Continued from part one…
Did you consider the music in Chicago better?
I can’t say it’s better. I strongly believe in this: We can say an artist is better or a certain type of music is better, but it’s all about what you like. If you don’t like it, don’t fuck with it. But personally, I’m more into the Chicago scene. Everything is there, at least what I wanted musically. It’s funny because I really wanted to come to New York, but if I had skipped Chicago, I might not be DJing like this.
When I was in Chicago, I was so shocked by juke music. I never realized there was black music with such heavy electro.
I really like sexy, booty music. I love the house, soul, everything.
So you went from classical to hip hop to all these new forms of music. How would characterize your sound and personal musical preferences now in the aftermath of this exposure?
I like music that makes me shake my ass off. That’s it! [laughs] I like sexy music. Even classical music has a sexy side!
I really like Chicago House, Baltimore Club, bass. I like electro, but sometimes I really wanna shake my ass, not just jump. I mean, sometimes jumping is fine, but not all night.
What equipment do you use?
Technics only, no Gemini! [laughs] I use Serato when I play out, but I am really a vinyl person. That’s why it was hard for me initially when I first started DJing in the United States because it all costs so much money. When I came to the U.S., Serato had pretty much just come out. I wavered between shipping my vinyls from Japan or buying a computer and Serato here. It’s pretty much the same amount of money. About $3000 to get all my records, or the same price to get a computer and Serato. I decided on the computer and Serato, and I think I made the right choice.
How did you get involved in the BANANAS party?
They are my friends. There’s a big gay community in Bed Stuy. My café where I work is owned by people in that community, so it was natural for me to engage with them. I find them to be really creative, talented people. That’s why I got involved with them. They are so free and they’re strong. Even though they have dicks, something is different. I don’t judge, but how straight men live their lives and how gay men live their lives is often totally different. I’m sure that they have had a hard time in the past, so I connect with them.
I started working with That’s My Jam! through the same group, but BANANAS was my first gig. I really appreciate Jlamar and Jamie [ed. note: the promoters and hosts for BANANAS] because if they hadn’t included me in BANANAS, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve learned so many things, and that party inspired me so much. I was actually their first resident DJ. They were always switching around before me, but as soon as I got on the table, they were like, “You should work with us.” And I thought, “Why not?” I still work with them to this day.
You’re also a resident at other spots – can you tell us a little bit about those?
I DJ at Sweet and Vicious in SoHo. It’s my weekly Thursday, Friday, Saturday spot if I’m not booked at some other party. On Mondays, I play at Project Parlor. We just started that party. It’s been about a month. I wanted to have my spot, my party, to be all about good music, good people, and having a good time. You don’t have to act like you’re cool or act like someone you’re not. Just be there, same place, same time. I don’t promote hard. I just tell people like, “Yeah man, I’m DJing every Monday. Same place, same time. If you wanna come, come.”
The party’s called “Wonton Soup.” My friend Eddie, who goes by DJ Edward Swisherhands, also DJs. His music taste is amazing. He just started DJing. I believe that if you keep doing something, your skill can catch up, but you’re born with your talent and your taste. Those are things that just belong to you. I really like his music style, and I thought that he and I could do whatever we wanted to.
It’s called “Wonton Soup” because one time, he played “Wonton Soup” by Lil B, and everyone was going crazy for no reason.
We both liked the title, so we decided on that. Names often come up without some deep meaning or reason. I never look for them. It all happens randomly.
Considering you play in both the queer and straight scenes, have you noticed any differences in the crowd or the scenes themselves?
Hell fucking yes! [laughs] [Queer people] know how to have fun. No bullshit.
At some parties, people just want to act like they’re having a party, when they’re not. They are not having fun. That’s why I don’t go out as much because when a party is like that, it’s a waste of my time. I can go to a club and hear an amazing DJ, playing great tracks, but the vibe is so whack. I think, “Why are you all just sitting down and looking at me? Why aren’t you dancing? Why are you here?!?!” I see that sometimes in the straight scene. They might be there to look for music, but most likely, something else.
Not all straight parties are like that, of course, but there are still some differences in the vibe. I mean no disrespect to any scene. The queer parties just seem more real, but every scene is different. Even when it comes down to what I play. How I choose music is totally different depending on if the party is gay, lesbian, straight. I pretty much go on the vibe I get from the people. If there are people shaking their asses, I go hard and play music for that, but if they don’t know how to, or if they seem like they want something more mellow, I go with hip hop. I used to prepare my sets, but now I just read the crowd.
When I was in Japan, I always wanted to be prepared. But one day, I just realized that had to change. Your set is just in your house, for yourself and for your imagination, but that’s not real. Making a set makes me feel like a novelist. It’s like work. I don’t like to do arts to make money. I am making money right now, but I never do it for money. I do it for fun.
One day, I lost my job, I got hit by a car (all in one day) and I had to really begin to sacrifice. I thought to myself, “What can I do to survive here? All I have is Japanese and DJing.” When DJing becomes your job, it’s kinda hard, but it helps that I love doing it.
It’s hard to enjoy going out sometimes, though, because as a DJ, you’re technically always working. No matter what, you’re DJing. Like if I go out, and I hear a new song that I really like, I think, “I need that!” There’s no time for me to purely enjoy somebody’s set. It’s mental work at all times, especially if the other DJ is really good.
Do you find anything particularly challenging about being a DJ in NYC?
To me, it’s the easiest place. Everything is here. The most important thing is you, making the choice as to where you want to play. You have so many choices. Where I’m from, we didn’t have as many choices. New York is the best place to be a DJ. Yes, it’s a hustle because so many people want to do it, but if you know where to go, everything is easy. If you want to do it, just do it.
I remember when I first met you, you were wearing these baggy pants, a side ponytail, and huge glasses!
I looked like a nerd, yo! [laughs]
And I remember the first thing you said to me after I introduced myself was “Do you DJ?” And I said, “No, I just interview them,” and you encouraged me, saying that I should really look into DJing. Did anyone provide you with that type of push or encouragement along your journey to become a DJ?
No one, really. I don’t like people forcing me to do things! [laughs] I have a strong personality.
When I DJ, people are usually shocked because it doesn’t look like the music could come from me. I remember once that I DJed at this neighborhood bar with mainly black patrons. I showed up with big glasses and a crazy outfit, and people were shocked at what I played. I blew their mind. In the end, they really liked me. That’s kind of my secret enjoyment – surprising people with what they least expect.
– Retail DJ