The Rocks Off 200: Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja

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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.

Who? Santos Pastrana tells us that he is a musician, turntablist, DJ and live sound engineer. "I say it in that order" he stresses, "because that's how my life evolved." He grew up in Southern Maine on the Atlantic coast ("long cold winters and short beautiful summers") and played instruments as a child, then started DJing in his teens and became a sound guy in his twenties. Pastrana has been living in Houston for six years now, and loves it because "it's nice and warm here."

"I played the trumpet for nine to ten years growing up, first classical and then jazz," he recounts. "Got into DJing in high school and eventually become obsessed with turntablism and DJ battles. I like consonant-sounding music -- never been a big fan of dissonance, but I do appreciate good tension and release in songs. I like funk, soul, dance, hip-hop, rap, rock, metal, classical, reggae, big band, jazz and Motown.

"Really, any kind of music that is composed well and has more that just surface-level ideas," concludes Pastrana.

Home Base: "I run sound at Warehouse Live, and pick up other gigs as they are presented to me," Pastrana says. "At Warehouse I'm always practicing some sort of scenario, so I try to run experiments or do maintenance while I'm at work, and am always trying to learn new audio concepts.

"I practice turntablism/DJing at home in a dedicated room where I spend time working on battle routines and other musical compositions," he continues. "The big competition I'm always working towards is the DMC; I want to be in at least one of the USA DMC finals videos. I do some turntablism showcase sets around town from time to time. Club DJing is not a big interest to me any more -- it gets old."

Why Do You Stay In Houston? "It's warm and people are chill," offers Pastrana. "There's work."

Good War Story: Pastrana pleads the Fifth on this one, although we imagine every show is its own battle.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "People making new music that sounds the same as everyone else, especially rap, he begins. "The music industry brainwashing the non-musician people by releasing all this dumbed-down music. There is way more to music, sound waves and vibrations that the general population never gets to experience or are even clued into.

"By combining different notes you can actually make human beings feel different states of emotion," explains Pastrana. "It's so vast and deep. Vibrations are found in nature, an amazing connection between the natural world and human civilization. I saw this documentary recently where a man in the a subway [was] playing the keyboard and singing; he sang, "Music is nothing more than frequencies harnessed by angles."

Story continues on the next page.

Five Desert Island Discs: "I've learned to live without things; nothing is forever," Pastrana says. "I don't really have a favorite album, but here are a few of my favorite songs:

  • Rick James, "Mary Jane"
  • Sly and the Family Stone, "Que Sera Sera"
  • Parliament, "Not Just Knee Deep"
  • Kraftwerk, "Metal On Metal"
  • The Chi-Lites, "Have You Seen Her"

Best Show You Ever Saw: "The Roots in Worcester, Mass., at the Palladium," he says. "I was still young then and concerts were new. The musicianship of The Roots is phenomenal. They had all these ill guests: Jill Scott, Black Moon, Mos Def, Common. It was ill!"

Pastrana will be competing as The Don Santos at DMC Dallas on April 11. Check out his mixtape on Mixcloud, and follow him on Instagram at @thedonsantos.

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.


Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor 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



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