Welcome to a Unexpected Influences, where we talk to musicians about the music no one expects them to like.
In a city as chock full of DJ talent as Dallas is, there still has yet to emerge any real rock star.
And yet, if there were such a figure whose longevity and skill warranted such treatment, it's our own DJ Sober. That's not to say that the soft-spoken professional DJ, promoter and proprietor of Decade Clothing wants it that way -- he stays plenty busy striving for as much with a slew of gigs under the name of his Top Notch series, which finds him bouncing back and forth between Dallas and Houston, and rocking parties regularly in both cities.
And, to a certain set, he pretty much is a star: Many in the local hip-hop scene will be very familiar with Sober, born Will Rhoten, from his involvement in that world for the past decade. These days, though, Sober's musical radius expands far beyond the reach of the boom bap mentality that is near and dear to his heart.
In a world where real DJs -- the ones who can beat match without assistance and have a collection of vinyl that takes up most of their living quarters -- seem to be going the way of the dinosaur, Sober serves as a real breath of fresh air. And, judging by his vast palette of influences, it's easy to see why he is so deft at a variety of styles of music and why he deserves to be hailed as one of our city's great treasures.
Find out which prominent movie star had a formative place in the young DJ's musical upbringing, what ringtone scared the crap out of him, and hear his take on some real gems spanning genres from old-school punk to classic house to the requisite picks from the hip-hop canon of greatness.
You can catch Sober this Friday at The Loft when he opens for the great Kool Keith, and every Thursday at the newly opened Beauty Bar in Dallas. You can find him online at Decadeclothing.com, where you can find link to the mixes he's produced and keep up with his many happenings, including the clothing and art endeavors that help fill out this busy DJ's schedule.
What are some unexpected influences that your listeners may be surprised to know about?
I am influenced by many things musically. I like to incorporate multiple genres in to my sets when I play out. It may be a surprise to some that I started out mixing house records before I started playing hip-hop. Most house DJs are very particular about their mixes and strive to be precise. I feel like I have brought that into my sets now with hip-hop. I like my transitions and blends to be smooth, like butter. DJ Cle and U Chin are a couple of the local house DJs that influenced me personally.
Who do you look to for inspiration when you play in public?
I don't feel that I have a particular performance inspiration when I play in public. I find that my style is more reserved -- I think my skills and music speak for themselves. I'm a fan of the music I play and, when you hear me play tunes, those are the songs that move me. So ultimately, I find that the music is what inspires my performance.
Do you have any ringtones in your cellular Hall of Fame?
I'm not a big ringtone guy. I've had only one custom ringtone: Major Lazer's "Pon De Floor." It scared the crap out of me every time I got a call. Had to 86 that one real quick.
What was first record that you bought for yourself?
The first vinyl record I ever bought was DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper in 1988. I was 12. I purchased at a little mom and pop record shop on East Lancaster in Fort Worth. I remember getting home and putting it up on the shelf, and I knew I wanted to see that shelf filled.
What are your musical guilty pleasures? Anything you're embarrassed of?
I think I am comfortable with my guilty pleasures enough to not hide them, and incorporate them in to my sets. I used to think I would get clowned for liking Annie Lennox's "No More I Love You's," but now that Nicki Minaj has rocked over it, I'm sure that I'm off the hook. Young Money can do no harm, right? [Editor's Note: We think he's being sarcastic.] But if I really wanted to list something kind of embarrassing, I've been known to bump some They Might be Giants.
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What do you have in store for the next few months? Any special plans for 2011?
I just dropped a new mix for the new year, "Run It Back," and I am releasing a new mix that I recorded with former The Party member Prince Klassen. The mix is called "Business Class" and we are releasing through the local retail space We Are 1976. I am expanding Top Notch to the West Coast as well. Working out the details for the first one in L.A.
How about a mini playlist for your listeners so they can get a taste of your unexpected influences?
Some may be unexpected. I guess it depends on how well you know me.
De La Soul - Ego Trippin' (Part Two)
The Smiths - Unlovable
Steely Dan - Peg
Ten City - That's the Way Love Is
8 Ball & MJG - Just Like Candy
Fugazi - Waiting Room
Poor Righteous Teachers - Easy Star
The Jets - Crush On You
Aceyalone - Makeba
Tommy Guerrero - 100 Years