A Conversation with WishFM and DJ Biz
by Michael Chang and Susan Lang
WishFM: Actually, before I started traveling around, I grew up in Dallas and learned how to DJ there. I moved down to Austin to open a club there in the summer of '87, and was out of Texas by the fall of '88, to Chicago. But I kind of grew up through mid '80s Dallas...and the DJ's that we were following there were the DJ's that turned me on to mixing pretty much. I played my first set the spring of 1985 in a little club called The Connection in far north Dallas, in Denton, on the North Texas campus actually. It was a gay bar that all of our parents and grandparents warned us to stay away from. It was about the size of this [knocking on a 3x3 coffee table] table right here. The walls were covered with torn out pinups of the Rolling Stones as wallpaper, and the deal was that you had to play Rolling Stones tracks every third, fourth, or fifth song. So it's pretty mind blowing, 'cause you had Section 25 "Looking from a Hilltop," Paul Hardcastle "19," Dead or Alive "You Spin Me Round," Rolling Stones it was just like, "whoa." But it was cool because it kinda gave me a taste of what a club with some tradition had over a club that's just selling drinks or selling boobs or selling whatever fake shit. It was for real, "we have a credo for what you play around here." So that was really my total introduction with that little crazy gay bar, honestly.
On the present
WishFM: I am recording my ninth album now, the last three of them from Warner Brothers, and we're not sure who's going to end up with the new record. But it's the first non-instrumental, less esoteric sort of piece that I've done. It's vocal-based, drum and bass, downtempo, midtempo. Kevens from the band Kevens is the MC on a bunch of it, Gina from Soulstice is the female vocalist, and Radioactive, the beatboxer from Spearhead, is my rhythm. So it's very organic, vocal-based, ghetto music-based. It's the blackest album I've ever made, I ain't shittin', like this shit is straight up. I'm really proud of that, right now. The last thing I did was the Groove soundtrack, so whatever I do next is gonna be a good thing to get to it, because that's not a very good representation of what I do. It's a very good representation of the movie, I think, but it's not me. I did the music for the film, selected the music, I did the casting for the premiere known DJ's and Digweed. Honestly there were a few more that were supposed to be in it, but because of a robbery on set, it pushed into a weekend, so a lot of the star DJ's that I had originally casted had to go to their gigs and couldn't work for free in a movie. This was before Sony bought it and nobody knew it was gonna be anything, so it was kinda a grassroots thing. So we lost a bunch of the people that we cast. We cast the poster boy Dmitri with the disco ball as my son's babysitter...it was a very family-oriented project. And I play myself in the film.
On Screenplays & Legal Ecstasy
The new stuff I'm working on one of them is a Texas story, it's Dallas, mid '80s, legal ecstasy, six kids, up close, prototype ravers, they're 16-18, but there is no rave, they have nothing to call it, they have no idea they're part of any revolution, they have no idea that they're doing anything except getting high on the weekends, and it really puts the whole thing into context. Historically, it puts the date back 5 years from where the British have it marked at, and that's probably the most important thing that we're working on is bringing out that Texas side of the story. And that was going to happen either way, but we're pretty proud of the fact that we're going to flush it out a little earlier. Maybe in time they'll actually change history. In a few years, everyone's gonna believe the British version of this, and I have to point that out that history has been rewritten to suit certain rockstars' needs. I will act in those, only because there are certain characters that I'm only gonna get right, that you actually have to know that person....
DJ Biz: I'll be in the next James Bond film.
WishFM: Ha ha! We're working a lot of DJ's into the new cast. We're taking very knowledgeable DJ's, very respected DJ's from this era taking them out of their DJ roles and putting them in roles where they're still able to shed light on the musical history of new wave, where all this kind of came from, but in a way where they get to step outside of John Digweed's role as a DJ and be a drug dealer for two seconds. And I think that people are gonna find that really fascinating. And we have top top top names locked down to do these roles...give them a chance to bring out their roots because most of those guys were playing then, learning...but without having to be Sasha.
DJ Biz: They were probably doing drugs too....
WishFM: You know what's funny? We've done research, and they weren't [doing drugs], but they were so surrounded by people that were that it's phenomenal. Most of them ended up here before all this really took off cuz they were on the run from the law, so a lot of Sasha and John's friends I've known longer than I've known them, because a lot of their friends had to run from the law, and we met late '80s. Anyway, we're gonna try to give it a modern context by putting well, I want it to come off like still part of what we're trying to do in Hollywood to change youth culture movies, make them a little more accurate description of where we're at....
And actually, Herb, who runs Alien Records in Austin, was one of the elder statesman of the scene, was the biggest bartender in Austin because he's a smart guy. The DJ made 80 bucks, 10 bucks an hour for 8 hours, the bartender made 600, plus whatever he could do under the counter...so it was kinda a no-brainer. He had the best record collection in the city, at that point, but it was at home, and that was all we'd listen to afterhours... he's still somehow the cornerstone figure in Texas. Considering most of the rest of them are dead or in jail, that's a pretty good feat. Late '80s was not very kind to Texas, when it comes to health. There's been a sad generation gap where the kids don't really know what happened here. You know something had to happen in the middle there, but there's no acknowledgment of what was going on in Dallas, no push to make that part of the history. As Texas, that doesn't really add up so it's obvious there was just this huge vacuum, a huge hole of people that disappeared...that made it possible for a whole generation to skip and then people to just not really know what was going on. The British news journal who just interviewed us a few minutes ago were just like, "What?" They had no clue, not a clue. And that, to me, is just mind-boggling. Too much blood, too much sweat, too many tears, and I promise you that much, that ain't fair, that's not fair.
DJ Biz: You know, as long as I've been spinning at parties and stuff, it's [drugs] always been in the news as far as I've known, for the last ten years. I've been shut down, taken to jail, on the news it's always been a part of it. They stopped it for a little while, but then they switched police chiefs, and they started up again, but the new police chief didn't know what was going on. And now it's come to this very day.
WishFM: The cover of the Dallas Morning News for a year and a half straight...the headlines! We've done a lot of research in the media for my new script and the information's so available that I'm just shocked. I haven't seen any other research turn up in any other books or anything. You can go on a Web site and for two bucks an article, you can download it, and you can do this for five days straight. You wouldn't believe how much information it's fascinating, especially fall of '86 if you read that fall, it'll blow your mind what they're talking about, because a lot of it becomes the mantra for what we're doing now. You're talking to people having something taken away from them this time, rather than being a bad thing and we're trying to make it legal, it's the other way around it's legal and it's turning into a bad thing.
On the UK Scene
I haven't been [to the UK] in a long time. I'm really vocally at odds with a lot of the bigger DJ's over there that control a lot of their major festivals, and so I don't see myself being invited anytime soon, and it's getting worse by the day. I worked with Ninja Tune in the mid-'90s so I have good friends that will let me play at those clubs. We have very close friends inside Movement, the drum and bass club, but we really only have allies over there who are very much true to their sport it's underground stuff, or stuff that's eclectic enough where it's not ever going to be confused with Cream....
[Why?] ... the way that they treat us over here, as artists and as human beings. Most major name DJ's don't want me playing drum and bass on the main floor and that's been a point of major contention for two years, it's pretty intense. Oakenfold and Dave Ralph have both tried to have me thrown off the stage while I'm playing several times in the last 365 days, and we play the circuit so it's every weekend that I see them. Only recently have I made some moves to reach out to the Perfecto crew through Dustin and his manager and a few other people. Gatecrasher just asked me to play their Las Vegas show. That went really smoothly, with no hitches, no foul words...so I see it getting better.
It's just that I'm not gonna mince words...If the reason they feel they can act that way is they've earned it because they've been doing this longer than anybody, then they can shove it so far up their ass, I have nothing left to say...They're not the best, they're not the most talented, they don't have the best records, they're not the youngest, they're not the best-looking, I can think of 20 more things. So why are they the headliner? Well, so you've been doing it longer than anybody, that doesn't mean shit to me. If you're the best, cool, let's get it on. But if you're just doing it because you think you started this in 1988, I have nothing left to say to you. Because we were doing it 5 years earlier, right here in the States. And that's where we earned it. Fine, don't have me at Cream, but then don't come over here and tell me that I can't play drum and bass on the main stage...that ain't gonna fly. And they learn it every time 30 cholos boom, get out of his face. And that's a fact too...They have no idea how many people around the states actually know what's going on, and the minute it happens, we always finish our sets. I am not taking off to the UK any time soon. But that really was never the goal for us. They have to come here because it's worth more money. But we're not really gonna go over there because it's worth more money it's not. Same money or less.
DJ Biz: But there's never been any real drum and bass DJ, American, who's ever gotten any real respect over there.
WishFM: Yeah, they've closed them out. Craze is the first one, he's a client of ours. Craze is a world champion. He's competing tonight in London for the World Championship again. Craze is the one from our crew who's gonna go over there and change things, and we know there's not anything that anyone can say about it. Honestly, the drum and bass people he runs around with over there, they make 600 bucks, they play 3 hours. Well guess what, we make 600 bucks every ten minutes, so what's the real attraction? I don't need to go over to get ridiculed by a bunch of people who think they started this...and to get paid 600 bucks? I'll let Craze go over and fight that battle...he's more equipped to deal with it than I am. And honestly, he is gonna be the biggest DJ in the underground bass scene in London in a year, I promise you, because he's got the right people behind him. Once DJ Hype says it's on, it's on. And you ask anybody in town, that's the main man. And he's down with it. He's probably the most important DJ, I think, to come along in this whole thing, if you really wanna get down to it. He's unbelievable, I don't know anybody who's approached it in the way that he has.
DJ Biz: Alright that's about it, peace and beats.
This interview took place on September 22, 2001, in Houston, Texas. A special thanks goes out to Stephanie Smiley.
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