Hey, DJ: Omar

The Bay Area DJ talks about 20 years doing Popscene and his favorite local, independent record labels.

Whether it’s moderating music panels, providing the soundtrack for aquatic encounters at the Academy of Sciences, or performing onstage with his punk band, DJ Omar has been one of the more dynamic figures in the local music scene for the past two decades. As one of the founders of Popscene, his undiscriminating musical palate, which ranges from hip-hop to Brit-pop, mirrors the long-running party’s diversity in showcasing up-and-coming acts.

We chatted with Omar about 20 years of Popscene, his newly reformed punk band, and local, independent record labels.

Popscene versus Blow Up featuring Every Move A Picture live takes place this Friday, [12/2] at Rickshaw Stop.

SF Weekly: You started DJing when Popscene formed. What’s it like being able to look back on these experiences two decades later?
Omar: It’s fantastic. I have met and worked with some incredible people. I have learned so much about the music industry, and we have created a springboard for independent bands to launch successful careers in the Bay Area and beyond. Being a DJ, a talent buyer, a performer, a promoter, a collector, a moderator, and a fan gains you invaluable insight into all aspects of the music industry from every conceivable perspective.

SFW: Who has been your favorite guest at Popscene thus far?
O: There are so many, but Amy Winehouse would probably be number one.

SFW: Since you DJ so many different genres spanning from punk to hip-hop, if you could form a supergroup with three other artists, who would they be?
O: The late Darby Crash from the Germs or the late Lux Interior of the Cramps on vocals, Johnny Marr from the Smiths on guitar, Questlove from the Roots on drums, and I suppose I should put myself on bass to even things out.

SFW: Switching gears, tell us a little about your newly reformed punk band, Black Cat Music. What’s it like playing punk music today versus when you guys started?
O: Even though Black Cat Music was rooted in post-punk like the Gun Club, Lords Of The New Church, and Birthday Party, all the members have DIY punk pasts which is a mentality, work ethic, and spirit that you carry and apply well into adulthood, no matter what you choose to do with your life. So even though we haven’t played music together in 12 years, it feels as natural and relevant as it did when we started.

SFW: What spurred the band’s reformation?
O: Black Cat Music was on Lookout! Records back in the day. Lookout! was a seminal Bay Area label that released debuts by Operation Ivy and Green Day, among other greats. The label is celebrating their 30th anniversary at Gilman during the first two weekends of 2017 with quite a few bands from the label’s past. So when they asked, we thought it would be a great reason to reunite.

SFW: Who are some of your favorite local labels around the Bay, besides Lookout! Records?
O: I respect most independent record labels because it’s not the easiest endeavor to undertake, but some of my favorite locals will always be Alternative Tentacles and Dark Entries. And, even though it started in D.C., (which is also my hometown), I consider Slumberland a favorite Bay Area label.

SFW: This Friday, indie and electro from the 2000’s returns with a vengeance when Popscene goes head to head with Blow Up. What are some of your favorite memories of that era?
O: My friend Jenny and I did a night called Fake in the early 2000’s, which led me to visit and DJ the Miami Winter Music Conference in 2001 or 2002 where LCD Soundsystem played what might have been their first-ever live show. Peaches, the Rapture, DJ Hell, Fischerspooner, Soulwax/2ManyDjs, and Arthur Baker were also on the bill. Later on, Tommie Sunshine was having his birthday at a karaoke bar in South Beach with most of the aforementioned dignitaries in tow and everyone drunkenly sang/shouted “We Are The World” together at the end of the night. It was a mess but wonderful.

SFW: What is a song you’ll definitely be spinning?
O: Crossover’s  “Phostographt.”

SFW: With the success of all your projects, what are you hoping to continue accomplishing in 2017?
O: Keep collaborating with amazing people, continue to support bands, keep booking and playing great shows, and staying inspired and passionate. To paraphrase the great John Peel: “Do whatever I can to publicize all the good things I hear around me.”

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