The Rocks Off 100: DJ Sun, Builder of Soular Grooves
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.
DJ Sun circa 2010
Photos courtesy of DJ Sun
Who? The man who goes by DJ Sun was born in The Netherlands, grew up in the small South American country of Suriname and moved to Houston in 1985. He began DJing in 1993 and has headed up KPFT's Saturday-night program Soular Grooves (9 p.m.-12 a.m.) for 18 years. After a couple of EPs and 45s, Sun's first full-length release, One Hundred, is scheduled to be released on January 19.
"I am of multi-mixed race, so to speak, but will say that my great-grandfather migrated from China to Suriname in 1858," he says. "His name is where the name Sun is sourced from."
Home Base: Sun has several Houston residencies, at The Flat, Onion Creek, Cha and Boheme, and spins once every two months in Washington, D.C. "I produce music in my home studio and work closely with Tim Ruiz, my engineer and music collaborator, in his studio," he adds.
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Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Houston is amazing," he says. "The cost of living is like no other city, for the size of it. The support I get here for my music, radio show and DJing is unmatched and the warmth (literally and figuratively) allows for great work and collaboration. Why would I go elsewhere and start over(?!) after 20 years?"
Good War Story: Sun once opened for electro-soul act Jamiroquai in Fort Worth "sometime in the '90s." We'll let him take it from there. Like Anna Garza last week, he told two.
Usually, as an opening act I would request, sometimes insist, that I be placed onstage. It didn't make sense to be placed near the mixing booth across from the stage. Well, because I wasn't in my hometown, I guess, I was a bit more timid about the issue.
When I asked the traveling sound guy (he with the thick British accent) where my monitor was, he just looked me up and down in a condescending manner, pointed across the room to the main speaker and in the thickest of accents said, "there's your monitor, bloke!"
Playing a set while monitoring at least 20 feet across means that you get AT LEAST a half-second delay...lesson learned! Always, always advance a show, and ensure that you are on stage WITH a monitor.
Part 2: Monitor story. I was booked to open for Dave Chapelle (before he blew up on the Comedy Channel) at Verizon Wireless Theater. We both had monitors, but the feed (the sound that goes into the speaker) to the monitor only contained the sound from my turntables, and so I couldn't hear him since the place was sold out and he was stationed about ten feet in front of me.
So when he asked me to play something for one of his jokes, I couldn't hear him and I became the joke instead - he took the opportunity to really make a fool out of me, which of course I took like a good sport. 1. I had no choice 2. I couldn't tell what he was saying about me anyway.
Lesson 2: when you DO get a monitor, make sure you get ALL the sound in your monitor, if you are performing with others.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "I preach continuously that the music scene in Houston is too 'fractured,'" says Sun. "What I mean by that [is] the landscape is too big, and bands/musicians of all styles should work together and network better, regardless of the differences in style/genre. We are all musicians and share the same struggles.
"Houston also needs a centralized music district, similar to how the museum district is in one geographic footprint," he adds.
5 Records You Can't Live Without: First Sun steers us to his "One Hundred Days to One Hundred" project on his Soular Grooves Web site, where he recently posted his "5 Landmark Albums" in entries No. 71, 72, 74, 75 and 76. But because he's a nice guy, he listed them for us anyway.
- Massive Attack, Blue Lines
- Portishead, Dummy
- Bob Marley & the Wailers, Rastaman Vibration
- Bob Marley & the Wailers, Kaya
- A Tribe Called Quest, People's Instinctive Travels...
Best Show Ever: "I have a ton of awesome shows, a number of them in Austin," says Sun. "For a 20-year career, I'm apt to miss something, but I'll name a few:
- "Playing at Giant Step in NYC in '96 with Groove Collective and James Taylor Quartet (DJ set)
- "Opening for Roy Ayers in Toronto (DJ set)
- "Opening and playing with Groove Collective on a number of shows in Austin (DJ set, and scratching with the band)
- "Performance with the live band DJ Sun & Resolution at SXSW 2012 (playing keys)
- "Opening for Moby in Houston (DJ set)
- Opening for Tricky, Thievery Corporation and Morcheeba: "All heavily charged shows full of great energy in the crowd!
- "So many of the nights at Brasil Cafe on Mondays between 1997 and 2005"
"I can go on and on, actually," he says. "This has been a great, fun career!"
Sun closes by describing One Hundred, which he says will be available locally on CD and full-length vinyl and be distributed internationally by INgrooves/Fontana. "In order to count down to the release of the album, I am doing a blog a day (a video blog per week) for the hundred days preceding the release," he says. He posts them both to www.soulargrooves.com and his Facebook page.
"I also have a live band, with which I play at festivals and special events: DJ SUN & Resolution. "We mainly cover obscure space-themed songs and do some original songs as well."
Tonight you can catch DJ Sun at CHA Champagne & Wine Bar, 810 Waugh.
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