justSPIN! The Freshest

Interview by Alan Ng
Words by Kevin Williams
Photography by Jenkin Au

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The justalilhype! Crew had a chance to talk to the popular demanded DJ crew, The Freshest. The team is consisted of DJ’s Kutcorners (Matt Perry), Seko (Ivan Pelen), Rico Uno (Enrico Cunanan) and Marvel (Mike Henry). Not only can you see these DJs spinning at the hottest clubs in the scene, but they have also taken part of the establishment of many well known event start-ups and are also the backbone behind the production side of many Vancouver hip-hop artists. Throughout the interview, the four established Vancity DJs speaks to us about their love towards music and explains how each party whether held at mega-clubs or smaller venues are equally important. They also had a chance to tell us about the roots and history of each of their DJ careers. In the upcoming year, The Freshest has many big plans and new mixes to share to their fans. They are very excited to hold more parties collectively so expect to hear the best hip-hop, dance, reggae, dancehall, disco music in a Frehest party around the corner.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Kutcorners: This is Kutcorners, ¼ of The Freshest Kids DJ crew in Vancouver. Been around for four years now.

Rico Uno: We came together during the night at Century House, Higher Ground. I think that’s how the crew started.

Was that the night where you all got along and DJed for the same gig?

Marvel: Yea in terms of a nightclub.

Seko: We were friends before that though. That was the night that brought us all together.

R: All you guys were DJing together already. I met you guys while I was working at Beat Street, and then we starting playing basketball together. Then we started hanging out.

K: Helping each other out, that’s also when Serato first came out. The dude that had all that cool Serato shit was Rico; he was really up on his technology. He was the first dude that has Serato.

What’s the meaning behind the name, The Freshest?

K: Freshest Kids was the name that came out because of the movie. That was the initial thing that we jumped on. We were like, the fresh dudes, so the fresh DJs, so we were like the freshest kids! We dress cool, and we like clothes and shit, we like sneakers too and we like to keep it clean.

R: And musically, both fashion and musically, we try to stay ahead. Keep it moving.

S: Another thing with the night that we came together, we just played shit that no body was playing at that time. We were introducing people to new sound and new music. That was a part of being fresh, you know?

What’s the story behind each of your respective DJ names?

S: I was pretty skinny when I was a kid and my grandma used to call me Seko, it kind of meant dry and skinny.

M: A little jerky.

(Everyone laughs.)

S: That’s pretty much it and then all the kids in my neighborhood started calling me that. Then I moved to Canada. Which is weird, because I didn’t tell anybody, but all these Spanish kids I use to hang out with in high school, they started calling me that. And I never told them that. You know what I mean?

R: Rico Uno, yea. I don’t know. Rico is my name. My last name is too hard to say. There’s a singer in the Philippines called Rico J Puno, I thought that it would be a funny joke to play with it a little bit and it’s easy to say.

M: Growing up as a kid, I was a comic book collector. When I decided to peruse DJing, I was not really though about a name yet, and then I was on the phone with a friend just thinking of different names. I wanted something that started with my name to cosign with my name. We were just going through the dictionary saying names back and fourth and she suggested Marvel, and then I thought it kind of worked so I just let it ride.

K: I was into scratching and I just wanted to cut, yea I have a terrible name. Yea, Kutcorners was obviously inspired by a certain rolling paper company. You know? I was young and I am pretty sure everyone smoked a joint at some point. Your in Vancouver, the chance that you smoked a joint at that age is high.

(Everyone laughs)

Each of you have achieved your own name as a DJ in the scene, can you tell us a bit about yourself personally as a DJ?

K: I started out as a musician at first. DJing was this other thing that I wanted to do because I really liked DJ Premier and all these other DJs that made beats and scratched. I got into that and collecting records and stuff. Obviously, it was all hip-hop and soul but as time went on, I got into other stuff as well. Rediscovering music that I like as a kid and obviously meeting friends, this crew, and other people in the city, they turn me on to other sounds. Being in Canada, you are being exposed to so many different sounds.

R: Now what is the new Mattie doing?

K: The new Mattie is focusing on productions again. That’s really the focus. Playing more instruments. Doing remixes is one thing but I am learning how to really write songs that stand on their own. I mess with the same people that I did six years ago. Collin, Seth and I are actually working on a group right now; it’s called District 36.  We all do beats, and go by the name Metronome Click, and so we are trying to do newer rap music, which is progressive as well, not just the same old stuff.

M: My name is Michael Henry, DJ Marvel. I am the 2nd quarter of this crew. I also like DJing and I definitely come from a hip-hop background. I was influenced by a lot of scratch DJs at the time, and then through that lead to party rocking. Going out and doing gigs. Boring answer, but that’s me.

R: That’s it?

M: I guess.

R: Are you touring a lot and all that?

M: I was going to save it for later, I am just going to use that as my introduction.

R: Well, I am Rico Uno. I guess I am the newest DJ out of all of us. I started DJing at a radio show at UBC for a while. It was originally called Rhyme and Reasons then we changed it to Crime and Treasons and from that, I just started working at a record store. My first DJ gigs were a lot of underground hip-hop shows. At the same time, what became kind of hipster stuff now I guess. My first gig was Monday Night Life.  With the whole Internet, it really opened up music from the world to us. I’ve taken all the direction, every direction possible that a DJ can take and been to a lot of crazy parties.

S: DJ Seko, straight from Guatemala. I was really into mixing sounds and stuff. I used to work at the radio station where my dad used to work in Guatemala at one of the major stations. Just being around all that equipment, like the mixing boards, and all that stuff, it really got me into it. Then I came to Canada and I discovered hip-hop out here. I found mix tapes from Roc Raida to JSwing or Flipout, I listened to a lot of DJ mix and scratch and watching WildStylez, that got me into the whole DJ culture. Yea, I did underground hip-hop nights FWH at Sonar on Friday Nights. I use to DJ at Room2 so it’s pretty cool, I got to play some good underground hip-hop back then, and then just broke into more club and mainstream stuff. But you know what I mean; I’m still keeping it raw. Been putting out pod casts and mix tapes. Going out of town, do gigs, shit like that. Keeping busy really, man.

What is the approach in creating these mix tapes, and what do these mixes mean to you?

M: I think for us collectively, we have all been doing mix tapes for a long time.  Matt’s always been putting out mixes. Rico has always been on some next level stuff with his mix tapes. Seko and me have been messing around with mixes for quite a bit too. Today I revisited one of the mixes we did a long time ago but it’s still relevant I feel. It still sounds good.

K: I think when we do mix tapes, you can be a club DJ, you can be a mix tape DJ or you can be both. Mix tapes really give you a different platform. You can introduce music to people in different ways. You can put your own twist on things and people are more receptive in hearing it. You are not trying to make people dance; you are just trying to make something for people to listen to. You can kind of mess with it a bit more, try new things and introduce new music. With this one, “What the F”, we all worked on it together so that was probably the biggest thing that we have done as a collective. Basically when we do a pod cast, each individual does 10-15 minutes. For this one, we sat down and choose a whole list of songs and then we did our own remixes on stuff. I’d say the majority of this is all remix and blended by us.

R: Probably three quarters of that.

K: We all helped each other out with it too. When someone had an idea, then Rico or Seko or Marvel would suggest and give their own views on it. That was a really good reflection of what we did. We also wanted to keep it with a club feel so it’s a representation or what you hear us play in the clubs. So we try to do different genres, without making it sound like something thrown together, it’s got to be cohesive and I think we all really focus on trying to be smooth with shit in clubs and mix tapes. It should flow, you know?

R: I mean we spent so long on it; we almost spent a year.

K: Yea, and a lot of songs got taken off.

R: A year, a lot of things change musically, I mean I think that will stand out. In a few years, we made so it won’t be disposable.

S: Also, with the, What The F, that’s what we are going to be playing at a Freshest Kids party, that’s what it’s going to sound.

R: I mean there some songs that you might not know so with the mix, you are really introducing people to something that they might not know or like yet.

K: And that means when they come to see it at the club. If you have something for them to listen to and take home and get familiar with. When they hear it at the club, then they have a reaction to it. And that’s like such an important part of doing a night. We have all been involved in creating nights but that’s an important part in creating a name for the crew.

R: But also breaking music that we love. I mean we love so much music but not everyone gets to hear it, you know? And that’s a reason on why we DJ.

K: That’s like the pod cast we do too, it’s like sharing. We love this stuff; see if you guys do too.

(Kutcorners laughs)

K: I don’t know, I guess we get pretty positive feedback.

Speaking of the creation of mix tapes, previously you guys worked on the creation of a compilation of Ring Tones, can you tell us a bit more about that?

M: That was Matt’s idea. We were actually finishing up a pod cast one day at the studio.

K: I mean anyone could do it, I probably shouldn’t tell you how.

(Everyone laughs)

K: I will share it, but not tell you the exact program. I was trying to figure out how to make ring tones…

M: It was Ableton!

K: Yea. So you just make a little loop and make it 10 seconds. I had like that Beasties Boys: “The Phone was Ringing, oh my god”. I just looped it and put some 808 kicks with it.

M: We got more excited as he put each instrument in. I remember Seko getting pretty excited.

K: Yea, I started because I got so sick of those generic iPhone ring tones and I didn’t want to go to those websites, I didn’t want to go pay money and pay for all these ring tones. Anyways, I got burnt by those. I don’t know about you guys. I wanted to make my own, fuck it. And that’s how it happened.

M: And we all just had our own idea. Rico made the Booty call one, Seko got the De La Soul, and I came up with a few on my own as well like Phone Tap, and Ring the Alarm. Also, you can’t forget that Rhek put together a t-shirt for that and  also, Cam McCloud made a commercial for that and it was really good, check it out.

S: That’s how much people were excited about the ring tones.

M: Yea, they were excited to do it, and we definitely think we are having Volume 2 coming out.

Speaking of your approach of making music, it seems like you guys are very creative with all these projects. Is there an upcoming project that our readers should know about?

K: We are always going to focus on creative marketing. Especially with the Internet because that’s just what music is. So yea, you are definitely going to hear hopefully more ring tones this year. We are really focusing on doing original music as well. You can be a DJ and play other people’s songs but when you get other people playing your songs, you step up to the next level. People can play it on the radio or whatever so people start to recognize you. There are no bands in hip-hop, you know? What we are is a band for hip-hop. We all do shit, and try to be The Freshest so we can put out a record and be like, this is us.

R: Look out for a Freshest Record in the summer!

Branching off on this, what are individual pieces that you guys specialize in?

K: I think it’s just our styles. I guess we just bring our own flavors to it. We will help each other out with that like a band would. Everyone of us do different things really well and we all have a ear for something different so we always work together and then put it all out, then it will be The Freshest Record.

Throughout the whole DJ scene of Vancouver, you guys have been on the grind of doing many major events and projects. Personally, throughout all these gigs, what was the most significant event or project that you have gone through?

M: I think one of my favorite things was opening up during Rock the Bells last year. I got to DJ for Slum Village and that was really inspiring just seeing that many people still really are in love with hip-hop. The energy there was amazing. Just being able to be apart of something like that was a great honor.

R: I think one of the most rewarding things for me lately has been the Re-Up party that I have been doing with Genie, because we both really just love new music. There’s so much good, new, black music coming out that isn’t being recognize by a lot of people. We did a mix tape for Re-Up, called ‘Swag Surfing’, it was focused on a lot of the new southern stuff that the teenagers are doing right now. The response to the mix tape was amazing. It was so good that our friend picked it up and put it as a Mad Decent pod cast. Dippo came to the Re-Up party and played for free after I opened for the Major Laser show, and that was a crazy party that we had at the back of Pop Opera. You had to come in through the back alley and it was just this tiny room. The response was amazing. We recently brought it back to the Livestock Room at Fortune Sound Club. People really missed it. When we brought it back, it was amazing. The music we were playing was really new cutting edge stuff, and by doing mix tapes and getting people the songs, it opens them up to music that I love, and I feel that needs a little more attention and appreciation.

K: It creates a culture within the community. That’s the thing, that’s what DJs should do. That’s what they are there for. This is Vancouver, it’s a community and you need people to do stuff and anyone can do it. It’s just who’s committed to doing it and keep on doing it because sometimes, you don’t get a lot of rewards because sometimes no one turns up to your shit. Like what the fuck? Do I suck?

S:  Yea, working with JayKin that really inspired me to keep doing what I am doing right now. I DJed for him at Raekwon, he actually acknowledged our show, like JayKin on his set. It pretty much caught his ear, that means you are doing a good job when a hip-hop legend under Wu Tang, acknowledges your show before him. Just working with JayKin, I got the chance to open for a lot of hip-hop legends like The Roots, Common, sold out shows at The Commodore. You know what I mean? Your hometown is giving love to you. We represented Vancouver. That was pretty much the highlights for me.

Being involved with music for so long, you know a whole different type of sound out there, but has being in the scene for so long made hunting for specific sound easier or harder?

R: Personally, I don’t look for a specific sound. I like progress. I am always looking for new stuff. Kind of putting myself out there to a lot of shit music.

(Rico laughs)

R: Just to find some next shit. Or they are really doing something new or different. They love it. I don’t know. There’s so much music out there, it definitely makes it hard. Since there’s so much music out there, traditional hip-hop is kind of left behind and just because there’s all this stuff, oh yea you forgot about this hip-hop niche that used to be the thing.  How about you guys? Looking for music? I don’t know.

M: Same thing, I listen to a lot of stuff, going to shows. Hearing other DJs play.

S: Checking out mix tapes. I like to watch music videos.

K: I think we are fortunate though, because we are DJs, we are surrounded by a lot of DJs so we get exposed to a lot of good music. I say it’s pretty easy. In my opinion, I like a lot of older music. There’s so much music that happened already, there’s so much music that was made. Rediscovering things that people might have forgotten about as a kid. There’s so much music that has been made that you just have to find. You have to keep your ears open.

As the whole turntablism and DJ culture transcends from being underground to mainstream, there’s lots of competitions out there. What are your views upon these competitions and awards?

S: I feel that competitions these days are just like a gimmick to bring people to a club. Before you had the DMCs but I think the whole DJ Culture back in the days were a bit different. Now, it’s just gimmick really. Club owners try to make DJ competitions just to make some bar sales.

K: I don’t think music should be a competition.

M: That’s true. I feel like I’ve won a competition if you danced all night and had a good time and want to come back.

K: Certain sports are like that too, like skateboarding, it’s not a competition. It’s a lot about expression; it’s a solitary thing. You shouldn’t compete musically.

R: I think we just spent a lot of our times working on music than worrying about awards and nominations.

K: It would be great if we all got awards, sure, I am down! If you think I am cool, vote for me!

R: But I think we are already doing so many of our own events and working on music, we rather just share the music than like: “I am the number 1 whatever DJ”.

What do you think is next for the whole DJ scene in general?

R: I think there’s no getting out of the consumer culture, like marketing from DJing. You have to be involved with that. It’s 2010; you live in this world right now.

K: Turntablism is awesome and all. But there was more of a focus on how fast you can do something, like how fast you can do something instead of what songs you are doing. I like scratching so I am not going be like, it wasn’t fun. But it got to the point where it was too much on technical work and less about what you were feeling. You don’t want to go to a club and hear that. People would like to hear scratching and doubles done in a tasteful way and there’s still a lot of people that do it really well in clubs.

R: I mean I think that is what sets us apart from being a DJ crew in Vancouver I guess. We are more about the sharing the music instead of kind of marketing, or going for awards or whatever. Yea I’ve been asked to do these competitions but like the last RedBull3Style I basically went into it, trying to get disqualified. I gave away the turntables; I did a whole set on the APC 40 and Ableton Live. I was just challenging. I came second place the year before telling everything that they told me to, but you know? I don’t know. I just basically did a set of good music without any turntables. How can you rate me now? You know? I am doing this for the love of music. Or for some Internet awards. I think we have the most solid parties in Vancouver.

K: I rather have a whole lot of people listening to me, than a whole lot of people voting for me.

R: We are sharing good music with them.

K: People like Daft Punk; they don’t even have a face. People don’t even know what they look like. That’s my point. You don’t need to see somebody.

Throughout your careers, there’s definitely been lots of love shown to The Freshest Kids, what are some of the people that really made an impact to y’all as DJs?

R: GMANandRIZK.

M: They did a lot for us.

R: That’s a huge one.

M: Putting us on their events. Helping us out with promotion. Hooking us up with gear.

K: People that come down on a regular basis to our nights.

R: Just helping out our parties. I guess he kind of caught on to us early. GMAN is a lover of music. He loves culture and he loves all that is around it. He totally helped us out with like Block Party, CDs, and promo for the parties. In almost every aspect of what we did. We are in there with GMAN and Livestock and TimeBomb. Those guys are really are down for music, for good shit. Big shout out to Rhek, he’s been doing our posters, a lot of our art.

S: Martini, Vancity Originals at DIPT, he sponsored one of the early mix tapes that we’ve done.  He blew our mixes at his store and shit like that.

K: Alex at Underworld, for me, personally. He’s been really helpful and behind me.

For ones that have not been to a Freshest Kids party, what should they expect?

K: Well, definitely rap music will be there.

S: Like what I said, the “What the F” kind of reflects The Freshest Kids party. We play some rap and we are very versatile as well.  Like Kutcorners said earlier, when we come together there’s different flavors and styles. That makes it more fun and girls like it.

What upcoming major events is The Freshest Kids participating in?

This summer we have been challenged by Neil in Saskatoon, he’s the owner of Scratch Club. Him and his team for the 10-year anniversary of the Momentum Shop, are putting together this extravaganza. Which are us, The Freshest, versus the Eh Team, also known as the Canadian DJ Crew. We are going to battle it out, a basketball game and get drunk after and play music at Saskatoon.

What is HYPE?

S: HYPE, for me I see different meanings for it. The media is HYPE, you know what I mean? Fuck, that shit is HYPE. You see something that you like, and you kind of use that term. That shit is HYPE.

K: Don’t believe the HYPE though. I think its energy though. It could be negative or positive. Attention.

R: Attention? Yea. Whether good or bad.

K: It can be bad, but it’s definitely energy and attention.

M: For lack of a better word, Matt kind of nailed it there with that one. For sure, drawing your attention to something, open to new ideas I guess, whether good or bad.