do next. I thought I’d be mad, I thought I’d be sad. But I guess I just accepted it, like okay; gone.”

More than a tragic end to an era in his life, Nguyen believes that happening was a blessing in disguise.

Art piece commissioned for Soulful Commandoe

About the time Nguyen was 19-20, he met Jesse Hoffman who inspired him to focus on his art. Nguyen said that he saw this kid with an enormous black book at an event in Riverside and approached him about his art.

“He showed me his art, and I was like God damn, it was so ill. This wasn’t just street art,” Nguyen said. “I had never seen anything like it, it was psychedelic.”

Hoffman encouraged Nguyen to draw in his book, and motivated Nguyen to begin making art again.

“I saw that, and I thought, ‘this fool [Hoffman] is amazing; and I want to be amazing again.’ So I started drawing again; like every day, until I got my steez back, and I’m still on that wave with art.”

In 2003, Nguyen and his friends created Demon Slayer as graphic t-shirt company, Nguyen said that this was before the market was overly saturated graphic tees with a lot of art on them. During that time, he and his friends were into dark imagery, with an emphasis on occult imagery.

“We didn’t listen to death metal, but we were into dark, dark imagery juxtaposed with something really light hearted. [For example] would draw like a skeleton on a unicorn,” Nguyen continued to elaborate on the essence of Demon Slayer, pointing out that the combination of two words can be paired together and have a meaning that not only represents something but personifies the brand itself.

“We needed a name for this aesthetic, so we combined to words that have a [negative] stigma about them DEMON and SLAYER, and when you put it together it means something positive, like you’re slaying demons,” he said. “But those two words alone, carry a lot of stigma and a heavy darker energy with them,” he said. “We thought it was funny to put two dark things together to make something relatively in comparison, lighter.”

Mural commissioned for UNESCO (united nations ) 2009

After the birth of Demon Slayer, Nguyen took his creativity worldwide and began painting murals with his girlfriend Mailan in Panama and Costa Rica. Nguyen was with Mailan for 5 years, and credits her for helping him come into his own. According to Nguyen, the couple ended up in Central America purely by chance.

“My girlfriend and I, at that time were like, ‘Yo, we need to go somewhere and paint murals,’ he said. “So, we went into my laundry room, where there was a globe [we spun it] and she put her finger on Costa Rica, so purely by chance.”

150 x 30 ft mural painted with Cisco Merel and Mailan Pham in downtown Panama City, Panama, Central America.

Several years, and thousands of paint cans later Dan Nguyen operates under the moniker Demon Slayer for performance art. Whether it’s mixing ambient sounds on stage or creating colorful murals with three-eyed creatures. Nguyen encourages people to see beyond the stigma his alias creates and focus on their own creativity and exercising their own negative energy into something positive.

“Sometimes I want to go away from it [Demon Slayer], but sometimes I keep it. Now-a-days throughout the course of my art, [my message] I don’t want to encourage anybody to slay anything,” he said with a serious tone. “Unless it’s your own inner demons; so that’s what Demon Slayer means now; Slaying your own [inner] demons, accomplishing your goals, whatever it is handle it. Smash it.”

Apparently Nguyen’s inner demons have taken him to heights most artists would dream of. He’s painted murals around the world, DJ-ed for years, and received the opportunity to design a mural for the city of Riverside, his home town. His persona, is unique and fair considering his past. His philosophy on life is to constantly evolve, not only within the trades he performs, but within his creative process as well.

Art piece commissioned for interview by Rickey Kim of Evil Monito

Photos Courtesy of HologramFang – ©HologramFang

Demon Slayer – Dan Nguyen Official Website

By Evan Lancaster
ās’tər****visual index


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