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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

After starting his career DJing parties inside co-op warehouses in Brooklyn in 1981, Steinski became a hip hop pioneer with innovative sampling and production techniques. His influence shows through with production heavyweights like Cut Chemist to DJ Shadow. Catch him at Mighty on September 23rd at the screening of the documentary Copyright Criminals. He will participate in a panel discussion before he takes over the decks for DJ set, along with Amp Live and several other DJs. He recently spoke with SF Station in a phone interview.

SF Station (SFS): What was the definitive moment when you decided that music was something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

Steinski (S): In 1983, when I came out of the bodega on my Brooklyn street corner and a bunch of kids were standing around listening to the radio on a boom box. The station played "The Payoff Mix," and the kids all started to dance and sing along. I just stood there amazed and watched, absorbing this message from God.

SFS: What are your thoughts on hip-hop these days? Going to jail and making hit records seems trendy.

S: Like any style or era of music, some of it I like, and some of it doesn't appeal to me.

I wouldn't mind cutting a hit, but I don't want to go to jail to facilitate it; I have to feed the cat and mow the lawn.

SFS: “The Motorcade Sped On” is pretty epic. How did you manage to turn an assassination into a hit record? What was the thought process like?

S: I wanted to produce a record that had the greatest emotional impact I could possibly make. When I did "The Motorcade," the Kennedy assassination was only 20 years old, and many more people had the incident fresh in their minds. The spoken word material I used had an intense resonance in the culture. The record had more impact in the UK than here — quite a few people in the U.S. were very offended by it.

SFS: I see you also produce for many random commercials and radio. What is the strangest soundtrack you've done?

S: "I'm Wild About That Thing" — a track I made out of samples dealing with sex that came out on Coldcut's "Let Us Play" record — was licensed and made into an elaborately shot bra commercial, with women in sexy getups lip-syncing the words.

SFS: What would be your ideal job if you weren't DJing?

S: Ranting on street corners and fomenting revolution.

SFS: Very San Francisco. What’s your schedule like here?

S: Playing at Mighty, visiting friends, shopping at Amoeba, and maybe dropping by Brizio Street Rods to drool for a few minutes.

Steinski performs at Mighty on September 23rd after the screening of Copyright Criminals. The screening starts at 8:30pm, followed by the panel discussion at 9:30pm. DJs start at 10:30pm. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.