photo by Tuffgyal808
Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Richard: I am a Jamaican New Yorker that loves living in Oakland. I moved from The Bronx to Oakland in 2002 (8 years ago).
Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Richard: Wow. Well, I grew up with lots of vinyl in the house, my parents had albums by reggae, calypso and soul greats, as well as classical Spanish guitar and West African music. As a 6-year-old growing up in the 70’s, I think the big Grundig stereo console in the living room became my favorite “toy” besides robots, books and building blocks. I loved the feel, the look, and sound of records. I would put records on, and me and my younger sister Ghenete would dance, and my parents would sometimes watch. I may have to credit Donna Summer’s “Once Upon A Time… Happily Ever After” as the tipping point for me as a young music lover transforming into a DJ. Produced in 1977, the album is a romantic Cinderella-esque fairy tale about a woman struggling to make ends meet, and struggling to find love. The songs flow into each other as a continuous narrative, starting with the song “Once Upon A Time”, and ending with “Happily Ever After”. Emotionally, it travels into dark places of despair (“Now I Need You”– also a blueprint for deep techno– WAY ahead of its time in 1977!) and moments of elation and triumph (“Happily Ever After”). It was the first time I experienced the concept of music being arranged to take the listener on a journey, one that could evoke dancing AND an emotional response. I can see how i apply this to my flow as a DJ today.
Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Richard:There are many answers to that, I will mention a few… I find inspiration from spirit and ancestors, and can experience deejaying as an homage to musical ancestors such as Michael Jackson, Alice Coltrane, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Tupac, Guru, Biggie and more. When I play their music, their vibration fills the room, and I see it as powerful ritual for community. What else inspires me… The spirit and vibration in the music itself, moving me, and telling me what song needs to come on next to raise the collective vibration. The crowd, the dancers, and their openness, their willingness to complete the circuit necessary for us to all flow and embark on a journey together, also inspires me. Innovative music that dares the stretch past formulaic musical expressions inspire me. Music that doesn’t have oppressive messages inspires me. Love inspires me. Justice inspires me. Community inspires me.
Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Richard: That’s hard to say. I know that the first records I owned were gifts from family. Those first albums were Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life”, Jackson 5 “Anthology”, Earth Wind & Fire “I Am”, and the soundtrack for my favorite Broadway musical, “The Wiz” featuring Stephanie Mills as Dorothy. The first Jamaican album I enjoyed was the “Harder They Come” soundtrack. The first records that I bought for myself? They would have been disco 45’s that I bought with my allowance in the 70’s. It could have been “Enjoy Yourself” by the Jacksons, “Keep It Comin’ Love” by KC & The Sunshine Band, or “Car Wash” by Rose Royce. It was when I was 15 when the person who is now my brother-in-law (David Muir) and I got some barely working turntables and a mixer and taught ourselves to DJ. That was 25 years ago, almost to the day.
Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote?
Richard: Over the years, I feel that deejaying has taught me many life lessons. One is about making choices. When I select a record and put it on, I am in an intuitive and creative flow, but also committing to a choice. The result of that choice may be wonderful, or not so wonderful. Whatever the response, I have to own the choice, take in the situation, and make another choice to follow-up from that point, with the intention to create a positive situation for all involved. In short, selecting records has become a metaphor for making, owning and optimizing the choices one makes in life, and I apply this to my everyday choices.