Wearing a Sex Pistols — inspired “Stussy in the UK” T-shirt and sporting bright red streaks in his hair, Jason Blakemore looks more like a punk rocker than a house DJ. But considering the backdrop of Huntington Beach in the heart of Orange County, whose biggest export these days is the music of bands such as Offspring and No Doubt, Blakemore fits right in among the tattooed surfers and skate punks.
Blakemore started spinning dance music 10 years ago under the name DJ Trance in underground clubs. Unwilling to be pigeonholed, he played a variety of styles in his sets, ranging from deep house to trance. Although Blakemore ditched the DJ Trance moniker five years ago, he still enjoys that style of music, which is evident as he shops for records.
“I've always been more of a house DJ,” explains Blakemore. “But I've been finding better records in the trance section lately. I always liked the tone and production of trance records better, but I didn't like it when all the records were at 140 bpm, because you can't move your feet to it. The progressive stuff at 128 bpm creates a good vibe in a club, and a lot of it fits in with the house music that's coming out these days.”
In addition to fulfilling a rigorous schedule as a DJ, Blakemore also runs the Life Music label, which recently put out the 12-inch singles “Sleepwalking” by Smitty, Davenport & Blakemore and “Infinity” by Ram. But even though he receives a fair amount of music via the label, he still likes to get out and shop for records frequently. For Shop.Talk., Blakemore chose his local favorites: Higher Source in Huntington Beach and Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab (DFML) in Costa Mesa.
“I'm friends with the owners of both stores,” he says. “So I like to support them both. Plus, they both let me play records over the main system, which is the only way to tell how a record really sounds.”
Higher Source carries a large selection of house and trance records along with a decent stock of BREAKs, drum 'n' bass and hip-hop. The store boasts 12 listening stations surrounding a huge fresh-water fish tank. Each station is equipped with Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables and Sony MDR-V700 headphones. However, prospective buyers should bring in their own cartridges, as the store has fewer carts than turntables.
Decorated with grinning, smiley-faced cartoon drawings and industrial-inspired furnishings, DFML may look like a museum dedicated to the early-'90s rave scene, but the racks are amply stocked with the latest releases. Owned by legendary hardcore DJ Ron D. Core, DFML is a great place to look for an elusive acid or hardcore techno 12-inch, as well as new house and trance singles. DFML also stocks DJ equipment, accessories and club wear.
Remix met up with Blakemore on a Thursday evening just after both stores had stocked their shelves with fresh shipments of vinyl. In addition to new releases, he dug up some older singles he missed the first time around.
Allen & Healey
I might have to pitch this one down a bit. I like to put different styles together to make a journey out of a set. It feels good to go from something dark like this to something lighter like the Miguel Migs song. It's like a release. I love the sound of the buildup — it's totally unexpected, and there are a lot of cool panning delays. This will sound incredible over a big sound system.
“Voices” (Saeed & Palash Breathless mix)
Saeed & Palash are from Washington, D.C. I played with them at Spundae in L.A. once. I've never seen this remix before. I'm not afraid to buy something if it's older, as long as I know it's good. It came into the store three weeks ago, but it probably came out right after the original version in 2001, which is the year on the label. You never know, though — sometimes the label is designed in advance, and the record comes out six months later. The bass is very dubby. I love that sound.
Dizzy & Halo
“Welcome to the Third World”
Double Down is based in Sacramento, and records on that label are always a good find. This record is in between trance and house. That's the sound I'm looking for: from 128 to 130 bpm, trance sounds with house bass lines. I like the swing of house with trancey sounds on top. This is slow, but it has a simple, pulsing bass line that works better at a faster speed. All the layers make it sound more serious. This one has a lot of weird changes in it. It's like four different songs in one. I don't like the middle part that much, but the rest is cool.
“Dreaming” (Heartbeat mix)
This has a Fleetwood Mac sample with Stevie Nicks singing in it. My girlfriend will like it. This is good to put on in the early morning during an afterhours set. I played an afterhours a couple of weeks ago until eight in the morning, and by the end, all that heavy stuff is too much. It's good to play some mellower, warmer stuff. You can't go wrong with Stevie Nicks. She has a beautiful voice. I like the way Miguel uses reverb and delays.
I almost automatically buy everything that Bonzai puts out. This is slower and deeper than most trance. The BREAKdown is really good. It keeps building, and they do a lot of interesting things. I thought the BREAK was going to be too long, but it felt good.
Sins I've Lost EP (Imperial Dub)
This has that San Francisco deep house sound. The bass is really funky. One side is very downtempo while the other is faster and more geared toward the dancefloor. The last song has a classic soul feel. It's very chilled out.
The Landscape EP (Panhandle)
This one is about a month or two old. It has “Chick 'n' Stu,” with a sample of Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz of the Lakers, on it. I haven't been able to find this until now. I'll buy anything that has a sample of the Lakers on it. This doesn't sound like anything else I play, but I'll play it anyway.
“Hornz in My Cave”/“Wickedness”
Tango is an awesome label from San Francisco, owned by Tony of the Gathering. I didn't see this at Higher Source. When I don't have a certain record, I can't be sure whether I just missed it or it's old. I look at the numbers, but Tony made the numbers really small on the label. I don't usually go for things with horns in it, but the horns in this are pretty simple, very deep and funky.
“Enter the Rhythm” (Original mix)
I try to dig through new labels, but sometimes you just keep going back to the ones you know. Like all the other Bedrock releases, this has great production. This has more of a house feel, which seems to be the direction that the label has been heading lately. This could work well in a house or progressive trance set.
The EZ EP (Grayhound)
This has a mix from Dano (of the Red Melon label) that I like. It was mastered at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. Whenever I make a record that's bass heavy, I'll send it to Fantasy and have them master it. This is really dark and trippy. I'd probably pitch it up so it doesn't sound so heavy. There's one downtempo song with a Sunshine Anderson sample on it. Almost every Grayhound record has a downtempo cut on it. You never know what mood you're going to be in. This is great when you want deep, murky seriousness. That's the fun part of this job. When you're in a good mood, play happy music.
Jimmy Van M
“Sanctuary” (Brancaccio and Aisher remix)
I have a lot of Brancaccio and Aisher's records, as well as the original mix of this. The production is incredible. This will also sound great over big speakers. This is really long. I'd start my mix of this after the first BREAK unless I was playing an 18-hour set. You could keep this in the mix for a long time.
Higher Source; 9122 Adams Ave.; Huntington Beach, CA 92646; tel. (714) 965-5997; e-mail Highersourcerecords@highersourcerecords.com; Web www.highersourcemusic.com
Dr. Freecloud's Music Lab (DFML); 145 E. 19th St.; Costa Mesa, CA 92627; tel. (949) 650-0909; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.drfreeclouds.com
Check out www.lifemusic.net for more info about Jason Blakemore.