Here at Dutty Artz we spend a lot of time highlighting our artists and releases, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. Stephen Bowles, aka DJ Still Life, did great work as lead-publicist for Matt’s The Empire Never Ended album – landing some great, well written features, by writers who really understood the context that Matt’s work is coming out of. The work of publicists is becoming more and more important in an age where artists can launch a career off of an online crafted image (removing the artist and their work from any greater social context). Stephen’s work definitely showed many of us here how a publicist can help craft stories in a way that speaks to a project’s form, content, and context, and so with integrity, without sensationalizing.
When Stephen sent over his great remix of Schlachthofbronx’s Apizaco, I thought it would be the perfect time to bring his great behind the scenes work into the spotlight. I asked Stephen to give me a little background of what he’s been up to in his DJ life, and he sent over a great story of his personal journey. Check out the track and story below!
Though I’ve been involved with college and community (read: pirate) radio since before I started attending college, I first started learning to DJ for real around the late 1990s via UCSD’s student radio station where I first got access to 1200s and a mixer. Even though it was mostly house and drum’n’bass DJs who taught me to mix, the artists I was listening to at the time were guys like the Beat Junkies, Cut Chemist, The X-ecitioners, Kid Koala, etc.
In some ways San Diego was a good place to come up DJing, because there was a pretty big b-boy scene and a lot of ‘true school’ hip-hop heads / cultural events etc. At the same time though, almost everyone in the music scene there had their own thing they were trying to do. There were a lot of artists and not a lot of ‘fans,’ and there was often the feeling that being able play interesting sounds outside of the usual party hits to a receptive audience was a privilege reserved for folks who lived in bigger cities. This is how Gaslamp Killer got his name, because his kind of music didn’t go over in the Gaslamp district, which is where all the clubs + bars were. GLK obviously left for San Francisco and eventually LA and found a very receptive audience for his sound, but there are a lot of other folks still in San Diego championing weird jagged hip-hop shit without a real following, and that’s still a sound that is close to my heart.
I spent several years after graduating as the head used vinyl buyer for a mom and pop record shop, having gotten into record collecting via hip-hop sampling and DJ mixes of soul / breaks etc. Working at the shop broadened my listening habits beyond just ill loops and drum breaks, and was pretty much the best dead-end job in the world.
I moved to New York in 2007, primarily because I wanted to be able to DJ at the kind of parties that I imagined took place out here all the time based on the NY dudes who would come through town like The Rub, Monk One, Trouble And Bass etc. Shortly after moving out here, I started a monthly mix series via my old DJ crew’s podcast, which I called The Raw & The Crooked. It was mostly dirty hip-hop instrumentals, but it was through doing themed monthly mixes that I dug deeper into some of the international sounds I’d been hearing from people like ZZK, Bersa Discos, Mad Decent etc. It was actually laying an Aaliyah acapella over a loop of Los Destellos for one of these mixes which provided the genesis for the Tropicaaliyah remix set, which I initially released for free on Bandcamp, and ended up being released on vinyl via BSTRD BOOTS.
I also started DJing on East Village Radio. I got the gig by filling in for DJ Small Change when he wasn’t available, but eventually put together Worldwide Smash, a show that continues to feature a mix of hip-hop / beats / bass as well as modern world music and a bunch of New York artists. I have had a TON of Dutty Artz fam on the show (Boima, Geko, Jahdan, Ripley, Lamin, etc.) as well as people like Machinedrum, Gaslamp Killer, Hank Shocklee of The Bomb Squad, FaltyDL, Flying Lotus. Mike Slott, Shlohmo, etc. etc. The show is a great way to get to play music that I love that isn’t always geared toward making people dance.
As far as live gigs, I have a monthly gig called Jackpot! at The Commodore in Williamsburg with Small Change, playing mostly rowdy music from the 1950s thru 1970s, including a fair amount of Afrobeat, Salsa and Cumbia, but also Soul, Garage, Psychedelic stuff Motown, etc. I also throw a West Coast rap themed da party called Str8 West Coastin‘ in the summer with DJ Eleven and DJ Dopeshoes, spinning the music of The Pharcyde, Mac Dre, Too Short, E-40, and a bunch of other West Coast dudes that I don’t hear enough of out here. Our finale last year which had Brooklyn throwing up the W was pretty fantastic.
Even after six years in New York, I wish I were doing more live DJing, but super happy to have had the opportunity to share the stage with some amazing artists for one-off gigs with people like DJ Shadow, Photek, Munchi, Daedelus, Peter Kruder, The Rub, Que Bajo, etc.
Right now I’m focusing on production, and the Schlachthofbronx remix follows a series of original tracks, remixes, and edits that I’ve put out, most of which are available on my Soundcloud page. There is more music in the works, including a plan to work with vocalists on some rap stuff.