Representation in Media and Music is Important

by Kimberly Balmorez (DJ AWKCUARD).
Growing up I really wish I had Filipino-identified folks to look up to. Other than my own family, I wasn’t surrounded by my culture at all and no one in my family was politically or culturally active. That still stays true to today; there’s so much about my culture that I don’t understand. For example, I can’t speak or understand any of my parent’s languages, but I want to be proud and know the history of Ilocanos and Kapampangans. With only so much having been recorded throughout history and stories my parents feel comfortable sharing, it is my own responsibility to keep myself aware and accountable. Luckily, I’ve found a small community of people throughout my college career who have kept me grounded. Through them I’ve found Filipino hip-hop artists and activists such as Prometheus Brown, Bambu, and Rocky Rivera.

Although my upbringings are somewhat different from theirs, it’s been empowering and motivating to see other Filipinos doing work to uplift their communities. If it weren’t for artists like these, I wouldn’t have realized how the implicit violences of societal and institutional oppression have affected me. If it weren’t for their presence in media and music I wouldn’t be as passionate as I am today to learn more about my own culture and be a comrade to others.

My personal advice is to find a platform to express yourself and remember to be respectful of that space. Representation matters.

@Remedy415 interview w/ riz aka djrsd

On 5.26.17, @rizzystaydizzy got to interview one of the hottest musicians & producers in the Bay Area right now, @remedy415 right before he opened up on day 1 of 3 sold out shows headlined by SOB X RBE at the Social Hall in his hometown of San Francisco. We talked about his recent moves in producing & connecting with other Bay Area artists, as well as his upcoming project titled “Roll Model.” Check out & click on the picture to see the interview & blog post!

Remedy, of Geneva Towers, San Francisco, CA, was previously a standout athlete, working out, eating right and taking care of his health. After being shot in the legs at the age of 14, he translated his hard work ethic in athletics to music as he used that life-changing experience as motivation and continued to pursue his passion. Most recently, Remedy has been rehabbing to regain the control of his legs and has been making excellent progress.

Fresh off opening three consecutive sold out shows in his hometown of San Francisco at the Social Hall Friday (5.26.17) & Saturday (5.27.17), the last show of the weekend was relocated to the larger venue, the Regency Ballroom on Sunday (5.28.17). On Friday, he gave me a heads up and promised me and his video director @BGIGGZ that he had a surprise in store for the show on Sunday. Everyone had their phone out and was in shock and awe as he came out with a walker to perform his Intro song off his upcoming project “Roll Model.” The video will have your emotions running and will probably bring you to tears.

Personally being next to Remedy was truly inspiring. I literally say this all the time because it is a blessing to be with all of these artists I have met and interviewed this year. But anyways, be on the lookout for Remedy’s project “Roll Model!”

Vi Pham & Zennon Cruz, DJs of Jesse M. Bethel High School in Vallejo, CA, who were in attendance with me, helped contribute to this blog.

The Frights at the Catalyst 05.20.2017 Interview

Written by: Serena Ozonur / Audio by: DJ Maladroit

On Saturday May 20, 2017, The Frights played at the Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz, touring with Hunny and King Shelter. As their tour came to an end, I had the opportunity to interview The Frights. The sold-out venue had excited fans lining up to the see the band before the doors opened at 8:00pm. In our interview, we talked about their song writing process, how it feels to be on the road, the difference in albums (in terms of sound), what the band is listening to, and upcoming projects fans should be on the look-out for. The Frights began by discussing the new album, “You Are Going to Hate This.” As Richard Dotson (bass/vocals), stated, “The album cover’s art is 80s’ inspired, particularly Black Flag Covers…really violent, but colorful images.” Their previous self-titled album carries a different sound from “You Are Going to Hate This”. This difference essentially came from the help of Zach Carper of FIDLAR who helped produce “You Are Going To Hate This.” Mikey Carnevale (guitar/lead vocals) commented “he [Zach Carper] was the Dragon Force behind this… he was very influential on this album”.

We then went into the song writing process in which Mikey stated, “What I’m doing now is that I record the melody on phone, take it back, play it on guitar, separate verse/chorus, then put everything together, and if I’m lucky I do a bridge. Then I write lyrics, right before recording the demo.”

The Frights are San Diego Natives, and believe that if they were from anywhere else they would just get blended in with everything else. The Frights were considered to have a “Doo-Wop” sound in their previous record. However, now they don’t consider themselves to have that sound anymore. Mikey believes, “early on in the band, I really liked the “Doo-Wop” sound, but now I don’t even think about it…I wouldn’t say we are a “Doo-Wop” band anymore, definitely not surf-punk. I guess we are just a rock n’ roll band.”

I asked The Frights how it feels to be on the road. They think Vegas being the first stop of the tour was a big mistake. Mikey jokingly stated, “It was super fun, but I feel so bad… the shame is real.”  Marc Finn (drums), added, “We just eat worse and drink more. I mean we are scarfing down some pizza right now.” I asked them who they look up to now, in which  Mikey responded, “I look up to most people, since they are taller than me…” I also asked Richard about his YouTube Channel “Here Lies Music” and I’m sorry to say to the fellow fans that it’s not looking like that channel will be up and running anytime soon. However, when I asked them if fans should be on the look-out for anything new Mikey told me to “tell them yes.” So keep an eye out fans! The Frights, still get very excited and anxious before a performance, which brings us to the actual show. 

This show probably had more people in the air than the ground. The crowd surfing was real. I positioned myself at the very front, right by the stage (big mistake on my part because I left the concert with a mild concussion). Like I said, those crowd surfers were wild, but it was an amazing concert with mosh after mosh. What else would one expect from a rock concert? The band performed hit songs, and a new song at the end of the concert so keep an eye out for that! Songs such as “You Are Going to Hate This”, “All I need”, “Afraid of the Dark”, and “Crust Bucket”. The crowd had amazing energy and so did the bands with incredible opening performances from King Shelter and Hunny. Don’t miss The Frights live, it’s definitely an experience of a lifetime.

1-O.A.K. interview w/ riz aka djrsd

@rizzystaydizzy got a chance to interview East Oakland’s 1-O.A.K. when he stopped by UC Santa Cruz for the Pop Up Concert Series hosted by the Dean of Students & the Student Union Assembly (SUA) on 5.6.17. He has been making moves lately in the music industry, collaborating & producing songs for the HBK Gang, Caleborate, & most recently Kamaiyah. In addition to that, 1-O.A.K. has just released his recent project RICWG which is being played throughout the Bay Area radio stations, especially 106.1KMEL.  Check out the interview! -riz aka djrsd

With a ton of people in attendance to see the free concert for Daniel Caesar, the crowd got to witness 1-O.A.K. as he had a dope a** performance featuring live instruments with JHAWK the Guitarist on the guitar and Drew Banga on bass. He got the crowd in the groove with his smooth singing & energetic presence. The two songs that opened my eyes & hit me the hardest were Jettin’ and Lost & Found (Prod. by Kuya & Drew Banga). Honestly just being around a part of the HNRL Crew, a bunch of talented producers & musicians, I was totally starstruck. I know how hard it is to make, produce, & write music and I gave them well deserved credit because producers are not recognized enough. I am grateful to have met them & I thanked them for all that they do in representing the whole Bay Area!

Highway To Irie double interview w/ Katchafire & Rebel Souljahz/Eli-Mac! by riz aka djrsd

Check it out! @rizzystaydizzy caught up with Logan and Jordan from the internationally known band Katchafire from New Zealand after their stop at The Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz on 4.16.17. Not only did I get to meet Katchafire but I caught up with the one and only Rebel Souljahz & Eli-Mac after their stop at The Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz on 4.11.17.

In Praise of Errors: A Case for Radio

Post by DJ MoKat. Image by Tom Palumbo.

Everyone is so scared to make them. Mistakes, I mean. As students in class, we never raise our hands unless we are sure we have the right answer; even then, upon answering we search the faces of our teachers, our classmates for affirmation that we are correct when we speak. The common consensus stands that errors are bad, and so we refrain from making them.

Our pursuit of perfection is a lie that we know well. We have all heard that we are “only human,” and should therefore not expect perfect precision in our endeavors. The very phraseology of this expression attests to the observed inevitability of mistakes.  As it applies to others, and when it is posed as a solely theoretical concept, this idiom is easily accepted and generally upheld. But as it applies to ourselves, we cannot accept that to be human is to be imperfect. We curse ourselves under our breath, flush red with embarrassment when we blunder, rush to immediately correct the wrong that we have committed the moment we discover it. It is another one of those very human paradoxes to know that mistakes are inevitable and yet to seek to eradicate them.

As new deejays, we have a definite fear of mistakes (we can each attest to the onset of heart-palpitations at the mere mention of our first air-check). But there is a case to be made for the benefits of errors. Because of their ubiquity, we find nothing more comforting than the presence of mistakes; they remind us that we are all human, validating our hopes of societal acceptance. Each mistake is a genuine moment of happenstance. In seizing these moments, we make art, enrich our lives, and we evolve. In no other medium is the positive power of the mistake more prevalent than that of the live performance – in our case – live radio.

Miles Davis put it best: “when you hit a wrong note, it’s the next things that make it good or bad.” This statement is remarkable for two reasons. One: a jazz god is admitting that he has experience with mistakes. Two: he does not denounce said mistakes. When listeners conjure up the image of a jazz musician, they see him from atop a pedestal. The term “virtuoso” has fallaciously become associated with flawlessness, much to the detriment of musicians and listeners alike. Although practicing with the intention of achieving perfection is key to virtuosity, true virtuosos come to a point where they realize that mistakes cannot be avoided, and thus must be willingly incorporated into their art. Doing so creates a strength of character and confidence as a musician, and adds a fresh dimension of vivacity to an artist’s music, as unforeseen musical possibilities present themselves. In being able to adapt to a mistake, one conquers the negative connotation associated with error and can then be more free to focus on expression, thereby allowed to make a truer piece of art. If “the emotional reaction is all that matters” as John Coltrane contends, is not an artist then making his work more meaningful by freeing up his attention to focus on the emotional content of his work, as opposed to the aesthetic appeal that many would associate with “perfect” music? Mistakes take on a new meaning when they are seen as an opportunity to create. An incomplete song can finish itself in unpredictable ways, a live performance can take listeners and performers alike down an unexpected path and lead all those present to a wonderful and unanticipated end.

On the surface, many would assume that the appeal of virtuosic genres such as jazz –  or any art-form requiring honed technical skills – would lie said art-form’s faultlessness. Upon closer analysis, quite the opposite is true: we appreciate immensely technical works of art due to the expenditure of energy it takes to make them so near-flawless. Think: would the symmetrical tessellations of the Blue Mosque be so awe-inspiring if not for the knowledge of all the effort the stone mason must have put into his work? When we gaze at the designs, we don’t just see a beautiful motif; we see years of perspiration, careful attention to detail – all that which went into developing expertise. It seems it is only within the context of our errors that we measure our successes. We find work to be exemplary based off the degree to which a work’s creation is steeped in mistakes. Perseverance is beautiful, not perfection.  

That being said, we learn best from mistakes. However, in school, we are rarely ever afforded the time to make mistakes. We realize their happening to our dismay, and then must learn new material. Our brain “alerts us in less than a second of an impending mistake so we don’t make it again.” We police ourselves with much greater efficacy than any instructor ever could, but we need time, repetition, and feedback from our instructors so as to take advantage of our brain’s self-correction system. To be better learners, we must first acknowledge that learning requires error. Furthermore, we must undo the emotional scarring associated with mistakes, so as to allow for better correction of them. When a student “feels stupid” after making a mistake, she generally tries to hide it, to deny its existence; a shortcoming that is enforced from above by the teacher, who does not wish to dwell on mistakes (as their student’s errors might reflect their own inadequacies). Despite the discovery of their students mistakes, teachers immediately move onward with course material,  generally with an ambivalence toward poor scores. To the unconcerned teacher, mistakes represent laziness or lack of intelligence on behalf of the student; a sentiment which is inevitably absorbed into the psyche of students, leading to a negative feedback loop regarding mistakes and lack of improvement.

Although most students and teachers intuit the logic behind the necessity of mistakes (let us recall the ubiquitous use of “we are only human”) and science corroborates this understanding, the sentiment we carry regarding mistakes is just that: sentiment. We feel shame, we don’t think it. Being corrected for our mistakes feels like a personal attack, as though our intelligence is being insulted. However, regardless of how painful it may be at first, we must swallow our pride in order to  learn. Not only do we have to be aware of our mistakes, but we have to be specific about them. “Knowing that answer #3 is wrong doesn’t mean much. Knowing that they didn’t understand mitosis gives them a mandate for getting better.” Knowing that you got something wrong is just the first step; learning how to fix your specific mistakes must follow their identification in order to improve. In letting students know that mistakes are fixable, that learning is a process, one makes success more feasible. We all stand a little straighter knowing that we are capable of success in the face of our inevitable blunders.

As deejays in training, it is important for us to take these last few paragraphs into account. Dead air, flubbing on a PSA or underwriting, clipping, playing the wrong track/entering the wrong track into Spinitron; a whole host of mistakes await us, or have already been committed. And in the live setting that we are throwing ourselves into, it is important that we understand both the inevitability and the power of our mistakes. There is a certain invincibility we have gained in the past few weeks on our mentors’ shows. There was only so much preparation we were allowed. Truthfully, nothing could prepare us in full for our first time on air. However, despite our sweaty palms and racing hearts, we got through our mistakes. Our mentors corrected us when we misstepped, and our breathing eventually slowed as we learned to embrace our mistakes so as to proceed on to becoming better deejays.

Here’s a secret: people listen to us because we mess up. If our listeners wanted perfection and predictability they would listen to Spotify or Pandora. Sixty-three percent of drivers still use traditional AM/FM stations as their main audio source. Why? In a sense, because we are all lonely. Humans crave other humans. It’s why we go to the mall even while we have Amazon at our fingertips. It’s why we go to parties. And it’s why we listen to radio. When a listener hears a deejay on air, they don’t hear a voice, they hear a person. Listeners are not drawn in by perfect enunciation and flawless segues. They are drawn in by a deejay’s humanity. And what is the cornerstone of our humanity? What makes us “only human”? You betcha. Mistakes. And if not overtly mistakes, the possibility of them proves to be enticing enough to both the deejays and the listeners.

As listeners, we love to feel included, as though the deejay is speaking right to us. Although faceless and known only by a pseudonym, radio deejays hold our attention by talking to us conversationally. Errors are abound: twisted tongues, flubbed lines, bad jokes, lost references, nervous laughs, careless sighs. These are inglorious signs of our humanity. This vulnerability is what draws listeners in and keeps them there. From a blunder comes the knowledge that the person on the other side of the transmitter is actually a person. You might be tempted to laugh out loud at their mistakes, and as you do so, you might find it easier to laugh at yourself. To accept their flaws, to see that their mistakes do not bring about the end of the world, – and by extension that yours will not do the same – is a blessing that no algorithm could ever bestow.

Computers make no mistakes. Computer scientists contend that “if you get a wrong answer, it is because you fed in wrong data or set up wrong parameters or calculations.” While this infallibility is comforting, it is not engaging. Computers make no mistakes, but as a result are confined by a strict set of limitations. Because of mankind’s ability to err, we can learn, expand our abilities; mix it up, so to speak. Although an algorithm can predict musical trends with great accuracy, it cannot guess what will make listeners happy. There is no code that provides that level of context; the parameters are not wide enough to accommodate something as abstract as happiness. But deejays can intuit the impact of their actions, and therefore successfully communicate with an audience, giving them the connection they actually desire. Listeners are not tuning in so as to experience an appropriate or logically sequenced playlist. They are listening for songs that make them feel connected, excited.

In order to draw an audience, a deejay must first be enthusiastic about their work. Despite our ardor, if the proper provisions are not taken deejaying can become monotonous and lead to boredom, which compromises the broadcast as a whole. Maintaining energy is key to maintaining an audience. Hence another silver-lining of mistakes: they keep us interesting. A study conducted by students at Emory supports the hypothesis that “‘the brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones.’” To see a football player fumble with the ball only to make a spectacular recovery is certainly more entertaining than to see him complete the expected outcome (i.e. to catch the ball). The same applies to radio artists. Both listeners and the deejays themselves find the broadcast enriched by the presence of mistakes. When things go wrong, it is a test of a deejay’s adaptability and prowess to correct their untimely error in a timely manner. The first spike of the adrenaline rush initiated by fear of failure soon fades to the warm glow of self congratulation and perseverance. At no other point will a deejay feel more accomplished than when she has just avoided crisis.

The triumph associated with this moment is dynamic. In the event of dead air, audience members lean in, groping through the static for the voice of the deejay on the other side, anxiously awaiting the reformation of the connection they fear to be lost. But after a brief pause, a bit of “dead air” they are exultant, or in the least relieved at the recommencement of the program. At no other point will they appreciate the voice of the deejay or the power of the songs they play than after a moment of fearing they won’t get to hear them.

Although the FCC does not tolerate the occurrence of mistakes, it makes provisions for them in the event that they occur (disclaimers read after accidental use of profanity, etc). The existence of said provisions attests to the FCC’s uneasy acceptance of the fact that radio deejays are human. The irony that a large bureaucratic organization so removed from the actual production of radio art (being consumed with its regulation) so readily accepts one of the most intimate truths of human production while the individuals that produce the art remain adverse to it is bewildering. It seems in all contexts except those that apply to our own actions, we can forgive mistakes, even celebrate them. As our current adversity to mistakes still stands, we make our jobs more difficult for ourselves by fearing the inevitable, and at times may handicap ourselves from fear of failure. But this failure is temporary. Mistakes do not define our work, but rather force it and us to grow.

The very nature of radio is imperfect. The range of our transmitter fluctuates. The vinyl and CD’s we play music from are prone to scratching and skipping. Equipment must be calibrated, re-calibrated, and tested to ensure that it works. We stutter. Our hands slip. We misspeak. If art is an accurate reflection of our humanity, than our mistakes are but a genuine facet of our  capabilities. We have been taught by prior experience (in school and other social settings) that mistakes are the bane of our existence. But what if they are the crux? Although we have the illusion of control over the airwaves given to us by the impressive presence of the soundboard, there are still variables beyond our control within our medium. And I would argue that those are some of the most exciting elements of radio. To harness the power of the unexpected, and thereby pass it on to others through our artform, we deejays come as close to invincible as any humans can be – but we are forever far from flawless.