Hey DJ! Friday Q&A: DJG of Surefire Sound, Deeper
|Kelly N. Koehler|
DJG is all about finding deep space in plenty of bass. The dubstep producer and DJ is part of the Surefire Sound crew, which is a launching a record label for which DJG is performing A&R duties. The dude has an ear for upcoming sounds and artists, too. After he opened for tastemaking BBC Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbes, she featured our local boy on her show. But this San Francisco native has long had ties overseas, his prodctions getting play at clubs around the world.
Club night(s): Surefire Sound (3rd Saturdays @ Triple Crown), Deeper (1st Fridays @ 222 Hyde)
Style(s) of music you spin: deep bass music, dubstep, techno, dub reggae, jungle, 2step, house
So what's your story, in 100 words or less? I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I have a heavy musical background, grew up playing classical music on the violin. I played in industrial bands in my teens, discovered raves and jungle music after that. I DJ'd jungle/drum&bass for nearly 10 years before quitting. I then started writing IDM and hip-hop before discovering dubstep, and at this point I consider myself a producer first and DJ second. But when
you produce dance music, the lines are blurred and that's part of the fun (or the nightmare).
What initially drew you to dubstep? The space, the pace, the bass. I've always been drawn to soundsystem-music; music that had that physical dimension of the bass hitting your body, like jungle/drum&bass and dub. In early '07 I caught a few crucial dubstep nights in London like DMZ in Brixton and FWD in Shoreditch and I was just totally inspired by the vibe that was being
created in these dances. There was this feeling of experimentation, of openness and musical freedom, you could party and dance and go crazy but really hear some amazing music at the same time, nothing was sacrificed or watered down. I don't think musical, expressive, experimental sounds and dancing/raving your face off have to be mutually exclusive things. And I saw an opportunity in dubstep to explore that approach.
|Kelly N. Koehler|
How did being featured by BBC Radio 1's Mary Anne Hobbs help you? How did you hook up with her in the first place? It was a huge honor for me on a personal level to be featured on her radio show, just because I am such a great admirer of her work. She's like this beacon, a lighthouse on the underground music scene. It was really humbling and also validating to be recognized by someone like her. The linkup came about when I was given an opportunity a few months ago to open for her at a gig in San Jose and she told me afterwards how much she was feeling my set and things went from there. Her support means a lot to me.
What's your trademark in the mixes you create? I think I approach DJing as a way to unleash energy, I just try to determine the pulse and a vibe with my selections and just ride them out, trying to create new energy. It's about my energy, the energy of the music and the energy created by the dancers. I see it like this big cycle. And the whole thing is sexual. I don't know if that makes any sense at all. Practically, what I think that means is that I mix and blend tracks very quickly, layering tunes on top of each other, using suspense and the bass to just create an environment, a narrative. Christ, how's that for the most pretentious answer ever to
a really simple question. I just play tunes, music to dance to.
How has the local dubstep scene changed over time? I guess every music scene changes, evolves, modulates, splits, comes together. Dubstep is no different. It's not really the tight family of wide-eyed idealists it was a few years ago, and I feel like my role has shifted from an involved local player/dj to more of a representative of the city nationally and abroad.
Name of a track you can't get out of your head: In all honesty, today: "You're The Best" by Joe Esposito. Fuuuuuuuuuuck.
Name of an artist you're currently championing in your DJ sets: There are a few artists that I'm playing in my sets a lot, people who still make the kind of dubstep that appeals to me, the deep heavy dubstep rollers. People like Headhunter, F, Jus Wan, J:Kenzo, Daega Sound, Pinch, Djunya, Breakage.
Name of a current favorite track for the peak of your set: Not to sound really arrogant, but lately the biggest track in my set is always this tune of mine called "Pressure". It always just creates this vibe that makes people go nuts. Breakage described it as sounding like "an ancient marching anthem." It seems to connect with people a lot.
Musical mantra: Eyes Down.
Favorite DJ experience: That's hard, there have been a lot just this year. I just got back from DJing in Portland and Cleveland, which were both fantastic. Dub War in NYC was really inspiring. I think my favorite DJ experience was in Vancouver late last year. It was just one of those special nights when everything connects and the crowd was so open and ready for different sounds. It left me feeling super-charged.
Worst request: I don't get a lot of requests honestly, I can't really think of a bad one. I think maybe because often I move around so much and get into my own world when I DJ people tend to just leave me alone.
Worst club faux pas you've committed: Oh man, the worst one would have to be literally from this past weekend in Cleveland. The gig was great, and everything worked out in the end, but about three tracks into my set, my laptop I was playing off Serato with fell onto the ground and I felt like the biggest douchebag. There was silence for what felt like an hour, but was probably only about 2 minutes while I put things back together. I am an old vinyl guy, and I totally already have this complex about playing music with my laptop. So I felt really bad. I also hate it when Serato DJs put the laptop in front of their face, so I had mine off to the side, resting precariously on some CDJ and it just got rattled onto the ground from all the bass. Ah well.
Most treasured vinyl score: My copy of Get Up With It by Miles Davis, for sentimental reasons. Girls Ain't Nothin But Trouble by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for obvious reasons.
What other music-related projects are you currently working on? I am A&Ring the forthcoming Surefire Sound record label and working on music collaborations with Jus Wan, Boxcutter, Headhunter and a few other projects in the planning stages.
What's something happening in the local music scene that should be getting more attention? I don't really know if I have an answer to that. I do wish there was more diversity being represented in the local dubstep scene though. There's maybe a little too much of a lowest-common-demoninator approach being taken in the conceptualization of parties and it's a
bummer to me. I like partying and raving but I also like musical diversity, artistic expression, innovation, experimentation and all the things we should be able to cultivate in a city like San Francisco.
What elements would your fantasy club night entail? A mid size venue (in San Francisco!) with an amazing sound system and all my best friends. And a lot of booze.
Question we didn't ask you but you often ask yourself: Which James Bond gadget would I like to use the most?
Next time we can see you spin: This Saturday the 19th, Surefire Sound at The Triple Crown with Vaccine and Comma.