Riff Raff

Don't Miss the Boat The people behind the Future Primitive Soundsessions DJ parties have plenty to celebrate. Their newly formed record label's first release, Shortkut vs. Cut Chemist, is going into its fourth pressing with sales of 10,000 thus far, and the imprint's sophomore release hits stores this week. The new CD, Beats for a New Millennium, featuring DJs Radar and Z-Trip, is part of a series chronicling performances by wild-style turntablists at the group's underground hip-hop parties at various Bay Area venues. The promoters -- Mark Herlihy and Mark Wasserman -- are well-known locally for putting talented DJs together and watching what happens. Each pair performs on five turntables, one scratching on two decks and the other dropping beats on three. Most parties sell out quickly, and are -- quite simply -- explosive. The idea to put the parties on wax was a natural one, says Joe Krause, a longtime friend of the promoters and a sound engineer for the project. "My partner, David Coleman, and I had started to build our studio while Mark Herlihy continued building a following for his parties, and finally we decided to get together." That partnership produced a studio -- dubbed Kinetic Grooves -- a string of parties, and, more importantly, Future Primitive Sound Records. The first experiment featured the Invisibl Skratch Piklz's DJ Shortkut and DJ Cut Chemist, who works with both rap act Jurassic 5 and Latino party band Ozomatli. The entire process, from ADAT to finished CD, is the epitome of do-it-yourself recording. During the shows, each DJ's mixer was recorded separately. The actual production at Kinetic Groove -- located in Krause's apartment -- was done on a couple of Macintosh computers equipped with two mixing programs, Pro-Tools and Logic Audio. "The sound levels from the DJs' unmixed beats and scratches are varied," says Coleman. "One turntable playing beats comes out too loud while the scratching is too quiet. Our job is smoothing out the whole mix." The cleaning process produced a sound similar to what the audience heard at the show. "We pump up the quality of the sound on the computer, but we don't make it too clean. All the pops and crackles are still there," says Coleman. For the Beats record, the final version wasn't pressed until both DJs edited and approved the mix. "We sent both Z-Trip and Radar copies last January for comments," says Krause. "Then in March we flew Z-Trip out here to help finish the final copy." Beats for a New Millennium will be released in a limited edition of 5,000. And Beats is just the beginning. The team is set to release a solo mix CD by Cincinnati-based DJ Mr. Dibbs, Presage, and a compilation featuring DJs from past Soundsessions parties. Future Primitive is throwing a CD-release boat party Sunday, July 5, featuring DJs Z-Trip, Radar, J-Rocc (from L.A.'s Beat Junkies), Anna, Cool Chris, and Romanowski and a live performance by Jurassic 5. It's also rumored that Ozomatli will make the boarding after wrapping up their set at the Warped Tour. Tickets are limited to 300 and are available at BPO on Haight Street and Aquarius Records. (R.A.)

Critic's Corner San Francisco Bay Guardian music critic Neva Chonin left the left and joined Northern California's largest newspaper in mid-June. Chonin, who has been writing about pop music in S.F. for the last four years, will fill Joel Selvin's chair at the San Francisco Chronicle for a year. (Selvin is off in New York working on a book about Jerry Ragovoy, the guy who co-wrote "Piece of My Heart." We can't wait.) Although Chonin's written for Rolling Stone and Option -- and knows S.F. music as well anyone -- canny Chron editors still weren't sure she was right for the job. Their test: reviewing Rod Stewart's new record. Chonin put the appropriate words together and will now work with James Sullivan, covering a broad San Francisco music scene. That means Sullivan and Chonin will compete to write about interesting shows, where Young James used to cover the good stuff as Selvin slogged his warhorses. Which brings up the question: Who's on the Grateful Dead beat with Joel away? Chonin says her split with the Guardian was amicable. "They were angelic," she says. "It was like leaving home. I felt like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz." (J.S.)

Chasing Down the Blues It was Monday night at John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room, across the street from the Kabuki Theater complex. It was only 7 p.m. and still light out, but Riff Raff decided to grab a beer before the movie and listen to some authentic, down-and-dirty Fillmore blues at the club owned by Northern California's biggest blues legend. At least that's what was on our mind until we entered the bar. Some band members were onstage doing the post-sound check shuffle, but our attention was diverted by the gear. Nearly blinding our squinty journalist eyes was a collection of musical equipment so squeaky clean and new that it could have been shipped from the factory that day. A row of at least four pristine Fender guitars on stands sat in front of a gleaming drum kit. Understandable overkill, we thought: You never know when you're going to break a string. Besides, anyone can appreciate the subtle tonal differences between the 1997 and 1998 model Telecaster. It was a full two hours before the show was supposed to begin, and the band -- all young white guys in their 20s -- was obviously having problems killing time. Guitarists were pacing. The horn section stood in a circle off to one side, holding their instruments and chatting nervously, no doubt discussing the raunchy double entendre of Willie Dixon's lemon. The bartender told us the group was named Highwater, and all the members worked in nightclubs. The house tape deck kicked into a Hendrix & the Band of Gypsies. Three members of Highwater began noodling around the riff with great glee, at a volume level that might not have been annoying in and of itself, but managed to completely drown out the Hendrix. Nothing against Highwater and their marvelous ability to play by ear, but given the choice, we'll take a dead Hendrix over white bartenders with brand-new equipment. Finally we asked the woman behind the counter: Jesus, this is supposed to be the blues -- shouldn't they be off guzzling whiskey, doing drugs, and having sex with groupies? She rolled her eyes. The band members were drinking soda pop. (Jack Boulware)

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