By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
More than 10 years after beginning his career as a talented teenager playing records for various renegade parties in the underground rave scene of Orange County, Nikola Baytala has become one of San Francisco's most beloved DJs representing the house and techno strains of dance music. He has few peers when it comes to his relentless work ethic, routinely playing at two to three parties on any given weekend night, whether it's a Sunset boat party, a below-the-radar warehouse gathering, or an early-morning set at the Endup, where audiences seem to love his infectious smile and captivating energy (he's known for dancing harder than many of his faithful followers). Baytala has played with top international DJs and artists such as Doc Martin, Derrick Carter, Daft Punk, and Swayzak, and has helped bring several notable up-and-comers to San Francisco to DJ at events he's put on as part of DJ/promoter collectives the Fool and S.W.A.T. This latter group also includes Kwai Le Chief and RaSoul, and has released several songs and mixes on acclaimed record labels such as Tweekin, Large, COA, Nightshift, Soul Food, and Tummy Touch, with more tunes forthcoming. Alongside other local favorites Solar and Iz, Baytala is a resident DJ at the long-running Sunday night club "Bionic," a weekly jam dedicated to electronic funk that began at the now-defunct DJ bar the Top and is currently held at Pink.
Jefrodisiac (aka Jeff Fare) started out as a punk rocker, not a DJ. But after stints in several goth-wave and synth-punk bands (including the Calculators, which also featured two future members of the Rapture), Fare decided he'd had enough of band politics and took to spinning vinyl at the Beauty Bar. Trying to set himself apart from the punk-as-fuck DJs at that establishment, he played ephemeral '80s electro from the likes of Shannon, Giorgio Moroder, and Afrika Bambaataa. In 2001, he hopped a plane for Barcelona and discovered the German minimalist techno sounds of Thomas Brinkman and Isolée (while also forming a friendship with S.F. native Bertie Pearson, with whom he would eventually start the Paradise Boys). Back in the States that year, Fare started spinning at the Arrow Bar, just as the whole electroclash scene exploded. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. As Fare once said in this very paper, "I went from being some kid who played stupid '80s records to being exactly where I wanted to be -- in a month!" The DJ suddenly found himself in high demand, garnering opening slots for electronic music heavyweights like Juan Atkins, Marshall Jefferson, Felix da Housecat, and Ben Watt and playing huge events like the Winter Music Conference, Coachella, and South by Southwest. Today, he splits his time between his "Frisco Disco" weekly at the Arrow Bar and his "Blow Up" monthly at the Rickshaw Stop, as well as his live gigs with the Paradise Boys (who were nominated for an SF Weekly Music Award last year). His sets are known for their party-hearty atmosphere and his skillful, anything-goes inclusiveness -- meaning he's more than apt to drop some well-known tracks (George Michael is a current favorite) next to some weirdo Italian disco record he just scored overseas. How very punk rock.
Monty Luke was born and raised in Los Angeles, a city he routinely dubs "the home of the body bag," where he got his start as a DJ 17 years ago. While attending college at UC Santa Barbara, where he hosted a radio program called Beatbox, he helped form the Justice League Sound System. The superhero team of DJs threw its own legendary parties and routinely rocked impeccable house and techno grooves at events stretching from Vancouver, B.C., down to San Diego. Luke moved to the Bay Area in 1995 and has since cultivated a reputation as a powerful DJ in this tough market with his funky and edgy workouts. He's now part of the Bay Area collective DHP (Deep House Project), which also includes DJs like founder Carlos Gibbs and Charlotte the Baroness. Luke's first foray into producing was 2000's "What U Feel," a collaboration with L. Ray Robinson under the name Loopwreckas that was released through Imperial Dub Recordings, the label founded by the respected S.F.-based electronic group Dubtribe. He is now working on solo material under the name ML Tronik, and plans to work in the future with Carl Craig, the world-renowned Detroit-based techno producer, a pairing that promises to be out of this world. When he's not manning the turntables or laying down tracks in the studio, Luke is often caught stealing moments to update his MP3 blog, "Juicy Bitz" (www.justiceleague.com/tsm/blog ), which features his exclusive DJ mixes and lively news items from the local dance community.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is one Owen Ashworth, a tall, 28-year-old teddy bear of a man who concocts some of the most melancholy synth-pop tunes around. "My favorite songs have always been the sad ones," Ashworth said during an interview on www.tomlab.com. "I love Hank Williams and the Carter Family and things like that. There's something really satisfying about a really depressing song. Those are the ones that stick with you, I think." Casiotone's tunes do stay with listeners, in part because of Ashworth's hangdog, give-me-a-hug delivery and his rinky-dink, atonal-to-melodic-in-a-second backing music (which is composed completely with beat-up, battery-powered keyboards). But his main draw is his lyrics, which capture everyday heartbreaks and precise moments of deep ennui, all with a sneaking sense of humor. "Although my songs are mainly fiction," Ashworth said in the aforementioned interview, "I think they are in some way documenting the lives of people not too different from me. I like to think of [my songs] as tiny, honest tragedies in the lives of fairly average young people. I hope that they are stories that people can relate to." If Casiotone's growing popularity is any indication, many folks can relate to lonely nights with Smiths records, cellists who choose orchestra over romance, and dates that turn into disasters. Ashworth began writing songs while taking film classes at San Francisco State in 1997, after realizing that it was far cheaper to craft little story-songs than put together entire movies. Initially, he recorded on whatever was available, whether it be an answering machine or a creaky boombox (his first album was called Answering Machine Music, an allusion to both Lou Reed's Metal Machine Musicand Ashworth's occasional taping method). Since then, he's released two more full-lengths on Germany's Tomlab label, along with numerous singles and compilation tracks, and embarked on a dozen tours with such indie stalwarts as the Rapture, Xiu Xiu, Kill Me Tomorrow, and Cass McCombs. He's got a new EP coming out before the end of the year, plus a new LP scheduled for early 2006, which means his fans won't have to be sad (or at least as sad) much longer.