By Jim Schutze
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Killerbeats, which was released on the Los Angeles-based V-Wax label, is the second mix disc Jeff K has done in recent years. The first was the third volume of Full Frequency Range Records' prestigious Platinum on Black series, released in 1996 and featuring the likes of Goldie and Rabbit in the Moon. The disc sold almost 30,000 copies, an astonishingly large number for a DJ mix disc.
"For myself, I've always been challenged by new music," says Jeff K, "and the thing you find with true electronic DJs is, they feed off new sounds and new styles. Ultimately, they will tell you their goal is to educate the masses about their wonderful revolution that's been happening for the last decade. But 99 percent of the guys have to make money and play stuff that keeps the dance floor dancing. For me, it's about truly believing in the music as the most cutting-edge sound there is."
That two local DJs have released albums within a few weeks' time is rather astonishing. Just a few years ago, mix CDs were released sporadically, perhaps a handful a month. Now, they're available by the record-store rackful, compilations cut-and-pasted together by DJs revered and obscure. In recent weeks, the Chemical Brothers released Brothers Gonna Work It Out, Portishead's DJ Andy Smith unveiled The Document, and Fatboy Slim released On the Floor at the Boutique. They're the post-modern version of the K-Tel compilation album, full of tracks sewn together by turntablists with the care of Betsy Ross. "They're calling-cards with DJs," says Jeff K. "If you don't have one, you haven't arrived."
Jeff K has only recently returned to Dallas after a two-year stay in Los Angeles. He has come back to start his own electronic-music label, tentatively named Rumi, and help foster a dance scene that, all these years later, remains more underground than oil. To that end, he has begun hosting parties at local dance clubs, bringing Global Underground DJ Paul Oakenfold to spin a few sets at Seven on Pacific Avenue. And he and local DJs Shawn Slaughter and N-Train have been spinning at the Spy Club on Greenville and Lovers and at various raves around town.
"I think Dallas is seeing a resurgence of quality parties again," Jeff insists. "I think there was a time when promoters were in it for the fast buck, and the cops set up the rave task force. But I think it's on an upswing. Nobody has harnessed all the talent in this scene; nobody has put it on the map. You never hear about Dallas. Miami gets more press. Kelly Reverb is getting some national juice, but nobody has harnessed the talent here. I want that to be changed. I don't want to say I'm back in Dallas to change the scene, but it would be nice."
"There's no outlet for electronic music" in Dallas, Reverb adds. "There's a lot of talent in Dallas, but there are people not getting stuff done creating a scene for electronica. Paradigm Shift are great, but they don't understand the marketing of it."
"Exactly," Reverb says. "I understand the hype of it and how to generate hype and how to keep it going."
From 1987 till '89, Jeff K was host of Thud-Slap on KNON-FM (89.3), spinning electronic music because, as he explains, "that's where my head was at." Then from 1991 till he moved to Los Angeles in the summer of '96, Jeff turned KDGE-FM's Saturday-night airwaves into his own private rave. With his Edgeclub show, Jeff offered the latest and greatest in imported grooves, turning a whole generation onto jungle and house and big-beat the same way George Gimarc ushered in the local rock-and-roll alternative a decade earlier. "In 1991, rave and club culture was blowing up, and with Edgeclub, we mirrored what was happening Saturday nights on the radio."
Two years ago, he moved to Los Angeles to work for Groove Radio, which was, for a short time, the first and only all-dance radio station in the country; 24 hours a day it offered up the likes of Prodigy and Fatboy Slim and even more obscure artists, such as Subphonic and Cirrus. But the station did not last long; it is currently being reformatted into adult-contemporary. Now, Jeff K is back in town, starting the label and working clubs--and, whenever he can, spinning that so-called "quality rock and true variety" at the Zone.
The reasons Groove Radio failed are myriad--for one, it was marketed so poorly, you would have thought the owners intended it to remain a secret--but likely its collapse had something to do with the success of a handful of dance-floor artists at mainstream radio. (Irony shakes its funky ass.) In recent years, the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy and Fatboy Slim have managed to transcend the electronic-music ghetto; they're legit rock stars now, faces to go along with names, magazine covers instead of shadows standing behind turntables. But there are hardly enough of them to go around, to build a station on. Radio audiences don't like new music of any kind, especially by faceless producers; they want rock stars, not revolutionaries.