Friday, September 16, 2011

And Where Do You "Where To?": DJ Ceazs

Someone spectacular came up with the ingenious notion that smothering chili on hot dogs makes for the most delicious snack food ever…just like another person realized that putting 26-inch rims on cars makes for a head-turning statement.

And Los Angeles native DJ Ceazs shrewdly recognized that spinning jazz on turntables makes for a perfectly smooth mix of music to listen to anytime, especially on gorgeous, Cali days, sitting outdoors, enjoying the sites of the city.

Of course I’ve listened to jazz mixtapes and heard live DJ sets before, but I had never heard a jazz mix session on the 1s and 2s…until I saw DJ Ceazs spin this past summer. This being a first for me, I was curious to learn how he got into playing jazz and to find out where he goes to get inspiration for his work. So I set up an interview with him.

While initially when I sat down to talk with him, I was mostly interested in his musical side, what became evident almost right away was that there were so many depths and layers to him. Read on to find out more about DJ Ceazs, what he dabbles in when he’s not being a DJ and some great underground destinations to check out for the best in music in Los Angeles. Perhaps I’ll see you at one soon!

Miss Wilson: How long have you been a DJ?
Ceazs: I like to say all my life because my brother always had the equipment around and I was always a little kid messing with the turntable. So I feel music was always a part of me. It was like a third arm. It was another extension of what I do.

Miss Wilson: You did a jazz set tonight. Is that the genre of music that you typically spin?
Ceazs: I do jazz. I come from a hip-hop foundation, but through hip-hop is how I learned jazz, salsa and all of the rest of the music. And I definitely do a lot of obscure music, a lot of rare music. I like digging into a lot of weird stuff…children’s records…pretty much everything [laughs].

Miss Wilson: And you did a special tribute to Fonce Mizell tonight?
Ceazs: Exactly. He was an amazing arranger, producer, composer, artist. He was a big arranger for Blue Note Records and he recently passed away earlier this month. I thank those guys a lot because through them, I’ve been able to express myself through music and learn a lot, you know what I mean? He will definitely be missed, definitely.

Miss Wilson: What is one song that you’ve noticed that’s been hot this summer? That when you play it, the crowds go wild?
Ceazs: Well see, I’m kind of old-school. I don’t really stay in touch with what’s new.  I’m more into the classic stuff, you know, the John Coltrane, the Miles Davis, stuff like that.

I’ve worked also with a lot of hip-hop producers because I was a record dealer. That’s how I got into more DJ-ing, because people know me from my archive of music. I collect a lot of music. I literally go broke sometimes just buying music! But that’s how I’ve been able to connect with a lot of artists like Kanye West and Madlib. I’ve been able to sell records to those guys because they were into the big sampling movement. That’s how I got known, like “Ceazs got the records.”

But I’m more into the old stuff. I do like the new music,  but I definitely try to stay to the foundation of everything.

Miss Wilson: So is there one song that you like to play personally – that you play all the time?
Ceazs: I have to play all the time? It would probably have to be a song…wow…I listen to tons of music. I listen to music everyday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Well right now, maybe…what can I say?...Aw man, that’s a tough one, you got me on that one [laughs].

Miss Wilson: What about top two songs?
Ceazs: Top three? Ok, I’d say right now, maybe Sun Ra “Space is the Place.” He was an eccentric jazz musician. Very brilliant and genius. I definitely got that on shuffle at home. Recently, I’m working with Phil Upchurch, listening to a lot of his music. He was a guitar player for Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, so I listen to a lot of his stuff too right now.

Miss Wilson: And I noticed that you use actual records when spinning. Do you ever use Macs or computers?
Ceazs: Actually, again, I kind of stick to the foundation. Most of my friends, they carry their Serato. They do all the music from the laptop. But I grew up where you had to carry your crate of records, haul them down and get the backache, but I just like sticking to the essence. Yes, the computer thing is fine. It’s much easier, but I’m just more old-fashioned. I like the vinyl. That’s definitely my pick of choice.

Miss Wilson: How do you prepare for a DJ set?
Ceazs: Like I said, I listen to a lot of music. I buy records all the time, so I’m always looking for new stuff, listening to music. I don’t have an iPod. I’ve had iPods, but right now, I don’t have one. I have iTunes and stuff like that, but I don’t have an iPod. But I still listen to a lot of music. I don’t know if that makes sense, that’s what I do.

Miss Wilson: It does! And since my blog is about where to go out in LA, do you have any favorite spots?
Ceazs: As far as what?

Miss Wilson: It could be anything: your favorite restaurant, your favorite lounge. If there was one place where you would recommend.
Ceazs: I hang out a lot at the JW Marriott. Me and another friend, she’s a promoter, so we used to have a lot of the rooftop parties down there.

Miss Wilson: The Honey Collective?
Ceazs: Yeah, you know, Shelley [Oto] and all of them. I was kind of working with them when they were doing that. But now currently, I have my own rooftop now, so I’m doing my own parties. I do promotions, too. I do a lot of stuff, not just music. I do art. I manage artists, visual artists. I manage musicians. I’m like a sound consultant. We’re working on a fashion show, pretty much a little bit of everything. But I do a lot of events throughout LA. 

Miss Wilson: As a DJ, what places do you recommend to listen to good DJs?
Ceazs: There’s this place in Silverlake called The Fuzz. It’s a very eclectic spot. World-renowned DJs come and they play all the weird stuff, records that cost from $1 to like $1,000. Rare music, a lot of eccentric music. It’s a little run down spot, but all the latest producers come. It’s definitely a nice spot to kind of get out and listen to new DJs. A lot of up-and-coming DJs walk in all the time and have events there.

Miss Wilson: Do you have a specific place where you spin regularly?
There’s a record shop in Torrance called Record Recycler. It’s one of the biggest record shops I’d say west of the Mississippi. That’s where I live. That’s kind of my second home away from home. I’m boring [laughs].

Miss Wilson: And where can people find more information about you?
Ceazs: I’m on Twitter: @Ceazs1 and I have a Facebook page: That’s where you can reach me at.

Miss Wilson: And what about the name Ceazs? How did you come up with that?
Ceazs: That’s my real name! My real name is Cesar, and so you hear “Ceazs.” I just shortened it and put my own twist on it [laughs].

As always, a BIG shout out to Tulani for the amazing photos she took! Follow her work at @MS2LANY!

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