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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on May 13, 2009
Originally from New Orleans, Native Intelligence has been into music since the day he could carry a boom box and blast Cyndi Lauper. As part of the Rock It Science Group and Sleevin Records, and playing everything from rock to breaks, this DJ has true personality and talent. Speaking with SF Station out of his home in the Richmond District, Native shares his thoughts.
SF Station (SFS): So what brought you to San Francisco?
Native Intelligence (NI): I met a friend in New Orleans who was visiting from San Francisco. He saw my work and told me come to visit him in California and get in touch with all these artists. So when I went to visit him for a few weeks, I met this girl and we really hit it off, so I ended up moving back here. When I visited I loved the place, but she was definitely the inspiration to come out and move out here to California.
SFS: How did you connect with the Rock It Science group?
NI: From knowing the girl way back when, while I was still listening to rock music, she dragged me out to so many clubs, and parties, like Stompy. From the get-go of being out here since í96, I was just always in the scene. And so by doing that I got interested in DJing. Me and my folks had a spot where Shine is now, and we used to do happy hour there. One day Eric and his crew came in and we all kind of met that way to schedule out this night together. I just saw him more and more, and he was working at Zen City Records, which was owned Paul from Temple.
SFS: Iím curious, how did you get a DJ name like "Native Intelligence"?
NI: (laughs). I used to live on 510 Page at this amazing apartment building where everyone was friends with everyone. We had this beautiful back garden, and we would have all these characters coming through. And this one guy, this old guy, he would always hang out. He was renting out this storage space in the cellar. And he would hang out in the garden and put up all these crazy sculptures. His name was Charles, and he was in his seventies or eighties, and he would always make me feel like I didnít know anything because he was so smart. We were hanging out one night, and he goes, ďThere goes Duane, using his native intelligence again.Ē So it was kind of like an insulting comment, and thatís where I got it from. For me, I feel like Iím very smart but in a certain way. As an artist, Iím connected to that craft, and can definitely go with the flow on many things, and yet when it comes to computers, engineering, and math, I feel really dumb.
SFS: I saw your blast for Butter which incorporates a rock music DJ set. Do you usually put that into your DJ sets?
NI: Hardly ever.
SFS: So itís two separate deals?
NI: When I was at Sugar I was DJing three nights a week and on Fridays seven hours. It was crazy but luckily I had all my music on me at once. I could play house for four hours and hit a wall and then just throw on some Journey. So once I started doing that and mixing for so long, I started mixing hip hop into Def Leppard and just really going for it. The other night I played for three hours, didnít do beat matching, just played big rock songs, and played two hours of drum n bass which felt completely natural. And itís fun to do it. But Iím playing the End Up on the 16th, and Iíve been cultivating to have the best breaks set. Itís very focused because I have respect for when youíre dancing, you need to have a set going on.
SFS: Then what do you like to play the most?
NI: I would say probably house because thereís so many genres in house, and I really enjoy minimal stuff. I love deep house when it has the right vocals, but Iím not into vocals that are too off the wall or repeat too much. I think itís important to have a beat but also to craft a song around it.
SFS: What are you inspired by when you play? Do you pick up from everyday habits or pull what you listen to?
NI: Iím constantly listening to music, so I would say my biggest inspirations are the people Iím around. When I first came to the city, I was in a band with my friend and ended up producing with him; he changed the way I saw music. He was constantly introducing me to things I would have never known. When youíre listening to so many types of music, you just naturally fall into what you like best. Basically itís really hearing a song and it just hitting me. As in, this song is really doing it for me and I want to hear what it sounds like in the club.
SFS: What are some of your upcoming releases?
NI: Thereís a release coming out at the Rock It Science label, and weíre looking at things coming out in the summer. I also have releases coming out on Sleevin Records, and Iím excited about those. So really at the same time I have some of my first releases coming out on two labels.
SFS: Are they a different sound?
NI: Every song is pretty different. Sleevin has a couple that sounds the same, but theyíre all with different producers. The stuff of Rock It Science, every song is so different. Some are dubstep remixes, some are electro house, tribal, and some are really trance-y.
SFS: Any advice for young DJs? Because right now everyone can click some buttons and be a DJ.
NI: Well, it really is that easy. Iíve been producing, and some of the best tracks Iíve been producing are with my buddies in their home studios. I think itís great that anybody can do it, but not everyone has the passion to do it. I say everyone should go for it, but for me, I have the passion and the vision, and I love it for what it is. Itís not anything I can cash in on at the moment, but itís just so fun when I do it. I think the most important thing is just to go for the full spectrum and ask yourself if you really love the music. Do it, but really check yourself on why.
Find Native Intelligence this Saturday at the Rock It Science 4-year anniversary at The EndUp or at his monthly residency every second Friday at Olive. Listen to some jams and hear the latest news at myspace.com/nativeintelligencemusic or www.rockitscienceSF.com
by Christina Li on May 13, 2009