DJ Jon: Virtual Answers to Virtual Questions

DJ Jon: Virtual Answers to Virtual Questions

So this is Jon Hawkins. Born in Tokyo, lived in D.C. Can now be found behind DJ booths of varying size and locations in Maine’s hippest (and biggest) city, Portland. He’s well-known for his musical expertise at WRED 95.9 FM, the local hip hop station, where he does a damn, hot remix at noon and the Drive at 5, and scenesters know they can see him funking the beat downtown at Bubba’s Sulky Lounge. You can also catch him on Sirius Satellite Radio Hip Hop Nation 40, Monday Nights at midnight and Mainiacs can look forward to May, when he’ll be kicking it at Asylum on Saturday nights. Aside from that full plate, he’s a vegetarian, can often be seen at a sushi bar and is a hardcore film buff (just ask him about Scorsese). In case you need it spelled out for you: the guy’s got it going on.
We thought it’d be cool if we asked him a bunch of random questions to see what he’d come up with. Read on and just try to decode his mystery.

14K: First record you ever scratched? Describe the sound.
DJ JON: Wow, that takes me back. Let’s see… “Change Le Beat” by Fab Five Freddy. At the end of that record there’s the original AHHHHH this STUFF is REALLLLY FRESHHHHH!! sound that is every scratching DJs favorite sound to use. Every DJ in the 80s wanted to scratch that. My copy is warn thru!! But, That’s the big one. There have been little sounds on classic rock records and funk records that I used, but that’s the one that sticks out.

14K: If you weren’t a DJ, what would your occupation be?
DJ JON: See that’s a hard question, because I am a DJ. I’m so DJ-centric. If that’s a word. I believe everything is tied into my life as a DJ. Music, Movies, Politics, Acting, and even living as a human being. I apologize because I can’t conject on that.

14K: How would you describe the current state of the hip hop community in Portland and outside of Maine?
DJ JON: The Hip Hop community in Maine is strong. There are things that go on in Portland that just don’t go on outside of the state. But, if you are a resident or a native of the Portland area, you know that there are things that are totally unique. Like coffee brandy, or the strange isolation that happens only here. And these subtleties are transformed in the Hip Hop that comes from here.

14K: What’s the craziest/sexiest/nastiest thing you’ve ever seen while behind the DJ booth?
DJ JON: Ok, now you’re asking about the party. I have seen extreme violence. I have also seen many naked women. But, most importantly, I have seen people having a good time because of what I was doing with the music.

14K: If you had the chance to be with one starlet for an evening, who would it be and what would you do?
DJ JON: I would keep living my life as I am now. Last year Snoop Dogg passed me his blunt at a club during his CD release party and I simply said, “I don’t smoke no more.” And everyone gives me flack for that, but it’s just something I gave up to better my life.

14K: What do you see as the biggest difference between Facebook and MySpace? Do you have a preference between the two?
DJ JON: Yes. Facebook is about real people and friends for now. I have like under 100 friends so far on Facebook and I am very protective of it. Myspace I have like 4,000 friends of which I know personally about 200.

14K: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
DJ JON: Nothing. But I hope they are impressed with what I do with what they already know.

14K: Name your most favorite guilty pleasure.

DJ JON: Cheesy 80s R&B. I love it, sorry.

14K: Are you behind any political candidate thus far? If so, who & why?
DJ JON: Obama. But it feels like we have to vote for Hillary in these next elections to draw him out a little more.

14K: What Web sites/blogs do you check daily, if any?

DJ JON: $ecret$

14K: What will absolutely always bring a smile to your face?
DJ JON: When a really good song becomes a hit record.

14K: If you suddenly came into $10 million, what would you do?

DJ JON: I have a long straw. I reach across the room and I drink your milkshake. I DRINK IT UP!

14K: Name five famous people who you see as being a positive influence in our culture.
DJ JON: Hard to answer that because positive is such a grey area.. and so is our culture. But if there was a gun to my head, Kenny Dope, Dr. Roxanne Shante, The Jungle Brothers, DJ Premier and me!

14K: Any advice for Mz. Spears?
DJ JON: None, but I appreciate learning about how strange life can be if you’re a pop star.

Lessons From the Road

Lessons From the Road

Or perhaps they should be classified as observations, validations, or hallucinations…

*** The better you eat, the better you feel (like, duh). So if you eat a pretty garnished plate full of fat-filled chicken platter and cheesecake at lunch because that’s what they are serving, chances are you will end up feeling like sludge (not to mention very round).

*** People at conferences like to drink. heavily and flirt incessantly. ah, the art of the schmooze. And if you’re a girl surrounded by a bunch of business dudes away from their wives and significant others, you’re the party. somehow it took me extra long to figure this out.

*** That when sleeping in a king sized bed, I will still always choose one side.

*** Matching polo shirts, no matter what you are trying to promote, market or scam, is always a bad idea.

*** Engagement rings/bands of gold to me look like dog collars. Wowza! I mean, shit, I like the bling and don’t have anything against people in love (mazel tov!) but it rubs me as a status-oriented territorial symbol of a crumbling institution.

*** When you are in a public place such as an airport, there is almost always one idiot sneezing or coughing robustly and repetitively without covering themselves appropriately.

*** In airport waiting areas, why is it that the one who you notice as being the most annoying ends up sitting by you in a small old-school American Airlines plane? Case in point: the 26-year-old indie jean, newspaper cap, studded belt-wearing dude drinking lite beer out of a plastic cup who just returned from Houston after six days with his soon to be ex-girlfriend living with her dad and a 28-year-old “creepy” step mother who flirts? How do I know all this? Being a captive audience to his ongoing cell phone back n forths. Shut up, already!

Fun times. I am so so lucky to be experiencing this. seriously.

Steel Yourself for Sontiago

Steel Yourself for Sontiago

It seems like ages ago when Sonya Tomlinson, aka Sontiago, would step on stage at the now-defunct Stone Coast Brewery in Portland (where, ironically, she works in the basement of the same building for the Portland Phoenix). About eight years – to be somewhat exact – but since she debuted her rapping style and made the boys move over (nicely), she’s crafted a hot n heavy name for herself within the music and art community.

Being new to town from North Carolina and hesitant to really work with anybody, she got her feet wet with the encouragement of Portlander and Stone Coast open mic night organizer, Bread. It seems some sort of cosmic energy was in the air: Sontiago was doing some arts n crafts volunteer work at the West End Community Policing Center and Bread was friends with the guy who ran the place. One thing led to another and bam! Sontiago’s got a mic in her hand among a sea of impressed rapper dudes.

“The response was so overwhelming,” she said of that time, adding they were all very welcoming to her presence. “The guys were super nice, I certainly wasn’t the only girl, but I think I was the only girl that was consistently going. A lot of the guys were interested in working together more than anything else.”

Ever since old college buddy, Sean Carroll, manager of Newbury Comics in South Portland, urged me to go see Sontiago perform way back when I have been a supporter. And it’s easy to see why: her rhymes have depth and are contagious, she pairs with the most cutting edge beat makers in the area and she’s just a genuine inspiration to watch on stage. Not to mention, fucking fashion forward and refreshingly unpretentious.

On Sept. 28, Sontiago held a CD release party in Portland for Steel Yourself, her second album which is being released by Endemik Music, based in Montreal. Her show, held at the alternative artist venue and gallery Space, (where she also bartends), was a kicking success bringing in roughly 300 people. This is not surprising. I was among many in front of The White Heart on Congress Street vying to get in one night to get a glimpse of the performer because her show was full to capacity. Portland loves Sontiago and Sontiago returns the love by holding live shows worth waiting in line for.

This new album, a follow-up just in sequence to Abuse My Adoration released in 2004 is much more serious in content and “sonically better” Sontiago said. The name, Steel Yourself comes from this idea of bracing yourself for unexpected situations.

“It sort of happened simultaneously,” Sontiago said about the choice of album name, during a recent telephone call, adding at that point three songs had already been written when she read the phrase being used in reference to the hostage situation of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll. “‘Mrs. Carroll, steel yourself, your daughter has been kidnapped.’ I had heard that expression but had never seen it written out … ‘Oh, I get it, you have to fucking brace yourself and prepare. Prop yourself right now in this instant and here’s what’s coming after.’ I felt like that title made so much sense.”

Included in those three initial songs is “Faith Not Fear,” which illustrates a post-wedding anxiety attack (she’s married to fellow rapper JD Walker). “Hide and Seek,” a song about Johnny Lomba, a fixture of the Portland art scene after The Skinny, a staple performance venue downtown, closed and a partnership dissolved. And “Force It,” describes a friend’s relationship that went from good to bad. The 48-minute disc, which is available in major music stores across the US, Canada and Japan Nov. 20, ends with Sontiago playing a Casio keyboard in a song about Meg Perry, a Portland activist who drove the People’s Free Space Frida bus around and who died in it during an accident while doing relief work in New Orleans.

“All the subject matter on the album is something that affected me emotionally,” Sontiago said. “To me, a friend. Something that felt emotion. All the subject matter is pretty serious.”

She samples from Babe Ruth’s version of Curtis Mayfield’s “We People Who are Darker Than Blue” and she’s got beats from indie hip hop Anticon family members DJ Mayonnaise and Alias, while also working with Chicago-based DJ and producer Maker. DJ Gabe FM known for his involvement in Mainehiphop.com and a variety of hip hop projects around town and beyond, is in her corner, too, manning the wheels of steel.

“Gabe is cutting and he’s pretty amazing at formulating ideas,” Sontiago said. “He truly thinks about presentation and flow and the set list. He has a strong consideration for a live set and what that means and he’s been making little medleys. He just thinks of all these things to do to make it different. He’s a believer that you should get something from the live show that you don’t get from the CD.”

Sontiago gives dilly dilly (aka Erin Davidson) of Cerberus Shoal fame credit for getting her out there on the multiple week tour (as well as Space Founder Todd Bernard) because of their combined experience touring and choosing appropriate performance spots: “dilly dilly is awesome and she’s pretty much the reason I’m going on tour because she’s such a strong musical individual.”

Of the spot in Williamsburg, Sontiago said, “Erin did a solo tour and she had just recently played there. She said it’s a fantastic place to play … pass the hat kind of thing… all donation-based. Erin said it’s one of the more fruitful stops.”

dilly dilly, who just completed a tour with Sage Francis, will break out multiple instruments such as the melodica, a banjo and violin, and her infamous saw. On the CD, she only sings, but live she’s playing with the toys.

Though Abuse My Adoration is well-loved among many Sontiago enthusiasts, like many artists who find themselves evolving, the mistress of the mic says she’s most excited about this new project.

“Holy improvement from one album to the next,” she said. “Sonically, it’s so much better. I personally never listen to the old album anymore. I probably should. I’m really psyched. I’m proud of this album through and through.”

Sontiago fans will notice, however, someone is missing from the mix: Moshe, Sontiago’s long time DJ and musical collaborator. Why? Her answer: They were going in different musical directions.

“He basically stopped cutting or no longer scratches and that’s what we first came together as,” she said. “So I really felt something was lost without that aspect in my live show.”

For all her work, Sontiago, has been getting nods. Recently, she was picked as one of URB Magazine‘s “Up and Up” Top 1,000, a title she described as a “fucking fluke.”

Seems Sontiago asked Scott Da Ros the founder of Endemik, who was trying to get fellow labelmate Bleubird included (he was), when the cut off date was to apply. Da Ros told her he thought she had a week. So Sontiago thought, “God damn it, I always miss it.” She decided to call the magazine during work, got a friendly (and helpful) receptionist on the phone who put her right through to Senior Editor Brandon Perkins. The right guy to talk to, apparently.

“Rarely do you get put right through to the source,” she said.

Turns out Perkins has heard of those from Anticon, her old Maine hip hop buddies, now dwelling West Coast style, because he’s from Connecticut. He’s pretty sure he’s heard of her.

“I lucked out, my timing was beautiful,” she said. “He was the one that personally advanced me there. [He says] ‘it goes in front of a panel. We all judge. My vote is for you.’ Seeing myself in URB I was like, fuck, I gotta get this album done. I have a label backing me, an influential magazine. I better walk the walk and talk the talk.”

Give me Broken Flowers Any Day

Give me Broken Flowers Any Day

The back story is this: I’m walking around Park Slope on Sunday, doing my thing, and I spot a Burberry shopping bag sitting on a cement wall. It looks like the aftermath of a stoop sale all contained in that one bag. So I look inside and see a handful of DVDs, picture frames and other assorted items. I open one DVD case, disc is in check. I open another, disc is in check. I do this three more times. Then it sinks in: I have hit the freebie jackpot.

And these movies are quality, we’re not talking no name shitters. Among the finds? Broken Flowers (as seen above), Mean Girls (aka Lindsay Lohan), Intolerable Cruelty (with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones), The Cinderella Man, Adam Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love (which made me want to drink … heavily it was so bad) and here’s the kicker, which I know is going to make some queens scream, the whole First Season of Desperate Housewives. Still wrapped. I am not kidding you. It was like, bonanza!

As for Broken Flowers, I know this movie is circa 2005, but if you haven’t seen it, 14K gives it her golden seal of approval. Murray is a master of emotional control, as the ultimate bachelor who is left by his fed up girlfriend (a nice-assed, well-suited Julie Delpy) who tells him she’s tired of being his mistress, when he’s not even married. On the same day, he receives a pink letter in the mail by an unsigned past lover who tells him he might have a 19-year-old son on the search for his father. So, with the persistent pestering of his Caribbean detective wanna-be neighbor, he sets off on a search to meet with four lovers who could have been the mother. He brings pink flowers to each. And each have basically the same reaction to him: wistful longing wrapped in what could have been.

The amazing thing about this movie, aside from who is cast as his lovers: Sharon Stone (a desperate racecar driver’s widow with a Lolita daughter in small town America) and Jessica Lange (a very fuckable animal communicator) especially stand out, is Murray’s ability to just be this totally withholding guy. It’s strange because he is expressing emotion, albeit slightly, which translates into this incredible depth. He means what he says, he moves when he needs to and he shows his reactions through a blink of an eyelid or an inflection in his cheek. He doesn’t say or give anything extra. He is giving, but the people around him just want more. It seems to be by choice not flaw because he doesn’t apologize for what he can’t give. He acknowledges missing his latest lover but doesn’t do anything about it.

I like him. He’s likable. His bachelor pad is styled-out tastefully, with leather chairs and couches, 70s-influenced but modern aesthetic dude guy, for sure. That paired with his outfit of choice, a leisure suit and operatic music; he is the ultimate hermit, a lifestyle his neighbor buddy thinks needs life.

In between watching to see what Murray is going to do next, he brings us comedic moments. Like when he wakes up on his couch, on his stomach, face completely entrenched in a pillow. Such an awkward way to sleep, especially since he most likely has a bedroom, but he’s there, on his couch, remotes on his stark coffee table, waking from his slumber. It’s a shot of sly humor and it works.

In fact, the whole movie works. Rent it! Rent it! Rent it!

Waitress Rant

Waitress Rant

Those who know me, know that my stint at the restaurant has been both liberating and humbling, gratifying and grueling. That being said, here is a list of things that make me want to throttle customers on a daily basis.
***People who come to the sushi restaurant with an allergy to fish and then proceed to go through the whole menu asking about appropriate items for eatage.
***Those who come in at our closing time on the dot and then have no clue what is happening even when we have to ask them to leave, 45 minutes later.
*** Payage with multiple credit cards. Adults go to the atm. Do you really need to split a $24 bill three ways? And by card, no less?
*** Asking a table if they want a drink and 2/3 of your party says yes. So you get the drinks. Then you go back and the weakest link says, “Oh you know, I’d like a mai tai.” This of course always happens when you are slammed and have to make the most complicated of drinks, have two tables you haven’t been to yet and your orders are up at the sushi bar and in the kitchen. Not to mention, your boss is directing you to bus a table that isn’t even yours.
*** Business people who blatantly ignore you while they lunch. This one makes my blood boil. I know what it’s like to be a lady who lunches. Ties do not need to talk over you, avoid your questioning or avoid communicating with you to have a pleasant lunching experience.

I guess that’s it. For now. Thanks for reading