The Vinyl Anachronist
by Marc Phillips
Part LXXIII: The Turntablist Chronicles: DJ DUS
One of the benefits of moving to Texas is being immersed in the deep, rich tradition of Latin culture. While I expected a heavy dose of Tejano and other related musical genres while hanging out in Austin, I've actually spent more time over the last few months in nearby San Antonio and enjoying the visual arts scene. I've noted how these Hispanic traditions permeate nearly every gallery, as well as every individual piece. Perhaps I'm attracted to these themes because of my own upbringing in Southern California, but there's something about the Texas versions that seem even more vibrant, more colorful, and more refined. Sorry, Los Angeles, but you need to play catch-up.
A third Texas city has popped up on my radar of late--Corpus Christi. As I've explored some of the DJs and turntablists throughout Texas, I wound up focusing on this Gulf Coast city due to the efforts of one established artist, Dusty Oliveria, and his efforts to make this region a Mecca for fellow musicians. Dusty, who goes by the name 'DJ DUS,' will soon open up a space in downtown Corpus Christi called PRODUCE which combines an art gallery and a retail store with an honest-to-goodness school for DJs. DUS will even introduce a new clothing line, Americano, at the opening on February 11.
To know where DJ DUS is coming from, you have to know a little bit about cumbia. Cumbia is a type of folk music from Columbia's Caribbean coast that relies heavily on percussion, thanks to its roots in both West African and Amerindian cultures. While DUS' music varies from smooth trip-hop mixes to more tradition Latin songs to jagged urban beats, the common thread is cumbia and its complex rhythms. Another trademark of his mixes is their almost seamless quality. In fact, his tracks are so seamless that sometimes it's hard to believe these are samples and not original recordings.
I caught up with Dusty while he was still recovering from a trip to McAllen, near the Mexican border, where he was working with the band Personal Use on their new record.
PSF: For the folks playing at home, tell them a little bit about who you are and what you've done.
DJ DUS: I have been DJing since I was 12 years old, which was 1992. I have loads of remixes on different blogs and I had a major release in 2005 with Paula DeAnda on Arista Records, selling over 500,000 records. I also toured with Baby Bash and Frankie J as their tour DJ on the Suga Suga tour, going all over USA.
PSF: Judging from your website, you have a lot in the works for 2010.
I have a few remixes in the works with Milkman and Morenito de Fuego, both artists from Monterrey Mex that work with Sonidero Nacional. I did an unofficial remix for Chalie Boy's "I Look Good.” I've also just done loads of cumbia remixes on my blog. I'm working with the Peligrosa All Stars in Austin on a cumbia EP in 2010, I'm working with Brian Ramos outta Austin (Kanko/Grupo Fantasma) on a cumbia dub project called Master Blaster and also an all-girl cumbia pop band called La Conquista that has had global recognition. Plus, there's plenty of radio play and national TV promotion...
PSF: Sounds like cumbia is alive and well in Texas.
Oh, and I'm also producing an artist out of Corpus named Clarissa Serna. She's doing some soul/doo-wop type shit… This year I have to focus on an MP3 netlabel called Sound System. We will be the forefront of the alternative Latin scene in Texas, including artists like Bombasta, Personal Use, and Master Blaster.
PSF: Tell me about PRODUCE, your school/gallery/store in Corpus Christi. What makes it unique in the world of DJs and turntablists?
PRODUCE will bring awareness to a sleeping city that needs exposure to the culture. My goal is to show people what kind of talent our city has to offer, and to develop those talents. There are loads of DJ's, MCs and producers in this city looking for exposure, and for help in developing their talents. I am just trying to create an outlet where people can come through and network, learn some shit, and leave happy.
PSF: What do you have planned for the opening?
The grand opening of PRODUCE is February 11 with an art show by Latino urban artist Noe Ortiz. One of the most respected DJs in the game, Toy Selectah, will be the party DJ!
PSF: What kind of response are you getting from the community while you're preparing for the opening?
We've had a huge response. I've been getting hit up by all kinds of people for the classes, young and old. We've also had some press from local magazines and newspapers asking what's going on because we kind of took over our whole block downtown.
People just need to know what's out there and this is my way of showing them. The opening will be huge. We are very fortunate to have Toy coming out, and Noe Ortiz is a great artist.
PSF: Tell us about your relationship with turntables and some of the other gear you own. Do you use turntables and LP's when listening to music for pleasure? How do you compare using TTs with other types of digital sources such as beatboxes and CD turntables?
I use turntables mainly when I'm digging for samples. I love the vinyl sound, and I must have that grit in my mixes. I will also dig for songs no one has to play in my sets and to rework them using Ableton or Serato.
Using turntables is no boundaries. With software you're limited to what and when you can do things, but with TT's you can always drop in stuff wherever you want, being good or bad. There are no limits.
PSF: When you discuss turntables with students at PRODUCE, what kind of information are you giving them?
I start with the basics: measures, bpm, song arrangement. I think that the most important part of DJing is knowing what the songs are made of, not just dropping some hot shit.
PSF: If you could teach your students one single thing about using turntables, what would it be?
I think song arrangements and measures. Most DJ's don't know music in that sense. A lot can tell you what's hot and what's not, but they don't know bars and counts. I've seen videos of local DJ's mixing pre-made re-mixes together and they come in on the wrong bar! I must put a halt to all this!
PSF: One of the things that makes your music so distinct is the way it borrows from Latin music and culture, especially cumbia. How did you decide to use these elements in your mixes? Did you use these mixes from the beginning, or did they slowly sneak in as you honed your DJ craft?
I have always been a fan of Latin music, since my mom listened to Tejano and Latino music my whole life. I can't stay away from percussion! It was just natural to me to bring in the cumbia sound, being from the Tejano capital.
PSF: Tell me about your involvement with Sonido del Principe.
SdP is the shit!! He's a dope DJ/producer from The Netherlands. He also has a huge blog at generationbass.com (ED NOTE: the site is down now unfortunately). He remixed one of my tracks for a mix tape and has been giving me props through the year.
PSF: What have you learned from him?
I learned that I need to hustle more on my blog. He always has new material every day and that keeps him on top of the game. The blog world is a so fast-paced that you can get left behind and forgotten in about a month. Plus, he has the sickest bass sounds known to man!
PSF: How do you see the next generation of DJ's in terms of their equipment? Do you feel there will always be a place for TT's, or do you think the digital methods will eventually replace them?
I don't think you can ever get away from the turntables! But I do see the new controllers coming out making it easier to do crazy shit. There are all kinds of triggers and looping features that are way easy on the controllers! I say, bring on the techy shit!
You can find out more about attending PRODUCE by visiting the website at http://prdc2010.com/. You can also hear constantly updated mixes from DJ DUS on his website at http://djdus.com, or hear the latest news from him on Twitter.
Contact the Vinyl Anachronist at firstname.lastname@example.org