23 Oct - DJing Your Roots with Mickey Perez
We’re honored to have Mickey Perez flying in from New York to set the tone for Dia De Los Muertos at Broken Shaker. Mickey has a lot to say about the importance of hip hop, taking career risks, and sourcing records.
Read more below and come see him live 11/01 (link: https://freehandhotels.com/los-angeles/event/dia-de-los-muertos-2/)
Can we begin with a bio and background of how you got into music?
I was born in Chicago. My father migrated to the United States from Cuba at the age of 34 in 1967. In early 1977, he met my mother at a discotheque called the Moulin Rouge in Chicago. When I asked my mother what kind of music was played the night she met my father at the Moulin Rouge she told me, “strictly disco.” Having migrated to the U.S. from Ecuador 2 years earlier, my mother married my father in October of 1977 and had me 9 months later.
From my earliest memories, disco, funk, R&B as well as salsa and Cuban music were always played either via records, 8-tracks, cassette tape or radio. James Brown, Michael Jackson, Celia Cruz, Hector LaVoe, Johnny Pacheco, Julio Iglesias & “El Puma” Jose Luis Rodriguez were all on constant rotation. I distinctly remember the Jackson 5 reunion in 1983 being the very first influential musical experience of my life. My parents had recorded it on Beta Max Cassette Tape, and I would watch that religiously along with Michael Jacksonʼs Moonwalker. Itʼs pretty safe to say Michael Jackson was my favorite musical artist as a child until my older brother put me on to Metallica, specifically the music video “One” when I was 10.
Not only did he put me on to Metallica, he also put me onto MTVʼs Headbangerʼs Ball in the process because the video for “One” was featured on that show. Pretty soon I loved heavy metal. It was the first style of music I liked outside the influence of my parents, but that didnʼt last long. Once my mother read the lyrics to Metallicaʼs “And Justice For All” album, she made me return the tape for Bon Joviʼs “New Jersey” album! From there I was into bands like Skid Row, Warrant, Bon Jovi, and Guns n Roses until my family and I moved to Miami in June of 1990.
Once in Miami, I was exposed to the Miami bass scene that heavily featured 2 Live Crew and Uncle Luke among others. I pretty much listened to what was on local radio stations like Power 96 until I got into grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice of Chains. It wasnʼt until 11th grade that one of my best friends to this day introduced me to The Doors, Led Zeppelin & Jimi Hendrix along with the Wu-Tang Clan about 6 months later. Wu-Tang legit scared the f*** out of me at first but I loved the music & found them to be original in every way possible.
During that same period, my rock/hardcore crew of friends befriended
another group of friends who loved Hip Hop but wasnʼt that up to speed on rock & roll, punk, and hardcore yet. They put us on to underground East and West Coast Hip Hop while we in turn put them on to all the good rock, punk and hardcore music we knew. Our crew was a microcosm of the Kendall area of South Miami. Black, white, Indian, Latin & Asian spanning Asia, Africa, The Caribbean, Central & South America.
To this day Iʼm still close with all those guys. They were the first DJs, breakdancers, graffiti writers, MCs & producers I knew. All of them were about the art. That influenced me heavily to treat hip hop with the proper respect it deserved. Whether they know it or not, they were the ones who set me on this course. I was always too shy or scared or both to pick their brain to teach me how to DJ or break dance or rhyme, though.
When did you first begin DJing?
I was a late bloomer. I didnʼt start DJing until I was 29 years old in 2008. I had moved to New York City in September of 2002 to become the Latin American version of Spike Lee as a filmmaker. I typically ended up working on mediocre TV shows and eventually in advertising as a producer.
Working there allowed me the opportunity to buy not only my first records but also my first record player, DJ mixer and set of speakers. I had started getting into Afrobeat (specifically Fela Kuti), disco, the music DFA records was putting out during that time as well as dance music from the early 80s NYC downtown scene + Salsa & Latin Soul aka Boogaloo. It was a combination of those styles of music that led me into wanting to teach myself to play whenever I got home from work — no matter how late.
The first party I ever DJʼd was at my apartment in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn in February 2008. That one was kind of a technical mess sound-wise. I had no idea what I was doing. The next two parties in March and April were where I caught the bug for good. All I would look forward to between parties was what I play for the next one. What records in what order. There really are no words to describe the feeling one gets from making people dance to music they sincerely love. I had chased that in my “career” as a failed filmmaker, then in television and advertising, only to find it by accident DJing. Once I found it I never wanted to let it go.
In 2010, the ad agency I worked for and I agreed that things werenʼt working out. At that point, I figured, Why not try out DJing semi-legit and see where it takes me? Worst case scenario I could always go back into advertising and hate life forever having knowing I gave it a good shot. I havenʼt worked in advertising or TV since.
Do you think your background and heritage influences the music you like to play today?
My background & heritage without question influences the music I like to play today. The way I see it, Iʼm a product of the Caribbean, South America and the United States via Chicago, Miami and New York City collectively. Since Africa is the mother and father of humanity, I pay my respect to them through the music I play as well.
When it comes to finding a record, how to you start the process?
I donʼt dig for records online. My process begins by having a big meal and a smoke because thereʼs nothing worse than digging on an empty stomach. Itʼs distracting as hell but I digress. I usually shop at used records shops. I usually go through the new release section first followed by the Brazilian section if the shop has one, the Latin section & then the funk/R&B, disco, and house sections.
When Iʼm pulling records, it really depends on if I know the artist or not. If I know the artist and have a couple records I love and play from said artist but donʼt know that particular album, 100 percent of the time I’ll pull it to check out.
When I donʼt know the artist, as is often the case with Brazilian, Latin, Caribbean and African artists or bands, I pay attention to the album cover, what the band is wearing, and what instruments theyʼre playing. I also look at the musicians playing on the record and what instruments theyʼre playing. If I donʼt know the musicians but see more than 2 to 3 percussionists and/or horn players on the record, I pull it every time.