’Clash, Bang Wallop … It’s Keoki Time!’
He arrived on the mainland with forty records, a bag full of clothes and $200 in his pocket, without the slightest idea he would become a key figure in a groundbreaking social movement. An artist whose music would shred the sonic spectrum for a digital generation, jonesing to transcend the old ways, Keoki was destined to make a name for himself.
Born in El Salvador, raised on Maui and nicknamed 'Keoki' by his mother, he arrived on the mainland US in the late eighties. Landing a job with TWA in New York, it was while moonlighting as a bus boy at 'The World', a hot Manhattan nightclub, that Keoki saw the sights and heard the sounds that would change his life and perhaps the future of pop music.
Quote: “Keoki is America’s own superstar DJ” – How does that sit with you?! ”It’s fine with me. I actually called myself that before I started DJing so it’s something that I’ve lived with. You could call me that for the rest of my life and I’d be happy with that,” he laughs. ”When I came up with the name I hadn’t DJed anywhere in the world and I thought what was I gonna call myself? This was like 12 years ago and so I decided to call myself a 'Superstar DJ' and it seems to have worked!”
What does your name Keoki actually mean? ”Yeah, Keoki is Hawaiian for George, which was my first name. I moved there when I was four years-old from El Salvador in Central America and my mother took in the culture and she nicknamed me Keoki.”
Aged 16 you moved from Hawaii to NYC so take me back to those early days ”I just wanted to travel. That’s all I wanted to do. I just wanted to see the world so I got a job with an airline and the academy sent me to New York as part of this job placement. And the minute that I stepped off the plane I knew that I was home. I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
And when did your first ‘gig’ come to light? ”Well, DJing, the first gig I got I was working as a bar back and bus boy at a club called ‘The World’ and I had met Mark Kamins who would come in all the time. He kinda took me under his wing and we were soon really good friends and he took me to all these cool after hour clubs. And he took me to the closing night of the ‘Paradise Garage’ and I had never been to a super-image club or anything before. And we walked into this club at like seven o’clock in the morning and people were like sleeping in the speakers! We walked in and went straight upstairs and went to the DJ booth and there inside it was a large sweaty man with no shirt on called Larry LeVan. I watched him bring in these subs with this choo-choo train [which he actually sounds out for me also]
while he brought in the third record on the third turntable. And I just got goosebumps and I still do when I think about what he did and when the whole room just burst into energy. And that was pretty much my introduction to the scene right there, but I’d been collecting records since I left home and I wanted to play lounges and stuff, but I realized that DJing was a little more than that.”
What do you believe sets your music apart from others in the genre? ”I hope it’s my quest for individuality. I always try and be interesting and different. If I get a list of records that other people are playing I usually avoid them. “
What influences you these days?”I’m influenced by the amount of time I spend in record shops and the amount of time I spend in the studio and travelling all around the world. Different cultures, different DJs. I’m always trying to keep myself from being bored and with this resurgence of what they’re calling Electro-Clash, or whatever, I got really excited. Because I was going into record stores and actually searching out these records.”
Is there anything behind the new album title, KeokiClash?! ”The whole album, if you notice, there’s lots of over dubs, spoken words and raps, and with Electro-Clash and that type of music you really don’t have to mix everything. It doesn’t sound smooth unless you really know how to mix so I kinda wanted to just try and add my signature vocals and stuff on top and make everything sort of blend together. So, that’s why the title came together as KeokiClash because I'm all over it. Like, speaking word. I’ve never done that before on a compilation. I’ve done samples and stuff, but this one I went in and I wrote poetry and stuff for it.”
Is there a theme to this new record? - ”Everybody seems to think it has to do with the movie ‘Party Monster,’ but it doesn’t. It pretty much has to do with my life! I broadened it so that it could be pretty much anyone’s life, but I took it all pretty much from my life.”
Discuss what was going through your head when creating these two tunes:
’Window Shopping In The Mirror’ - ”Mantronic produced that track and he’s one of my favorite producers from years ago. He got together with Roman Holiday, an old new-wave singer and actually, it’s a couple of years old that record. But, I didn’t think that it would be heard anywhere else so I threw it on there.”
’Rippin Kittin’ - ”Gosh, I put a couple of Ms. Kitten tracks on there just because she was the Queen for me. Her sound and her albums have been so influential to me that I figured I’d put a couple of the Queens’ songs on there. That one and ‘Madam Hollywood’ are on there for her.”
The movie ’Party Monster’ is soon to be released and Wilmer Valderrama (‘Fez’ from TVs ‘That ‘70s Show’) plays your part, but how close did his portrayal of you come?! ”I don’t know, I wouldn’t waste my money on that movie,” he laughs. ”I lived it, put it like that. I went and saw the premiere in LA and I hung out with Wilmer before and during shooting. But he couldn’t quite get rid of his accent which kind of annoyed me, but for the most part I think he did kind of an okay job! I thought Seth Green was brilliant in the movie, and Macaulay Culkin was cool … but he played the gay role too strange! He played it like he was an English person! He had an English accent and so confused having an English accent with being gay! That was kind of annoying, but for the most part the movie came together great.”
And you did the music for the soundtrack also? ”Yeah, they send me the script in advance, and I wasn’t totally happy with the music, but it’s okay.”
Describe your sound in three words ”F**king punk rock,” he laughs.
And finally, what is the most interesting thing to know about Keoki?! ”Well, the most interesting thing is that I’m taking dance and acting lessons right now. I’m taking modern dance. So, the most interesting thing about me is that I’m always trying to better myself, I guess.”
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
To win a Brand New copy of Keoki's new CD, KeokiClash just tell me which comic book character Macaulay Culkin brought to life on the big screen in 1994? Then, just send an e:mail to me with the subject title 'KEOKI' and the answer in the text to:
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