Full Speed Ahead

House DJ Hyper D moves from behind the scenes to behind the turntables

"They were like, "Why don't you do the light show next time you're here in town?'" Richardson remembers. "And we were like, "What if we move over here? Can we do the light show every week?'"

A few months later, Hyperdelic Video was a fixture of the Toon Town raves. But the dance music scene was changing in San Francisco. Police crackdowns in the city were moving Richardson's livelihood to far-flung locations, and the travel and hassle of setting up equipment -- only to take it down again a few hours later -- was taking its toll.

"It's a young man's game," says Richardson of the video business. "You're first in; you're last out. It's very labor intensive. A lot like DJing. It's high impact. And in terms of remuneration ... I hate to say it, but you probably end up making less than the coat check girl."

J.D. Brumback
J.D. Brumback
J.D. Brumback
J.D. Brumback
J.D. Brumback

Details

Friday, March 23, at 5 p.m. Admission is free before 7 p.m., $4 after; call 552-1346. He also DJs on Wednesday, March 28, at 6:45 p.m. at "Qoöl," 111 Minna (between Second and New Montgomery streets), S.F. Tickets are $5 (free with "Qoöl" card); call 974-1719.
"Activate," Light, 839 Geary (at Hyde), S.F.

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With his interest in running the business waning, he began helping 111 Minna owner Ei Ming Jung with the bar. Originally hired part time, Richardson soon moved to working full time, and the next thing he knew, he was managing the bar at one of San Francisco's most innovative spaces for house music.

For Richardson, it was an exciting place to find himself, but not as exciting as it once might've been. After spending nearly a decade in the electronic dance scene, Richardson had grown tired of techno and house. When DJ Spesh approached him about spinning at "Qoöl," Loöq Records' Wednesday dance party at 111 Minna, Richardson happily agreed. But he decided not to play electronic music; instead, he welcomed the then-minuscule crowds with sets of easy listening artists such as Herb Alpert and Sergio Mendes.

"Dave would spin incongruous things," remembers Spesh, laughing. "[Electro-dub artists] Renegade Soundwave over James Bond themes. ... I thought, "Why not have something different?'"

Surrounded by Spesh and the other resident DJs at "Qoöl," Richardson felt himself slowly getting excited about house music again. He began closing his sets with 10 or 15 minutes of beat-heavy, uptempo tracks. He also started buying more records, and spending his Sunday afternoons on the turntables at the empty club trying to learn how they fit together.

"[Mixing records] is weird; it's a real triumph of the will. It's real Nietzschean. You make those puppies go together. You make them. And sometimes they're recalcitrant," Richardson says. "There was a period that I'd spend a lot of time practicing to get my chops so I wouldn't make a complete fool of myself."

As "Qoöl" has evolved, so have Richardson's tastes. With both an ear for smooth mixing and a keen perception of dance-floor mood, Richardson has become a highlight of the now-packed Wednesday night events. The positive attention hasn't made him any less likely to march to the beat of his own drum machine though.

"He brings a sense of rebelliousness," says Spesh of Richardson. "Instead of blindly following what's going on, he tries to push things in one direction or another."

Often, that rebellious spirit results in unique treats for dancers and audience members. Whether he draws from the early synth-pop of the Human League or the harsh art-rock of Psychic TV, Richardson's eclectic sets are full of succulent morsels that transcend the bites and samples usually heard in progressive house music.

For Richardson, this is a lot of the fun of DJing -- pushing the envelope and bringing the musical mutations he hears in his head to life.

"It seems like so many people want to be a DJ, and yet so many people want to be one for all the wrong reasons. I realized the reason I started playing records was the reason I started doing the light show was the reason I started throwing parties. It was because I wasn't seeing what I wanted to see, and I wasn't hearing what I wanted to hear."

However iconoclastic, Richardson takes pains to maintain the overall flow of the evening. As he'll tell you, his opening slot at "Qoöl" comes with its own set of requirements, from both the crowd and other DJs.

"I'm there as an opener to go from zero to 59 3/4 miles per hour so when [the next DJ] comes on he can start at 60 miles per hour and go from there," says Richardson. "In some ways the opener is like the fluffer in the porn movie. Nobody really thinks about that person too much. But really in terms of audience enjoyment, the fluffer is very important."

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