DJ Proof on His Search For the Perfect Beat
As a Filipino kid growing up in the Bay Area during the '80s, Marky Enriquez, aka Proof, was intent on being part of the region's famed mobile DJ scene, where breakdancers and DJs competed for notoriety at every party. Upon discovering that he couldn't quite master the moves, he found his talents better suited for moving the dancefloor. Today, he is an original member of the artist collective Massive Selector, as well as a member of the infamous Sweater Funk crew, known for underground parties dedicated to boogie funk and modern soul. We recently spoke with Proof about being a promoter, Sweater Funk, and Stevie Wonder. He plays WONDER-Full Saturday at Mezzanine with DJ Spinna and local DJs King Most and Hakobo.
What attracts you to late '70s early '80s funk and boogie?
I got introduced to funk while in college at Cal Poly SLO, of all places. I'd hit up the local record store every week, and my homie who worked there would put me on to a lot of the classics: James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, The Meters, Sly and The Family Stone, etc. I really got into it, and eventually, ended up hosting my own college radio show dedicated to funk breaks, rare grooves, and hip-hop. It really wasn't until after college that I started getting into disco and early 80's funk. The sounds that came out of that era were the building blocks of hip-hop, electro, and house as we know it, so I think it was a natural progression for me to start digging the roots of the music I loved.
You're known for your "Night Shift" mixes, which consist of a lot of rare boogie tracks. How did you get started with these mixes?
In 2008, Renmin asked me if I wanted to work on a rare '80s R&B or "boogie funk" mix on original vinyl. Growing up in that era, I had always been a fan of Prince, Michael Jackson, S.O.S. Band, Mary Jane Girls, Midnight Star, and Evelyn Champagne King. But it wasn't until Renmin played me this cut from some obscure label, Rissa Crissa, called "The Bottom Line," by South Bronx that had me bugging out! It was a synth heavy joint with an infectious bass line, and you could just picture the b-boys and b-girls getting down to this when it first came out. "The Bottom Line" opened a new door in my search for the perfect beat, and forced me to dig deeper for obscure funk tracks from the '80's. A few months later, "Night Shift" was born.
You guys are coming out with the third installment this month. How has the sound evolved?
"Night Shift 2" continued to explore the sounds that came out of this crucial era in dance music, and even dipped into proto-house. "Night Shift 3" will have a much more chill vibe, and is inspired by our favorite time of the night at Sweater Funk, when we bring the tempo down and start playing steppers and modern soul. Steppers, or 2-Step soul, are mellow, midtempo groovers perfect for steppin', a dance phenomenon that originated in Chicago. Think "Step in the Name of Love" by R. Kelly. For this third installment, we're looking to get deep, maybe a little obscure, and definitely more soulful with our selections this time around.
What was the best part of becoming part of the Sweater Funk crew?
Sweater Funk is like church to me. I go to get inspired, hang out with friends, and even catch the spirit on the dancefloor. But instead of praying, we geek out to records! It's guaranteed that someone from the crew (there's 13 of us) will drop something that night, and everyone will just freak out. It's kinda silly, but you just have to go and experience it. Oh, and for those who don't know, Sweater Funk goes down every Sunday night at The Knockout where we spin boogie funk, modern soul, and steppers strictly on original wax, going four years strong.
Do you think the positive messages in funk and boogie jams can be found in music today?
I think so. Independent artists like Dam-Funk, Onra, Opolopo, Amalia, Confection, Electric Wire Hustle, Oddisee, B.Bravo and Teeko, and even Sweater Funk's own K-Maxx are at the forefront of the Modern Funk genre, and are putting out new music inspired by the positive themes of that bygone era. I hope to see it continue in 2013.
Since you're also a promoter, what type of events do you strive to give to the nightlife scene?
Whether it's on a boat cruise around the Bay with our favorite music makers and community builders, or making an East Coast connection atop a fly rooftop in the Big Apple, or on a packed dancefloor at 4 a.m. with the world's best DJ on the wheels for WONDER-Full, I strive to give the scene positive, lasting memories with my events. It may sound corny, but I really do appreciate it when folks take the time out to support, so the least I can do is provide them with a worthwhile experience.
Some people may think promoting is partying and fairly simple, but what's a misconception you would like people to know?
That's it's always fun. It's always a party. Well, it's not. I actually hate promoting... You know that Portlandia skit "Wanna Come to My DJ Night?" Story of my life.
You're DJing Wonder-full this Saturday, as well as one of the people putting it on. What's your favorite part about being part of the WONDER-Full party?
WONDER-Full is one of those special parties where the vibe is just right: great music, soulful crowd, incredible energy. The dancefloor is packed all night with people getting down to the sounds of Stevie Wonder. When you've got a thousand-plus people singing along to "My Cherie Amore" at prime time, you can feel it all over. For the last nine years, DJ Spinna has shown us why he's one of the best DJ's in the world. He not only throws down amazing sets that keep the party moving, he's also able to channel Stevie's positive message throughout the night, and that's a beautiful thing. Folks ask me, why do we do continue to do this party every year? Because Stevie's music is the embodiment of love, and sometimes that's all we need.