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By Gary Moskowitz
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"We're not famous-famous," says Stephen Kay, aka Spesh, of Bay Area dance music production team Jondi and Spesh. DJs and possibly another 100 non-DJ techno specialists are familiar with them, the duo alleges, and so both remain modest, even amidst the praise they've been receiving from the techno-house hub of Britain. Other than the occasional record review, Spesh laments, "we've never gotten any press that we know of, except for little mentions here and there."
In the tiny production studio they share in Jondi's house off Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Jondi, aka JD Moyer, and Spesh sit among their equipment -- mixing desk, computer, keyboards, synthesizers, and even an aquamarine electric guitar, which neither of them can play -- while Jondi twiddles with the computer to play back their latest work-in-progress and the bleached-blond Spesh rummages through their scrapbooks. While Jondi is devoted to producing music, Spesh DJs as well, and four shelves of records arranged chronologically loom over him in testament to the immensity of his collection, which even includes a small stack of seven-inch singles from decades past.
The two have been working together since they first met ("We had a really good musical chemistry," Jondi says) in 1992, both with years of musical experience. Jondi, native to the Bay Area and influenced by Underworld, acid-house pioneers Psychic TV, and hip hop artists, taught himself to produce music and put out his own records in 1991. Spesh, a transplant from St. Helena who began taking his mixing seriously in 1989, when he moved to San Francisco, later started DJing at SOMA club Ten 15 and claims influences as diverse as '80s synth pop and LA-based DJ Doc Martin. The tight partnership is apparent not only from the way the pair finishes each other's sentences but also in the beats they cohesively sew together.
Jondi and Spesh have released tracks in the U.S. and had their videos aired on MTV's Amp, but while their reputation in England is escalating, in their Bay Area home the music they produce on their own Loöq Records is still relatively undiscovered. They joke about having slight chips on their shoulders, but in actuality don't seem to mind the neglect one bit. "I think it's kind of groovy," says Spesh. "We're so bubbling under the surface at this point, and we may actually stay there. That would be fine."
"As long as we keep getting the music out," Jondi adds.
And they have. A month after their initial meeting they produced their first record, which was well-received among techno and house-heads in San Francisco; it was put out by Trip 'n Spin, a dance music collective with which they were involved for about five years. After making six records on that label, the duo decided to start its own Loöq Records in 1997 -- and they've stayed with it ever since. Loöq releases are self-manufactured in their studio -- a music they once described as "housetechnotribaltrance." Spesh gives a brief synopsis: "Basically Loöq is a successor to Trip 'n Spin, only this time the only people involved are Jondi and Spesh. And, of course, Lasse Loöq." Jondi laughs, and there is a brief moment of confusion. Lasse Loöq? "He is the founder of Loöq Records. The person who inspired us," Spesh says. They regard the mythical character as their "virtual leader;" "Lasse" is currently releasing a record in the UK, a hard house track called "Amphibiosis."
And Lasse isn't the only one. Jondi and Spesh have managed to get their own stage names thrown around Britain's dance scene. Internationally known U.K. DJ John Digweed got ahold of their track "We Are Connected" after its first release in 1997 and started mixing it into his sets at clubs around the world. But when he included it on a compilation he played for BBC Radio One's "Essential Mix" (England's most popular dance music show) last May, the track exploded. "[The whole mix] got such a great reaction," says Digweed. "All these people ringing up and saying, 'This Essential mix, can you do us a tape of it?' and then in the end I thought I should try to license this and put it out." The compilation became his widely released "Bedrock" album, which scooted "We Are Connected" even further up the charts. "That's an old track, but everyone was ringing up like mad trying to find it," says Digweed. "Little things like that were kind of nice because you kind of spark an interest in a track that's three years old." On March 2, U.K. label Dorigen Music re-released "We Are Connected," which sold out after three days. Though Spesh and Jondi's records are released on these shores as well, the response to their music is more enthusiastic in Britain, where dance culture has infused the mainstream for years. Even so, both are reluctant to accept an offer from Dorigen to sign them on as artists, thinking the move might compromise their output. "They love 40 percent of our stuff but they wouldn't know what to do with the rest of it," says Jondi.