The Rocks Off 200: Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez
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.
We first encountered Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez when he served as a judge for the Red Bull Thre3Style DJ Competition earlier this year. The wide-eyed, animated producer is a never-ending oracle of music, both from H-Town and beyond.
We also had the pleasure of spending some time in his home as The Legendary K-OTIX gathered to practice for their reunion concert. With stories ranging from his dealing with DJ Screw to his history with DJ Premier, Russel entices and entertains, much like the music he creates.
Photo by Marco Torres
Who? Born and Raised in Houston, "The ARE" says he started producing music in 1992. He stayed with K-OTIX through the '90s and went on to produce songs for Keyshia Cole, Nicki Minaj, Lil' Kim , LL Cool J and others.
Home Base: Houston, Gonzalez says, but he also works in New York and Los Angeles from time to time. "As a producer, the Internet has made it easier for me to stay in Houston more, although I still prefer to go to the artist and work with them in person," he says. "There's a certain bond that builds when working in the same room with an artist, and that can really come through in the music.
"We need more of that," he adds.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "I stay in Houston because my family is here and with today's technology, it is easy to send files and work with artist via computer," The ARE says. "I love going to NY or LA to work but as far as living, Houston is where it's at.
"I find it easier to relax here and be creative," he explains. "Plus, my daughter is here and I can never be too far away from her."
Story continues on the next page.
Photo by Marco Torres
Good War Story: It begins when K-OTIX was booked into the Hip Hop Kemp festival in the Czech Republic capital of Prague. "After a long flight and layover in Paris, we jumped on a tiny plane to Prague," begins The ARE.
The flight was so up and down that I became airsick and felt like I was turning green. After landing, they still had to drive an hour to get to the festival. Once we arrived, we had been awake for 27 hours and they took us directly to the stage.
Since we came from the back side of the festival, we had no idea what the crowd capacity was. As we hit the stage to perform, we walked out to 7,000-plus people. Being awake for 27 hours was no longer a factor. Immediately after the show we took an hour break, and it was time to get back on a plane and back to Houston. Hectic!
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Poor sound at a show, Gonzalez says.
"I think clubs and venues should put top priority into their sound systems," he elaborates. "There's nothing worse to me than seeing a group that you know is amazing, but the poor sound just doesn't let that greatness come to life. I know people that will go to a venue just because the sound is great."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear
- Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life
- A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders
- Radiohead, In Rainbows
- The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
"My tastes are across the board," says Gonzalez. "It's not about the genre to me, it's how the music makes me feel."
Photo by Marco Torres
Best Show(s) Ever
Attended: "The best show I ever attended was in 1993, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul & Souls of Mischief at Rockafellers West on Richmond," he says. "In my opinion, 1993 was the best year in hip-hop, period. K-OTIX was just getting things together, and that show further solidified our quest to make music and served as a blueprint to how we wanted to proceed for many years after."
Performed: "The best show I've ever performed was in Prague for the the Hip Hop Kemp festival," he says. "The energy was insane! I've had many but if I had to choose one, that would be the one."
The ARE has just released Here, My Dear, an instrumental album titled after Marvin Gaye's bitter 1975 "divorce" LP; Gonzalez says his was inspired by being a father. He's also recording again with K-OTIX and continues working with artists around the globe, including producing LL Cool J's 2012 track "Take It."
"You can catch me on the turntables around Houston from time to time spinning soul, funk and disco boogie," he adds.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
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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