The Gaslamp Killer is a maniac among maniacs of several different categories, but attains his highest highs as a producer, turntablist and hairstyle daredevil. His birthday was Wednesday and he speaks now while resting up from another night at Low End Theory. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
Is it fair to say you made over 1,200 trips to L.A. for parties before you finally moved here? Shit! Now the first word of this interview is ‘shit.’ I think that might be accurate. It’s well over a thousand. The most repetitive things I’ve done in my life are try to make a beat, try to learn new scratches, practicing music, playing my drum set and complaining about the weather or something retarded. Ever think about complaining over a beat you sampled from your own drum set? It’s almost there—I should try and bring it all together! One giant OCD freakfest! Are you the George Carlin of the slam mix? That would be such an honor! To be compared to such a genius! Depending on how drunk I am, a lot of things come out on the mic at night—like the word ‘motherfucker’ every other word! Wasn’t ‘motherfucker’ once an official part of your name? I was angry one day and angry at the world and society! But there is a story behind the name. Did you wake up with blood on your hands? I played in downtown San Diego, which is Naval Surf Academy meets the Laguna Beach MTV show—that’s what I grew up with. I didn’t have a nurturing community to DJ from. I’d be playing—from the age of 17—every weekend, escorted in and out of fancy Gaslamp District clubs to play for meatheads. Give me one Coca-Cola and escort me out—couldn’t sell CDs, couldn’t give away stickers. Usually I cleared the dance floor and made the meatheads mad—the girls wouldn’t dance. But the promoters liked it. So they kept bringing me back to educate these meatheads. I was always playing instrumental psych dirty beats. A friend of mine was like, ‘You’re the only one in the Gaslamp doing what you’re doing—the only one killing the Gaslamp!’ And we didn’t have a name for the mixtape, so we called it Gaslamp Killers. Do you ever get nostalgic? Miss the meatheads? Definitely. People take longer to evolve—no disrespect. But I see people from my high school now and they’re like, ‘Willie, we’re so proud! I never knew this music!’ I’m glad people are getting into it. Maybe there’s a little more education. But I still clear the dancefloor! It still fucking happens! I start with Little Weezy and I still kill! B+ dubbed me the Dancefloor Killer—lovingly. I clear it and fill it with nerds—people who just wanna break their necks and freak out. People who wanna be sexy—there’s enough of them in the world. They can all suffer. Are you hated by the sexy? Hated by people trying to get sexy. There aren’t any sexy moments—I can’t see people grinding to my music, and if they were, I’d tell them to stop! Nah, I dance. A lot of DJs say, ‘My job is for the people—I’m here to cater’—you gotta be an artist, too. You gotta have passion—be an artist, an educator, have more motivation than ‘I wanna make people dance around.’ How did you decide that was important? I had really good friends letting me know. I was jocking their shit, and my good friend Michael Raymond Russell of MRR-ADM—dirtydrums.com, who just did a 10” on Now Again—told me, ‘Don’t ever cater! If there’s any advice you ever take for me in your entire life, don’t cater! It’s not gonna get you where you’re gonna go! Your job is to educate—to play the dirtiest rawest stuff! Push it to the next level!’ He inspired me. And it took them so long to get their music out the way they wanted. People like Mike Russell, Adam Manella, my friend DJ 10shun—they were playing the rawest shit and scratching the illest and were on the next shit, in my opinion. They were all killing it so hard. You gotta be as good or better than your friends. And now it’s people like Samiyam, Flying Lotus, Ras G, Dimlite, Nosaj Thing—they’re all pushing! Mr. Chop, Heliocentrics, Cherrystones—they’re making me wanna lose my mind and explode! Making me wanna be a DJ who just spins their music! You seem like you have a lot of high highs and low lows. I have no balance in my life right now. I’m searching for balance. Is that why you have half an afro and half braids? Exactly! Highs and lows—always intense! Not only am I a neurotic obsessive-compulsive Jew—I’m a Scorpio! Every Scorpio I know is a freak like me. We’re very intense people. We don’t really have a choice. What your favorite souvenir from every continent you’ve been to recently? I don’t buy ‘em—but I have mental and emotional and soul souvenirs! Tons of those! In the U.K., I was getting to hang with Cherrystones. The guy is a virtual—well, library! I go over there and he has books and movies I never heard of—not to mention the illest records! I could sit at his crib all day and educate myself. And spending time with new friends in Australia—my hosts were so cool! As soon as I got off the plane, they had a joint in my hand. Did all those Unreleased Beat Invitationals make you pay extra attention to your own work? Hell yeah! It’s because of Low End Theory—not only me, but everyone has actually stepped it up, you know? Low End Theory made Lotus freak out—every one of us. Nobody’s beats are so fucking hard lately. People are gonna be blown away! Low End Theory has affected all of our styles—‘Yeah, I can use samples, and sample psych and Ethiopian, but you still gotta have the 808 in there…’ You’re a Low End Theory resident—what do you think the club has brought to Los Angeles? It’s given nerds like me a platform to be really—accepted? Accepted and appreciated and—Low End Theory provided a place for nerds and beatheads to be really nurtured. It’s a community outreach program! I shit you not! 18-year-old kids are coming in and all they hear is the same stuff on the radio and they can’t go to clubs so they just go to raves or house parties—everybody remembers being a kid, and there was never a time when you could go to a weekly to hear such ferociously progressive music at that age. Every week! We bring young people in and they’re getting made fun of in school—all the same stuff we were going through—and they get a place to be themselves! We get hundreds of bright-eyed bushy-tailed kids in our face—no beer in their hand and just an ‘X’! It’s a beautiful thing. I’m very very proud of Kev for his idea and the fact that it’s happening—super stoked. You’ve mentioned education a lot—what are you trying to learn? Or teach? I feel I’ve been given the ability to make people feel free—act like a freak, bang their heads, whatever it is I’m doing. It feeds me to hear their applause and roars! All I’m doing is looking for the next fucking crowd to turn out. It serves me and it serves them. It lets kids know they can be free—be whoever they wanna be—that nobody can tell them what they can or can’t do. Who do you look to that’s doing that now? Thom Yorke—Radiohead. They made it through whatever the fuck was going on. People dropped like flies around them! I can’t say Hendrix, Cobain or Marley—three of my favorite most inspiring dudes, and people might say they’re played out but they’re famous for a reason! John Lennon was famous for a reason—a god among men! Hendrix and Cobain may not have been as political, but their music said enough and traveled enough—the hardest dudes ever! Then you have Radiohead, who were maybe not epic in the beginning but who blossomed into one of the best bands in history in my opinion—the top ten of all time, possibly top five—and the fact that they’re still together! No ODs, no one died, they’re not too eccentric to not stay in the studio or drop off tour—so Thom forgot a song, big fucking deal! So would you—you’re not a machine! But the fact that they keep going and keep involving—the fact that Thom Yorke sat down with Lotus and talked shit and had a cup of tea! He knows about L.A.! He knows about me! I will shit right here if that motherfucker knows about me! That’s how hard I think Thom Yorke is! I’d love to just hide for a year and just make dope music, but it’s not meant to be right now. There’s so many elements to a musician’s life. It’s damn near impossible—but it’s a new age and it’s a new day and anything is fucking possible! I got my drums downstairs with a bass guitar and a Rhodes—I’m trying to evolve as a human being and a musician. And as much as I wanna focus on my relationships with my friends and getting out to the world and sharing and performing, I always want actually to have a record that will stand next to my heroes. I’m 25—I think I can make this happen! God willing—if I stay alive! I didn’t drop out of school for nothing! What did you go to school for? For my parents! So they wouldn’t think I was a loser! And when I dropped out, they were like, ‘You’re insane!’ But now I’m at P.F. Chang’s for their 44th wedding anniversary and the server says, ‘Hey—Gaslamp Killer! Rad!’ And my mom grabs my dad—‘Willie made it! HE MADE IT!’ They were so motherfucking happy!
NEXT THURSDAY AT SMARTBAR CHICAGO with CAURAL // K-RUZ // DJ SOLO