The Rocks Off 200: Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, 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. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Photos courtesy of Flash Gordon Parks
Who? If you see Flash Gordon Parks around a set of turntables -- which you can often do on "The Island" around 3700 Main or other spots like Leon's, Boondocks or The Flat -- it's better than even money you're in for a funky good time. Parks pours an encyclopedic knowledge of soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop and more into sets that will make you think as much as they make you sweat. That's no easy feat, but he makes it sound that way.
Parks is also an acclaimed photographer who started at his Third Ward alma mater, Jack Yates High School. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography at Sam Houston State University, and in 2005 published a book, The Beautiful Side of Ugly, with poet/emcee EQuality. Combining EQuality's verse with Parks' images, the book aims to, according to its co-creator, "document the beauty of urban areas in Houston, Texas."
Parks says he sees his role as a DJ as "not only to entertain, but expose the audience to music that may not be accessible in familiar arenas." He wants his sets to be a mixture of music-history lesson, memory-jogger and new-artist spotlight, "all the while compelling you to lose your inhibitions and dance."
To that end, in December 2008 he co-founded the "Straight No Chaser" series of listening parties to, says Parks, "highlight local and world-renowned artists [and] provide a refreshing entertainment alternative to the city."
Home Base: Currently Parks presides over two such parties: Taste, sophisticated soul Wednesdays at the Alley Kat (3718 Main); and the rarer grooves of Easin' In (Doing Our Thang) at Boondocks (1417 Westheimer) the first Saturday of every month.
Good War Story: Parks describes himself as a passionate record collector of all genres, "particularly records that have a connection to Houston." His story concerns beloved Montrose resale shop Vintage Oasis, which was tragically destroyed by fire this past June.
"It was notorious for having tons of vintage clothing, hence the name," he opens.
But it also had tons of records hidden under mounds of leisure suits, platform shoes and such. Every so often I would pop in and dig up a LP or two but never really scratch the surface. I just assumed heavyweight OG collectors like Brett Koshkin, DJ Sun, The Are and DJ Cipher had already gotten all the gems so what's the point, right?
One day I just decide to dig as deep as I could. I went in every single room, [and] looked in every corner seeking out records that I'd been looking for. And man did I find them. I found sealed original copies of Soul Searchers' Salt of the Earth album, which is sort of famous for all the famous breaks and samples on it. Ashley's Roachclip alone...
But the most amazing find was an original sealed copy of Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen Plus One Energy Control Center. I gladly paid the $3 asking price. After that discovery I would come back for years finding gems here and there. Unfortunately Vintage Oasis burned down this past summer. Such a loss to the community.
That place was a time capsule. I left a lot great records there, just taking for granted I could always come back and grab them.
Story continues on the next page.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "There's no place like home," Parks explains. "Houston is so diverse. It's cosmopolitan, (Sub)Urban, Country, Artistic, Musical, Historic. If we had weather like San Diego, it would be utopia."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "I love all the unique pockets that Houston offers; there is something here for you no matter what your taste is," he says. "The unfortunate thing is there is no central hub for all the great events that take place in this town. So sometimes things may fly under the radar that were definitely worth checking out and you hear about it after the fact."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Stevie Wonder, Talking Book
- Nas, Illmatic
- Sade, Love Deluxe
- Earl Moseley, Facing the Sun
- Little Dragon, Little Dragon
Best Concert You Ever Saw: Earth Wind & Fire at Verizon Wireless Theater July 12, 2008: "I still have the ticket stub, that's how memorable it was," says Parks. "No opening act -- from beginning to end, the energy was beyond belief. People dancing in the aisles. All ages, all races, all getting down!
Honorable Mention: "SADE."
First Song You Fell In Love With: "Pretty sure it was something by Michael Jackson or The Jackson 5," he offers. "But hip-hop changed everything for me as a little kid. The first hip-hop song I fell in love with was Whodini, 'Five Minutes of Funk' -- my older cousin would play it all the time and I was hooked."
Flash Gordon Parks spins another Taste session Wednesday at the Alley Kat and this Saturday teams up with DJ Klinch to present the "Skill Set" class in DJ culture at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. Starts at 2 p.m.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
THE ROCKS OFF 100 2013 ALUMNI
Crystal Toliver, Source of That Yello Echo You Hear Mr. Castillo, Song-Sniping DJ DJ Big Reeks, The Chief Waxaholic Melane Gutierrez, The Coffin Queen Folk Descendent Kevin Taylor Kendrick Eloy Contreras, Deathrazor's Sharp Thrash Vocals Robert McCarthy, Guitarist From Beyond Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, The Manichean's "Quiet One" Charlie Horshack, LP4's Guitar Warrior Kathryn Hallberg, Little Girl Gone Tessa Kole, PuraPharm's Voice and Vice Richard Griesser, Vintage Camera Hound With Enviable Archive Downfall 2012, Sci-Fi Metal Storytellers Kevin Choate, Drum Like You're Screaming DJ Rockwell, Booth Pimp and Party-Rocker Ash Kay, the Freakouts' Punk Vocal Head-Butt Pat Kelly, The Godfather of the Suffers Michelle Miears of BLSHS, Siren In the Machine DJ Remix, Genre-Hopping Mix Maniac Kahna, Brutal Nation's Metal Booking Queen DJ Ill Set, Enemy of Wack Tracks Shane Tuttle, Updog Owner and Album-Cover Designer Electric Attitude, Renegades of Funk Sama'an Ashrawi, Trill Gladiator Recon Naissance, A Rap While Matt's Guitar Gently Weeps DJ Klinch Asks, "Can You Dig It?" Jose "Chapy" Luna, Percussionist Con Corazón Love Dominique, Wicked Heart R&B Chanteuse Chris Gerhardt, Mastermind of Giant Battle Monster The Jobe Wilson Band, the Boys From Chambers County Kimberly M'Carver, Missouri City's Nightingale DJ Panchitron, Stirring the Cumbia/Moombahton Melting Pot D.R.I's Kurt Brecht, Thrash Zone Supervisor Sloan Robley, The Last Houstonian Banshee Jack Saunders, Dealer of Grit & Jangle Richard Ramirez, Noise God and Black Leather Jesus Mike Meegz, Scoremore's Houston Lieutenant Jacqui Sutton, Houston's "Jazzgrass Lady" Robin Kirby, Silk and Sandpaper Songwriter Billy Dorsey, Grammy-Winning MARATHON Runner David DeLaGarza, Don of Tejano Stars La Mafia Jason Puffer, Your Psychedelic Sex Panther Tobin Harvell, Fitzgerald's Unflappable Floor Manager Walter Suhr, the Straw That Stirs Mango Punch! Tony Garza, La Orquesta Salmerum Founder OG Ron C, Chopstar King of the Purple Dome Football, etc., Giving Emo Back Its Good Name Angela Jae, Renaissance Artist Shellee Coley, Voice of the Northern Woods Blaggards, Houston's St. Paddy's Day House Band DJ Meshak, Hongree Records' Sound Selecter K-Rino, South Park Coalition's Southside Maven DJ Candlestick, One Niceguy and a Very Busy DJ Danielle Renee, Only Beast's Destroyer of Walls Felipe Galvan of Los Skarnales Kristine Mills, Houston's Brassiest Voice Brian Davis, Punk Drummer, Horror Composer Elroy Boogie, Top-Notch Turntablist Sean Ozz, Wizard of The Abyss Alyssa Rubich, Angel of Instability Alphonso "Fonz" Lovelace, Righteous Drummer Frank Zweback, Funkmaster General OG Bobby Trill, Bombon Beatmaker Beau Beasley, Organist for the End of Time Rapid Ric, Mixtape Mechanic Dwight Taylor Lee, the Wandering Bufalero Coline Creuzot, Soulful Pop/R&B Singer Cristina Acuna, Cactus Music's Twitter Fingers Clint Broussard, Blues In Hi-Fi Man Now Back On FM Nortnii Rose, Houston Ska's Greatest Hope Ramblin' Chase Hamblin, the Man Who Will Be Paid Chris Alonzo, Bringing Night Flight to Facebook
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