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Medley Fool

DJ Jester mixes and mashes up Willie Nelson, Ice-T, the Carpenters and LL Cool J

What do Devo, Young MC, George Strait, Ice-T, B.B. King and the Carpenters have in common? Absolutely nothing, you say? Okay, how about songs such as JJ Fad's "Supersonic," Asia's "The Final Countdown," Men at Work's "Who Can It Be Now?," the themes from Dallas and The Greatest American Hero, and Suzanne Vega's "Luca"? Nada again? Ordinarily you'd be right, but these are not ordinary times -- DJ Jester the Filipino Fist is coming to town, and you're likely to hear all of the above and more mixed, mashed and macerated in one of his sets.

Jester is one of the featured attractions at Reprogram Radio's Krunk Rock show Saturday, February 28, at Walter's on Washington. The Killers for Hire DJs -- Reprogram's Ceeplus and Samplistik -- will also spin, as will San Jose, California, DJ Babel Fishh. Filthy McNasty and the Rhinestone Life are also on the bill. (Under his "Brian McManus" pen name, Mr. McNasty is a Press contributor.)

Krunk co-organizer Ceeplus says he wants to weld punk spunk and crunk junk with this show. Don't go expecting a Lil' Jon love fest, though -- the show is crunk mainly in spirit, though the various DJs will be spinning a little of that pulverizing hip-hop subgenre.

Crunk music is about the only thing DJ Jester doesn't have in his mix. Nothing about this temporarily Austin-based beat-matching maven and mash-up magician is ordinary. First, there's the fact that he's an Asian-American originally from the distinctly unsophisticated and insular Brazoria County town of West Columbia. After moving first to San Antonio and then to Austin, he's gone on to tour Europe and Japan with Canadian scratchmaster Kid Koala.

He's also the self-described "king of odd jobs." Over the years, he's been an ad sales rep at The Current, San Antonio's alt-weekly paper; the arts editor at his school newspaper; and a freelance writer for deceased local mag Urban Beat. Right now, he's on lunch break from his current one as a recruiter for the air force. I thought you had to be, oh, I don't know, a member of the air force to do that.

"Yeah, that's what I thought too," laughs Jester, who was born Greg Michael Pendon. "Whatever, quick money. Last year I was a Trojan condoms rep. I managed the booths at all the concerts and stuff. It was pretty fun."

An earlier job was even more fun and much, much odder. Jester was a vehicular veggie burger evangelist, the driver/chef for the Bocamobile. He says he drove that soyburger-shaped van all over the country. "That's how most of this DJ stuff happened," he says. "That's how I met Kid Koala. His band Bullfrog was playing a show in Boston, and I was there with Boca Burger for the Boston Marathon, and I was like, 'Cool! Kid Koala's playing. I've always wanted to see him.' So I went, and I had my River Walk Riot CD with me, and I was like, 'Hey, man. Have you ever tried a Boca Burger? Do you want to hear my CD?' That was in 2001, and we kept in touch, and he asked me to go on tour with him. Pretty crazy how things work like that."

The Bocamobile angle reminds me of an anecdote. Just over a decade ago, I was sitting in a Nashville bar early one evening chatting with the late Walter Hyatt. Outside, over Hyatt's shoulder, a strange apparition rolled into view: a 12-foot-tall hot dog on wheels. Weird as that was, it soon got weirder still. All three members of ZZ Top emerged from the giant wheeled wiener.

Turns out Jester's got the 411 on that food car, too. "The same people that ran the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile also ran the Bocamobile," he says. "That's how I got that job -- initially I applied for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile job when I finished school -- you know, I got an American studies degree, so I didn't know what I wanted to do with that, or if there was anything I could do with that. So I was like, 'Oh, cool' when I saw the job posted at the career services office at school -- the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! But then they called back and said, 'We've got this other thing -- the Boca Burgermobile,' and I was like, 'Yeah! I'll do that.' "

As with the air force recruiting gig, don't read too much into his soyburger affiliation. "There this misconception -- everybody thinks I'm a vegetarian," he says. "Come on! I'm from Texas. I grew up in West Columbia. That's as Texas as you can get, really."

And so is his music. After all, not many non-Texan DJs mix in the Red Headed Stranger and "Amarillo By Morning." "It's got a Texas kind of flare to it," he says. "A lot of people think the mash-up thing is kind of a novelty, but to me it just comes naturally. It's not like I'm trying to be different -- it's just where I come from. I think it's natural to play OutKast after a Willie Nelson record."

He's already spread his take on the Sound of Texas far beyond the Lone Star State. Last year's tour with Kid Koala -- a classically trained pianist-turned-turntablist -- was a crowning achievement. "When we were in London, Radiohead asked to put us on the BBC for this show they were curating," Jester enthuses. "Never in a million years would I think that me, a DJ from San Antonio, would be on tour with Kid Koala and then all of a sudden I'm on the BBC 'cause Radiohead wanted me on there. Wow! Nuts, man!"

That tour also inspired Jester to broaden his horizons. If all goes well, he's spent his last summer sweltering in the South Texas heat. "I was in Japan and I thought, man, I don't want to go back to San Antonio," he says. "I've been there since '94 -- I went to school there, but it was just time to do something else. So I moved to Austin, and worked on my new record there, did my odd jobs. And my lease runs out in May. Hopefully in June I'll be in New York."

Once there, he's hoping to finish up his next CD. "It's gonna be all done on a four-track," he says. "A lot of people are making their CDs just on their computers, but I'm gonna try to keep this one as analog as possible. Kinda get a real raw feel to it, kinda like old-school hip-hop. There's gonna be more compositions on it -- most of my old stuff has been more mixes, but I'm actually gonna start composing songs."

Scuttlebutt Caboose

In about three weeks, South By Southwest will be upon us again, and as usual, there aren't as many Houston bands on the bill as we would like, though this year the festival has woken up to the burgeoning hip-hop scene here. Last year's characterization of SXSW as "White by Whitebread" has been rendered mostly moot. Locals Gritboys, Zin, Chamillionaire and Color Changin' Click, Mddl Fngz presented by Bun B and UGK, Studemont Project, S.M.U.G.G.L.A.Z. , O.G. Style and DJ Chill will be playing the officially sanctioned Murder Dog/Damage Control showcases, which were put together by Press listings editor and KPFT DJ/freelance writer Matt Sonzala. In a major coup, Sonzala landed capital-B buzz artist Dizzee Rascal to headline the two-day event. Londoner Dizzee Rascal beat out Radiohead, Athlete, the Darkness and Floetry for the 2003 Mercury Prize, an award given to the musician or group that represents what is best and most fresh about British music. (Past winners include P.J. Harvey, Chemical Brothers, Suede, Portishead and Pulp.) Expect Dizzee's performance to be one of the most talked-about shows of the whole event.

Local rockers Linus Pauling Quartet and Fatal Flying Guilloteens as well as cacophony artistes Rusted Shut made the cut, as did reggae band Neutral Sisters, funk/reggae/rock/world-beatsters D.R.U.M. , DJs Sean Carnahan and Henry Chow, and country band Hilary Sloan and Aunt Erma's Filling Station. Not a bad cross-section, though it could have been deeper in rock, blues, country, Latin hip-hop and rock en español.

Ergo, Super Happy Fun Land will host the second annual South By Due East fest on Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21. So far, Sonny Boy Terry, Poetry in Reverse, New Jack Hippies, Drop Trio, Secret Beat Society, Opie Hendrix, Chango Jackson, Quantum Five, Carrie Buchanan and Collective Hallucination have confirmed, and many others are expected to enlist.

Meanwhile, over in Austin, left-out Houston bands will be represented on the trade show floor by the Dingo Gold Records/TexasJam.com booth, which will be hosted by Mike Pruneda and Aerik from Hollister Fracus. (Along with fellow hard rockers Tin Henry, Hollister Fracus is signed to the Dingo Gold label.) If you want your band's music and promo materials to be showcased on the SXSW floor, contact aerik@hollisterfracus.com.

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