DJ Benjamin Vallery on Two Decades of Playing Undergrounds and Embracing Young People in Dance Culture

For the past two decades, DJ Benjamin Vallery has been spreading his love and knowledge of playing solid house grooves up and down the West Coast. Growing up in Seattle in the ‘90s, he was exposed to a melting pot of music and rave culture just as it was hitting the Northwest. In 1999, he moved down to L.A. where his musical career truly took form when he became roommates with Marcus Edward. Together they formed the BodyrockDJs, who notoriously threw underground parties for almost a decade.

Moving up to San Francisco in the summer of 2009, Vallery took a solo approach to his career, and has since become a local favorite and is an esteemed resident of local collective ForwardSF and Slinky. We caught up with Vallery about his DJ history, favorite DJ gig, and some New Year’s resolutions. He plays Friday, Dec. 26 at Underground SF and New Year’s Day at Mezzanine for Sunset’s New Year's Day Dance Party.

[jump] You used to champion the BodyrockDJs warehouse parties down in L.A. What do you miss about throwing that party?
Throwing those parties in L.A. was one of the highlights of my life for sure. There's a great thrill that comes with hosting several hundred people at an event dedicated to spreading joy. It's always nice to break new artists and come up with concepts for the parties. But since I'm friends with a lot of promoters and DJ's in the City it's nice to be able to continue to help break new DJs by expressing my opinion, and luckily I have their ear at times.

Since you've lived up and down the West Coast, how does the Northern California scene differ from the Southern?
Well they're both great! It's pretty cool to see the California music scene support each other up and down the coast. With DJs moving from city to city they are helping to spread their vibe, which is pretty cool. Both the club and underground scenes can be difficult to break into either north or south that's for sure.

What's something that perplexes you about the current electronic music scene?
I find it interesting that grayvers (older ravers and househeads) will be found not to be embracing the young people in our culture. I personally think it's great that there's a new generation of American dancers coming into the fold as of late with the large festivals, massives, raves, etc. Regardless of how they start hopefully they'll finish with the right attitude about the culture and how it can impact their daily lives and not just partying. And we're already seeing converts as we always have. My take on it definitely coincides with the phrase “each one, teach one.”

What has been the most memorable gig in your DJ career thus far?
Well within the most recent years having the honor to be able to play the main stage for the Sunset Soundsystem crew up here in San Francisco was amazing. Well, technically the party was a camp out in Belden Town, a few hours away. But ever since moving to San Francisco it was a dream to play for them and luckily I have the chance to do it again New Year's Day as well at Mezzanine. Their parties bring all the generations and different crews together so I treat it with utmost respect cause I know all of the chin scratchers and head-nodders will be there right along with the party people getting down.

Who is an artist you can always depend on in your sets?
There are so many great artists out there it's hard to choose a top because there are several that I would say have very consistent work: Derrick Carter, Kerry Chandler, Cajmere / Green Velvet, Buck, The Martinez Brothers, Justin Martin, Pete Moss, Murk. That's not all them either. So much good stuff out there.

Where is your favorite place to spin jams in SF?
Of course I'm a huge fan of warehouse parties or undergrounds. But I appreciate a club environment for sure. Every now and then I'll hear about promoters or club owners having some sort of beef with another but it's important to realize the strength of a symbiotic relationship. Everyone benefits when people work together and communicate properly. It's great when that happens here in the city and it's part of the reason why we have such a thriving culture and scene.

What advice could you give someone wanting to break into the DJ scene?
Firstly I'd want to make sure someone's heart is in the right place and they want to do it for more than just the popularity. It makes it easier to handle the struggle of rejection or perceived snobbery when you love it from the heart. That will also naturally lead someone to respect the music and dig in the crates for those rare songs or song combos or to play gutsy tracks. Don't stop trying to get in but don't be obnoxious either. It's a fine line to walk. And always watch and learn the craft from your peers and idols alike. There's a lot to learn and you never really stop.

Can we expect any upcoming mixes from you?
Hopefully I'll have a couple important podcasts early in the New Year. I grew up on mixtapes and CDs so my approach to making mixes can differ from some of the DJs doing regular podcasts. Not that it's any better but it takes me more time to try and coordinate a composition start to finish so I don't put out as much as other people sometimes.
Lastly, any resolutions for 2015?
Of course all the usual ones regarding that thing called a gym and cooking for myself and sleeping better. But really hunkering down and getting on some production is the main goal.

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