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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Can You Dig It? Vol. 30: DJ Jester

Name: DJ Jester

Claim to Fame: It’s kind of a long story. I graduated college with an American Studies degree and didn’t know what I wanted to do. I looked at my school’s career service center and saw a position for driving the Oscar Myer Wiener Mobile. I ended up applying and they called me back. Instead of offering me a position for Oscar Myer, they told me about another position they had with the Boca Burger Mobile. This was right around 2000. I decided that I was done with DJing and that I would go on the road for Kraft foods and drive the Boca Burger Mobile. Basically it was me and two other dudes traveling around the east coast, going to festivals, flipping burgers, and giving them out for free.

My mom kept calling me on the road and complaining because I had so much stuff at my parent’s house. After graduation I’d moved everything to my parent’s garage and my old bedroom. One time when I was talking to my mom and she was complaining, I told her to send me some of my stuff. She sent me a bunch of my CD’s of River Walk Riots. Suddenly, I had an idea. I used to work at a record store in San Antonio called Hog Wild Records. People who were on tour used to come into the store all the time and say, “Hey, we’re on tour, just wanted to see if you guys wanted to consign some of these CD’s.” After thinking about it a bit, I said to myself, “I’m not on a DJ tour; I’m driving a Boca Burger Mobile. But why not go into these stores and radio stations and drop off some CD’s?” I’d go to every independent record store I could find in each city, even the smaller cities. It was kind of a mission. If they didn’t consign any CD’s, I’d just give them some for free. Before you knew it, Aquarius Records in San Francisco was carrying it, Spin Magazine wrote about it, and I was like “Wow, I can’t believe that little CD got so much attention.”

That’s also how I met Kid Koala. We met at a show in Boston and kind of hit it off. I brought this article from San Antonio that compared me to him. I wasn’t trying to impress him and collaborate with him so much say, “Hey man, thank you for your awesome music, check this out, it’s my biggest impression of you.”

River Walk Riots got its name from my time in San Antonio. There is a section of town called the River Walk in San Antonio; it’s where the Alamo is. A lot of locals don’t like it because they think it’s really touristy. University of Texas San Antonio, where I went to school, is on the North West side of San Antonio. It was kind of in the middle of no where. When I graduated I decided to move downtown where there was more to do. It was pretty cheap then to live down town and it still is. I lived right above the Rive Walk. I thought it was great because I felt like I was on vacation. Living there gave me the idea to call the CD River Walk Riots. That’s where the cover picture is taken.

It was all pretty random. The thing about the Boca Burger Mobile was that they had something like 6,000 applicants and they boiled it down to six teams of three. It was pretty amazing that I got the opportunity to do that. I hadn’t really seen the world; I mean I’d been on vacation before with family and stuff, but there was a lot of America I hadn’t seen. Next year is going to be the 10th year since the release of River Walk Riots, so I’m planning on re-issuing it. It’s kind of like an all American story. I wasn’t really pursuing a job, I was pursuing a dream, and it just kind of happened. What started out as flipping Boca Burgers turned into meeting Kid Koala and going on tour with him all over the world. Its been pretty crazy.

Representing: Right now I’m living in Austin. I grew in a small town called West Columbia that’s about 50 miles south of Houston. When I graduated high school I went to University of Texas in San Antonio. I lived in San Antonio for about ten years. It took me almost ten years to finish school, but when I finally did finish, I ended up moving to Austin for a bit. Then I went to San Francisco, moved back to San Antonio, and for the past year and a half I’ve been back in Austin.

Austin’s only about an hour away from San Antonio, so it’s not too far. They’re two totally different cities, like night and day. The neat thing about Austin is that it can be very trendy and intellectual, but since it’s still in Texas, there are other sides to it as well. It’s a really interesting mix. It’s something you just have to experience. I read somewhere that Austin is a young city and San Antonio is an old city. I think that’s a great way of putting it, and I love both places. I’m glad I only have to drive one hour to get to San Antonio.

Years in the Game: My dad had a big vinyl collection when I was growing up. I actually remember getting in trouble one time for trying to scratch on the turntable when I was eight or nine. I was so little I had to climb on something to get to the turntable. I think he was concerned that the shelf I was on was going to fall on me. When I turned 18 in ‘95 I started buying records.

I remember I started buying records before I even had a turntable. I though it’d be fun to have some records and started buying them. Soon after that I got a turntable and eventually I started playing out in ’96. It seems like a long time ago now, but when you think of it compared to someone like Shadow, Kid Koala, or Cut Chemist, they’ve got way more years in the game. I remember the first time I met Kid Koala, he said, “I got ten years on you man.” And he’s not even that much older than me. That puts stuff in perspective, to think he’s been DJing since 86’ or 87’.

Best Digging City or Town: If I were to say in Texas, I’d actually say San Antonio has better places to dig than Austin. There’s Eisenhauer Flea Market, Bussey’s Flea Market, and Hog Wild Records. I used to work at Hog Wild, and they have a lot of cool stuff. There’s also Half Price Books and Music Connection. I wouldn’t say San Antonio is the absolute best, but it’s the best place I’ve ever dug. I have a lot of memories digging there. I’d say 80-90% of my records came from San Antonio. I have great memories of hanging out with friends in the record store and joking around. We’d do stuff like take Phil Collins Face Value and hold it in front of our faces. I have so many memories of doing stuff like that.

I use Serato. There are a lot of cool things you can do with it, but I mostly use it as digital crates. One of my beefs with it on a cultural level is that there are tons of DJ’s these days that don’t go into debt buying records. Working at a record store, making five fifty an hour, and then spending 20 percent of my check on wax and not having enough to eat was a right of passage for me. That wasn’t too long ago man. That was seven or eight years ago. I know DJ’s today that just own Serato, they don’t even have turntables at the house. I just say, ‘Wow, I guess it’s really just a job for you.” It doesn’t make sense to me. I still buy vinyl, not as much as I used to, but I still look for stuff and dig.

Most Prized Piece of Wax: Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson. That has a lot of sentimental value to me. Growing up in Texas, you grow up with country music. I grew up with it, but I didn’t really discover Willie until my early 20’s. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for him when I was younger. All the stuff you go through in your early 20’s, like breaking up with girls and doing dumb shit…it’s a big transitional period. When you listen to Willie, it’s like listening to an uncle that understands. You gotta listen to the lyrics on that album man. It’s a really funky record for a country album. If I have a lot of work to do around the house, I always put Willie on. He’s some of my favorite music to chill to.

Favorite Album Cover/s: Shotgun Willie for this one too. It’s a pretty hardcore album cover.

When I worked in the record store I always liked looking at Roxy Music's Country Life (Laughs). The cover was really controversial when it came out, because it’s an old record. I think they re-released it without the girls and just the nature in the background.

The other day I found this record by Paul Winter called Earth Dance. It’s a pretty wicked, psychedelic album cover. The music is, eh, ok. It’d be really cool to have that cover art as a painting. When I first saw it I thought it looked like Salvador Dali.

There’s a Richard Simmons album called Reach that I find at record stores all the time. That’s a pretty funny cover. You know at the end of River Walk Riots where there’s a sample of someone saying, “Wake up! Do this for you”? That was taken from Reach. I think it’s the greatest album cover. I want to do some sort of flyer with it just because of how excited everyone looks.

Herbie Mann’s Push Push is another favorite. He plays jazz flute and for some reason he’s practically naked on the cover. If you open up the record fold, you can sort of see an outline of one body on top of another body, and it feels like velvet. It’s pretty ridiculous. I always thought that was funny. The back cover is another picture of him with his flute on his shoulder with his arms crossed. He’s got a beer belly and he’s hairy, but he just doesn’t care. He still thinks he’s sexy.

I could go on for a while. Basically every single Weird Al Yankovic cover has been genius, I think. In 3-D is probably my favorite cover.

Even Worse is funny. It looks just like Michael Jackson’s Bad, but with Weird Al.

I try to find all his stuff on vinyl that I don’t have. At Half Price Books I’ll find stuff of his for three or four bucks. I see In 3-D everywhere and I’m like, “Why do people sell this, this is a great album?” But I guess it is Weird Al, so I can see why.

I used to tour with this group from Pittsburg called Grand Buffet. They’re good friends of mine and we’ve done a couple of tours together where I was their DJ. Jackson, the read headed guy in the group, gave me some records once. One of the records was a Gallagher record. It just says Gallagher on the cover and it’s really cartoony looking, like someone hand drew it.

Dollar Bin Miracle: Hmm, this is one I might get stuck on. I can tell you about one time when I got ripped off (Laughs). I was talking to my friend Prince Klassen. He plays every Friday at the Beauty Bar in Austin and he’s toured with Spankrock. Outside of Texas he’s done his thing and we kind of came up together in San Antonio. I was digging with him one day, this was probably seven or eight years ago, and told him that I’d always wanted a copy of Fraggle Rock. He told me he had a copy and ended up selling it to me for $20. I play Fraggle Rock in my sets sometimes and that’s where it came from. I always thought that was shitty (Laughs). I love the record, but $20? He always brings it up and says, “Hey dude, remember when I sold you Fraggle Rock for 20 bucks?” (Laughs) He busts my balls about it. That’s like an inverse dollar bin miracle.

Total Records Owned: Compared to other DJ’s I really don’t have that much. I’d say around 3,500.

Best Digging Story: There used to be a store in San Antonio called Echoes from the Past. DJ Shadow thanked the city of San Antonio in the liner notes of one of his albums because he’d bought a lot of records there. It was down the street from the Alamo and in the basement of this antique/thrift store. The owner is just one of those dudes; you know he doesn’t really want to sell his records and he’s probably had them since he was a kid. He always had attitude when I would go in there.

One time a crew of friends came with me. As we were walking in I was laughing about something that had happened earlier in the day. Me and my friend Chris were cracking up and the owner said, “Hey, what are ya’ll laughing at? I’m not scared to kick ya’ll out of here.” I got all serious and thought, “I’m gonna respect this guy, this is his space.” I looked over at my friend Chris and he turned to the owner and said, “Aye, aye Captain.” When he said that, I just lost it because I was still laughing about what had happened earlier. I couldn’t even say anything to the guy, I just walked back upstairs. Whenever I see Chris, that story always comes up.

The camaraderie of digging with people is always fun. Digging with Kid Koala on his home turf of Montreal was really fun. I found a lot of interesting stuff. He brings a Sound Burger with him when he digs. I really want to get one, but they’re expensive. They’re always selling on EBay for $300. A Sound Burger is an old school portable turntable that looks like a walkman. Kid Koala still has his. It was really interesting to see one of those things in action, they’re crazy. Every once in a while he’ll send me an email of a place that’s selling one for a good price. It’s always fun to go digging with that guy. His thought process is so different than other DJ’s.

To find out more about DJ Jester The Filipino Fist, check out his MySpace. Also make sure to check out some sweet videos featuring Jester on YouTube.

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