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Gateway to the Peninsula 

Daly City Records opens the door on weird

Wednesday, Jan 31 2007
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It's one hour and three beers into my interview with the Daly City Records crew and things are going well. They're going too well, in fact. I have lost control.

The under-furnished living room we're gathered in on the brink of the Richmond District belongs to Tim Pizza, guitarist for noiseniks the Bad Hand. In between a massive fish tank and an even more massive big-screen TV sit several of the musicians on the S.F.-based label: Pizza, Bloodysnowman, Mochipet, Forest Green, and Evan Francis. We've almost killed a bottle of Jameson, and Bloodysnowman, aka Shawn Porter, has been eyeballing the shotgun resting on a pair of deer hooves hanging on the wall.

"So if I get the gun out are you gonna start telling the truth?" he taunts Mochipet, aka Dave Wang, owner of Daly City.

More arrivals enter, including a sax-toting Marcus Stephens, Francis' friend and cohort in microgroove-jazz ensemble Spaceheater, and Dan Brennan, the Bad Hand's drummer. The interview has veered from semi-composed Q&A to off-the-rails bullshit session. It would be for naught if the situation weren't so damn telling of the label's psycho-potpourri span of styles.

"I think that's kind of the thread in Daly City," says Forest Green. "It's a lot of all-over-the-place kind of people. You really don't know what's gonna happen."

She's right — these musicians are all bound by the fact that there's little binding them, except, perhaps, a guiding sense of fuck-'em-if-they-can't-take-a-joke irreverence, an unpracticed and infectious weirdness.

"Is it weird?" Wang asks.

"Yeah, it's weird," says Francis. "You're weird."

"I try to be as normal as I can be," Wang answers.

"I just want to fit in!" Francis teases. "Why isn't this working?"

No, they don't fit in, but that's exactly why it's working. Check out the lineup on Daly City and you'll find a roster that ignores genre and favors uniqueness. There's a deviant electronic bent to a lot of the groups, but there are exceptions, too. Taiwan-born, American-bred Wang is guided only by his own aesthetic, and in the two years since Daly City's first release, its music has bubbled up into underground scenes in the U.S., Japan, China, and Europe (where German techno queen Ellen Allien is a fan).

Such faith in diversity might be a marketing hurdle, but in terms of integrity it's hard to beat. In fact, very recently, several well-respected, niche-focused labels — U.K. techno giants Warp and down-tempo mavens Astralwerks and Bay Area house heads Om and hip hoppers Quannum — have similarly broadened their range. "As I got involved with these guys, I liked all their music," Wang says of his cohorts, "and I had a lot of stuff that wouldn't fit on other labels that I was doing, so I was like, let's put all this out."

"All this" runs a pretty wide gamut.

You've got the chilly breakcore of Bloodysnowman, with songs titled "Dead Raver (Computer for Sale)" and "Hell Yeah I Want an Ambulance." "It's not industrial!" Porter insists. "I guess my stuff is kind of dark, so I get lumped into that sometimes."

You've got the straight-ahead rave music of the ever-bubbly DJ Forest Green, Wang's former girlfriend and longtime star of Sister SF and the Cloud Factory Collective. "I'm not married to any one thing," she says. "I like what I like."

You've got Spaceheater, loungey and slick, with Francis and Stephens on saxes, flutes, and clarinet, and Bill Mitsakos on laptop beats. When they're not in Spaceheater, both hornmen are busy with jazz ensembles all over the city and Mitsakos lives in New Zealand.

And you've got the Bad Hand, a spazzy, loud-ass post-rock trio with Pizza on guitar, Brennan on drums, and a dude named Zippy on Rhodes. Daly City recently released their vinyl-only debut, No Time for Modesty. "We didn't have any plans to do anything with it, but it kept growing," Pizza says. "Dave helped us out every day after we made the record. It's my first shot at anything, so that's cool."

There are a few more on the label or aligned with it — glitchy laptoppers Roman Ruins and Mophon, hip-hop DJ Mike Boo, electro-poppers 20 Minute Loop, the Jazz Mafia fellas. They're not here tonight, but they'll all show up the following evening at Wang's 32nd birthday party, billed as the International Strawberry and Bacon Festival.

It's 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, 111 Minna is packed, and the sounds coming from the venue's two stages are so diverse they elicit a powerful, disorienting buzz. The musical headfuck is augmented by a fashion show, the Band Hand Pied Pipering through the crowd, catered waffles topped with pork products, Wang moshing in a purple dinosaur costume, and a finale pitting DJ Strawberry versus DJ Bacon in a chaotic catfight that ends in a messy twist of spandex, makeup, and hiccupping beats.

In other words, the night is a total success.

A few days later, Wang ponders Daly City's inbred eclecticism during a break in his day job dispatching tugboats from Pier 15.

"I think people are more open to different kinds of music now, more than they were before," he says. "Whereas before they might've been exposed to one type of music and didn't deviate from that too much, now people's tastes have grown."

Forest summed up Daly City's MO best the other night:

"I prefer to be with the freaks. I think electronic music needs that badly, needs to have a little shake-up, a new angle. With us it's like, strap yourself in and take the ride!"

About The Author

Jonathan Zwickel

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