By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
With an ear honed by more than 20 years of scratching, and a reckless, genius disregard for the alleged limits of a turntable, DJ Disk has been one of the trendsetters in a movement that has transformed the record player from a simple playback device into something far more diabolical. Whether he's working his magic on his own peerless projects -- such as 1998's mind-melting Ancient Termites and 2001's Phonosychographdisk vs. The Filthy Ape Mooch Moose-- or as a guest scratcher on works by Bill Laswell, Disk catapults the act of vinyl manipulation into the lofty realms of experimental art. Tchaikovsky, Hendrix, Coltrane, Laurel & Hardy, and old Disney soundtracks are all fair game for this sonic scientist -- though source material has a tendency to, uh, undergo some changes at the hands of the maestro. Disk doesn't just scratch records, he sculpts them, freaking his sampled sounds with an arsenal of effects, amplifications, and weird delays. Through this laborious process, Disk manages to create a pastiche of rhythm and noise that is much more than just the sum of its parts. As an original member of the seminal Invisibl Skratch Piklz crew (which also featured DJs QBert, Mixmaster Mike, and Shortkut) and on his solo albums, Disk continues to display jaw-dropping talent, most recently on Tabla Beat Science's Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove album.
Raised in both the Midwest and Paris, France, DJ Laird grew up steeped in a mixture of American populism and European sophistication, a blend that informs his DJ sets today. A San Francisco resident since 1990, Laird helped birth the rave era on the West Coast, and his cowboy hat has been floating above audiences ever since. The tongue-twisting name of his monthly party -- "Psychofunkodiscodelic" -- suggests something of the anarchic fusion underpinning his breakbeat house antics. Playing as far afield as Belgium, Spain, and Monaco, Laird has become an emissary of San Francisco dance music culture. In 1995 he moved back to Paris for a year, broadcasting a weekly radio show and spinning in the City of Light's biggest clubs. But as well-traveled as he may sound, Laird's more in tune with the down-and-dirty than the cliché of jet-set, bling-bling club life. After all, he's been dirtying his decks with the sands of Burning Man's Black Rock City for the past six years, making his Flambé Lounge one of the staples of the annual desert gathering. And at Munich's annual Tribal Gathering, Laird has played to 30,000 bouncing bodies -- no mean feat for a jock schooled at the relatively small-scale venues of the Bay Area. There's nothing petite about his sound, though: It's a euphoric mash-up of funk, soul, and block-rockin' stompers that's wholly diversified.
As an epicenter of hip hop DJ culture, the Bay Area boasts an absurd number of dusty-fingered LP collectors, studio-savvy beatsmiths, and turntablists who can manipulate sound with the flick of a wrist. DJ Zeph is the rare vinyl technician who brings voluminous record crates, a keen ear for sonic chemistry, and impressive digital dexterity together in a total package -- equally suited for the club or the control room. Zeph has cultivated an intense passion for the turntables ever since the sixth grade, when he began his tutelage under KutMasta Kurt at Santa Cruz community radio station KUSP-FM (88.9). While earning a degree in audio engineering at S.F. State during the early '90s, Zeph built a reputation for artfully mixing golden-era hip hop with wildly varied breaks that stretched beyond the usual funk, soul, and jazz staples. As a producer, Zeph first garnered serious underground attention for the spacious, tasty beats on L'Roneous Da'Versifier's acclaimed 1998 debut, Imaginarium. Weaving deft scratches and jazzy horn drops over thumping rhythms, the DJ created the perfect foundation for L'Ron's rhymes. Zeph has churned out a steady stream of tracks ever since. In addition to collaborating with former Spearhead MC Azeem and crafting two funkified mix-CDs (Break Builders and Electrospective) with fellow Santa Cruz wax-fondler Imperial, Zeph has released several efforts for Mission-based imprint Wide Hive. His eponymous 2001 solo joint combined sampling wizardry and studio-tweaked live musicianship into seamless arrangements and memorable songs. On future-jazz ensemble (VU) Variable Unit's recently released opus Seven Grain, Zeph matches his turntable skills with powerhouse players like keyboardist Kat Ouano (Crown City Rockers) and ex-Tower of Power drummer Ron E. Beck. Hip hop legends Biz Markie and DJ Premier paid Zeph the ultimate compliment last year when they jacked one of his beats for the single "And I Rock." How's that for a heavyweight endorsement?
Blevin Blectum -- nee Bevin Kelley -- rose to prominence as part of Blectum From Blechdom, a duo with Kevin Blechdom (aka Kristen Erickson). After meeting onstage at a Mills College performance in 1998, Blectum and Blechdom went on to form one of the Bay Area's most distinctive electronic acts, fusing groovebox jams with abstract, laptop-based composition and a love for cultural phenomena. The four-armed, four-legged jumpsuit the duo wore in performance obscured the pair's internal rifts, though; after taking Ars Electronica's prestigious Golden Nica award for electronic music in early 2001, the two split. Later that year, the pair reunited for a series of performances based on their shared obsession with multimedia heavyweights the Olsen Twins. While Blechdom moved to Florida recently, Blectum -- who by day works in sound design for interactive toy companies -- continues to perform in Sagan, a group that also includes techno tweaker J Lesser and video artist Ryan Junell, as well as release solo recordings. Blectum's Talon Slalom, released this year on Seattle's Deluxe Records, starts with tinny, ring-modulated beats and then layers on a deluge of shredded electronic sounds made from ultra-bright chords, samples of half-forgotten pop music, and waves of white noise. Despite Blectum From Blechdom's ironic propensity for cheekiness and preteen icons, Blevin Blectum's work is anything but cutesy: It's densely difficult, funky as hell, and more fun than a food fight in FAO Schwarz.