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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Dec 11, 2009
A San Francisco staple who helped launch Bootie at DNA Lounge, Party Ben has been the center of some of the best dance parties this city has seen. A personable DJ with a wicked sense of humor, he’s a mash-up master with artists ranging from Chemical Brothers to The Police. He recently spoke with SF Station.
SF Station (SFS): How long have you been DJing, and what got you started?
Party Ben (PB): I've been messing around with other people's music as long as I can remember, although when you could start labeling it, "DJing" is debatable. Last Tuesday?
I've always been a total geek. I set up two stereo systems so I could play music without breaks at my sister's birthday party in junior high, and I made mixtapes by messing with the left and right channel inputs on my Sears tape deck and laying down mad pause-button skills. I didn't discover crossfaders until college and I was like, “Why didn't anybody tell me about these?” I've always been obsessed with music, but not very good at making it myself, so DJing and remixing is the next best thing, I guess.
SFS: How do your perfect the art of the mash-up?
PB: From a production standpoint, actually letting go of perfection is my big struggle. I never think a mash-up or a remix I'm making sounds finished and all I can hear are the fudges and flubs. Finally, I'll test it at a club, then people will want it and I'll be sick of working on it, so I'll just give up and reluctantly post it to my web site. But I'm never satisfied and I’m always kind of embarrassed by my sloppy work.
SFS: I hear you're featured in DJ Hero! That's pretty awesome, how did that come about?
PB: I'm not entirely sure! Actually, it's just one of my first mash-ups, a Daft Punk vs. Queen combo I made back in '03 that appears in the game. I guess Daft Punk knew about it or something. Now to see if I can get my hands on their LED pyramid...
SFS: You have toured internationally places. Any fun stories to share?
PB: Oh boy. With me, something's always going wrong, so it's just a continuous feeling of "I guess this will be a funny story later." I toured Europe this summer and only brought one pair of pants to save space — a little gross I know, but I'm a carry-on-only kind of guy.
I played a festival in Hungary where there was a huge rainstorm on the second day. The spot I played was basically enclosed with a floor and a tent roof, but the whole grounds were a disgusting sea of slippery mud, and you had to go through it to get anywhere. It took me four hours the next day to scrape it all off my jeans, which I of course needed for that night's gig since I had no other pants. Also, I was once killed in a light-saber battle by DJ Zebra in front of 2000 people in Paris.
SFS: What keeps you in San Francisco?
PB: Very good question. I kind of hate this cold, soppy, pot-stinking, homeless-filled, early-to-bed town and our dysfunctional civic infrastructure. And don't get me started on the mayor. But I have to admit this place has a fantastic, diverse array of music, art, and culture, and audiences to appreciate it. Plus, it's small enough you don't feel like you're lost in a sea of aspiring superstars like LA or NY. Also, I have a pretty good deal on my apartment and too many records to move.
SFS: What is your favorite Christmas jam?
PB: I've gotta go with the Vince Guaraldi "Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack, Low's "Just Like Christmas," and that Raveonettes one in the TV commercial. Boston's DJ BC always does a holiday-themed mash-up album but I'm terrible at themes so I've never contributed. Not that I don't celebrate Jesus with everything I do.
Be sure to catch him at http://www.partyben.com/ and playing the Silent Disco at Sea of Dreams at the Concourse on New Year's Eve.
by Christina Li on Dec 11, 2009