Giving Reality Bites the Soundtrack It Deserves

For Debaser's 9th anniversary party this Saturday, DJ Jamie Jams has put together a booming alt-rock mix.

This year, Debaser — a monthly party at the Knockout dedicated to early ’90s alt-rock and led by DJ Jamie Jams — turns 9.  For the party’s third anniversary in 2011, Jams concocted a mixtape of “odes to love and love lost” themed around Cameron Crowe’s film Singlesreplete with vocal cuts from the movie. For its fifth anniversary, Debaser created a mix themed around Boyz n the Hood, with tracks by Cyprus Hill, EPMD, Grand Puba, Public Enemy, and more, and jokes from Ice Cube littered throughout.

In keeping with that tradition, Jams has just released Debaser’s third official mixtape, this time based on the iconic ’90s film Reality Bites, with songs by Yo La Tengo, Fugazi, R.E.M., The Lemonheads, My Bloody Valentine, and more. 

“I wanted to take another stab at the ’90s rock era,” Jams says. “How can we distill it into its most distilled form? How can we get a concentrated dose of whatever je ne sais quoi there was about the ’90s?”

He’ll be playing the mix — along with an assortment of records, from the 12 crates of vinyl he’ll be bringing to the party — at the Knockout on Saturday, May 27.

“The idea is to create the feeling of being at the craziest rock show, but made out of all records,” he says.
We chatted with Jams about the mix, the particular songs he simply had to include on it, and why he chose Reality Bites in the first place.

Catch Debaser’s 9th Anniversary Party from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., on Saturday, May 27, at the Knockout.

SF Weekly: So why did you choose to theme this mix around Reality Bites?
DJ Jamie Jams: Reality Bites was never really my favorite at the time, as far as ’90s movies go. And a lot of the characters are kinda douchey. But I’m sorta seeing in retrospect that they were portrayed as douchey and entitled on purpose. I guess that was the point. I rewatched it this morning. The main character has some privilege issues I think she’s working through. I think my initial hatred of Ben Stiller stems from this movie and I’ve suppressed it for so long. But Reality Bites is a good context for punchy one-liners if you’re making a mix with some drops in it.

SFW: What kind of songs did you put in the mix?
JJ: We tried to start with some smart ones, so we included The Smiths, Pixies, and The Stone Roses,  just to kind of give the whole thing a grounding and intelligent perspective on the music of the time. And then I let it delve into the other things going on. So we started with some jangly ones, then moved into more shoegazey ones. Then it goes into a grunge-borderline combo, and then real grungy stuff or funky stuff like The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

SFW: What were some songs you felt you absolutely needed to have in it?
JJ: I play a few songs that are kinda silly. Cracker’s “Low” is the kind of thing you’d hear on Live 105 occasionally. Here’s a song you think was corny and maybe heard, but it’s actually a cool song that’s really good by a decent band that has credentials and its totally local.

I have a song from The Cranberries on there: “Linger.” They have a show coming up soon and I’m surprised so many fans are freaking out about it. Even the most hardened person has to think the first Cranberries album is good. I like to force people to confront prejudices about whether something is good.

SFW: What were some qualifications for the songs you chose to include on the mix?
JJ: All the songs are from approximately 1992-93. It’s supposed to sound as though you were in the time period that the the movie is happening in. There’s some emotional stuff in it — which some people might consider “crying music” — and I also tried to show how folk intersected with the more droney music we now call grunge.


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