The Man With Two Bands
Donny and the Robot and DASHCAM have different sounds but the same solo artist.
An outdated laptop, some spontaneous creativity and a blank canvas to be filled with drum loops and samples were all Donny Jankowski needed to start producing Electronic music ten years ago while in college. His music has taken Milwaukee listeners on a trip through time without the necessity of a DeLorean. His ever-changing sound comes from combining 50’s pop culture to early millennial hip-hop instrumentals as Donny and the Robot. He has recently traveled backwards to create new sounds influenced by the Eighties while performing as DASHCAM. The multiple monikers he has created for himself mesh coherently with his ever adaptable musical direction.
Jankowski has made his mark on the Milwaukee music scene having remixed and worked with a laundry list of local artists. He is working on uniting the the tight-knit Milwaukee electronic music community and bringing its music to the world by creating his own electronic music-based label named NiceFM. He plans on dropping his DASHCAM EP for GLOSS Records some time in the future. Make sure to check out the extensive list of singles for both DASHCAM and Donny and the Robot’s on SoundCloud.
How old are you?
28 years old.
When did you begin producing music as Donny and the Robot?
I began Donny and the Robot when I started college in 2006, but I’ve worked under a bunch of different monikers because I’m always changing my musical focus. I just launched my newest project, DASHCAM, a year and a half ago and that’s been gaining some traction lately.
Where did your name come from?
I came up with Donny and the Robot because I needed something to describe my solo project (aka me and my computer). I wanted it to include my name so I could keep myself identifiable; and the “Robot”, which began as an outdated Dell laptop, has since expanded into an entire studio setup.
I came up with the DASHCAM name after really enjoying the music from the movie Drive and trying to emulate that nostalgic 80s feel. This new “old” sound is much more indie focused and has let me expand into a collaborative space with a lot of local electro and rock bands that inspire me.
How would you describe your music?
Donny and the Robot is dusty and downtempo. It’s beat-driven music made for headphones and inspired by melodic hip-hop and 2000-era electronic music.
DASHCAM started out as pure nostalgia and I really focused on replicating that ’80s vibe using synthesizers and drum machines from that period. After digging deep and learning the ins and outs of the decade’s music I’m now trying to push “that 80s sound” forward into new and interesting territory. I’m even working on a video game soundtrack inspired by Bladerunner at the moment.
What’s your inspiration going into making a song?
I almost always start with a blank canvas, usually with a synthesizer or a drum machine, and put pieces together until a cohesive idea forms. I’m not one of those producers who hears a melody in his head and has to record it. I work really spontaneously, so being in the studio and just getting something started is my go-to creative strategy.
Do you use any sampling techniques when producing?
The Donny and the Robot project generally uses samples from creative commons movies and music pulled from 1950s-60s media. I use Ableton Live to produce, so there are a million different ways that I can chop, stretch, and assemble a sample into novel and original sounds.
With DASHCAM I really avoid using samples because I can make almost any 80s style sound I want in my studio nowadays, so if I’m using samples at all, it’ll be something I recorded myself and messed around with to make it more interesting.
What are some artists that inspire you?
Wow, I could fill a book with all of my musical influences but I’ll give you a quick summary: Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, Boards of Canada, Com Truise, Neon Indian, STRFKR, Grizzly Bear, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Animal Collective, Tame Impala, Claude Von Stroke, and MF Doom. Whew.
Any local bands you really like?
Another list that I’ll have to abbreviate for you (I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with/remix a lot of these bands and artists lately): GGOOLLDD, NO/NO, Rio Turbo, all the other artists on GLOSS Records, Platinum Boys, Greatest Lakes, Klassik, New Age Narcissism, Lex Allen, Webster X, Pharaoh Mac & DMT, SammyJams, Datarunner, Luxi, CCDM, Canopies, No No Yeah Okay, Adoptahighway, the Demix, Kiings, DJ Abilities, Lorn, Echo Island, Christian “Bubba” Shebesta, and the list goes on and on… There’s so much talent in Milwaukee at the moment that it’s hard to keep up with, but I’m trying my best. I’m sure I forgot some.
People are passionate about making top notch music here in Milwaukee and they take their work seriously. There’s definitely a dedication to increasingly polished and genre-pushing writing and producing.
Is there a big local EDM scene in Milwaukee?
I wouldn’t call it a big scene. Not yet, at least. But it’s very eclectic and community-driven, which is better than “big” in my humble opinion. It’s a talented, interesting and fun bunch. After getting to know the producer scene over the past couple years, I’m finally branching out and starting my own electronic label and production house, NiceFM, but I’ll elaborate on that a little bit later.
Have you done any shows in Milwaukee?
Do you have a favorite place to play?
Jazz Estate is great for an intimate setting, Cactus Club is a blast when people want to dance, and Landmark is just a fun hangout all around. Right now, I’m super excited to be opening the GLOSS Weekend festival with a DASHCAM DJ set this Memorial Day weekend at Cactus Club.
What’s the best way to connect with your fans?
Locally, it’s really great to get out and play shows. As long as there’s music playing, people will get into it. Otherwise, social media is the easiest way to get people involved and listening. I use Soundcloud to host my tracks, Instagram to share photos and videos, and Facebook to post news and updates. I also have a DASHCAM Pandora station and I’m part of some playlists on Spotify.
Any Albums or EP’s coming out soon?
Yeah! I’m working on a deluxe DASHCAM EP for GLOSS Records at the moment that should include 5-10 all new songs as well as a bunch of remixes and b-sides. I’m pushing to involve as many local artists as possible because I want this release to reflect my admiration of the music community that has helped shape what I do in a lot of important ways.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, besides the EP (which will hopefully see a GLOSS cassette release in the near-ish future), my newly launched label, NiceFM will showcase some of my favorite local and international electronic artists. We’re going to push for a rigorous release schedule in the beginning to expand our brand, help our artists promote themselves, and collectively build an audience that shares our love for warm, summery, synthy electronic music. It’s been a rewarding journey so far and I’ve learned a ton. If I’m lucky, I might just be able to keep pace with all the crazy talent Milwaukee has to offer.Cascio Interstate Music is proud to sponsor Urban Milwaukee’s Band of the Week column. Running in tandem with their own Band of the Month program, supporting local music is key to CIM’s mission.