Djentrification’s technical ability is on a whole other level. He’s a dj for dj’s and what he can do with 45’s most can’t do with computers. He’s immensely creative and can change bpm’s of a track live and it sounds like how it’s supposed to be as the crowd hears it (130 down to 100). The music he plays is extremely diverse, playing taiwanese to cumbia’s to Blondie disco and it seems to fit. He uses samplers or echo machines but it’s the way he makes use of those things and is able to come up with his own tracks off the fly with one sampler. Technically, his skill is equal to Cut Chemist. He’s an avant garde artist and all around cool guy and sweet human being.
What made you want to start Dj’ing in the first place?
I thought you might ask that and I was trying to think about it because I’m still not really entirely sure, but I didn’t really have a moment when I decided I was going to Dj or that I wanted to be a Dj. For me it sort of started in a weird accidental way. At that time in the late 90’s, probably around ‘99, my house was kinda like a graffiti writer’s clubhouse here in Phoenix. So I had broken up with my girlfriend and she had left behind a turntable because she couldn’t take it and I still had records left over from when I was younger and stuff that I had bought in the 90’s. Like hip-hop and different beats and stuff on vinyl. So I ended up having a turntable and some wax and my house was in this weird apartment building and every day in the afternoon or evening a ton of graffiti writers or people from the neighborhood would show up and it would just be our club-shack or something. People would practice drawing and they would be sitting around the edges smoking weed, talking shit, or hanging out The middle of the room we had cleared out because a couple of us would mess around with dancing and stuff. So you would see spontaneous things happening. We would freestyle rap, clowning on each other and none of us were trying to come up with some sort of career.
It was just really kinda the circle we were in and it was just what we did, you know? And records and music go along with all that and so we’d play tapes and mix tapes and records and at that time I was basically trying to record a tape for myself of just instrumentals just to decompress from painting all night with these dudes. So I was basically trying to calm myself down after going out all night, walking around the city and getting all types of adrenaline. I was trying to make this recording and I realized I could not put beats together because I never learned how to beatmatch and I never tried to and I didn’t think I’d be able to. I grew up around dj’s and I knew there was a whole art to it, of putting music together and I never thought I’d be able to do that. I wasn’t even trying to put in the work to do that but I realized that if I wanted to make this tape, I was going to have to learn how to put the beats together so it sorta tricked me. I was trying to figure it out and I couldn’t hear it. All of a sudden one day I was able to hear it in my head. Something switched in my brain and I was able to hear these two songs at the same time so I ran to the turntables and I tried it out and, sure enough, it worked the way that I was hearing it in my head. It just progressed from there just like on a neighborhood party level. A few months later we did a kickback party in the alley where we were making food and everyone was hanging out. We plugged in a bunch of broken home stereos in order to make ourselves a little sound system. It wasn’t anything official like with a flyer. I really wasn’t trying to be that guy, in a way. I wasn’t too interested in the public face persona thing of being a dj. But it just kept going at a neighborhood level. So that’s how I got into it if that makes any sense.
Yeah, it does. I know what that feeling’s like when you’re out all night tagging and stuff like that. So was there a strong graffiti scene that you came out of?
Oh yeah! That’s absolutely my family and my background here, big time. That’s still a lot of people I love a lot, you know?
How would you describe your skill or your technique? Would you say it’s different than anything that’s going on in Phoenix?
Honestly, I wouldn’t say that. What I’m doing is really, really, really basic. I’m looking for beats and rhythms. I’m looking for that break beat or that funky rhythm in any type of music. People have been doing that since the 70’s, you know? I’m into finding stuff whether it’s old or new. I don’t care. There’s that sound in it that’s interesting or exciting and that’s what I’m trying to hunt down, you know? I definitely wouldn’t say I’m doing something different than what people have done before.
I saw that video of you at the Phoenix art museum where you’re using the sampler or looper. When did you start doing that? When did that come along?
I got turned on to that machine, well, I was kinda resistant to any type of machine or effects for awhile because I felt like that was cheating, you know? I sorta feel like there’s so many weird sounds and things you can do just using the turntables and the fader. But, I got turned on to that from my partner Dj Smite and he hips me to that about 4 years ago, maybe less. It’s sort of an outdated piece of equipment. I think it’s about 12 years old but it’s still perfect. What attracted me to that is it’s basically like a guitar pedal. There’s fuzz, a grungy fuzz effect and there’s an echo effect. It has this really simple echo and you can set it on 100% and say you were to put on a record like a talking record, you basically scratch or drop a little sample and you can tap the tempo so it catches the same tempo with the beat you’re about to use and you can start building these really primitive and simple loops and then drop a beat to it. Whatever sounds you put into it, it’s going to just repeat it. So if you put a tiny sound in it, like one tiny snare, you’ll hear that snare repeated. And you can look for a record and add another sound to it so you can build it from the ground up. Or you can catch one bar off a break from a record and you can just repeat that one bar. I’ve grown to love that thing. It’s basically like live sampling in a primitive way.
Do people hire you for more of that performance or were you doing that for a part of the time?
I definitely integrate that into my sets. Bringing out the song and going into sounds or layers. I just follow it if it feels right to do that. A lot of times I’ll end the night I can get the sounds of a heartbeat out of it. If I just have the needle laying on the end of a record, on the run out part where’s there’s no grooves, I turn the bass way up and I just tap the record with my hand and I can get what sounds like a heartbeat and then I’ll turn the echo on all the way and it’ll just start repeating. There was a time when I worked in an after school program for kids and teaching kids to dj and even with those kids, I noticed they were drawn to the echo machine because that effect is fun and simple and really pleasing to the ear. I think it’s cool even, when you’re a kid, and you’re in a big hall or cave or something to hear the echo. That’s all those machines are or simulating.
Do you still spin records?
Oh, yeah. I still use records. Thankfully, there’s still so much coming out on wax and I can’t keep up with everything I want to get, really.
Where do you get them? How do you get them?
Any and everywhere. There’s records I’m ordering from some dude in France that’s selling something and I worked extra hard that weekend so I’ll allow myself to….fuckin…you know, the freedom of ordering something. It’s sort of like a treat to myself sometimes. There’s certain stuff where only if I worked really hard that weekend will I allow myself to order something because otherwise I’m going to spend all my damn rent money. I try not to buy the first price that I see. I try and wait till I see something cheap and I’ll get something at the record shop here in Phoenix. There’s no best way to get ahold of a record.
I read somewhere you went to Asia?
I did get to go there. Some years back I went there.
Has it influenced you in the music you play?
One thing that did influence me a lot was going to Thailand. I didn’t know anything about the music there and I spent a lot of time trying to find records which was not easy but when I did I ran into these old school Thai record collector guys and we couldn’t speak any of each other’s language. They were the same type of guys that I’ve met here, record collector people, and I started listening to this stuff in a funky antique store. Going to Thailand blew my mind for the music because I had no idea what the music was like. I came home with records and it just blew my mind. I do have one mix where it was all just stuff I found over there. I just tried to highlight the songs. I should’ve gotten twice as much.
How did the Bikini Lounge night start?
That started 10 years ago with a guy named Bradford and his sister Andy and they were basically just throwing these crazy parties there and they asked me to dj. They asked some other neighborhood dj’s and they ended up moving their party to a more formal nightclub venue and the Bikini Lounge owners asked me and my friend Pablo Luna if we would want to keep dj’ing there on Tuesdays.Their thing at the nightclub ended up stopping after about a year and we were still doing it at Bikini Lounge and I hit up the original people and asked them if we could call it 602’sdays. They were basically, like, you guys are carrying on the torch of that original idea so use the name. Then we picked the name back up and that’s how it started. There’s been tons of people that have played there through the years and I’m thankful I get to be involved with. It’s a wonderful night. People come there for music and they come to get down and dance. Even beyond music, we did things to raise money or raise supplies for people and it’s one of the funnest things in Phoenix that I know of.
Do you still do a night at the Palace?
Yeah, I still do the Palace which is once a month and it focuses the party on all international music and that’s another spot, Film Bar. It’s a newer venue but they got a lot of heart. They’ve had my back since the start and they’re very good people. Besides that it’s just random other gigs.
Do you still sell burritos?
I still sell burritos, sometimes, yeah. They’re a good tool for fundraising too. If I sell 20 burritos for 5 bucks a piece then we raise a hundred bucks towards whatever it is, you know? And also I just want to have beans because it’s like my staple food. I have to have beans in my refrigerator. It’s like half of what I eat.
(Haha) I always have a can of refried beans in case shit gets bad.
Ah. You got to make them from scratch, man. You’ll spend so much less money and you’ll have them for like 4 or 5 days and you can invite your friends over. Yeah, we spent like 3 dollars and we all ate like kings. (Haha) I don’t know, whatever.
Is there a strong music scene going on in Phoenix?
So, I feel like there’s a really strong underground scene in Phoenix and I don’t feel like it’s something people put their finger on. It hasn’t been highlighted. It’s here, man, it’s happening. I see it all the fuckin’ time. I’m super supported by it. I can’t believe it. I see such a funky and diverse situation with so many people and they’re coming to get down. I’m really thankful for it.
When you started dj’ing were there any dj’s that you started watching that helped you get your chops up or your technique?
To be honest, I kinda was alone when I got into it. I definitely was around dj’s and that I would listen to growing up and that I was friends with but I never really paid attention to the technique of what they were doing. I was either interested in dancing or interested in drawing and listening to what they did, you know? When I was getting into it I was learning some things backwards because I was teaching myself scratching. I mean I would just use the transform switches and I’m left handed so I was learning things in a weird way. Definitely been influenced by people’s selections and I’m just into getting turned on by music. I’ve been influenced a lot by John Dickson down here who’s the Arizona music historian. He’s basically the main dj and person that’s kept track of Arizona music especially funk and soul music.
That’s Johnny D, right?
Yeah, Johnny D has turned me onto a lot of good music and he’s in his 60’s but he can still rock a party and he’s just really young at heart and really wise with music and he’s good on the decks, you know? He played at 602’sdays two weeks ago and completely rocked it in there. All 45’s and flawless. That just show’s you that someone in their 60’s that can rock a late night party and there’s just so many different ways people can do this stuff. It’s refreshing because there’s an endless amount of approaches people can take towards party rocking.
Who designs the fliers?
A lot of the fliers I design myself. If they look like they’re drawn then I usually draw them. I’m usually up till 4 in the morning drawing the shit and going to Kinko’s and photo copying shit. I’m still doing things primitive style. The same way I did it many years ago.
That burning man car? Is that an actual car with 602’sdays on the side of it?
With all the shopping carts? Yeah, it was like shopping carts that people wired together to look like a pirate ship.
Yeah, that’s what that is. If you look closely you’ll see 15 shopping carts that got wired together to make one huge cart. That’s from downtown Phoenix. Some artist made that thing. If you look up Shopping Cart Pirate Ship on Youtube there’s a video of it and they actually pushed that thing through the streets and were riding it and acting like Pirates and shit down Roosevelt.
And they had 602’sdays on the side of it?
They ended up abandoning it and trying to cement it into the ground in an empty lot and so it was there where it used to be Planet Earth Theater. They cemented it into the ground and I went to hang the 602’sdays signs on it a day before the city came and knocked it down and took it away.
Have you had any collaborations with any other dj’s or anything like that?
I’m constantly collaborating with people at parties. My partner Smite and I, we’ve done it in the past, but we’ve been wanting to do a 4 turn-table thing utilizing the live sampling and the mix, too. I’d be lying if I said we’re practicing and doing it all the time but it’s something that we do want to do. We want to work on a night that’s basically all blends and some sampling. Once you have 4 turntables and if you practice and get together you can just do so much with it and it’s really fun.
Well, I’m out of questions.
(Haha) That’s good. I have to go mess around and get records together for tonight. (Haha)