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Dan the Automator follows his own lane to food, movies, ‘Always Be My Maybe’

San Francisco producer and artist Dan the Automator on Mission Street. After years in the rap and indie music worlds, he’s started scoring movies, including “Always Be My Maybe” and the recent “Booksmart.” Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

There was a time in the 1990s, when Dan “the Automator” Nakamura was still making beats in his parents’ Sunset District basement in San Francisco, that the music producer was told he should try to sound more like Dr. Dre, DJ Premier and other successful production wizards of the time.

“No, I’m cool. I’m going to do what I do,” Nakamura remembers thinking. “And either no one is ever going to hear about me, or I’m going to have my own lane. … And that’s kind of what I did. I just made my own lane.”

Dan the Automator has been involved with eclectic musical collaborations — some with huge mainstream success — including the Gorillaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Dr. Octagon and Deltron 3030 with Oakland-born Del the Funky Homosapien. But his “own lane” has led him in some particularly eclectic directions in 2019.

Nakamura worked with Los Angeles chef Roy Choi on “Broken Bread,” a KCET public television show that explores social justice issues through the lens of food. He scored Olivia Wilde’s acclaimed teen indie movie “Booksmart.” And perhaps most memorably, he produced the music for the San Francisco band in the Netflix romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe.”

That movie is filled with charming nods to hip-hop, the Bay Area and food — three things that Nakamura seems to love equally. The jazz-infused rap band Hello Peril, with romantic lead Marcus (played by Randall Park) at

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