In the business world, one of the most important things a business person can do is be able to sum up their skills and ideas in a succinct, compelling summation. Forget Powerpoint presentations, laser pointers, fresh-pressed business wear: if you can't sell yourself in a quick conversation, and stand out amongst "the others," you've lost the attention of your client or superior almost indefinitely. The same concept applies directly to those in the music world. On the daily we are inundated with new music coming at us in our email inboxes, Twitter feeds and Facebook news streams. Particularly with DJs, the brand of music artists who remain relatively anonymous in comparison to their music, the need to make sure their first impression is their best impression becomes crucial otherwise it may be their last.
Without completely eliminating the dirty work, we've found several DJs from around the world who we believe are worthy of your time. But you can't take them for granted, they're people with views about the music they create. We've interviewed them to see how they got into this trade, what inspires them, what pisses them off, what they've learned over the duration of their individual careers. Once you've read a bit about them, you can hear their elevator speech, an EARMILK exclusive mix they have made to succinctly represent their style and tastes. We're certain they won't fail to impress.
One thing is for certain: there is never a shortage of good music to be had in Los Angeles, the land of star-lined sidewalks and home to nearly every major awards ceremony show in the US. While the southside of California is often judged for its emphasis on appearance, there is a great deal of wealth when you look beneath the surface. That is what Andrew Meza recognized when he started putting his love for underground hip hop to work, in the form of a college radio show called BTS Radio. Paying particularly close to underground artists who, by now have graced the spotlight well beyond fifteen minutes, Meza has become known as a cultural tastemaker and purveyor of quality music. Honing in on artists like Flying Lotus, Blu, and Hudson Mohawke, he pursued under-discovered talent long before it was recognized by the mainstream. Today, BTS has evolved into more than a radio show, encompassing a blog that features exclusive BTS mixes by Young Montana?, Letherette, Teebs and Shlohmo and even a record label, BTS Records, whose first signee Ipswitch, England producer, S. Maharba, released his "French Maid" on vinyl late last month. Check out Meza's top BTS mixes below and get yourself a copy of "French Maids" on limited edition translucent vinyl before they're gone forever.
EM: Tell us how BTS began.
When I was in High School, I already knew I wanted to get involved in radio. When it came time to choose a college, I based a large part of my decision on whether the university had a radio station. An even larger part of the decision was what schools I could even get into. If it wasn’t DJing my own show, I wanted to be involved, be around music. I was taking my DJing more seriously and thought it’d be a good way to expand. At my freshman orientation, I inquired and it wasn’t long before I began my show, “Beneath The Surface”. When I initially named the show, it had a lot to do with underground music, but also because our station was literally, underneath the campus. I took it very, very seriously. The show started to gain a lot of steam and I continued the program throughout college. After I graduated there was a brief hiatus, and I brought the website back with a podcast format. That’s the root of it.
EM: You were focusing specifically on underground music? It was a
Underground music was always my primary interest growing up. I was really influenced by a radio show that used to run on Power 106 in Los Angeles called “Friday Night Flavors”. It was an underground hip-hop show I listened to every week. It had such a big impact on me. The style, the music. When I started my show, I thought of it solely as an underground hip-hop show. Quickly I realized I couldn’t do hip-hop for 2 hours, not because it was hard, but because there was so much more I wanted to play. I started playing a lot of electronic and rock. From there, I would start mixing it all together to make one seamless show. Connecting the dots between various genres, to connect to various amounts of people.
EM: Explain BTS to us.
BTS is my brand of music and arts, a culture, a movement. It started as a radio show, now a weekly podcast showcasing the most progressive artists around the world. This year, we announced our label, which we’ll filter the same way we do with our podcasts: only presenting the highest quality, with great art to match.
EM: Who is Charles Munka? How did you guys get connected?
Charles Munka is a French artist based in Hong Kong. He’s one of the most talented people in the art world – One of those guys that people will finally catch up to 20 years from now. He’s the visual voice of BTS. I can’t do this without him. Charles and I connected through MySpace back in [2004-2005]. He contacted me about a mix I had on my site and requested a tracklist. I checked out his profile and his page was covered with an endless supply of incredible art. I asked if he’d be interested making some promotional art for the show – He agreed, as long as I sent over the tracklist. As time passed, he would listen to the show every week and create art while listening. At the end of every show he would send something over. I decided to have this art be represented on my site and correspond with each week’s show, almost like a “cover”. I always wanted BTS to have a strong visual identity; I had worked closely with some artists early on (specifically Scotland based designer/artist, Nigel Peake). When I saw Charles’ work, I knew that was IT. I think artwork is so, incredibly important. With today’s Internet attention span, you have to get people interested visually, and instantly. I always say it’s like a cute girl. You’re interested with your eyes at first, and if she’s got the brains to match (in our case, music), then it’s a done deal.
EM: How did you end up working/collaborating with artists like Flying Lotus?
A lot of that was all through MySpace (man, MySpace started a lot of stuff). Constantly searching for music. You find someone dope, so you check out all of their top friends, and so on and so on – You listen to every demo sent to you, don’t sleep. I think I have a pretty good ear and with Lotus for example, when I first heard his tracks (hip-hop loops and samples), I could hear something special. You could hear the rawness, you could hear he was ready to offer so much more. I’m so thrilled to see where he’s been able to go with his music. It was the same way I felt when I heard someone like Samiyam, or our BTS
signing, S.Maharba. These guys are really giving their all. But at the end of the day, I champion those I believe in. Every artist on my site might not be Billboard’s Top 10, but for me, that’s my top 10.
Considering the wealth of music he has to draw from and the number of talented individuals he has worked with, we asked Meza to give us his top four BTS mixes with a brief explanation as to why they are amongst the most memorable for him.
Kan Kick – Live on BTS Radio (’03)
This is where it started. I consider it the first “official” BTS show I’ve ever done. I was two months into my program and just figuring out what the hell I was doing. By random chance, I met Kan Kick at a record store and having been a longtime
fan, asked if he would visit as a studio guest. To my surprise, he agreed. When it got down to show time, everything was a mess. The studio turntables were barely functional, the needles busted and the mixer faulty. The equipment was a nightmare
and by the end of the night, everything was shot. Kan Kick didn’t complain and somehow we pulled it off.
Dego – Live on BTS Radio (’06)
A founding member of 4Hero, Dego is a true original and living legend. When I started the show, there were a handful of artists I had on a type of “dream guest list”. Dego was one of them. I took a shot in the dark and sent over an email I found on his MySpace page. A few weeks later I had a CD in the mail with his BTS mix. I couldn’t believe it.
Letherette – Letherette Cassette (‘11)
Richard (1/2 of Letherette) and I got into a deep conversation about music, especially our love of French House (e.g. Crydamoure/Roule) and R&B. After an epic YouTube trading session, he sent a mix he made for a friend’s birthday filled with nearly every track we’d been discussing. We liked it so much Letherette went back and tightened up the mix, adding a few new tunes and some original tracks. Today, it’s one of our top 3 downloads.