Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans , where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but more the people who make the scene move.
Behind the mixer, he's warmed up for Tripping Daisy, Bowling For Soup, Satellite Party, The Beastie Boys' DJ Hurricane and even Dee Lite's DJ Dimity. As bartender, it seems he's helped damn near all of them and mostly in Deep Ellum at venues such as Club Dada, Galaxy Club, Reno's, July Alley and The Darkside Lounge. More recently, he's tended bar in essentially every nook and cranny of of the Gilley's complex.
Which all makes sense: Wes Garratt has been living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle for most of his life; his family moved to Deep Ellum when he was 2 years old. His mother used to own a clothing store there called Units. His father owned a couple of different art galleries.
In the mid-90's, he was catching bands in the neighborhood at places like Arts Magnet and The Orbit Room, local artists like Vibrolux (Vibrolux's Paul Quigg gave him his first guitar lesson) and The Shitty Beatles, whom Garratt proclaims "one of the most underrated" local bands ever.
Guess it would only figure for Wes to evolve into a DJ, bartender and an unavoidably recognizable face in Deep Ellum. He's the kind of guy that's just hard to miss if you're going out to absorb live music and have a drink.
See, Garratt is the "Jumpin' Joe" of Deep Ellum bartenders. He moves around, free-agent style, to where the best offers are and keeps right-on movin' along. Really, when you think about it, is there a wiser (or more cost-effective) way to see as much of Deep Ellum's local scene as you can?
As a bartender, he's a very familiar and friendly face with an easy-to-remember name. As a DJ, Garratt's most notorious stint is as his present persona, DJ Wes Metal, a name given to him by ex-"Metal Edge" journalist/Deep Ellum fixture Jerry Rutherford. As Wes Metal, he's worked at Whisky Bar, Reno's Chop Shop and, now, at the newly-reopened Boiler Room in Deep Ellum.
After the jump, we dig into Garratt's fascinating, historical Deep Ellum memory banks.
You're such a music guy, but not a musician. I'm surprised.
I love music, but being a musician is not my best skill. I got a baby blue Fender Strat when I was 16. I got a couple of lessons from Paul Quigg from Vibrolux, and then the rest I just tried to figure out by ear. When I was 18 or 19, I was in a band called The Antiques. We had two songs I can remember: "I Hate Antiques and Your Grandma Stinks" and "War of the Worlds." But, in that band, I was a DJ in the background, adding samples and scratching. I did help with some of the riffs in practice but never really played guitar during a show. We were a punk band. It was mostly about the beer for me. I still play guitar at home these days, but skill-wise I need a lot of help. I think Ill just stick to DJing.
Regardless, your neighborhood history is fascinating. You've been kicking around Deep Ellum since you were a wee baby!
I dont even know where to start on that. I've seen the rise, fall and the rise again of Deep Ellum. I have no clue where to start. Some of the earliest bands I remember from Deep Ellum are bands that hung out with my mom and dad, like Bobbi Sox, Rote Biological, The Telephones, Snakes on Everything, The Vomit Pigs, The Shitty Beatles, White and Cottage, Viborlux and the Butthole Surfers. Back then, there were not a lot of venues in Deep Ellum, so a lot of the shows were DIY and set up in galleries and random warehouses. It was pretty cool. I saw a lot of the growth, but I never really got to experience the shows unless I tagged along with mom. I guess that changed around my second year of going to Arts Magnet, around ' 94 or '95. Deep Ellum was crazy back then! I remember going to the record stores like Last Beat and Tunnelwerks, and going to crazy raves off Commerce. It was hard to go to a lot of all the amazing shows in Deep Ellum because of my age, but I did go to The Orbit Room to see a lot of great show. I could go on and on.
What happened to you that transformed you into a music person?
My mom and dad. They had a huge music collection. My mom told me that, when I was a kid, I would pull out all her vinyl records and lay them out on the floor. She said I would do that for hours on end. My father had two turntables and a Radio Shack mixer. When I was about 11, I guess I hooked up that Realistic mixer to two tape decks and started mixing Metallica and Ice T. I've always been surrounded by great musicians in my life, even to this day. Music just makes life better. Without it, I'd be behind a desk pushing papers.
You divide your time between tending bar and DJing, and you appear to be the ultimate free agent in that sense, not particularly loyal to any one place, but rather kind of digging it all.
Right now, I have been bartending at the Gilley's complex (The Palladium Ballroom, The Loft and South Side Music Hall) for going on two years now. I love it there. I get to make money and see some awesome shows at the same time. The best part of that is the staff. I've made some great friends there. Other places I have bartended are Elm Street Bar, Darkside Lounge, July Alley, Renos Chop Shop, Club Dada and Galaxy Club. I'm sure I might have left out one or two other places. I've been DJing going on 16 years now. I've opened up for some cool acts, and have started some crazy nights at bars, like Thursday Ink at Reno's, Metal Mondays at Whisky Bar's Bikini Monday night -- that was insane. Something about booze and fast music makes people just go nuts.
Does DJing help you get more bartending work? Vice Versa?
No, not really. I don't like DJing where I bartend!
You've witnessed a lot of great local music while on the clock. Standouts?
I have to say the best locals I have seen in the last year are The House Harkonnen and Ishi. There was also some great sets from touring acts I caught recently -- Every Time I Die, Silversun Pickups and The Flaming Lips. I could go on an on, but those stand out the most.
I'm sure you've also witnessed some unusual patron drama from behind both of your posts.
When I worked at the TAC Room in Deep Ellum, I witnessed a Flaming Dr Pepper shot done the wrong way. The shot got lit up, and you're supposed to drop it in the Dr Pepper and then drink. But, instead, this guy drinks the shot first and blows a serious fireball, coughing on it, and then coughs again followed by another fireball out his mouth. I guess there's a reason your not suppose to make those!
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Wow. Same question, but from musicians, possibly even while performing on stage?
On stage? Lets go with Crash Worship at the Orbit Room. One of the most insane shows I have ever seen. So many people in the band, on stage, in the crowd and on the roof. It was awesome.
Is there a direction you hope to head with all the hard work you do, in relation to your contribution to the local music scene?
My wife Carrie and I have a bar/venue/salon that we are in the works of planning and someday opening. First, we are continuing our education and then we are going to move forward to opening our bar.
Speaking of your family: You've recently added fatherhood into the mix! Young Atticus' dad is a bartender and DJ, and his mom is a kickass Roller Derby athlete and cosmetologist. Predictions for how this will evolve your child?
I just want him to be happy with life and to experience it. He tags along with Carrie and me everywhere we go. We surround him with music and art . As a father, I just want the best for him. If he turns out to be a DJ, I'm down with that.
Is there a direction you hope to see our music scene go?
I think its going in the right direction right now. Dallas has some amazing bands and Deep Ellum is on the rise. It's cool how you can hop around all the venues in Deep Ellum again and see three to four good shows in one night. I'd like to see bands hit the streets with flyers and hit the bars and venues and promote their shows face to face. Nowadays, it seems eveyone just relys on Facebook or texting. I'd like to see some good ol' guerrilla marketing and come home with a pocket full of Kinko's fliers again.