DJ Chris Fox on the Success of Bootie, and Why He Still Plays Vinyl Sets
For local DJ Chris Fox, seeing someone's hair catch fire during a gig is no longer a huge deal. His successes have been built on simply having a good time to great music, with zero tolerance for pretentiousness. This formula has propelled Fox and longtime collaborator Kool Karlo to coveted permanent-resident slots at Bootie SF. Fox also plays every second and fourth Friday at Laszlo, where he takes a break from all the big-club craziness with an all-vinyl set. He celebrates three years of Fox Fridays at Laszlo this Friday.
What's the history behind Damn Gina, which was one of the most notorious Tuesday night parties in SF for several years?
Damn Gina was started as a happy hour at Ambassador by Karlo and our mutual friend, Waitin' Clayton. After Clayton relocated, I stepped in. We started staying open later, and Karlo and I evolved our DJ style into an "anything goes" approach. We had one of the most internationally diverse crowds in the entire city, and we embraced that. Our whole philosophy revolved around good music and fun, unpretentious marketing. Oh, and cheap drinks.
Share one of your most debaucherous memories of Damn Gina's long run at The Ambassador.
We saw quite a few peoples' hair catch on fire over those three years.
Recently, you and your Damn Gina counterpart, Kool Karlo, have become permanent residents at Bootie. How do you guys translate the vibe from the old venue to the new?
Based on the success that Damn Gina had on Tuesdays, we promoted Damn Gina East at Shattuck Down Low in Berkeley for two years. That vibe was much more hip-hop than Ambassador's uptempo dance theme. When we work with Bootie, we get to combine all of our favorite genres into one huge mash-up. It's been a perfect fit and a great opportunity to showcase our versatility as DJs.
What do you think makes Bootie such a worldwide phenomenon?
Bootie's consistency and diversity are what keep it so great. Mash-ups appeal to so many styles of people, and every Bootie party, no matter what city, represents that worldwide community of music lovers. Every genre of music and person is represented there, for no other reason than to party as equals. I think that's the key to any successful event, but Bootie has truly nailed it.
We heard you're working on a new jazz remix project under a new alias. Can you tell us anything about that?
I can't say too much, but I've been remixing some rare jazz recordings under the pseudonym Jazzy Fox. It involves sampling combined with live instrumentation. It's definitely a new direction. I like to think of it as classy cocktail-hour music with an edge.
This week, you celebrate the three-year anniversary of your Fox Fridays party at Laszlo, which focuses on '90s hip-hop. Tell us a little about that party.
Every second and fourth Friday, I play classics from my record collection alongside a solid rotation of guest DJs. What started as a '90s hip-hop/R&B theme has expanded to include all styles associated with those genres, like old-school funk, soul, disco and rock. The turntables at Laszlo are embedded in the bar itself, so there's a lot more interaction with guests than in most DJ booths. Laszlo has always had a great atmosphere and this Friday will be no different.
You're one of a shrinking number of DJs that still makes an effort to play all-vinyl sets. What does playing vinyl live mean to you?
I look at records like comic books. Even if I have an MP3 of a song, I will seek out the vinyl copy to feel like I truly "own" it. Playing records is the original form of being a DJ. It requires your mind to work a little bit harder than when you are in front of a screen. Not a week has gone by in 10 years that I haven't bought records. I definitely rely on my computer for certain nights, but I still collect tons of vinyl. It's just way more fun for me when I get to play records out, so I take advantage at any chance.
You're also a member of Boutique DJs, which books DJs for weddings and private events. What's an embarrassing moment you've witnessed at a wedding?
All I have to say is don't drink too much before your Best Man speech!