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Sonic Boom:
An Interview with DJ C

photo of DJ CIt’s hard to imagine the Boston electronic music scene without Jake Trussell in the thick of it. For almost a decade Jake (aka DJ C, formerly also aka Electro Organic Sound System) has been a pivotal figure, organizing parties, hosting weekly club nights, and spinning his riotous mix of instrumental hiphop, manic jungle breaks, and ragga basslines, a style he’s dubbed Boston Bounce. He first burst on the scene in the late 1990s while still a student at Mass Art, organizing avant-junglist underground anti-raves and artcore happenings around the city as part of the innovative Toneburst Collective. After Toneburst’s dissolution in the early O’s, Jake continued to organize influential nights at various Cambridge clubs with fellow Toneburst alum, DJ Flack. For the past three years the duo have been the brain trust behind Beat Research, Monday nights at the Enormous Room. As of late, Jake has been producing music at a rapid clip, touring in Europe, and releasing a veritable mountain of 12”s and remixes on labels such as Shockout, Community Library, and his own Mashit imprint.

At long last this June will see the release of his first full-length as DJ C (he put out two records as Electro Organic Sound System). Titled Sonic Weapons, it finds C in fine fighting form, mixing dancehall, dubstep, hiphop, and jungle with a slew of special guests in tow. Though things are coming up roses for DJ C this summer, it’s a bittersweet time as well. At the end of May, the inconceivable will become reality, as Jake pulls up roots and moves westward to Chicago.

On Thursday May 10, before he heads to Chicago, Jake will spin a set on Rare Frequency (undoubtedly full of beats and breaks and other rhythmic goodness). In the midst of packing up to move and preparing his set, Jake graciously consented to answer a few questions by email.

Tell me a little bit about the forthcoming record, Sonic Weapons (its history, development, etc.). From the clips I’ve heard online it sounds absolutely huge.

The album’s been a long time coming. I’ve spent the last half-decade making singles — first for my Mashit label, and more recently for various other labels. In fact, in the past 4 years I’ve released 15 singles, including a couple of remixes that I did for other artists. There is a digital-download-only EP of my stuff that came out last year, but otherwise it’s been all singles and this is the debut DJ C album. It’s partly a compilation of tracks from those singles — some remixed or edited — but it contains unreleased material as well.

Why did it take so long for a proper DJ C full-length?

I’d like to say it’s because of my meticulous attention to detail and perfectionist nature, but I’m afraid it’s because I’m a slacker. Or at least because I spent too much time making DJ mixes and working a day job.

Your sets contain a wide variety of different styles and genres (hip-hop, jungle, dubstep, ragga etc), how do you describe the music you make to the uninitiated?

Crunkment, mashstep, ragga-bounce, and grime-hall… Oh, that’s not helpful is it? Sometimes I call it experimental party music. Sometimes just party music. I often explain to people that it’s deeply steeped in Jamaican influence. Not because I’ve spent any time in Jamaica or anything, just because I grew up listening to the music and I love it.

Perhaps another way of asking the same question: what is Boston bounce?

Ahh! Now that’s a different story. Boston-bounce began as an experiment in artificial insemination. I was wondering why Boston didn’t have it’s own dance music “sound” like many other cities do. My theory was that it had to do with the provincial/puritanical repression that’s left over in this so called liberal state from back in the olden days. It seems to me that the site-specific “sounds” that came out of other cities were generally the result of renegade sound-system parties. Those parties in the streets of Kingston, JA and the Bronx, and in abandoned warehouses and fields in the UK weren’t legal but they were tolerated, at least long enough so that new sonic cultures could form. Unfortunately, Boston is not so tolerant and we were forced to create our culture in the Beat Research laboratories. It kind of makes sense since Boston is a science and education town. Boston-bounce is an upbeat style that mixes other styles like Baltimore-club, dubstep, dancehall, German-shuffle, jungle and more. We’re kind of taking bits from all the other places that already incubated their own sounds. Interestingly, when you look into the roots of any of those musics, they began the same way — as combinations of other styles.

In the late 1990s you were a key figure in the Toneburst Collective, which was so central to the development of experimental dance music in New England. With the benefit of a few years hindsight, what do you see as its legacy?

A journalist once wrote “The Toneburst Collective have swiftly carved themselves a niche as champions of the art-core anti-rave.” I think that sums it up nicely. At the time (1996) rave culture had become a bloated glutton. Kids would pay $40 to party at some corporate sponsored event where the promoters were making more money from selling drugs to said kids then from the door price that was going to pay super-star DJs exorbitant fees.

We were inspired by the original UK rave movement where folks of all ages, genders and sexual persuasions would show up in outrageous costumes and party the night away to super-eclectic sounds. We also took more immediate inspiration form the New York City-based Soundlab Cultural Alchemy parties who were also engaging in extreme-culture-blending. We weren’t only reacting to the fact that “rave” music had become stagnant and compartmentalized into narrow categories, but also against the financial exclusiveness. We aimed to be radically inclusive.

I think things have come full circle at this point. There’s been a lot of talk lately that rave is back, and to a certain extent I think that’s true. I would prefer that a new scene have a new name that’s more creative than “new rave” but nonetheless, there’s an energy going on now that is more in line with the punk-rock, rave, rude-boy, hippie, you-name-it energies of the past. Folks are open to new things. I can only hope it won’t stagnate, but it will and then something else will come along taking pieces of all the old stuff and mashing it together into something exciting and new.

How would you compare your activities as part of the Riddim Method collective to that of Toneburst or are they utterly different musical and organizational animals?

Definitely different animals. RiddimMethod.net is a group blog that I contribute to along with Ripley, Wayne&Wax, DJ Flack, Kid Kameleon, and Pace. Some of us were involved with Toneburst. Kid K was actually part of Soundlab. What we all have in common is our neurotic love of music and culture, and we use Riddim Method as a tool for communication about it.

Does Electro Organic Sound System still exist or has EOSS been folded in under the C umbrella? For example, the Traced Milk EP is pretty mellow, although perhaps not nearly as blissed out as early EOSS.

Some of those tracks on Traced Milk were originally going to be released under the name EOSS, but I decided to consolidate names a while back. I had been performing as EOSS and as DJ C since the mid ’90s. Then on the early Mashit records I was recording as DJ C, EOSS, DJ Sux, etc. All my aliases were remixing each other and it just began to seem silly. It’s just DJ C for now. I do have some other musical styles bubbling way on the back burner that may come to the surface at some point under EOSS, or some other moniker.

What’s up and coming on Mashit and its new sister label, Beat Research? In a recent interview you spoke of retooling the label in the next year or two. What do you have in mind?

Mashit’s been in hibernation mode for a few months. It was going really well and we moved a lot of vinyl but over the past year something really interesting has happened; a huge portion of the world’s vinyl-jockeys have switched over to using vinyl controllers for their laptops — myself included. That technology had existed for a while but it’s finally caught on in a huge way. Many of the major dance music distributors and record shops are going under as a result. Don’t get me wrong, many DJs still love vinyl and prefer to play it, but the reality is that there’s a seismic shift taking place. That, combined with the fact that Mashit was sort of locked into an overly-niche genre market because of the vinyl distribution network I had tapped into, has made me want to retool the label. Starting up the Beat Research sub-label was an attempt at diversifying into other genres, but there again, the vinyl distribution was difficult. I’m really excited about the upcoming re-launch of Mashit which will expand across genres (more like my DJ style), and catering to the (more digital) way DJs work today.

And for that matter, what’s coming up at Beat Research proper?

In March we celebrated 3 years of Beat Research weekly parties at the Enormous Room. It’s going great. We’ve been fortunate to have some amazing artists come through as guests, both local and from all over the world. DJ Flack and I look forward to it every week. Sometimes it’s an off-the-hook dance party, sometimes it’s super laid back/loungy, but it’s always a fun social event and a great exploration ground for the new music we’re listening to.

As you know, I’m moving to Chicago in June. I’m really sad to leave Beat Research but DJ Flack’s gonna hold it down and I’m going to look into starting up a Central chapter of Beat Research out in the Chi.

Any particular new artists and/or tracks that are particularly exciting you at the moment?

Here’s a short list of players and styles I’ve that have been in my DJ sets lately: Switch/Solid Groove/Abrucker and Sinden, Balkan Beat Box (and other balkan beats), Starkey, Aaron Spectre, Cool Kids, Ghislain Poirier, Timbaland, The Bug, Diplo, Zulu, Skream, Jesse Rose, Lots o’ bhangra, Mr. Oizo, Dave Kelly, Exillon, Beam Up, David Last, Dutch-bubbling, Baltimore-club, Ms. Thing, Stereotyp….

Are there any new ‘B series’ mixes in the offing, or are you on to ‘C’?

There will be more mixes once I’ve settled in to my new digs in Chi-Town. Expect new output in the fall. I’ve definitely got a few more ‘B’ mixes up my sleeve: Bhang, B-Low, Bubbling to name a few, but hmm… Perhaps the B(oston) series should turn into the C(hicago) series. Who knows?

DJ C will be performing Monday nights at the Enormous Room in Central Square throughout May.

 

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Comments

interesting read, big up dj c.

Noodles dpr recordings

www.myspace.com/dprrecordings

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