Style & Substance
Huntington Beach DJ duo Colossal KNXN bring larger-than-life beats to local dance floors
The nocturnal lifestyle of a club DJ rarely involves the glare of afternoon sunlight. Which explains the sunglasses on DJs Tony Long (“Tea Long”) and Brandon Rillera (“BB Guns”) during a midday interview on the patio of the Gypsy Den in Costa Mesa.
The eyewear on these two Huntington Beach-based song selectors also provides a neat visual metaphor: Reflections bounce and bend between Long’s metallic aviator lenses and Rillera’s pitch-black sun blockers, creating a warped parallel dimension, populated with funhouse versions of their fellow diners and passers-by.
It’s this mind-altering moment of self-reflection that shines through at a Colossal KNXN set. Running wild with endless tracks of melody and mayhem, Colossal KNXN’s sound weaves a net of industrialized beats and human soul designed to capture and drag their prey into a primal state of rhythm.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from when the dance floor is dead, and Brandon and I bring that dance floor back,” says Long.
Inciting a club crowd seems doable for any DJ with marginal chops. But the duo insist that drawing people into their sound requires a diverse style and skill set that many “microwave DJs,” heavily dependent on the glow of their Serato software, don’t practice.
“You’ve got a lot of these kids now who can’t mix. If you gave them two real records, they wouldn’t be able to do it,” says Long, shaking his head.
Rillera adds that “lack of a unique style” is a common epidemic among digital-only DJs. Colossal KNXN’s knowledge and eclecticism often result in random yet satisfying combos such as the ’80s pop of Men Without Hats poured over a German synth beat (see Long’s edit of Siriusmo’s “Girls Rock,” currently streaming on their MySpace).
Their first shot at a residency was Wednesday’s Dirty Money club night at the pint-sized Avalon Bar in Costa Mesa, originally a hand-me-down gig from electro duo Acid Girls, who decided to relocate to Germany (before moving back to LA).
“[Tony] was more on the cutting-edge underground scene, all the drum-and-bass, dubstep,” says Rillera. “And I was playing a lot of hip-hop, old school and a lot of underground, so it’s just two completely different sounds.”
With help from Avalon’s then-owner and former M.I.A. front man, the now-late Mike Conley, the guys were able to get the party going with free cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon to anyone who came through the door. The gratis booze definitely helped attract interest to the relatively new electro night.
“That was a good way to get people in because it was still a new music scene that people hadn’t really gotten into yet,” says Long.
Four years later, Colossal KNXN can still be found on Wednesdays huddled in Avalon’s wood-paneled DJ booth, beer in hand (though it now costs $1) as beats and body heat rise to the ceiling.
Colossal KNXN have also expanded their well-oiled dance parties to monthly residencies at such hipster haunts as Detroit Bar, the Crosby and Proof, along with glossier gigs at Sutra, iLounge and LA’s Cinespace. Not to mention major LA rave billings at Hard and the Heist for packed rooms of 1,500 people or more.
Much of Colossal KNXN’s hype is funneled through their relationship with the online artist community fakeRich, which hosts a barrage of local electro events in OC and LA as well as a blog documenting their exploits. Similar to LA party blog the Cobrasnake, fakeRich gets attention for high-end party pics and partnerships with sought-after underground artists.
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As summer rolls in, Long and Rillera are diving into the studio to produce two remixes and two original tracks bearing their insignia, though an official release date has not been set.
“Going from making tracks to producing [them] is a big deal for us,” says Long, adding that it will only get them greater Internet buzz and more recognition from bigger artists.
And with plenty of new gigs and frequent recording sessions scheduled for the next several months, the mission of attracting an ever-growing audience keeps Colossal KNXN hunting their dream by day and capturing crowds by night.
Colossal KNXN perform at Dirty Money at Avalon Bar, 820 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-4650. Every Wed., 10 p.m. Free. 21+. Visit Colossal KNXN online at www.myspace.com/colossalknxn.