Toejamz's Beats Get Stuck in Your Head
If there’s a universe where the frazzled genius of Fela Kuti co-mingles with the warped electro of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Toejamz knows where to find it. It’s typically hiding on the surface of his turntables. A frequent selector in OC’s beer-swilling, underground party scene, this 23-year-old DJ (born Jeremy Saqr) has spent two years welding obscure genres at local haunts such as Proof Bar and the Commonwealth Lounge. Branching out from his native Yorba Linda, Toejamz exhibits a freeform, psychedelic take on everything from club jams to jam bands. The outcome is a style that few DJs have the vinyl crates—or cojones—to pull off.
OC Weekly: What influenced your decision to become a DJ growing up?
Toejamz: Music’s always been really important to me. My mother taught piano when I was a kid, so we had classical music in our house eight hours a day, every day. I’ve played guitar for 13 years. When I first saw DJs spinning on MTV, I didn’t understand it. But I wanted to. There are so many possibilities and so many things you can do with it. You can put existing music [genres] together in ways that they haven’t been heard before.
What’s one good record-hunting skill you’ve acquired to beef up your vinyl collection?
Usually when I’m flipping through vinyl, I see hundreds of album covers. You start to categorize things and put them in boxes. If you see a flashy group of rock-&-roll guys [on the cover], you know what it’s gonna sound like. Usually, I select group names or album covers that catch my eye. If it makes me stop and look at it, then I’ll explore it.
You infuse a lot of Middle Eastern- and world-music styles in your sets. What makes those genres so special to you?
That’s something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve always collected the music I’m drawn to. Middle Eastern culture has been part of my life since I was a kid. I’ve known who Ravi Shankar was since I was young. I’m Lebanese and Iranian, so I know the Eastern instruments and the Eastern sounds, and it’s always been there.
You also spin at a lot of house parties and warehouse gigs. Are those more ideal for you than playing bars?
I love playing in an environment where everyone is there to party. There’s no one running the bar; no one’s selling anything. Let’s just chill out, listen to music, watch some bands and drink some beers.
Do you visualize your sets beforehand, or do you just keep it random?
Usually, if I have one record I wanna play or one song that’s been stuck in my head all day, I’ll start the set with it. If I play a two-hour night, that’s, like, 40 records. You can’t plan that out once a week. A lot of what you do has to be on the fly. But to set some kind of mood, I’ll choose a couple of records and start from there.
What are some long-range goals you have as a DJ?
As of now, I haven’t produced any of my own music. That’s one of the biggest differences between bands and DJs. Bands will write an album and play gigs with the same songs over and over. As a DJ, you never play your own shit, and it’s always different. So hopefully, I can put an album together. It’ll be loosely based around the concept of deejaying and pulling sounds from different records.
Do you have a specific artist or inspiration that has to be in your set every night you play?
More than any other artist, I have Madlib records. He has a style that I’ve always identified with. He’s putting out 12 albums this year. And on every album, I’ll get halfway through and realize that I’m smiling. I’m never let down by what he does. He definitely inspires me.
Toejamz performs with DJ Midnight Snack at Anything Everything Mondays at the Commonwealth Lounge, 112 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-8888; www.commonwealthlounge.com. Mon., 9 p.m. Free. 21+. For more info on Toejamz, visit www.soundcloud.com/toejamz.
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This column appeared in print as "Funky Toejamz."
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