Wade Hampton has seen it all. As DJ Wish FM he manned the storied dance floors of Austin's West End and was a guiding light of the original rave scene. Now he's settled in Dallas, where he was involved in Ghostbar and now Uptown hotspot Sisu. He's been helping club music make its way into the neighborhood, alongside his son Holmes.
Hampton's musical palette covers a lot of ground, but this week father and son team up for an Observer mixtape that is a master class in drum and bass, a genre that Holmes was exposed to right out of the womb.
Dallas Observer: You have been in the game far longer than most Dallas DJs. How has your approach to the craft changed since the beginning of your career?
Hampton: For the first 20 years I basically played only what I wanted to play. It was pretty fucking selfish in that it was music only I wanted to hear some nights, but I had lots of people encouraging me to stay that way. So I did.
It was underground, and incredible for a really long time. But I came back to Dallas to raise my son, first and foremost, and that meant I had to start to look at deejaying more as a job for the first time ever. Thankfully my old roommates from the early '90s in Chicago at N9NE Group gave me the top floor of the W Hotel here along with open format jockeys with the skill level of AM and Dre, as my co-residents.
I had been touring for a really long time and was tired of airports ... I suppose there could have been a lot worse day job arrangements. Hardly underground but six years is one hell of a long hotel party. I remember seeing the closing announcement above the fold on the cover of the Dallas Morning News, alongside the Syrian war ... thinking, “OK, for better or worse, I suppose we made our point.”
What is it like to gig with your son? How did that begin?
When Holmes was born in San Francisco he came home from the hospital as the youngest Hardkiss family member to our drum and bass/electronic music store called Faster Bamboo on the Lower Haight. I would let him sit on my record box in the middle of huge arenas during my main stage sets at California massives, all during the late '90s.
Industry people thought I was crazy, I’m sure — but the crowds loved it. And besides, that’s my dude, so I’d tell the promoter, “He’s not staying at home – he’s coming with us.” It’s in his blood. Years later we chopped it up on the decks around the house or studio, but he also had some high personal goals he’d set for himself as a kid.
So we did what everyone else does. Life, outside of deejaying. I coached a lot of Little League sports. We built him a graffiti studio in the garage where he could study the masters. [I] eventually set him up with Richard Duardo in LA and Obey and Shep Fairey when he was in town working walls here. He also won a lot of debates.
But then these goals of his finally got so out of hand that Holmes graduated from college early. This summer was the first chance he’d had to breathe in a while. I’ve always known he was a really good DJ so I asked him to join me as B2B at my Aqua Summer Series residency at Sisu.
It has been one of the truly breathtaking moments as a parent that I honestly did not see coming. And then there’s those times when everyone in the DJ cabana turns around all at once because he’s clearly in the middle of an amazing mix like, “WTF did he just do with those records?" Nothing quite like that feeling.
You have been active in the pool party scene here in Dallas. How did you get involved?
As we shut down Ghostbar in 2012, I saw one of our opening staff members Dan Bui, along with my dear old friend Warren Yip, were opening a big Vegas-style day club with a pool. This was before Uptown had turned into the weekend club scene it is now, so I liked the idea.
Irony has always been a pretty intoxicating emotion for me and the partners had found it in this location, on a block the mayor used to live on. I hit them up to let them know I was ready to help create another monster if they were down and we started working on a deal that day; on the spot.
Later I dreamed up our AQUA Summer Series, brought good friends Disco Donnie and Jeremy Word into the fold with Full Access and global production/talent buying through SFX (now LiveStyle). A couple years after that, Night Culture bought Full Access and I think we have been a great fit within their portfolio of other festivals and Stereo Live, offering a daytime option for top talent.
We’re finishing our fifth summer season and I can’t say enough about how great it has been to work with the Warren, Dan, Connie, Amos, Valentin and the whole Sisu crew. Working with old Dim Mak crew Phil Cox on our graphic concepts, clothing designs, etc., is still one of my favorite annual tasks I put myself through.
I’ve played over 100 major shows there now and so it really has edged its way into one of my favorite DJ residencies that I’ve ever held. Shows like Claude Von Stroke a few weeks back are a great example of when it all goes beyond brilliant and you remember why you wanted to build another heavy one.
And suddenly, after all these years we’re back around to good ol’ house music ruling the world. Techno owning the night now, too. Though it’s not deep pure Chicago or Detroit at Sisu, it’s still a pretty cool full circle, considering everyone wanted to hear Zedd when we opened a half a decade ago.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This mix is a love letter to the Lower Haight. A tribute to our Faster Bamboo/LBE drum & bass crew from San Francisco and some of the most gifted DJs I’ve ever played with: Mike Bee and Gabe Real.
In 1997 we launched a Saturday night drum & bass session that went on for six years on Haight and Fillmore at a legendary joint called The Top. The party was called La Belle Epoque and for this Observer mix, we picked out tracks that would reflect a 2017 update to that sound.
The halftime, drumstep stuff that is more available now has made this particularly fun to explore again. Though I’m unsure that I could describe the criteria, I will say that Holmes and I have no problem ripping through a file of 100 new songs and only walking away with three we like.
What we do in this genre is a lot of different styles, not necessarily too tied down. It just has to be the right kind of funky.
Where do you like to dig for tracks?
Well thanks to the internet I can listen to so many more things all the time now. So digging in 2017 is as much listening to what is out there all the time. Every blog. Every Boiler. Every podcast. Every radio show. That is all digging now that I’m only one search-click away from locating some online retailer who will sell it to me. Or a friend who has it. And no I’m not trying to push that vinyl-only scene unless we’re having a house party, so this arrangement works just fine for me.
What do you have going on production-wise?
I’ve been scoring so much film and creating music for commercial advertising that I’ve not really thought about releasing any more traditional until just recently. I have quite a bit on music to pick from as I’ve been recording pretty much this entire time. Look for new releases under the moniker Faster Bamboo and WishFM. Along re-releases of some classic bootlegs including my 2017 remix of my work for Requiem for a Dream and songs from the movie Groove.
Do you have a favorite piece of studio gear or software?
Anybody who really knows me, knows that late-night bongos will always be my favorite instrument.
What non-dance music gets you excited?
Fela Kuti for hours on end
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What was your most significant musical experience of the past year?
Playing a rare extended underground set with Oakenfold this year at Kingdom’s ACL jam, in between LCD Soundsystem upstaging Radiohead at sunset on back-to back nights was a pretty damn hard weekend to top.
Is there a track that you always come back to as a DJ?
"Beau Mot Plage" by Isolee
What else is keeping you busy as of late?
The advertising production company I own, Voila, has really taken off quickly with juggernaut clients, ranging from fashion, to beer, and cosmetics. Currently, my film team -— a partnership with ex-NBA player Steve Nash’s Meathawk and Prettybird Pictures — is in the third rewrite on my '80s ecstasy crime thriller film, Whisper to a Scream, and we hope to finally be in casting by next spring. I also announced the documentary of my life story, Live Fast Dream Hard, in the LA Weekly on opening day of Sundance this year and am grateful that the response has been so damn sweet. I could not be any busier these days and for that I’m very grateful for that.
"On & On & On Opposition' (Erykah Badu acapella X QZB VIP)" – Faster Bamboo
"Le‘Wonk" – Hyroglyfics, Fearful
"Rugged" – Sustance
"People Don’t Care" – Silence Groove, Humanature
"Bristol' (Break Remix)" – Technimatic
"Time To" – Nectar
"Mr. Majestic" – High Contrast, Calibre
"Veiled Threats" – Scar
"M.I.A." – Need For Mirrors
"Should Have Known" – Phaction
"Shield" – Logics
"Lies" (Gerra & Stone remix) – GLXY feat. Blake
"Apologies" – Henree, Hilton
"Pharaoh" – The Upbeats, My Lab
"Kravitz (edit)" – BassBrothers
"Zero Point" – DubApe feat. Deafblind
"Mimic" – SpectreSoul
"Amen Tune" – Calibre, DJ Marky
"Breakbeat Era" – Breakbeat Era