The fall is upon me. The season is changing. Summer’s great ball of fire will naturally dim with the onset of autumn, in exchange for fair weather at it’s best; fair enough. The eleven-day hot streak of traveling around the world, between July and August has cooled down. I sadly bid farewell to the past.
In my experience playing solely for New York club patrons, this summer it took the talent of Mickey Factz and Theophilus London to uproot me from such humble beginnings. Two of New York’s brightest prospects, representing the new wave of party-friendly rap, enlisted me as their tour DJ for a string of performance dates in New York (Diesel:U:Music), Amsterdam (Applesap Festival), Tokyo (Swagger 10th Anniversary), and Los Angeles (Rock the Bells). The golden ticket to Theophilus and Mickey’s fanfare, is not credited to formally releasing albums via the conventional record label, yet through hip-hop’s traditional grassroots promotion—the mixtape. Their virtual presence throughout the internet is a clickable commodity. In the flesh, Mickey Factz is the face of Honda’s “Rhyme and Reason” campaign who made rounds on the 11-city Rock the Bells annual tour, while the showman, Theophilus prefaced A-Trak‘s deejay set with an amalgam of fancy footwork, live instrumentation, and spectacular lasers. The rappers I’ve been in concert with recently, have become staples of New York City’s downtown tastemaker community, now the world is their stage. Here is how I arrived to be by their side:
July 23rd, 2009. 7:20PM GMT
My story begins in Zurich, Switzerland. Already, I’m beyond being fashionably late for tonight’s dinner party to where it’s starting to look just disrespectful. ‘DJ Treats, the guy deejaying the wedding’s post-reception event is not here, and nowhere to be found.’ It would have been wise to activate my Blackberry phone to receive calls while traveling overseas. That means there is no way for me to digitally map the complete directions to my destination, much less make a call to say I’m behind schedule. I was sure that I was in the neighborhood based on a printout of the invite sent by the bride. A missing detail caused me to use what common sense was left after exhausting my energy from flying, to taking the train, to circling the thicket of trees in the countryside of Zurich on foot. The option to eat the bunt cake gift I was carrying became more apparent as the chance of finding the right house seemed bleak. I think it was fear (or maybe jet lag is a better excuse) that lead me to believe that I would have an unforeseen panic attack, pass out, or worse, get sick from standing in the downpour.
My mind was wandering. I remembered a quote from Buddha: The Four Encounters, a graphic novel by Osamu Tezuka. In it Siddartha reflects on one of his most valuable teachings. “Every man faces seven enemies in his lifetime. Sickness, hunger, betrayal, envy, greed, old age, and then death.” To my knowledge, only hunger was on my list. I was going to be alright, as soon as I manned-up to venture down the one road I hesitated to explore for the past 90 minutes. I stopped a young man coming from that actual direction, and asked him, “How far down that road do you go until you see houses?” He assured me that once I cross the small walkway over the gap of bushes, then the next neighborhood should follow. Ultimately, my last resort down the unknown path was where I should have been in the first place.
July 26th, 2009 1AM GMT
The wedding singer will be a tough act to follow. My job tonight, or rather for as long as the wedding party’s insomnia will last, is to keep the friends and family—in attendance—on the dancefloor, for as long as humanly possible. The numbered paper squares, pinned to human dancing machines would have accessorized this type of marathon, even for me during this test of endurance. The King’s Club in the basement of Badrutt’s Palace has been paid for by the bride and groom, whom have emptied out their bottomless pockets to host the private after party in celebration of their nuptials. Like the accommodating bartenders, and kitchen staff, catering to any immediate need by their guests, I too considered myself an extension of the resort’s amenities—a DJ cum concierge service. But as all good things must come to an end, fielding requests for Iranian pop songs to appease the geriatrics (outside of the hip-hop bubble) would cease, as did the sultry chants for ‘more’ by bride’s mates that wiggled out of expensive formal attire, and into skimpy outfits to match their animalistic urge to writhe their bodies to “I Wanna Fuck You” by Plies, and “Freaky Girl” by Gucci Mane. Toeing the line of sex and dance can work up an appetite. The staff obliged by serving the best tasting late-night meal of penne a la bolognese. The converted sugar our body processes from the menu of carbohydrates would help fuel the next day of traveling through the mountains, by train to Zurich for the remainder of my stay.
Treats and Bo en route to Kaufleuten.
July 29th, 2009. 10AM EST
Webster Hall is the largest stage I will have ever deejayed. For the next two nights (7/30, 7/31) Theophilus London, and I will take up residence at Webster Hall for this year’s multi-culti lineup for the Diesel:U:Music show, and the final leg of DJ A-Trak’s epic performances on his 10,000 lb. Hamburger Tour. I’m getting ahead of myself. My flight is less than six hours away, and my eyes had not seen the glory of a night’s rest. My friend Bo, on the other hand, is sprawled out on the queen-sized bed. He had to wake up a half-hour ago to be on-time for his train to Paris; that’s not going to happen now. The only way to get him on his way is to yell “fire,” which would just be mean. I’ve tried pouring the last sip of Smirnoff vodka on the bed, close-enough to his nose as a substitute for smelling salt. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Had it been me in Bo’s place, I doubt he’d bank on my vodka trick either.
I don’t really know how we managed to digest the past two nights out on the town. After my responsibilities to the wedding were over, I finally had a friend to help make my experience in Zurich more memorable. Bo, who had never visited Europe was open to the spoils of Swiss chocolate, and Belgian beer, but still needed the American feel of fried chicken. So we went to Hooters. Over the course of two pitchers, the streets seemed as uninviting as our waitress. See, it was a Monday, local bars weren’t busy. I tried sniffing out a club by speaking spanish to our Cuban waitress, but she wasn’t helpful beyond ordering our two rounds. We had our fill of Hooters. Within one-block’s distance me, and my fellow traveler expected to find something better—more authentic to the town. We discovered the city’s prostitution district. It was clear we were in the square of sin once the tide shifted to barely dressed women standing in front of storefronts where the clientele was predominantly male. When it seemed like we couldn’t find our way out of the mess, it got worse. Above where Bo and I stood, there was a stirring commotion coming from a balcony. It was a topless woman yelling down to her friend, in another language. It was our cue to find an exit quickly before we’d seen too much.
[Ed. Note: The images pictured were not taken at the specific time in which the story was told. It is simply for accompaniment.]
*Check back for the next chapter in The Axis of DJ Treats, where Treats talks about returning to New York for his two biggest DJ gigs ever, boating in Amsterdam with Theophilus London, and hanging out in a Japanese fish market at 6AM with GFC-NY, and the Cool Kids.
Related: Five-City Tour with DJ Treats: Pt. 2
Related: The DJ Document from Amsterdam