LE BAIN: You’re from San Jose, California. You started DJing in 1987 when you graduated high school and played in punk rock bands before that. How did you make the transition from punk rock to DJing? What was the trigger?
DJ SPUN: In the mid 80's I started getting into hip-hop as it was the new voice of oppressed youth. Then I saw Grandmaster Flash playing 3 turntables on the kitchen table in Wild Style. Around the same time, I saw a video of NY artist, Christian Marclay, with his very unusual, avant garde approach to record playing. After that I started to see turntables as a new and exciting instrument to play. So my initial interest in DJ'ing came from a perspective of using the turntables as an instrument for composing new sounds.
Grand Master Flash Wild Style
Tell us about the scene in San Jose and San Francisco in the early 90’s. You said you met "the English house ravers who wanted to throw full moon parties.” I guess they had this romanticism about the Californian summer of love. Were you able to experience something like that?
That's exactly what happened! I would say '91-92 was San Francisco's long, second Summer of Love. San Francisco always seemed to be the last bastion of freedom and individuality, and has always been known for its rich psychedelic history. Tragically, AIDS had a huge impact on the clubs in the 80's and the disco spirit nearly died. But there was a small group of forward thinking DJ's keeping it alive and a few cool clubs carrying the torch. Then this group of very enthusiastic party people came over from England. They were part of the Tonka Sound System (of DJ Harvey) scene and were inspired by those parties, particularly their after-parties on Black Rock Beach for the Tonka night at Zap Club in Brighton. They wanted to bring that vibe and take Sound System culture to San Francisco.
What was the reaction of the San Francisco DJs?
They were very warmly welcomed, and together with the local community of DJ's and party people, this very unique and positive scene emerged. They Bay Area was a very different place back then, and much more diverse. SF is historically known for its gay culture and psychedelic scene. Mix that with computer hackers, and an abundance of eccentric people from all over the world. It was also quite inexpensive. Then the Grateful Dead stopped touring, and a bunch of crazy hippies joined the party as the scene grew, while maintaining this very cool DIY spirit. We worked together and created something special. That spirit carries on today with the Sunset Sound System parties and in the gay discos with the Honey Sound System.
Bobby Konders Nervous Acid
Could you give us your 3 favorite party tracks of San Francisco in the early 90’s?
The early 90's was such a great time for dance music. I always play some music from that time period. I could never pick just 3 personal favorites, there are just too many. San Francisco was always a real melting pot. We were influenced by New Wave, Punk, Detroit's electro and techno sounds, Chicago and New York House, UK Rave, Disco, Freestyle, Hi-NRG, and Hip-Hop. These were 3 that were big with the crowd during that era.
You've Got The Love by The Source featuring Candi Staton. The Candi Staton acappella was originally mixed over an instrumental version of the Frankie Knuckles & Jamie Principle classic "Your Love". The original bootleg release was recorded by mixing the two pieces of vinyl together.
Nervous Acid by Bobby Konders (above). Acid House classic from pioneering NY House label Nu Groove by Wild Pitch DJ and soon to become reggae dancehall star Bobby Konders of Massive B.
Hypnosis by Psychotropic (below). This UK track always created that peaking moment at the early SF parties.
You moved in NYC in 2002 and started curating the PS1 Warm Up parties and did it for 7 years. How do you explain the success of Warm Up?
First and foremost, PS1 is such an amazing institution and amazing place for a dance. Being a former public school, the energy of being out on the playground at school is right there on the dance floor. Alanna Heiss, Lokke Highstein and the amazing staff at PS1 gave me free reign musically. Only asking that it be somewhat eclectic, things really clicked and our party gained a life of its own. It was great to present this music in a respectful way, while not forgetting to make it a party. We put together DJs and live acts that often came from different scenes but had a shared narrative. It was great to approach the party as an art exhibition. As the event grew it was inspiring to be able to bring in some amazing acts that the masses weren't really familiar with, put them in front of this huge audience and see them be so well received.
In some ways, would you say the parties at PS1 helped reshape the party spirit of NYC in the 00s?
I think it has been one one of the last places in NYC where all of the different factions and scenes within the dance music community would come together and really get down…
The Loose Control Band Lose Control
Tell us about your latest music project The Loose Control Band on Golf Channel.
The Loose Control Band is a collaborative project between myself and the very talented Jonah Sharp. The project was born out of some more rock style jam sessions. But we can't really hide from the dance floor. Jonah is an amazing electronic musician, best known for his work as Spacetime Continuum and Reagenz (with Move D). He is amazing improviser and analog synth master. He has worked with everyone from Haruomi Hosono of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Bill Laswell, Ursula Rucker, to the Grateful Dead. Our latest release It's Hot on Golf Channel Recordings features Sal P. of Liquid liquid on vocals and percussion and Skate-punk legend Ray Stevens II on bass. The live show is pretty out of control but definitely party rocking. Depending on the scenario we can go from two man rave unit to full on, weirdo, psychedelic dance band.
The Loose Control Band It's Hot (Bongo Mix)
You launched a very exciting summer party series in Coney Island connected to the ‘Coney Art Walls’ exhibition curated by Jeffrey Deitch. After PS1, it seems you have this art-y NY connection. How was the project born?
I've always looked at "the party." "the dance." or even just living, as a work of art. I've always had artist friends. Weird art installations or performances were always part of the mix in 80s SF. So it makes sense. After the success of PS1's music series, museums all over the world have put together similar programs, embracing the idea of DJ as Curator. As the Coney Art Walls project came together, Jeffrey thought it would be a good idea to add a music component. DJ music is a natural compliment to the Street Art culture and this project takes us right back to where we started with the movie Wild Style and my early inspirations. So naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to create a party where we would be surrounded by the work of Lee Quinones, Daze, and Lady Pink.
Tell us about your 'punk rock contrarian spirit'. Do you apply it to other things than music?
I think it's good to challenge convention and to stand for something. I think individuality and authenticity are key. Be yourself.