Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area

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[00:00:14]
>>My name is Sukhdev Sanddu and since for a while I’ve been director of the cloak room
for popular culture and I’m out of a director for Asian Pacific American studies here at
NYU and why you cloak him in some ways kind of it’s really kind of informed by the kind
of archaeological work that APA studies has been doing for the best part of two decades
it’s devoted in different ways to resurrecting thinking about carrying a torch for individuals
for cultural practices for historical moments that have been in different ways forgotten
patronized score and deemed to be embarrassing complete failures this evening’s event is
about a scene. [00:01:03]
About and maybe will question what is seen even means in this context it’s about a scene.
For a long time barely had a name was barely remembered and mostly I’m commemorated even
by the people involved in it it’s about the Filipino American Mobile D.J. scene of course
in the Bay Area during the one nine hundred eighty S. [00:01:24]
and one nine hundred ninety S. And it’s this really third tile combust of incredibly creative
scene that Oliver Wang has a brilliantly reconstructed and reanimated in his recently published.
Legions of. Available from many books stores all of us currently associate professor of
sociology at C.S.U. Long Beach he’s a prolific writer for a number of publications and journals
including the L.A. Times wax poetic Sabai spin the Village Voice nation. [00:02:00]
D.J. is a regular broadcast of the likes of N.P.R. and. K.C. tease them bound for many
years now he’s been running Soul Sides a wonderful audio blog devoted to read resurrecting killer
soul funk hip hop tracks from all around the world I was going to be talking about the
genesis of the project and there’s kind of stories within and around it and he’s also
going to be in conversation with Wes who’s a long time friend of a cloak him and of A.P.A.
studies He’s an associate professor of English at Boston College He’s also a D.J. He’s also
pretty thick writer for The New Yorker for Slate for Atlantic Monthly for the wire for
rest in peace Graham found his first book A floating Chinaman God willing is coming
out very very soon a lot of us have been waiting for it for quite a while and rest assured
after all of his presentation and after all of her and last conversation in the Bell be
lots of times for responses questions storytelling reminiscences maybe kind of personal cringing
depending on what you’ve been doing for the last twenty years so I’m going to hand over
now to some other and Frank you again for coming up this evening. [00:03:25]
How’s it going you guys hear me OK I was actually kind of prefer not to use the mike specially
because it sounds it does sound crazy hissy and usually I project pretty well in lecture
spaces first of all thank you to have and he studies and cloaking for having me out
is I can be more honored to be here it’s nice to see so many old friends and all these new
friends in the crowd tonight and again it’s just an honor to be able to come out here
to talk about this book and expect to be in conversation with why it’s actually kind of
weird to actually be sitting this close to him because we’ve basically been talking. [00:04:00]
Every day online for the last I don’t know fifteen or so years but we almost never see
each other in the flesh it’s kind of weird not to be have a digital intermediary between
us right now. So for tonight I wanted to avoid doing a conventional Here’s a Power Point
presentation lecture not that I don’t do that and I do do it with this book but I think
given that quasi someone who actually knows this this topic pretty well cause we’ve been
having conversations about it for years now it made more sense to be a little bit looser
with that so what I’m going to do is begin with a reading from the book and then I have
a bunch of images in videos that when I look through and we can use those as jumping off
points to talk about different parts of the book and then maybe move the conversation
to other places so I hope you will. [00:04:47]
Forgive me for not sort of doing a more conventional lecture. If you want to come up to Mount Holyoke
on Tuesday I’ll be doing one there but I’m going begin with this Does a short passage
from the introduction of the book. What is it about a turntable that invites or touch
some seem incredulous that they even still exist and they reach toward them as if touching
an exotic animal previously thought to be extinct for others turntables at a nightclub
or bar seemed like an invitation for people opt in a neighborhood to play amateur D.J.
for a moment usually to the ire of the actual working D.J. still others namely my then toddler
daughter like to jab the start stop button just to see the platter spin around for me
and I suspect suspect many others as well such as how we literally and figuratively
connect to record players purpose and powers everything about D. [00:05:38]
Jing with turntables is tactile you pull a record out of a sleeve place it on the platter
lift the stylus and drop it in a groove and watching the D.J. seeing how she or he grazes
the platter or pinches the spindle we learn how important touches to the act and art of
deejaying how that physical interaction is not incidental but essential to. [00:06:00]
Turntable may be a remarkable conduit for music’s pleasures but it requires human hands
to one lock that potential my own fascination with turntables began in the summer of one
nine hundred eighty eight at a garage party thrown by a high school classmate Sanjeev
rob a booty like many an amateur D.J. before him he had raided whatever home stereo equipment
he could find in his parents’ living room and assemble the set up in their garage in
that space all cold and concrete I watch Rob a pretty mix records my first time observing
a D.J. in action I have no recollection if he was actually any good or not he’s now a
successful cardiovascular surgeon so apparently he has deft hand at least but Rev A put he
took the time to explain how beat matching worked how he would slow down or speed up
each turntable to get tempos to match one another in order to seamlessly mix between
them beat matching when done right facilitates an endless flow of music these days we take
that experience for granted but imagine what dancing would be like with a not so seamless
flow what beat matching among other techniques helps achieve is a way to bring people together
on a park a and keep them there nurturing and a femoral community of dancers rob a pretty
was a first person to teach me how D.J. and could influence social bonding and in the
years to come I would understand how those forces could work beyond the dance floor and
impact an entire region. [00:07:25]
Beginning in the late one nine hundred seventy S. and through the mid one nine hundred ninety
S. On any given weekend in the San Francisco Bay area there were dozens if not hundreds
of parties jumping off that included garage and house parties church hall dances school
gym dances weddings they booze and christening and birthday parties to say nothing of large
scale performances and competitions mobile deejays in other words D.J.’s who provide
audio and lighting services ran these parties organizing themselves into different crews
or different groups take a cruise if this was a party being hosted by one of tens of
thousands of Filipino Americans living in the Bay Area in cities such as San Francisco
Daly City. [00:08:07]
Daly City Fremont fillet host San Jose and so on it was quite likely that the D.J. or
D.J.’s at this party would be someone you knew from the neighborhood from school from
church they may have been they may have even been your cousin or at least your cousins
cousin these deejays their crews their audiences the friends families and organizations that
hire their services all constituted the Filipino American Mobile this Shockey seen in the Bay
Area and from the late seventies through those early night early mid one nine hundred ninety
S. [00:08:36]
The scene was a dominant part of the recreational life of Filipino American youth in the Bay
Area even among those who didn’t actively participate in the parties most would have
known about them and the people involved with them if you did not grow up in and around
the scene chances are you have never heard of it until now even at its height in the
mid to late one nine hundred eighty S. [00:08:56]
the mobile party slipped past the attention of local media to say nothing of regional
or national outlets in addition unlike other D.J. or hint scenes like hip hop house techno
and reggae Filipino American deejays never really made the successful drum from record
playing sorry I should be more specific Philippine American Mobile deejays never made a successful
Trump jump from record playing to record making now the words they had little physical media
to leave behind the mobile crews may have created a thriving party scene but even at
the best parties once the house lights go up and everyone leaves all that remains are
the memories thank you. [00:09:36]
Something that struck me was you talk a bit about. You sort of set the scene watching
your friend in. What was his name again. Son Jeeves is the first time you actually saw
someone bead match right as someone who deejays but also who writes for some of what do you
think is really difficult to convey about deejaying sort of in writing what is it about
eating that I think that the challenges you as a writer that was difficult to sort of
set the scene as you were constructing this book. [00:10:13]
I think stylistically you know it just the fact that people I think tend to take teaching
technique either for granted or it’s not something that they’re particularly interested in you
know one of the things that I write about in the book is about how one of the things
that inspired a lot of these young people to specially in the late one nine hundred
seventy S. [00:10:33]
and early eighty’s why they got interested in D. Jing at all is because they were high
school students they were sneaking into clubs in cities like San Francisco on the weekends
to see D.J. spin and it was one figure who’s who is enormous in this particular respect
this guy Cameron Paul who was a D.J. at a at a nightclub called Studio West which was
one of the main clubs a lot of the people especially in the San Francisco and Daly City
side of the community they would go in specifically to see CAMERON HALL In fact one of the people
I interviewed his firstborn son is named Cameron Paul Rivera which I thought was mind blowing
I mean there have been really there been incredible inspirational important deejays in my life
I’m one would not necessarily be inclined to name my children after them so but this
kind of gives you an idea of how much it was inspired and what people like Paul were doing
in the late seventies and early eighty’s is they had mastered nonstop disco mixing which
if any of you go to a nightclub and you hear the music start and it never stops until the
end of the night and it’s always seamless and there’s no break in the music that’s nonstop
mixing and we completely take that for granted but that was a stylistic innovation an invention
that began I mean in a probably a lot of places but it’s most often credited Pursley the Francis
cross Who was a teacher here in New York City in the late one nine hundred sixty S. [00:11:53]
and he invented this technique which I write about called slip cueing which again it’s
one of the most basic techniques but it’s something that had to be invented someone
had to figure out You can do this thing which lets you drop a record on time in tempo someone
later out you know figure out beat matching So again I’m sort of getting getting lost
in the kind of the minutiae. [00:12:13]
Bit but to me as someone who had to learn those techniques and the ways in which those
techniques translate to your experience listening to music I mean imagine going out dancing
where in the one nine hundred sixty S. and seventy’s the older style would have been
song ends new song begins but you know there’s always a break in between there and what you
want is you want that seamless experience so that once you start you don’t you know
you don’t give out into the D.J. stops or the drugs you know wear off so yeah well I
think the minutia is really important and that’s that’s sort of why I ask you mean when
you’re deejaying you have to grow comfortable with the sound of you know records played
the wrong B.P.M. or records and or mixing two things that one wouldn’t naturally be
inclined to mix together. [00:12:56]
One thing you know I have known you as you construct this entire project and something
that I could never quite wrap my head around is what this sounded like you talked in your
intro about how unlike scenes that formed around hip hop reggae house others are really
legible kind of music scenes there isn’t really a recorded history so could you explain I
mean assuming that many of us have never been to one of these parties or not have heard
the live tapes what did it actually sound like is it was a John RISP a civic. [00:13:33]
Yeah I mean you got to keep in mind by the time I started talking to anybody in this
the scene was already been over for five to ten years depending on when you peg you know
it’s its end date so I never went to any of these parties originally myself I’ve had to
kind of construct a sense of it simply talking to enough different people out there but the
sense that I would get from it is you know when you when you walk into a space for a
one of these crews were set up definitely the first thing you would notice probably
would even be the music would be the light display and lighting and just having the stage
set up was really really important to them it was it was in addition to the music it
was equally in poor. [00:14:13]
And so a lot of them in doing this all you know in the one nine hundred eighty S. before
there were D.J. specialty stores or way to learn how to do this they were figuring all
these things out on their own is very D.I.Y. and so some of them would go to heavy metal
concerts and just look at the truss that you know that all the lighting was set up on stage
and figure out how to do that on a smaller scale and they would learn about different
lights by going to other parties by stealing beacons off of ambulances by you know those
little blinking lights off a soft horses that you know like a you know a road crew would
use you know they would take those lights and figure out how to integrate it they would
find ways of creating their own fog machines by dropping dry ice into a bucket of water
I think my favorite examples from a crew called Sound explosion which was the first Filipino
American Mobile D.J. crew out of San Francisco and because their name was sound explosion
they would take a hubcap fill it with flash powder and then use toilet paper as a fuse
and as you can imagine that’s not a really smart idea to do to have do it yourself pyrotechnics
and one of the guys who was in charge of the crew basically lost all of his arm hair because
he didn’t set the toilet you know paper fuse long enough but it kind of gives you an idea
of the kind of you know ingenuity that they brought to get back to your question though
so they were the lighting the splay and then musically you know if it was a garage party
or a house party not only would you expect to hear music that was tailored towards the
kids so would be stuff like if we’re talking about in the one nine hundred eighty S. [00:15:39]
New Wave was big Latin freestyle dance music was huge high energy dance music you know
left overs from sort of disco and later a funk which would have worked its way in a
little bit of hip hop electro it depending on the year that we’re talking about but again
there are also playing for people’s parents so that they would have to put play if you
Cha-Cha during the evening for their parents or for the aunties and uncles in the house
too so you had to be conversant in a lot of different dance styles not just I think by
the late eighty’s and early ninety’s this is when hip hop becomes really really dominate
and you could find crews that were. [00:16:12]
Just devoted just spinning hip hop but I think that most of the crews that I write about
from the early part of the scene they had to be conversant in all these different styles
so with sound explosion this was the first crew what what year was what YOU’RE did they
formed they formed in one night in late one nine hundred seventy eight and they disbanded
by in one thousand nine hundred eighty eight and in their wake they inspired expression
at the what this one high school Babbo high in San Francisco you know at least four maybe
six crews specifically got started because they sound they saw sound explosion performing
and in the book you write about how sound explosion formed sort of as a response to
the phone book deejays Could you talk a bit about what the existing D.J. scene was so
if you were going to have a school dance in the Bay Area in the one nine hundred seventy
S. [00:17:02]
and you needed a higher D.J. for it you went to the phone book and so in San Francisco
to the main ones were this one guy named Dr Funk and then another small I think was a
two man operation called music masters and so they did all they basically had the school
dance circuit on lock but they were both an older style of teaching they didn’t do the
nonstop mixing style and so when these when these high school students would go into the
city and go to the nightclubs and discotheques and see teachings doing nonstop mixing they
realized how kind of tired Dr Funk and music master style was they were they will they
want to be part of this this new thing and so they that that’s probably how they got
started is they started to compete for business because they you know their style was much
more exciting to people they got hired in who knows at this point what happened to Dr
I’m sure Dr Funk music master did OK because they probably you know the phone books were
still cover relevant thing you know for a for quite a while and like to think that some
There’s another discussion going on and someone wrote at the Dr Funk book you know and then
his story will be told as well but if I had more time I would have loved to interview
him because he I mean he was kind of a main figure in the Bay Area of that era but yeah
it’s the Dr so I mean it is strange to think about how mind blowing it would be to actually
hear nonstop mixing if one were accustomed to having these gaps between songs what were
the touchstones me talk a bit about how sound explosion and a lot of the early crews would
be inspired by like heavy metal lighting and ambulances apparently what what were some
of the musical touchstones like where did they learn. [00:18:46]
Just just how outmoded Dr Funk was. It was a combination of certainly in the early years
just going to nightclubs and cribbing notes off of what they heard. That was being spun
in the city and the thing I should you know clarify to is that this the scene that I write
about was almost exclusively a suburban scene so even the crews that came out of San Francisco
they came out of the sunset in the Richmond which are the most suburban districts in the
city or in the Excelsior which is on the other side of the border from Daly City and so what
you have there is this movement of music and ideas that begins in sort of the like the
you know the entertainment sectors of the city and then they translate that in a sense
out to the suburbs by figuring out how can I replicate this club experience but do it
in somebodies garage or do it in a school gymnasium or do it in a church hall and so
they’re still going you know back into the city on the weekends to figure out what are
the deejays they’re playing and certainly like a lot of deejays they learned by going
to record stores and so I’m just interviewing these these folks I got a list of of now way
long defunct record stores in San Francisco but one of the most important ones was one
called Aloha records which specialized in disco and dance music that used to be in the
Castro you know Street Light Records which is actually still around in that area but
they would go there and they would look at charts they would talk to other folks and
partly once the scene really took off it was this clinic going to each other’s parties
and kind of stealing notes and learning from there and that kind of internal competitiveness
helps to push them to want to break new records as well yeah and maybe we can look at some
of the fires and discard Yeah I just realized this is all completely frozen up so it is
going to reboot real quick so let’s let’s put that off for like another sixty seconds
or so so this is one thing that I’ve been thinking about just the book that I’m working
on also as long as I’ve known you that reference the one thing that has really struck me as
I sort of been looking at these literary scenes is the extent to which we mistake kind of
genius or creativity with and of people hating each other or rivalries competition. [00:20:58]
You know a lot of change isn’t actually sparked because someone has a great idea it’s just
someone wants to one up their friend right or wants to do something to enter into the
marketplace so can you talk a bit about the the role that rivalry played. Was it like
a friendly competition was it was it did you sense like animosity between Cruz I mean the
the scenes you describe tend to sound quite wholesome. [00:21:25]
It’s funny I think part of it is because by the time I interviewed a lot of these of a
lot of my respondents they were already well into the thirty’s if not forty’s and so they
were reminiscing on something that was part of their their childhood and their adolescence
and teen years and I think my my feeling is with the passage of time they become kinder
in their memory as to what that what what things were like and it was a few people and
I would talk about sort of the quote the cooperative MS of it but then someone would would like
the one exception would jump in and say it wasn’t all like love in fam like there was
a lot of rivalry you know a lot of competition and part of it is you’re competing for gigs
you’re competing for reputation which helps you get gigs I mean this is exists in many
different cultural scenes it’s really not unique to teaching you know amongst the more
foul things that I heard about would be accusations of cord cutting So if someone’s doing a routine
on stage you just snip their power cord in and they’re going to have some problems with
that one of the most frequent accusations you would throw against another crew is you
would accuse them of using a tape in other words you’re saying that their routine is
executed way too clean to be done spontaneously be done live you must have precarious basically
the D.J. privilege seeking in essence And so that was something that I would I didn’t
know to expect as I’d never heard that term before but you know people would tell me Yeah
we got we won this battle but people accused us of using a tape because they didn’t they
didn’t believe that we could execute in the way that we did so there was certainly that
kind of rivalry but. [00:22:58]
Also just a lot of mentorship and so Cuba how many people familiar with Cuba out there
right so he’s you know he’s the most famous Filipino American D.J. on the planet and also
came out of the scene he’s partly one of the reasons why I even knew about the scene was
interviewing him about how he got started and Q. [00:23:15]
he started in a mobile crew called Lifestyle productions which was I think partially San
Francisco partially Daly City and his crew was meant toward by this older bigger crew
out of Daly City called spintronic so spintronic with bring in fact if I can get this to work
I actually have a flyer to show this. [00:23:35]
They would. Spintronic what bring Kubert or would give lifestyle the gigs that they couldn’t
take and there was no need they didn’t have to do stuff like that I mean that was basically
something that was done strictly to help mentor another generation I think this flyer story
OK so this flare if you notice. [00:23:55]
So featuring MC Johnny crushing Cooper from livestock production so this was a spin Tronics
gig but they brought a young Kubert I just before Kubrick was you know remotely like
the curate we think of today but you would see that kind of mentorship happen a lot and
the title of my actually. [00:24:13]
Hubert is I’m sorry I mean yeah so be up on turntables Kubert is a scratch D.J. A K A
turntable lists he got his start in the late one nine hundred eighty S. by nineteen ninety
one he had become the U.S. D.J. champion in this. Prestigious competition world global
competition called the D.M.C. in ninety two Him mixmaster MIKE Well here let’s rather
than talk about a let’s let’s actually look at it this is part of the winning routine
they were then known as The Rock Steady D.J.’s but this is D.J. Apollo D.J. mixmaster Mike
and D.J. Kubert as the rock steady D.J.’s all three of them are a Filipino descent all
three of them are from the Bay Area all three of them began a typical. [00:25:53]
So there were teams that that second part which uses it’s known as they called the Peter
Piper routine from Run D.M.C. is Peter Piper Apollo was just telling me the other week
that him and Mike invented that routine back in eighty eight but this was from ninety two
and so this was back when they were both active mobile deejays they that’s when they first
got to know each other became friends and they were already practicing stuff like this
for years before they debuted it globally OK So for anyone who’s found that clip kind
of confusing and strange Can you walk us through exactly the skills are on display there so
there’s two different things that are that’s happening there one is simply their ability
to manipulate the vinyl and stylus in a way to create new sounds and rhythms that’s what
scratching is but they’re And we’re talking like a millimeter I mean we’re talking about
like yappy elating right any right and having incredible you know I hand coordination and
yet being able to create you know take a single you know a bar of sound and then chop it into
you know sixteenth of every thirty tubes or. [00:26:58]
Or whatever so that’s part of it but their innovation expression in this performance
is they figured out I mean mostly scratch teaching was a largely individual activity
and so you if you were a scratch D.J. you were by yourself and you worked a solo what
these guys came up with and partly why they won this year and then defended the next year
is they figured out how to create a band out of it and so what you’re seeing in this clip
is one person is basically doing the drums and so they’re dispersed sponsible for creating
a percussive beat it’s using scratching one person plays basically more of a melody or
some other kind of rhythmic element and one person kind of gets the freestyle like crazy
on top of that and the idea that they could take these different elements and create a
band static out of it is partly one of the things that these these deejays who eventually
became known as the invisible scratch pickles it’s one of the things that they they help
to really spearhead and it’s what they’re what we’re really well known for. [00:27:53]
Now would you say like the invisible scratch Bickles grow out of the competitiveness that
we’re just talking about in the within the mobile scene yeah I mean if the thing is this
is if you have any kind of community in which you have different groups dozens if not over
one hundred all in the mix they’re going to be naturally competitive with one another
simply because again they’re just be they want to compare the you know themselves with
one another and so I think that the deed to competitiveness that came out of in the scratch
seen a lot of ways was something extension of the competitiveness in the mobile D.J.
scene it’s all about just wanting to end up your own craft but also relative to other
folks as well. [00:28:35]
I had a second thought about that which of course is now completely left my mind maybe
I’ll come back to that. Now one of the really fascinating things that I remember I just
remember you can’t leave your mind so when I say it and say Benteke right here it is
it for Cisco in San Francisco specifically there was a tradition of our O.T.C.. [00:28:56]
Drill Team flag team. That’s exactly what I was just OK And so if you were and for whatever
reason I think partly it has to do with the R O T C and with a lot of these Filipino youth
having family that came out of having relationships with the U.S. military a lot of them got involved
in our O.T.C. in high school a lot of the Droid joined drill team and so if you were
Filipino in San Francisco one of the public high schools if you were in drill team that
was basically like being on the football team that was the it that the Pinoy equivalent
in those spaces and so Kubert specifically and this is not unusual a lot of the mobile
deejays originally were drill team members and how they got to know the people they form
their crews with Kubert himself was a drill team guy at Balboa high school the same high
school that sound explosion was from and when I interviewed Q. [00:29:45]
for the book what he told me was that simply learning how to if you’ve never seen a drill
team right it’s a coronation between multiple people carrying flags doing routines that’s
within a set amount of time and he said that’s partly how he learned the kind of discipline
that he could apply to battle D. [00:30:01]
Jing later because that’s all about executing physical movements in a set amount of time
and when he said that it was like. So yes drill team is the unsung story behind the
history of turntablism at least in San Francisco. One thing I’ve always wondered about that
is did they also have football teams or. [00:30:20]
Yeah and some of them actually were on I mean some of the people I knew that I interviewed
were athletes themselves and they were they were high school football players but D.J.
was sex you’re in a lot of ways yes it’s cool. You can look at some of the business cards
yes absolutely really interesting things here. [00:30:41]
And one of the ways in which the competitiveness really manifests itself so when you began
this project did you have a sense of I mean there binders and binders of these business
cards right right did you have a sense of just sort of how. How deep this archive would
be like how big the scene was no you know one of the I didn’t bring the flyer with me
but the first one gave me a sense of it there was a party in the early ninety’s called Actually
one thousand nine hundred six called agenda and on the back of the flyer they basically
did a roll call of all the different crews that people who put the party out could remember
from back in the day and I counted by hand how many crews were listed there it was two
hundred not all of them were necessarily Filipino crews but they were all Beriah crews and I
know I know that there were names missing off of there because their crews that I had
come across that weren’t represented there so that sort of gave me this snapshot of like
how immense it was but to me the business cards actually do a really great job of that
too simply because you kind of get a sense even in something as small as a business card
just the kind of creative energy and the identities that these guys were working with and I mean
even though I love the Flyers in the photographs I think the binders of business cards are
some my favorite visual ephemera that have survived because you just sort of instantly
instantly get a sense of the diversity in the kind of creative energy that went into
it yeah and you definitely also get a sense of of sort of how everyone will want to participate
write how the sort of my cousin does graphics school of you know like I don’t know how to
D.J. but I can make you a cool flyer where there are professional promoters as well or
where the D.J. crew is basically handling all of that themselves yeah there were eventually
by the early eighty’s there began to be independent promoters the best one was this guy Mark Bradford
I don’t have a photo of him here I do have one of the flyers he put together the Imagine
series which was largely based in San Francisco in Daly City and imagines were were really
really big deal. [00:32:48]
Bekim biannual events. And simply getting your name on the flyer even if it is a battle
even you didn’t win simply being on the Imagine flyer meant that you were at the sort of next
level in terms of reputation and so Bradford had a reputation as being a king maker in
that respect he spent a lot of money on the event so they were really kind of ostentatious
affairs and it became a puppet a way in which people just wanted to be able to get on to
the flyer to begin with let alone performing at the event itself the largest single event
in the history of this scene was held the same material fairground it was imagine seven
from one thousand nine hundred seven and there were twenty four deejays on the bill story
twenty four crews on the bill and in order to accommodate that they basically had a hangar
sized space with I think something like six stages and then four crews had to share each
stage in order to accommodate the size of that so if you can imagine one crew finishes
performing and then the whole room basically runs to the next stage which begins up and
this is sort of how they went throughout the evening and that was one of Bradford’s events
would you say that was sort of the high point around eighty six eighty seven the scene I
think Sonal Yeah I think it’s probably the point at which you have them in terms of the
best known crews that are still in circulation you have these large showcases so Bradford’s
doing it in San Francisco in Daly City in the East Bay There’s a woman Arlene. [00:34:17]
Who’s doing a series called eight productions eventually there’s one coming out of Fairfield
called Just for fun and this is all happening kind of in that mid like eighty five to nine
hundred ninety eight and essence and it’s really by around the late eighty’s and early
ninety’s some of these bigger crews have began to fade away and so that’s kind of you can
see where it crests around that time and where at this point with the influence of Mark Bradford
promoters the Imagine series one would assume that the crew. [00:34:49]
Not just consistently young Filipinos Right yeah I think I mean the parties were I think
predominantly Filipino American and partly it has to do with the demographics of the
Bay Area is that you had these clusters of families settling in the same areas so Daly
City is obviously the best known but also Union City Fremont in the East Bay San Jose
in the south fillet ho and Hercules in the north and you just had a you had a critical
mass of people that allowed these parties to be predominantly Filipino and so I’ve interviewed
Filipino American deejays from Los Angeles and for those of you who are familiar people
in the BE junkies for example and when they would go up to these barrier parties they
would say it would blow their minds because they would NEVER they had never been to a
party that was just Filipino people their parties in L.A. were much more mixed because
the Philippine American communities didn’t have the same kind of demographic critical
mass that you could achieve in different parts of the Bay Area but but your point certainly
specially in the South and East Bay I mean the people who go to parties were very very
mixed Daly City and San Francisco tend to be much more of the kind of predominately
not exclusively Filipino parties. [00:35:58]
So your book ends around around this period of time right mid ninety’s what I mean the
obvious question sort of what was the when does the when does the scene begin to sort
of going to decline or what how does that narrative play out for you it’s not any one
thing it’s a confluence of things that all begin to merge together in the early one nine
hundred ninety S. [00:36:21]
One of it is that scratching takes off and if that becomes more attractive for a few
reasons mostly because in order to be in a crew a crew is not just all D.J.’s you have
maybe one or two D.J.’s and then you’ve got some who does lighting maybe have a business
manager and then a bunch of Roadies who help move the equipment groups these D.J. groups
formed I mean for obviously for social reasons but also because just you needed the labor
right to be a mobile D.. [00:36:48]
Expect In the one nine hundred eighty S. The equipment was incredibly heavy you had to
bring out you know many many bins of records lighting equipment was it was a it was a hassle
to say you needed a crew around you simply to do the labor of setting up and breaking
and moving equipment by the early one nine hundred ninety by the early ninety’s the night
club and radio programmers finally realized that there is this thriving D.J. scene under
their nose and so they begin to basically poach individual deejays out of the different
crews well that’s great for the D.J. The problem is is that if you’re D. [00:37:21]
Jing at a nightclub you don’t need anyone to bring your equipment because equipment
already set up so it’s just you it’s the individual D.J. and that undermines the sort of division
of labor necessity for the crews to begin with scratching takes off and scratching is
an area where you can be basically a star in your own you’re not you’re not like a roadie
anymore you can you get to be in front import car racing makes its way up from Southern
California to the Bay Area that becomes another competition for sort of young middle class
and in this scene was was largely middle class. [00:37:53]
Because another kind of competing interest and then as all of this is happening because
these are largely high school students who started it once they graduate high school
they never really had and positions to be did to stick with it they didn’t think of
teaching as a career I think it’s very different now where if you get started as a D.J. you
can actually envision what might this look like five ten years down the road but for
them it was like a high school thing and whether they were done with high school they were
done with that they went off to work college the military whatever start their families
it’s something they left behind and what’s been interesting is in talking to these folks
again now a lot of them had begun if not if they hadn’t started maybe five ten years ago
they’ve been they’ve been getting interest in getting back into deejaying and so people
who had gone off and done a lot of them ended up in which I guess to some it’s a period
thing I think has partly to do with it. [00:38:44]
But they’ll start doing weddings on the side now and so they’ll blow that if they still
have their equip. They’ll blow the dust off of it or they’ll go out and get a controller
or something else allow them to D.J. But they’ve kind of made this kind of interesting full
circle now that they’re a certain point in their life they realized how important this
this was to them and that it wasn’t something that they had to leave behind again I think
today’s generation of D.J.’s who are teenagers they can really envision a long term future
in a way that they never they never had that vision. [00:39:13]
So did it sounds as though the project for you like where did it begin was it when you
began to get interested in the invisible scratch pickles and sort of talk to them about their
past like prior to that where you think the scratch Pickle had come from. [00:39:30]
So in the in the ninety’s I was in the Bay I was a D.J. I was a music journalist as for
it started in grad school around the same time and you know if you were in the bay and
a D.J. in the ninety’s you knew about the pickles because they were the best in the
world you knew that they were all Filipino and you know you knew they were all from the
Bay Area and as I got an opportunity to interview them for as a journalist I would ask them
you know how did you get started and they all had the same origin story which is that
we all got started in these different mobile crews in the Bay Area and there was things
that were being written about the history of scratching but I didn’t I didn’t know I
had yet to come across anyone who had written about the history of the mobile crews and
sort of that kind of journalistic scholar light went up over my head to say like this
is something that no one’s talked about maybe I should pursue this further so that’s really
where it began is once I kind of got a sense that there was this massive scene that no
one had documented or talked about it was I was thought Well this probably can give
me some good stories in there I should kind of dip my toes in and the further I got into
it the the more rich it revealed itself to be so I think sort of drift to how you conceptualize
the project Yeah sure there’s obviously a lot of aspects of the mobile scene that I
have completely ignored and will leave that for the Q. [00:40:47]
and A. When did it occur to you that this would be a book or a lot longer project may
think as a journalist sometimes one wonders sort of like should I write an article about
this is this sort of a life’s work when did it occur to you that this was going to be
more than just sort of like a one off recovery project so I mean this began as my dissertation
right and. [00:41:12]
Before I had even finished it as a dissertation can whisk her who is the editor for Duke University
Press approached me at a conference that we were at together and he was familiar with
me I think largely through my music journalism and we got to talking and I mentioned what
my dissertation was and he said on the spot whenever you’re done with it send it to me
and let’s let’s evaluate it and so he basically approach me from before I was even done about
the possibility of it becoming a book. [00:41:39]
I was trying to think back to when I was writing it did I haven’t Bishan is forward at the
time and as someone who again and had you know one foot in academia but also one foot
in journalism I assume it must have occurred to me at some point that this would probably
make a good book but I don’t know expression when you know it’s anyone out who at has ever
suffered through a dissertation the tunnel vision is amazing like you just get lost in
that thing forever so the idea that you’re even thinking about like the next steps for
I don’t know if it wouldn’t even occur to me and Ken I think he hit me up kind of early
in the process in any case and so I sort of he kind of planted the idea if it wasn’t already
bubbling up in my mind. [00:42:20]
Now one thing that I always enjoyed about your work and I think the book is in the bottom
of those that you’re you have a good eye for stories like you’re always interested in through
digging through you know figure decoding the mystery of a forgotten singer or. Forty five
or some you know stories in Los Angeles. [00:42:41]
Now the way that we report stories as journalists is I’m different than the way one conducts
at Nagasaki talk a bit about the different approach you had to sort of. You know interviewing
or talking or trying to extract these stories from from these crews did you feel any responsibility
to them as fellow sort of Absolutely yeah no no absolutely I mean partly because no
one had done it before and so I felt like that there’s a lot that weighs on you with
that simply the fact that they would share their stories and invite me into their homes
to talk about this stuff and pull out their old photo album so yeah I felt a tremendous
amount of responsibility to sort of you know number one to kind of get their story right
to some extent while still putting my own spin on it as as sort of the ethnography for
in you know interrogator of sorts I think you know to get back to the first part of
your question when the big differences was in doing this project in pitching it I never
had to sell anybody on so what’s the contemporary book which as a journalist like I get it and
I’ve heard it from an editor more times than I care to remember but but with this I didn’t
have to justify why in I mean at the time I was working on this why in two thousand
and two does anyone care about a scene that was twenty years ago that no one remembers
and I never had to likes sell the pitch on it all I had to say was this was important
to me and as a graduate student like I had the freedom to go and pursue it and I had
an advisor Michael loamy who’s at U.C. Berkeley who was he thought it was fascinating too
and so he was he was down with that I think I had to try to figure out the contemporary
hook angle I might have never pursued it because I can do to me I didn’t have an instant bridge
for how to bring this history from let’s say one thousand nine hundred two and then bring
up to two thousand and two but luckily I never had to make that formulation. [00:44:31]
Where there were there moments when you I mean the responsibility thing is pretty. I
mean you presumably part of the reason not to project but it seems though turn to what
is really fascinating about this magical is that they were also agents from Americans
right I mean how much of that was your was the initial draw and they were clearly also
the the best ideas in the world at the time but can you talk a bit Can you unpack a bit
sort of your relationship to them as a fan as a participant in the scene but as an engine
is an Asian American which I think you’re asking to know I mean people like Hubert in
Mike in Apollo were huge inspiration to me when I was coming up as a D.J. And so in the
same way that the reason why this scene takes off is because you go to a school dance and
it’s someone from your high school or someone from your block who looks like you they’re
doing it you realize I can do it too I mean a lot of ways that’s really them one of the
most powerful things that launches this entire community to begin with and for me seeing
people like Hubert and Mike and Apollo and short cut except being considered the best
in the world I never really I never had an pigeons to be a scratch D.J. But simply knowing
they existed was just massively inspirational as because it kind of gave me a sense that
I could maybe fit into this or belong in a particular way. [00:45:51]
So I think that was part of it and also coming out of Asian American studies the you know.
I mean this is kind of a cliché but it’s completely true our stories are really told
and if I had any role to play either as a scholar or as a journalist to be able to get
these stories told like I did that was important to me because I think this is an important
fascinating history and that that more people should know about in that respect I get I
think every scholar feels the same way about the research it’s not like I’m stating something
that’s my you know that’s surprising but I think in particular expected coming out of
Asian American Studies knowing how little any kind of Asian American pop culture focus
there exists within not just mainstream media but just mainstream academia this was. [00:46:36]
An incredibly important try to be able to get it out there. As you were interviewing
folks and making connections and meeting new crew and news retired deejays did they kind
of recognize what you’re saying right now about sort of their stories having been forgotten
or did the sort of significance of the project occur to them as you described it varied with
who I talked to but what surprised me is how many of them told me and this was around a
lot of my principal interviews were done in two thousand and two and two thousand and
three Love and said you know no one’s ever asked me any of these questions I have this
is the first time and you know ten plus years that anyone has asked me about you know my
experience in my stories within this this movement in this community and I mean I’m
not even sure why they mention it to me but it must of it struck them as interesting and
unusual that this would happen and the more that they would dig into it the more they
realize there were other stories they had forgotten to tell that they wanted to share
I think it it I think they kind of took it for granted in a certain way I mean not all
of them a lot of the really rich recognize the importance of this and how what why it
was a big deal to have anyone talk about it at all but others it’s didn’t really occur
to them because like I said it was something that they didn’t high school and they kind
of left behind and it was only you know years later not just through my research but there
because there have been over the last ten years have been a lot of like reunion parties
so that people who grew up in the scene are now old enough where they they can now promote
it they have access to different clubs and bars and so they’re throwing parties inviting
all these ot’s to come out for it I think it’s really only in the last ten years that
there’s been kind of this resurgent interest in this history within this community itself
and for whatever reason there just needed to be kind of this passage of time and interestingly
you know some of them are old enough where they now have children who are the same age
that they were when they first got started in a few handful of cases their kids are now
getting in. [00:48:36]
D.J. which is kind of this really remarkable kind of familial full circle. I mean this
is a this is very like a nerdy question but sort of when they come out of retirement are
they using vinyl or are they teaching themselves how to use Serato or how’s that work I would
say most of them who are teaching with any kind of regularity have all switched over
to digital I meet very very few medium specific purists in that respect and I think part of
it is. [00:49:08]
And I think this is actually true for most working deejays I know is that you work with
the tools that you have in front of you the type of media that you have it doesn’t really
matter like it’s that it’s D. Jing is about using the tools that you have to create the
best musical experience that you can and whether you’re using digital files or analog vinyl
to them they’re really a gnostic about that and expression if you’re a working D.J. It’s
a lot easier to do digital teaching because you don’t have to you know these guys are
all they don’t have that their backs are going you know they could just bring out a laptop
instead of literally you know two hundred pounds or records with them so they’re at
their death going to roll that way now just imagine the most Asian American movie ever
the intergenerational conflict between the two mobile deejays whose son now wants to
use Serato rather than vinyl. [00:49:57]
You betray the family legacy. So you have a lot of great images maybe a week in. Sort
of look at some of these and. See where it takes well here little me up play another
video clip and this comes from the guys and spintronic which was a daily city crew is
that was is a daily city crew they are one of the very few crews out of this community
that are still active deejays and they just they just had their thirtieth anniversary
in September which is extraordinary they still throw parties they are still in. [00:50:40]
I’ll tell you later so this is this is from a they put this video out I think will be
there for their twentieth or twenty fifth anniversary and it’s part of the history of
spin Tronics and I pulled this little clip out because they talk about what it is that
a mobile D.J. does but also what they kind of got out of the scene as participants. [00:51:02]
John thanks. For the California provides music and lighting for weddings family party things
that I felt like a little bit more in that they were just going to play music it was
more of like going out family kind of family aren’t oriented company with a lot of people
they cared about music providing best to the audience and they’re. [00:51:32]
Starting to thank you next twenty five high school to middle and watch parties mean parties
friends it was basically a hobby you know we wanted to we were into music we started
talking and then at the time he had the crew starting out that we started doing parties
that we started accumulating equipment and records contacts. [00:51:53]
Gov and we met more people and they just went on small and comic. Is that yeah there’s a
second half that it’s a look at long but I left off I think I think in the second how
the clip they talk about how they’re more than just a bunch of deejays family Yeah brotherhood
I mean right yeah they used the term Yeah and I think that’s sort of touches on where
I want to go where are the women and it seems like there are a lot of you in that curate. [00:52:29]
Well here’s kind of one of the exceptions to the rule which is the Go-Go’s they were
in all female crew mostly out of high school about Bowe is sort of really extraordinary
in the history I mean they were the kind of the school in which so many important crews
came out of this is from their scrap book actually got this earlier last year I went. [00:52:53]
To the house of one of one of their members was actually married to another D.J. from
the scene and they had this amazing scrapbook and I took a scan of it so with the Go-Go’s
in this actually explains part of why there were so few women in the scene one of the
members who was a D.J. herself this woman Daphne. [00:53:12]
Whose house I went to she had to sneak out of her own home to go to her own gigs because
she had a really strict curfew which of course her her her brothers didn’t have and a lot
of it it’s about patriarchy It’s about kind of the traditional Catholic families in which. [00:53:28]
The women the girls in those families work were were very heavily monitored and so you
know one of the other people that I interviewed this woman who is now a professor at San Francisco
State University Allison. Go she grew up in the Fremont Union City scene and so I knew
that she had this background so I interviewed her I just assumed that she was you know because
if any of you I don’t have anyone here actually know Allison like maybe one Jesus Christ how
you guys all know Alison that’s amazing So if you’ve ever met her before she’s incredibly
outgoing like just yet just that a huge personality and so I just figured like she was constantly
rolling with her or her main crew was this crew called Night lime I don’t know what the
lime was about I thought was night life and it’s like and there’s an M. [00:54:13]
in there maybe they’re willing to citrus but I just assumed that she was rolling with them
to all these different parties that she go and she said No I never I could never cross
the I never got to cross the bridge and I said Why because because my parents wouldn’t
let me and so I do think that one I mean there are up. [00:54:29]
There are reasons why there weren’t more women who were involved in this even I mean there
are exceptions and you know random crews will have like the one lone female D.J. who came
in at some point but for the most part even though the parties were certainly welcoming
to women as party goers as part of the audience and they were also very much important as
the people who hire they were the clients but to become a D.J. meant that you had to
spend a lot of time you know going out at night and in most cases you were spending
time in crews that were mostly wood with boys with men right and so the kind of patriarchal
impulse to kind of keep them on lock I think a big reason it was a huge Hazar it was a
huge challenge that they had to overcome Another example is this woman lady who is one of the
MCs she came out of South San Francisco and so there were actually a few prominent pain
I. [00:55:23]
Am sees who are who perform with these cruises as masters of ceremony and I and so Lady Jay
is someone who I had heard of her name for a long time and I find got to interview her
earlier this year and I asked So why did you stop why do you stop and seeing and she said
well I was dating this guy and he he didn’t like it he wanted me to stop so I stopped
and again that’s that’s those kinds of things are not none of the men have any kind of remote
story that’s similar to that in terms of it was either you know a their girlfriends or
their parents didn’t like their activity and made them stop they were completely supported
by their families but for the women in this scene it was much much harder. [00:56:01]
And it sounds as though the the model of sort of like apprenticeship was very revealing
I mean it was you know the deejays in the Go-Go’s both of the two who became the deejays
in the crew they learned how to how to spin watching one of them was the girlfriend of
an existing deejay the other one was meant toward by this guy Orlando Madrid who’s kind
of like this Yoda like figure in the scene but most of their mentors came from were men
and there were not a lot of female I mean there were very few women who could mentor
other women and that’s a really important way of helping to diversify is seen is when
you have people willing to look at who are basically a role models and for I mean that’s
probably what makes the Go-Go’s so extraordinary is that they didn’t really have role models
but they still went out and even though they were only around for about six months they
kind of forged ahead despite having all kinds of doubters and haters as they would put it
today. [00:56:58]
And get having to sneak out of their own houses to go to their own gigs so the fact that they
even lasted six months and performed at their own gigs and performed and but battles and
when in fact this flyer here that I showed before was from the battle that they got invited
to and from what they told when they what they told me is they got invited to this battle
is a set up is that the the male deejays they knew these were all San Francisco deejays
that were invited this you see the Go-Go’s there above all to make creation they got
invited as a set up there that the the male D.J.’s wanted to kind of show them up and
they ended up winning the battle instead so yeah. [00:57:37]
What is Junior Optimus clubman way it was a fit for what if what because I’m not sure
why what made them so optimistic but it was it was a Filipino American Club at Bel. High
school and they sponsored a lot of the parties that that were in the San Francisco. [00:57:54]
Specifically the San Francisco area. So. Just a couple more questions for Humanae you know
you have mentioned a couple of MCs. Were their attempts to actually sort of press of records
or become recording artists I mean I think the question of ambition is really interesting
because you know for a lot of the participants you know one could imagine it’s just a cool
job to have a cool side gig in high school things like that. [00:58:24]
Even with the invisible scratch because I’ve always found their ambitions to be kind of
strange and very specific to the art of scratching. Were there attempts to actually. Become a
recording artist or to commit some of this history onto into court of need right there
were two labels velocity and classified that both formed around I went to probably around
ninety three ninety four and they were founded at least partially by people who had come
out of the mobile scene so classified was founded by Corman roquet who was a member
of spintronic so I was mentioning before. [00:59:02]
The velocity and included this guy Francisco per dollar who was a really important member
of the mobile in the mobile community and their big artists classified had. Jocelyn
enríquez and velocity had Buffy and these were both freestyle dance artists that was
the the most there were that was the extent to which they attempted to make that jump
as I mentioned in the introduction from record playing to record making but they never had
the opportunity unlike let’s say you know hip hop deejays or house deejays or techno
D.J.’s to. [00:59:36]
Basically make their own records and create a style into themselves I spoke to one of
those one of the surviving partners of megaton Records which was one of the biggest if not
if not the biggest dance label out of San Francisco and I asked him Did you have any
awareness that there was this massive D.J. scene that was playing your records throughout
the course of the one nine hundred eighty S. [01:00:00]
He had no clue that these guys were out there and so I think part of it was I mean a lot
of reasons for that may because they were teenagers I think a lot of it had to because
they were Filipino and therefore kind of racially invisible to a lot of other people in the
Bay Area they’d also didn’t have in this goes back to the role models thing you know when
I talk to Korman about his his history with classified I said So how did you even figure
out how to put out a record did you did you have like older relatives or older people
in the Filipino community to show you the ropes and he’s like No we just went with the
library check out a book on how to make a record basically. [01:00:33]
Which I mean again it reflects a kind of inventive D.I.Y. in this that was so much a part of
the scene but it also represents that they didn’t really have a kind of a built in community
a way to other people who could show them how to do this and to build something bigger
from that versus I think if you look at the history of other kinds of scenes you do have
more of a kind of an institutional or collective knowledge about the record industry that facilitates
these this transition of teachings going from record players to record makers that moment
with the exception of classified and of a loss and that really wasn’t about the deejays
that was about artists recording in the style of the D.J.’s would play but not deejays actually
making records necessarily that moment never really happens for these guys so when you
began the project you know the the scratch scene was still a very healthy you know it
was a very sort of one of. [01:01:26]
His name it was still existing I think that would be one way of putting it. And as you
were working on the book and as the book sort of came into fruition that scene. Really evolves
and changes and it’s overshadowed by other scenes as your relationship to the material
into that sort of initial moment change as well are you asking specifically about turntablism. [01:01:48]
Not really but if you want to I mean you could take it there but I just mean in general I
mean it seems as though when you know you talked a bit earlier about how when you began
the project or if you were to pitch this project it would be difficult. [01:02:03]
To explain to sort of like the average music person why this is interesting but when you
began you know the scratch because we’re you know incredibly prominent crew they still
are obviously. Yes What has your relationship to that story changed all. Not yet you know
I think it’s not unusual that expression once you’ve worked on a book in the book you’ve
actually get sick of the book and you know I’ve been sitting with this research now for
fourteen years since when I first started and I still love talking about it like that’s
why again I’m so happy to be here to be able to kind of share any piece of this just because
I think it’s just so extraordinary I mean certainly when I was in high school I was
doing anything remotely as interesting or isn’t as innovative as what these guys were
doing and it’s just that that very fact in and of itself I think is one of the big kind
of takeaways is that the idea that teenagers can do like really amazing things when given
the opportunity and the incentive for it. [01:03:03]
And especially now that in the last six months as since the book’s come out I’ve been going
back up the berry a lot for different events related to it and you know it’s there the
passion that they have for this this part of their lives is still so visceral they want
their kids to know about it even the ones who aren’t necessarily D.G.A. get they really
understand the kind of importance of what it is that they put together and you know
I kind of hope it generates more interest in other people exploring this because I really
disk him like the very tip tip tip of an iceberg that can go much much much deeper up so. [01:03:42]
Well that might be a good place to turn to the crowd and see if anyone has. Questions
but I’m curious since it was like a cultural moment that was very localized you know ephemeral
not well documented. I’m curious to what extent did everything else happening there leak out
to the rest of the world or the rest of the United States you know and looking back at
the time from today are there ways in which we can sort of understand see the sort of
legacy of what they’re doing in pop culture are the things that we’re looking at today
I think the biggest legacy you know for better or for worse is that it gave people like like
you Burt Mike an Apollo short all these guys who later became much much much better known
because of turntablism. [01:04:34]
If not for this scene I think it’s a legitimate question as to what they have ever gotten
interested in teaching at all and I mean it’s kind of a counterfactual really hard to do
that we would have to to make a guess on but it’s kind of hard to imagine how they would
become D.J.’s as scratch deejays if not for their involvement in the mobiles to begin
with and so I think to the extent in which to extent that we have this association now
and maybe by we I mean like Quine I bet that Filipino in deejaying is somehow synonomous
right the idea that like a Filipino D.J. is not a surprise a concept people are used to
that at some point that’s the part that’s mostly because of people like Hubert But again
where did Kubrick get his start he gets a start with the mobile scene so one gives birth
to the other the other gives birth the kind of like a huge kind of really important idea
and now has a scotched this and we have within the popular imagination that Filipinos in
Dejan or somehow they go hand in hand but I think a lot of it links back on some level
to the history of the scene even though Filipino D.J.’s were you know they were mobile teachers
out here in New York in New Jersey out in Southern California Seattle so it’s not like
a uniquely Bay thing but the bay did it bigger and depending on who you ask better than anybody
else because they had these you know this particular kind of critical mass they could
do it with. [01:05:52]
I mean obviously. Just to jump in and this sort of relates to that last question asked
me I think there is a way in which a lot of the tale and the story still lives on today
even though people even though kids aren’t necessarily practicing scratching the way
they did they were maybe like twenty years ago you know like if you think about what
has happened with a lot of the scratch pickles like my core you know a track or other turntables
I D.J. craze I mean they do have an enormous influence on dance music today right though
even though it may not sound specifically like that clip you played I mean it does seem
as though that has been translated into you know differently from ship to bass and sort
of new dance music texture and things like that so I mean in a way it’s not necessarily
it’s sort of like an indirect legacy of all of this but you know it’s definitely very
much there like the mixes I don’t know if anyone has heard the mixes. [01:06:49]
You did of a. Bootleg basically yeah of the mission of the but yeah one of the party makes
is and it sounds incredibly contemporary you know more so than it probably did ten years
ago I think also deejaying as a as a stylistic continuum but there’s just you know each new
style borrow something from the one that comes before it like it’s very some credit in that
respect and so whether directly or indirectly if you listen through the history of teaching
and different deejaying styles you can find these linkages going back you know globally
but also across time as well we’re just all living the same mix and indeed John. [01:07:32]
So you talked a little bit about racial invisibility. And when I think of my early years writing
that was actually the moment of probably peak visibility you know we’re talking scratch
because on the cover of her yes and things like that so I have two questions one can
you talk a little bit about the after effects positive or negative visibility as opposed
to invisibility because that next generation the generation after or the sort of the inheritors
of the legacy of your book I think we’re in a very different environment and the second
question which is related is let’s talk a little about battles and how the the pickles
basically changed battling and if I think if you think of like the D.M.C. battles of
like eighty seven eight like that the pre scratched off and then the post it’s that
to me is where maybe this ability also has very tangible X. [01:08:28]
so you will know about you know race and race and battle right let me add to that the second
half of that make work my way back I mean speaking of battles there’s a battle in nineteen
I think eighty nine that was held. In San Francisco No sorry I think was he was in Hayward
of the fire someplace cube or it was one half of it the other guy was this guy Jesse Jim
from a South Bay crew called skyways sounds and it ended up becoming you know looking
in hindsight like a really symbolically important moment because jazzy Jim was of the older
school he was doing what’s known as quick mixing which is where you have two stacks
of records and you wiggle your way through that stack as quickly as possible so you’re
basically switching records on tempo every basically two to four bars I mean I’ve seen
it in action is amazing. [01:09:17]
And that was sort of the dominant way and then Kubrick gets on the tables and actually
Hubert’s a half of that performance is on You Tube So if you look up something like
you Burton one thousand nine hundred nine you might find it I’m not sure how Jesse James
have got kind of left off that clip but. [01:09:32]
You could actually see Cupid like a very a relatively young age doing it and the judges
had a very hard time evaluating who should win this because they were completely two
different schools of performance and you know Cooper actually ends up losing the battle
but you know as the cliche joke would go he ends up winning the war because turntable
becomes much more dominant than my quick mixing ever did. [01:09:54]
And so I think the battling the static which I think quite was asking about before you
know these were even if you were not in a formal battle if you were on a bill with another
D.J. there was going to be a comparison no matter what and so you always had to sort
of bring your A game to this and to get to your question of what did the scratch pickles
do part of it was they introduced the group aesthetic and so they they did that in ninety
two they defended Kubert and mixmaster Mike successfully defended their title ninety three
and at that point the organizers of the D.M.C. that disco mix competition asked them to voluntarily
retire because they felt like if they continued on they’d be too intimidating to younger deejays
and so they stop battling at that point as if as a favor basically D.M.C. which kind
of gives you a sense of how dominant they were it be sort of like asking Jordan to kind
of hang it up after you know ninety six or something because you know what’s going to
want to come up after you. [01:10:50]
So I think the battling part of it I mean that’s kind of how scratching really takes
off it kind of gives it a particular flair it gives B. and traction with the pickles
what they would Kubert in them wanted to do with this once they stopped battling They
were really invest in the artistic authentic evolution of what you could do sound wise
and for them I mean it lines a lot with kind of their interest in science fiction in kind
of all of this early in symbology I don’t know if this is what you’re asking with the
first part of your question but the kind of the the high point of the scratch scene it
happens and I think two thousand is a convention called Scratch con that’s held at the Moscone
Center in San Francisco Dave were you there. [01:11:28]
OK. And this is supposed to be. Basically they the biggest event was going to be the
Pickels farewell show and unintentionally it also marked a very quick beginning of the
end to turntablism because in a sense like they kind of peaked out in terms of what was
possible to do and. [01:11:48]
People sort of lost interest kind of quickly and it fell it fell out of visibility I think
within really the next few years after that and it’s sort of weird that this event that
was meant to celebrate sort of the you know the achievements made by scratch deejays in
essence becomes kind of like the unintentional You know you would you’re elegy to sort of
that that scene I’m not sure that was what you meant by the visibility issue put. [01:12:10]
Your careers. You know. You’re already very strong right or wrong Yeah I mean I don’t
I hear you asking if you know what was the upside to downside you know I think that the.
I mean Filipino Americans expression the in the Bay Area and also in Los Angeles you know
by the time hip hop had become global in a big big way by the one nine hundred ninety
S. [01:12:36]
you know a lot of them formed into rap groups or individual MCs and wanted to get their
start there and I think in some ways they probably could see just as performers they
could see these scratch deejays or maybe the mobile teachers before them out there performing
that sort of gave them the license in essence to imagine themselves doing some of another
kind of performative act in this case and seeing but I do think the fact that the Filipino
still was a limit because people just didn’t couldn’t figure them out racially they had
to do three separate from what I describe in another as his kind of racial inauthenticity
as a result you know it’s kind of notable that the most prominent Filipino in hip hop
is is it’s Chad Hugo who is also known as the quiet guy in the Neptunes right and whether
that’s a coincidence or or not I always find that kind of kind of interesting and in that
respect I’m it’s really not until you see Bruno Mars that you have a really prominent
Filipino American in pop music where you know he’s not just behind the scenes he actually
gets to be in front of the camera so. [01:13:38]
Dave. You talk about the role of hallucinogenics. Because it has gotten really focused and I’ve
been I’ve never had that conversation with him you might know more about this than I
I mean I mean he came to play at a rave in Winston Salem North Carolina. Going bananas
on the Rock the Bells for maybe fifteen minutes and he was out I mean he was saying and it’s
nice to speak that they always like to take a few hits when they’re practicing in. [01:14:12]
America Yes Max eyeballs of conjugal around a lot and he talked pretty excited about it
yeah I mean the guys that I spoke to there was very little mention of drugs or even alcohol
which again that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there it just means that they were selective
in what they chose to share with me. [01:14:30]
Whatever happened to this figure Fragger. So you want to quickly give people quick background
on what the sugar Fragger show was. I mean I mean I think I mean you were a paper bag
or a comic uncoiled I thought you meant yeah sure this sugar for sure was a D.J. who performed
with a paper bag over his head and again I’m not even sure who he was but this guy in the
Bay Area Billy Jim who is one of the big proponents of the mobile scene he would put out a series
of post C.D.’s and later videos called the sugar Fragger show that was basically just
like you know ninety minutes of turntables nursery but sugar of sugar Frogger in the
videos it would just be a guy scratching up a storm with a paper bag over his head and
ears and but that was so tip I mean you know it with horns but that was not unusual people
I mean people had names like yoga frog I mean weirdness kind of came with a lot of the elements
in the beer out of the berry in particular to be junkies were never that wacky in that
respect maybe it was the hallucinogens that you’re talking about so. [01:15:36]
You’re so. You know. Again I mean this is you know you know much more about this this
this community than I do in that respect yeah. In the back. And there so my background the
guesses I mean dancer. Among other things and so obviously. Hip hop in came about from
you know the cool hurrican deejaying at you know essentially for the equivalent parties
up in the Bronx and that kind of influenced the way in which to be boring kind of evolved
I guess my question this was of like is there any particular parallel in the way it’s you
know the mobile D.J. Filipina party scene influence the and seeing in the Bay Area I’ve
been out to the Bay Area I’ve met you know a couple dancers who are Filipino and also
the Jays and I’ve always had a lot of you know you have if you had these a you become
a better dancer and if you had and become a better D.J. often out of my head Dennis
Infante one of the best lockers in the world who will form Supreme Soul on the make this
be the Best Dance Crew and I didn’t produce at least a couple men of the jabberwacky or
D.J.’s as well so I guess if you could comment on the relationship between dance and the
mobile scene it’s a great topic and it’s one that you know there’s definitely a history
to be written about street dancing in the Bay Area especially in the one nine hundred
seventy S. [01:17:00]
and eighty’s that is yet to be written and I think it’s actually the reverse I think
it’s really a lot of the street dancers funk dancers and later be boys were a big influence
on the mobile crews a lot of crews well not a lot but at least several crews D.J. crews
began originally as Dance Crew So there’s a a group called kicks company that began
as dancers and then they became D.J.’s and that was not unusual story so D.J. Apollo
who was a member of that rock steady video he you know toured with D.J. Premier and Branford
Marsalis as part of the funk Apollo before he became a D.J. He was he was a breaker he
was part of the people we seen in Daly City in the world memorial was a spot where all
the dancers would meet up. [01:17:43]
You know these guys had a lot of maybe older siblings or cousins who were part of the funk
dancing cruise in the one nine hundred seventy S. in San Francisco and Sacramento the pop
ups and lockers that you’re mentioning So I think Dancing with. Actually preceded the
D.J.’s in a lot of ways and but because of that they’re used to thinking about dance
music and I think that sort of translated as they made this transition from dancing
to D.J. and certainly a lot of the early parties are trying to take one of these flyers has
it as a good example of that but a lot of the early early eighty’s parties were almost
always competitions of not just D.J.’s but also dancers and they were always those two
things went very much hand in hand it wasn’t until more likely the mid eighty’s where you
don’t see dance competitions listed on the Flyers as much of the there was some kind
of break at that point but in the early eighty’s it would be very unusual not to see some kind
of dance competition if there was also a D.J. can petition those two communities were very
very tight you. [01:18:44]
Hi. A couple minutes ago you talked about visibility and one thing that stood out to
me was I mentioned racial. Could you just kind of package that idea and what you meant
by that. It’s sort of the idea that like racial authenticity expression within a cultural
context I guess the kind of the colloquial way to put at it is that no one thinks it’s
unusual for you to be in a particular kind of cultural space for severe and for. [01:19:15]
You know Filipinos not so much in the digital world but as as M.C.S. when a lot of them
started people would just look at them like you don’t belong here somehow you were racially
inauthentic because you don’t make meet up with this image that we have in our head as
to what a rapper as an emcee looks looks like and so I mean some of the other research that
I’ve done through the years have been on largely East Asians like Chinese Korean and Japanese
American embassies and this is a problem really in some ways less so with fan bases and really
with record executives and so they would be in front of like us some kind of marketing
executive at a major label and they’re interested in maybe signing you know this nation American
rap group and the kind of the marketing ideas they would come up with would be like well
what if you came out to the stage with a gong and they’re wearing like kung fu monk robes
and so it’s sort of like we have no idea what to do with you because you don’t match match
our idea racially of what an authentic rapper supposed to look like so that’s sort of what
I mean by the racial inauthenticity sort of just when you wander into a space and people
like what are you doing here you don’t really belong here and on a very basic level that’s
kind of an example of what that that looks like respect so just to build on that when
thinking about to be junkies will scratch pickles fifty tune on the East Coast I mean
it always struck me that like were these were were the D.J.’s themselves having a version
of this Congress. [01:20:43]
Patient Because it seems you know it seems as though it would have been evilly come up
when for example like that who looks at what’s going on in the Bay Area or when Vin rock
moves the Bay Area and just sort of happens to raid with short cut an Apollo like is this
a was this a conversation that they themselves were having about sort of what their place
was as this sort of. [01:21:09]
Racially inauthentic deejays you know it’s a really good question I never I never asked
them that particular question and it would be sort of I mean the ways in which we the
people that I spoke to for the book the ways in which we got into race and ethnicity and
identity a lot of it had to do with just them to what extent being Filipino was meaningful
to them as being part of the scene and much to my surprise it wasn’t at all like very
few of them would have described the their or their scene as a Filipino scene I mean
they recognize that yeah all of us are P. [01:21:43]
Noy or P. nine here but that’s not why we’re doing it like we’re not teaching as some kind
of way to express some kind of Filipino identity for them their ethnicity and their ethnic
identity was largely kind of incidental in that respect I suspect it might be different
for kind of the younger generation if only because coming up through hip hop in which
race and identity were so much more at the forefront expression out of the eighty’s and
early ninety’s I would expect it might be slightly different for them but for these
for the mobile guys in the eighty’s you know being Filipino was really completely secondary
to why they got involved at all if it mattered in
the least thanks. [01:22:26]
I kind of. Grew out of this scene I started teaching in ninety three so I kind of got
influenced by the mobile scene I actually got into the way. Because I like to dance
to the parties and I grew up in Southern California. City. So I grew up with rap magic teaching
my junior high dance and when you talked about. [01:22:51]
There Rishon authenticity he got sign with the creed and they made him change his name
because they didn’t think it was you know correct to have him so what I want to touch
up ask you about the economics of. The Filipino scene in order to become D.J. because a lot
of these kids were high school I started at eighteen and some people in my crew were like
thirteen or fourteen so the economics of a middle class income in order to create a mobile
scene or that all those business cards were all high school kids it’s kind of. [01:23:24]
Mind boggling to see that type of business through you know through that community Second
talk about that. They I mean this is where the the fact that they are the children of
an immigrant within an immigrant community becomes really vital because a lot of how
they got their referrals for gigs came through extended family networks an expression for
an immigrant community there is a vested interest in maintaining strong ties to the people that
are if not are part of your Certainly or median family of course but your extended family
or people who came from the same province as you like you made a point to have organizations
or other forms of of organ you know other kinds of institutional manifestations of allow
you to have to be to stay in contact which meant that if you were a crew and you needed
business off the bat you could basically ask your parents who of course probably loaned
you the money to buy your equipment to begin with you know who’s getting married who’s
having a birthday party who’s having a graduation party and their their families became their
referral network and that was an incredibly powerful advantage they had because because
this was a community in which again you had extended families that were in close contact
you had Filipino American youth groups within churches within high schools and colleges
they were were throwing business you had Filipino provincial organizations and clubs that would
also hire them for parties and so through all of these things that probably what hat
what allowed the. [01:24:50]
You know economic capital circulate within this was that this was a very close knit immigrant
community in which you know one person could basically know five other people who could
all potentially give you business and that’s you know a lot of these crews their first
gigs were basically for family members on some level what whether it’s a birthday party
or a garage party or somebodies wedding that’s how they got their foothold in it and they
could build from that and then do school dances in the church dances and eventually the big
showcases that we’re talking about. [01:25:19]
So. You did mention the the fact that they had organizations can touch of the immigration
the second wave of Filipino immigrants that come in in the seventy’s are professional
nurses engineers that give them the opportunity to have these types of communities in the
Bay Area and provide a good middle class right so overwhelmingly the people in this scene
their parents are part of and then they then themselves are part of what’s known as the
fourth wave of Filipino immigration and it follows the one thousand nine hundred five
Immigration Act which finally wipes out what had been decades of restrictive quotas for
for people to specially from Asia and Filipino Americans in particular make very strong they
take strong advantage of the family reunification clause that came with the one hundred sixty
five acts of their sponsoring siblings and parents and and other relatives to come over
and a lot of them initially settle in the kind of dense central city parts of San Francisco
like South of Market Mission district but then those who have middle class means that’s
when they make the secondary move out to places like Daly City which is suburban like Daly
City like Fremont in Union City in San Jose and because these are these are young people
who are coming out of middle class families to go back to the point before I mean these
are families who have you know enough excess savings where they can loan or gift their
kids the money to buy equipment to buy records initially these are places these are families
that have you know in California if you’ve a single family house you’re going to have
a garage that comes with that that’s a perfect space to throw a party and so garage parties
become a really big part of it that’s partially owing I think the kind of the class architecture
of California plays a huge role in it certainly there are people who are living in like apartment
housing that would have loved to have gotten involved in deejays but they had no i mean
not only do they not have a place that to throw parties they don’t even have a place
to store equipment because you are living in like a one bedroom apartment South of Market
where you going to put that stuff and so I mean class is a huge huge part of it this
was a overwhelmingly a middle class suburban scene even though their musical and Sonic
ideas were obviously very much influenced by the city. [01:27:33]
Yes. Actually being influenced by the city I was wondering I’m from Texas originally
there was a huge Hispanic community with a lot of mobile D.J.’s and it feels like the
Latin freestyle played a big part in that scene as well with the Filipino mobile mobile
scene. I was wondering if you ever talked to them ever asked where their influence came
from obviously you talk about sound explosion and you talked about Cameron Paul Cameron
paw has his long history of kind of electro breaks you know kind of things but do you
think that that was more of an influence or do you feel like they were kind of coincided
you know hand in hand together that the Electro and kind of lend freestyle world kind of went
you know together I don’t know if they ever kind of touched on that. [01:28:30]
What you were questions asking about the influence of like how to land freestyle become part
of it yeah well I guess not necessarily that specifically but the. Direct influence was
Cameron Paul de Africa essentially for this world you know I know it only because Cameron
Paul was big with a very select group of people who are the internet themselves important
influential in the scenes history but you know he was D. [01:29:00]
Jing primarily in San Francisco so I mean there might have been people coming up from
San Jose or down from Vallejo to go to sound just go to Studio West to see Paul but that
would’ve been a real hell of a track specially for high school verses if you’re in San Francisco
or Daly City I mean it’s a lot more convenient so Paul was really important to I think a
lot of the deejays in the S.F. and D.C. scene really the main influence on future deejays
were the previous D.J. So I mentioned before sound explosion starts off at Balboa high
in seventy eight and in. [01:29:33]
But they leave behind you know four five six crews in their wake and those crews would
go out and inspiring influence new crews to start and so it really creates a life of its
own at a point in which you don’t need to go to the nightclubs anymore to learn how
to D.J. you just go to the parties and you study their styles instead and so it became
the you know the scene become self-sufficient in that respect. [01:29:56]
I mean which is sort of the irony because the nightclubs eventually help to kill off
I mean they’re not the only piece of the puzzle but the nightclubs eventually help to kill
off the scene by after like ten plus years straight they start raiding that the crew
is for individual talent and that’s kind of where it began so again another kind of full
circle there yeah. [01:30:21]
So I want to know whether this transit made it back to the Philippines itself and whether
there was a fan base in the Philippines. You know groups at work coming out. That’s a it’s
a great question and it’s something that if I were to go back and interview than again
it would probably occur to me now to have asked that I didn’t the time I mean what’s
interesting is there’s a handful of deejays who came out of the Bay Area who have since
moved back or moved to the Philippines at least one of them operational runs a record
store out of Manila and so there’s sort of this travel back and forth that that happens. [01:31:02]
You know what I’m curious to know about I don’t have an answer for this is whether or
not there were deejays in the Philippines who heard about what was happening in places
like California and that inspired them to get started but the thing is is that I mean
mobile deejaying in the one nine hundred seventy S. [01:31:18]
and eighty’s becomes a global phenomenon largely because of a kind of included this flyer.
From the mid seventy’s because mobile technology just takes off in one nine hundred seventy
S. So there were certainly mobile deejays in the Philippines that nothing to what was
happening the U.S. It was just because teaching became big throughout the world at this time
but given the kind of transnational movement of people within those families it would be
surprising to me to find out that there were examples of D.J.’s who kind of went back and
forth or to help influence people get started. [01:31:51]
Out in the Philippines but I don’t have a specific answer then fortunately it’s a great
question that. I had a two part question so. He spoke a lot about you know what your research.
But like you. I grew up during that time and so it was a big part like I met my boyfriend
of the underground he was with the D.J.’s so it’s like so important to me what was your
personal experience of how you know you said you were. [01:32:20]
It was what was your personal experience in the whole scene and then the other part was
if you could talk more about because I say that. Whoever won sounds big but what exactly
is a scale that we’re talking how many people are competing and that kind of stuff the first
part of the question was in my own history in the scene in the simple answer that is
I didn’t have one but by the time so I came to the Berry in one nine hundred ninety when
the scene was still happening but I didn’t hear about it until really more like I don’t
know one thousand nine hundred ninety nine two thousand by which time when you’re talking
on the mobile scene Yeah I started just sort of like the Bay Area Yeah I thought I thought
I thought you meant like specific immobile scene like I missed it like late to the party
and that one with the scratch scene I mean I was sort of kind of at ground zero in the
bay as that was happening and I still remember reading you know Neva Chone in writing about
when Kubert won ninety one she wrote an article about him and I was sort of like who is Filipino
D.J. from the Bay Area so I mean one of my favorite memories is the first time I saw
a short cut is this was probably in ninety four ninety five he was competing in the regional
West Coast D.M.C. championship I think was at Club deviate in San Francisco and this
is where he debuted what is become kind of one of his signature. [01:33:40]
Signature performances from that era which is the Impeach the President juggle again
this is getting to really nerdy stuff here but he’s going to be what a juggle is you
take to the same record and you go back and forth very quickly to create a new rhythm
based off of the existing drum patter and so you’re basically reconstructing on the
fly entire new cuss of rhythms just using to the same records I’ve never seen a juggle
perform Let alone is definitely by short cut and that I mean that **** blew my mind and
you know it’s just such a it’s such an it was this is an amazing routine to kind of
witness so. [01:34:21]
This second part of your question with the D.M. sees so the disco mix Championships begin
the night in the early one nine hundred eighty S. and for hip hop D.J. specifically I mean
the other on was was the Clark Kent one the you knew music right but D.M.C. eventually
became kind of the dominant competition for. [01:34:42]
For hip hop D.J.’s. Throughout the eighty’s and ninety’s at the height of when this is
happening in terms of number of performers I mean it kind of it certainly grew through
time I think at the point at which. Cupar in the Rock Steady deejays went in ninety
two you know I’m guessing it’s probably a few dozen countries are competing but you
know by the two thousands you know it’s dozens more you know one of my good friends was China’s
first D.M.C. championship champion and I think he won that title around maybe two thousand
or two thousand and one and so as as as scratching kind of liberated throughout the world you
know these nascent deejays wanted to kind of get to D.M.C. because it was the biggest
thing going around in that respect so I mean it’s kind of hard to strike the scale because
not like E.D.M. deejays don’t compete at this was a very specifically a hip hop D.J. competition
that was something that if you were hip hop D.J. you knew what the D.M.C. was and for
most of the eighty’s it was either won by people out of Europe out of New York or out
of Philadelphia and then these Filipino kids come out of the Bay Area and this can completely
melt everyone’s mind. [01:35:53]
And for the rest the world it’s sort of like they came out of nowhere even though you know
they’ve been bubbling up for well over a decade but it wasn’t until like ninety one eighty
two that the with the rest of the world actually got to see what the hell was happening in
the Bay thank you all for coming out this is fantastic at.

4 comments

  1. PINOY LA SCENE was HUUUGE too. Would be super dope if it were documented as well. Seemed like many LA connections had family connections to the Bay. Even DJs down in LA sometimes set up their Turntables in a "SF Style" or "L" shaped. Man, those were the days!!!

  2. Much respect to these guys. They've done a ton for the DJ scene AND for putting ASIANS-APA on the map of history. OUR STORY IS RARELY TOLD.

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