DJ Chang Bang on His Cuban Roots and Florida's EDM Scene
Florida-based disco and house DJ Chang Bang's obsession with music took hold when, at just 10, he discovered his Cuban-Chinese mother's disco, funk, soul, and Latin music record collection. Beginning his DJ career in the early '80s, he was commissioned to make edits and mixes for Miami radio stations like Rhythm 98FM and Power96, and soon moved on to DJing nightclubs like The Edge and the infamous all-night club Simons, playing alongside DJs like Felix Da Housecat, Green Velvet, and Richie Hawtin. Now 25 years into his career, he still releases one to two mixes a week, including podcasts for Sirius Radio and his own Exotica Radio.
Aside from DJing, he is also extensively involved in charity work with Project Ahimsa, as well as maintaining his role as co-founder of the Street Music Workshop at The Moses House in Florida for at-risk youth. We recently spoke with Chang Bang about Florida's DJ scene, his charity work, and what's currently on his personal playlist. He plays Go Bang! this Saturday with SF Weekly's own Derek Opperman and Marke B at the Deco Lounge.
Since you are based in Florida, can you tell us a little about the DJ scene there?
The DJ scene has been pretty established since the late '80s, and many great DJs have come out of the area like Jask, Three, Bunny, Dave Christophere (Rabbit in the Moon), Chris Fortier, Kimball Collins, Amir Alexander, and Murk, just to name a few. It's very diverse from house, tech-house, deep house, hip-hop, disco/funk/soul. It's definitely growing, especially now with the influence of Winter Music Conference in Miami.
Do you think the DJ scene is primarily centered in Miami?
In Florida, I would say Miami is the main area where you see the DJ culture. Mainly 'cause of the amount of bookings and nightclubs in the area compared to the rest of the state. Also there are many well-known DJs from around the country that have homes down there now, which adds to the scene. I'm also sure clubs being able to be open 24/7 downtown helps a lot also.
In your opinion, is that good or bad?
As far as good or bad, it depends on what side you are looking at it from. It can degrade the quality of events, since the bigger clubs demand more people to keep the doors open. But at the same time it makes it easier for the smaller underground spaces to bring in really good talent you would not hear normally because of the turnouts.
How did growing up in a Cuban family influence your taste in music?
Mostly with the rhythms, being raised around the beat of the drums, anything with a good groove always catches my attention.
When did you come up with the moniker Chang Bang?
My name is Carlitos in Spanish, and living in Miami at that time I had to come up with a name that would stand out. My Dad is Cuban-Spanish, and Mom is Cuban and half Chinese, so I decided to use my Mom's last name, Chang. The "Bang" came a lot later so as to not get confused with the other DJ Changs out there now (laughs).
You cite many influences, like Latin music and hip-hop. But where does your heart lie in terms of genres?
I'd say disco, deep house, and good techno!
Tell us a little about your side projects like Project Ahimsa and how you got involved with them.
Project Ahimsa is a non-profit that empowers youth around the world with musical instruments; actually, it is based in San Francisco. I got involved with them through a friend of mine that used to work for them. I met Tejas Patel, one of the founders, who lives in Tampa, and got involved with their Global Lingo Project. I helped them sort out some remixes for the project from myself and two of my friends, Cubanix and Nilla Green.
Do you think computer-based instruments are equal to musical instruments?
Yes, why not? It's all in the user's method of creativity; musical instruments, analog or digital, are tools, extensions of one's creative energy. They each have their own way of expression.
You're also co-founder of Street Music Workshop. Why did you decide to start this organization?
I got involved with the Moses House, which is a non-profit in Tampa that works with the youth in the Sulphur Springs area. We decided to create a music workshop for the kids to help them express themselves through hip-hop and other forms of music. Many of the kids in the workshop tend to get in trouble on the streets; this is a way for them to grow out of that, and into something creative.
This year, you acted as a Mr. X for the Red Bull Music Academy. What does that mean?
Mr. X is a rep for the Red Bull Music Academy, which is a platform for music that happens every year in different cities around the world. It's basically a series of lectures, workshops, and recording sessions with some of the biggest names in the music industry.
What Mr. X does is gather applicants from his area to enter the Academy. If they are chosen, they get an all-expense paid trip to the Academy to work, play, and meet a global collection of artists, DJs, producers, and musicians from all over the world. Last year's Academy was in Madrid.
As Mr. X, what do you look for in applicants? Or can it not be shared?
What we look for in applicants I would say is authenticity, creativity, attitude, and how well they can work in a team setting. All applicants need to fill in an extensive questionnaire ranging from nerd standards to personal philosophies to purely technical junk. It's a pretty intense application, but fun at the same time!
What's currently on your playlist?
On the disco tip, I currently enjoy edits from Sleazy McQueen, Greg Wilson, The Revenge, Soul Clap, Leftside Wobble, Miguel Campbell, Situation, Harvey, Rayko, Touchsoul. On the deep-tech tip I've been digging the sounds of Finnebassen, Alex Arnout, Technasia, Mr. C, Hollis P Monroe, Azari & III, Francesca Lombardo, Maceo Plex, Amirali, Nicolas Jaar ... there's so many to name! There's lots of good music out now.
What can we expect to hear this Saturday as you play Go Bang?
A series of classic driven atomic-disco and more!