Authenticity often alludes definition when trying to find real world examples. What is "authentic" Mexican food or what does it mean for a city to be "authentic" and to "keep it real"? Some of the best house parties I've ever been to were in San Antonio. I'm talking the floor was about to cave in level of intense. San Antonio has had a dance music community, albeit underground, for many years. With grassroots beginnings, dance music audiences eventually attracted nationally touring DJs and by the mid-to-late 90s, central Texas' dance music was big business and commercialized. A fixture of San Antonio dance music, KeeQue Sandoval gives us some insights into his latest mix, the state of dance music in central Texas and much more (LISTEN AS YOU READ):
MILES: Can you give me a little background on E:Fusion Radio, yourself and what you guys do at Southtown 101 with E:merge?
KEEQUE- Euphoric Fusion Radio is what happens when two college kids get really bored in a small town in South Texas and try to figure out how to move their influence beyond college terrestrial radio airwaves. My best friend Javy Gonzalez from Alice, Texas was on the air playing a lot of the MTV AMP type music on weekends on KTAI 91.1 FM in Kingsville, Texas. I used to have a primarily club music oriented show on the same radio station. When I heard what he was doing, I felt that we should join forces and do a mix show. My idea was to mimic my favorite weekend formats on 102.7 FM in San Antonio where there was Master Mixin' Mando playing from Club Tsunami or Hollywood and Steve "Smokin'" Chavez hosting. So I'd play the records and Javy would do the talking. We called our show "Euphoric Fusion". I was playing a lot of the radio club stuff that I felt was deserving of larger audiences. Even with the success of our show, we wanted more. I was djing a lot of shows in Austin and San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley and I wanted a better way to connect with those crowds even though I was in Kingsville for the majority of the year. So I figured out a way to broadcast over the internet. Back in 1999 to 2000, it wasn't as well known. I always felt that once it caught fire that people didn't have to suffer through top 40 format radio, as I did in Kingsville with Corpus serving the coastal bend market. So I bought the domain, figured out the networking needed to get the stream going, and it's pretty much been online since then. Even today if you tune toefusionradio.com we have music going. Today, efusionradio.com is me, my cousin Josh Granado, Big Rich and my cousin K3vst3p (Kevin Castillo).
K: My DJ career kind of runs parallel with the station. Since 1999, when I got my first residency working with DJ Tino at Armstrongs Station in Kingsville, Texas, I have been doing club style mixing. As the crowds there changed and never really matched my tastes, I wanted more. I got hooked up with DJ Rene G in San Antonio and worked a lot with A&H for their high school parties at Club Tsunami as well as DJ Rewind who did Saturdays at Club Tsunami. Then I got a taste of the underground. I loved when KTFM had their garage/house/breaks sets between hip hop sets on the club and I wanted to get further in to that. So I started buying those records, when I could find them. And it went deeper from there.
I started getting into other sounds. I was buying a lot of Nukleuz and Underground Construction records from any record shop I could find in Corpus. That's about all that they'd have stocked regularly. I got a few gigs at the Center Theater and other venues in downtown Corpus Christi, TX to play some of these records. I discovered funky house and techno at those gigs. I was playing alongside other guys from Austin and San Antonio like Adam Bomb (Adan of Sifter and Adan), Michaelangelo and many others who intrigued me with their sounds. Then, I discovered House of Wax. Joe Alfaro changed my DJ life forever. I was never able to find tracks that I'd hear at these parties. So I'd go bug the guy until he was able to find me these tracks. When he did, he'd always have something extra for me to listen to. He was iTunes Genius before iTunes Genius. He would have a stack of records similar to my taste when I came in the door.
I mean, seriously, we take for granted how easy it is to find music today with things like Shazam. But the humiliation of trying to "sing" a house track to a guy at a record store is something on the lines of rewinding a video tape. Kids won't really ever have to do it.
E:Merge is a project that Abe and I got into before Southtown 101. We were throwing shows at any venue that would take us, really. Our first party together was when we brought Sista Stroke to Metro downtown. The success of that party was a good feel. He was trying to make a comeback into the underground dance music scene and I was doing my own shows in the Korova Basement and at Aloft Hotel with Unscene Records' Enrique Cortazar. But I was due to have my first child, then a subsequent child the year following. So my life was changing rapidly. I needed to figure out a way to continue doing these shows.
I felt like San Antonio was missing a steady prescription of underground dance music. EDM was blowing up everywhere. All of a sudden, San Antonio thought they knew what dance music was with foam parties and paint parties and slime parties and Abe and I knew that a big portion of people in San Antonio were not getting what they wanted. Enrique Cortazar was doing his Token Sessions for the deep techno and minimal crowd, which was amazing. I felt inspired by those parties to keep trying to make something happen. I was doing Re-emerge parties at Davenport downtown and a series of monthly parties at Club Rain (now the Brooklynite) and I was struggling to keep them going. Not because of attendance, but because of trying to maintain the 9-5 and throw my parties once a month and the new expanding family. So, Abe and I joined forces at Half Shell downtown to put together our house music oriented shows. Once the Half Shell closed, we had to find another spot to continue the flow. We had great success there so it only seemed natural to keep the show going.
So Southtown 101 has been a huge support for us to keep the music going. Our message is simple for the E:Merge series. Less Hype. More Dancing. And we sacrifice our own nightly paychecks to make sure our guest djs are top quality. We have brought many locals in SA, Houston, Dallas, the RGV and Austin who are doing big things in the underground house and techno market worldwide. What we wanted was to provide what San Antonio has been missing. We are great with our own culture here, which is the cliche. Remember the Alamo, Tejano music and classic and indie rock get all the airwaves, stage time, festival stages, etc. There's so much more here. Soul, funk, blues and jazz are huge influences in house and techno. San Antonio loves all 4 of those classic genres. It's a natural fit, in my mind. And our crowd reflects that. The vibe of E:merge is much less the superficial bottle popping, VIP crowd. These people are drinkers and dancers....a LOT of dancers. We have regular voguers, formally trained dancers, the average groover, the jackers, the stompers and even a few shufflers who come out to dance with us. We accept all kinds. The Euphoria that the music, which is a universal language, infuses into the dancefloor knows no age, no color, no race, no political affiliation, no sex or sexual orientation. And that's exactly the way we want it.
M: Is any of what you did live on the 14th in this new mix? Can you tell me a little about this new one? How is it different and how does it exemplify your style.
K: This set is recorded live from March 14th at Southtown 101. I pretty much edited this set so that it's just the main "meat" of my set. This set was heavily weighted in the tech house and techno genres with a little bit of the funky house influence. I feel like my style has always been a little moody, kind of tribal/latin and funky. I think that this set is heavily geared to the start of the night where I used a lot of vocal tracks that are not as heavy so that people who are just getting to the bar have an opportunity to acclimate and get some drinks in them before they are tugged out to the dancefloor to get sweaty. So in the beginning, I'm "singing" to you and towards the end I'm becoming a bit more coercive and trying to drag you out to the dancefloor. I have much less vocals, more intense drums and driving tracks that the crowd seemed to be wanting to move to. So it's a bit of give-and-take. I can't go too hard, or I'll eat up the headliner's next step to drive the crowd up higher. And Chris Anderson of Houston did exactly that once I was done. So although it's not really a typical peak hour set of mine, it's pretty much the flow of what you can expect from my sets at Southtown 101. When I play in peak hour, I usually will play more peak hour type tracks, depending on my mood. It may be funky house, it may be tech house, it may be techno. It may be garage or deep house. Whatever I'm feeling and whatever the vibe of the dancefloor is. It's a constant give-and-take between me and the dancer.
M: Why Mixcloud?
K: Mixcloud is a great platform for the classic dj or podcaster to release sets with minimal hassle. It allows you to add a tracklist easily so that you can give credit to the producers who created the music. If a track is available for sale, it will usually provide a link for you to buy it. I think it's easy enough to plug and play, whereas soundcloud, you always have the risk of some major label taking your set down without notice because of a sample or a particular track that they don't want up for free. It's also nice looking when you provide links in social media. The mobile interface is really simple to use too, and it allows for instant feedback, if the listener feels so inclined. I do use our podcast from time to time on iTunes, but I've kind of dedicated this year to adding my E:merge sets to Mixcloud for everyone to enjoy. The only drawback is they are not downloadable, but I will gladly provide a downloadable link through efusionradio.com or our podcast on iTunes if someone wants the set for themselves.
M: What hardware & software did you use to create this?
K: Whereas my last set was a mix of vinyl records and digital files, this set is purely digital using Serato SL4. It was recorded using Serato SL4 live and in one take at Southtown 101 on March 14, 2015. I used two Pioneer CDJ900s and one DJM900Nexus to mix the music.
What do you get out of listening to other types of music that you bring into dance music production/ DJing?
M: What do you get out of listening to other types of music that you bring into dance music production/ DJing?
K: Music has always been a passion for me. I play the trumpet, so jazz is naturally a big influence for me. I'm a big fan of Arturo Sandoval and Maynard Ferguson, as well as Miles Davis and Chuck Mangione. As I mentioned to you, house music is heavily influenced by jazz, the blues, funk and soul. It's almost a natural bridge into house from those genres and vice versa. As a musician first and a DJ second, I find that the elements of house and techno are what drive me to those genres. Those elements are ranging from the timbre of the drums, the progression of chords, the syncopation of a phrase, the funkiness of a solo run of a lead voice, the catchiness of a vocal loop.....something. If I find an element that I feel or that I can relate to that I think the dancefloor will appreciate, I gravitate to that track.
I'm only just beginning to produce my own tracks so I try to carry some of that into the few production samples I've been able to make. I like a lot of drums, a lot of groovy basslines and funky keys in the tracks that I have been putting together. Hopefully soon, I'll find a track that I'm happy with and release it, but for now, I'm really just trying to hone my sound and figure out what makes me the happiest to create.
M: I wrote about SA having "Many Music Scenes", would you say SA has many dance music scenes? If so why is that?
K: San Antonio has many dance music scenes. There's no denying that. I think it's a matter of crowd preference. Some people only like what they hear on the radio. Lots of what is on the radio just happens to be dance music, so they have their scene. Some people don't like the radio in San Antonio, but they have SiriusXM or listen to a lot of internet radio. On those platforms, they have access to more of the EDM, more of the nu disco or indie dance type sounds...so they have their scenes. There's a vibrant LGBT scene in San Antonio that has been around for a long time. They have been listening to a lot of the dance and popular music before any of the radio ever played it. They have their scene, which ties in, I think, every type of music including underground dance. LOTS of good music comes into and out of that scene, but there's really not much intermingling of any of the previously mentioned dance scenes. Then you naturally have the staples: Hip hop, tejano/norteno, indie rock, classic rock. These music scenes get all the press, all the airwaves, all the promotion, and all the money essentially. Some local publications give a lot of press to them, especially, because it helps pay the bills, and to provide the "indie" angle, gives a little more street cred, I suppose, which I think is where a lot of the hipster-esque cynicism comes from when you read through it. In my humble opinion, if people took less of a "scene" approach to music and more of a "music" approach to a scene, music AND scenes may have more of a universal appeal to a wider range of audiences. I spoke about elements. There's common elements between many types of music, across genres. If you can break it down and speak to it at that level, you lose the stereotype and gain the true connection to human emotion. We try to make sure our dancefloor is accepting of anyone in any of the above scenes. Our music infuses elements from any type of music you can think of, and the dancefloors represent that.
M: There's no shortage of criticism of SA's music business, do you think SA needs a dance music festival or that MavFest should be as big as FunFest?
K: I think a dance music festival would be fun, but when they are as big as FunFest, it becomes less about music and more about selling tickets. Although FunFest seems to keep a delicate balance of indie credibility matched with corporate sponsorship, I relate more to dance music festivals on the level of BPM in Mexico and Movement in Detroit. A lot of the hype and pomposity of the modern festival has been stripped out of these festivals and it has become more about the music and the art. And by "art" I don't just mean DJing, I mean the creation of music. Some people still can't get passed the fact that you don't need strings or reeds or embouchure to create vibration and resonance. You don't need paper to write compositions anymore, although many modern rock musicians can't read a note off of a sheet of music. Software and analog hardware are the new media to make amazing compositions and those composers can take that music directly to an audience via a DJ or live performance. Both of whom could be the producer, if they so wish.
M: What do you think about 'nightclubs' in San Antonio. Anyone doing anything worthwhile?
K: I haven't been to many "nightclubs" in San Antonio except for maybe Club Rio lately, because they rented equipment from us. I've played in and been a patron in many smaller lounges, bars and beer joints in town though. As far as booking artists that I care to see, I see a huge void. If they ever did book an artist that I care to see, I would be hesitant to attend because the sound systems in many venues in this city are severely lacking. Euphoric Fusion Radio provides sound to Southtown 101 and we ran our own sound at our pool parties at Aloft Hotel. We would love to not have to do that, but if we want our music to sound the best it can and provide the best experience for people that move to it, we feel it's the only option. Until venues can step up and invest in sufficient sound (and DJ equipment for that matter....Tsunami had their own Technics and I never had to take anything to play there other than records), I will continue to feel that there is a big demand for a proper venue to step into the fold. I know there's promises from a few venues that are opening soon, so I'm anxious to see what they do as far as sound system and setup, but when you throw a rock (in a city that will not be named) 100 miles just north of here, you can hit a top notch Bassmaxx or Funktion-One sound system. I went to Mezzanine and Mighty while I was in San Francisco recently. Those sound systems were the best I've ever heard in my life. The system in Mighty was custom designed from the ground up and built specially for the space of the club. Precisely tuned for the room. I got to experience Dirty Bird crew at Mezzanine, Doc Martin and Collette at Mighty. Life changing experiences. We will never be any of those cities, nor should we try to be, but that doesn't mean we can't be educated and professional about the type of sound equipment we put in our clubs. So, in summary, my laundry list of criticism of our local venues and "nightclubs" starts with sound, continues with a serious lack of support for local talent, and ends with the type of national/international talent that's being brought. I can't say anything stands out.
M: Any big plans for EFusion Radio and Southtown 101 later this year?
K: Efusionradio hopes to keep growing and being involved with bringing quality underground dance music to San Antonio. Personally, I look to get back to gigging around Texas more often, as I have done in the past. Perhaps beyond our state's borders. As far as Southtown 101 is concerned, we hope to continue our awesome relationship with my E:merge partner Abe Novy and Soul Family and Jeff Slaughter at Southtown 101 and continue growing. When we first started there, we didn't have much expectations except to bring the best music and sound and djs that we could with our budget. We have grown quite a bit since then. The venue has added a second bar to help deal with the volume of patrons on our nights and is looking at other options to try and cater to a growing audience. With all the sacrifices we make, personally and monetarily, to make things happen there, we strive to continue the success we have established and see just how big of a wave we can make in our beloved home city. Ultimately, providing a global musical link to the unique culture in our city is probably the biggest payoff for us. At least that's my motivation.
photos by LINA NOVY.