By: Marcos Blanco
Av Alaguena aka DJ AV, one of the founding members of Hella Proper, sat down with me to talk about her beginnings as a DJ, the formation of her crew, the electronic scene in San Jose and what her group is setting out to do.
Marcos Blanco: Before Hella Proper, when did you start thinking about becoming a DJ?
Av Alaguena: Oh, man. To be honest, I was probably nine-years-old when I decided I wanted to be a DJ. My cousin, who is seven to 10 years older than me, was a big hip-hop fanatic. He had all kinds of vinyl like Run DMC and Cypress Hill. I remember every time he would go to work, I’d sneak into his room and play his records. He only had one turntable and one really beat up mixer. It’s funny because DJing wasn’t really big back then. I remember at first I wanted to be a scratch DJ. Somewhere along the line, I decided….I appreciated the mixing aspect of it more than the scratching. Also I suck at scratching (laughs). I think when I was in middle school, my eighth grade year, I worked all year under the table and then I was able to afford my own setup. I was DJing on and off since then.
MB: How did you all get together to form Hella Proper?
AA: We never really talked about it in the sense that we wanted to start a crew. It was one of those things where I happened to be friends with a lot of DJs I knew from high school. Since the opportunity came where you get to showcase any music you want, I was like why not bring my friends along? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get them known. Before that, they were just bedroom DJs. They were really, really good, but they just never really thought about DJing at clubs. They never got that chance before.
MB: Fancy Footwork being your first event, did you expect that many people to show up?
AA: Not at all. I was scared, nervous and excited at the same time. I was excited in the sense that all of our friends were just going to throw this event for the hell of it. It’s going to be free until 11pm and then only $5 after. All of the resident DJs do it for free because they want to have a place where we can all come and play the kind of music that we like and hopefully the people in San Jose will appreciate it. From the first party, it was crazy with the turnout because we never expected it to reach capacity. It just seemed surreal, but at the same time we were really happy. We knew San Jose had a lot of people that really love music and not just top 40 stuff. They wanted to have a place to go to with electronic music.
MB: What do you think of electronic dance music scene nowadays in San Jose and in general? It just seemed dead for a while, but now it seems to be coming back especially in mainstream music.
AA: In San Jose, I think it did die down as far as electronic music is concerned. There wasn’t really that much stuff going on in main clubs, but I knew that there were always those little venues such as Agenda and Johnny V’s that threw parties that were exclusive to drum & bass, dubstep or electro. I don’t think it’s ever been thrown at a major venue like Motif or Wet that’s purely electronic and no top 40, no hip-hop and no rap. Now, it’s electro and dubstep in one place. In general [mainstream], you can’t be mad at it. Sometimes the way that they use electronic music is kind of lame (laughs). It’s such a copout, but I guess it works for them.
MB: Have you thought about doing events in the bay area outside of Motif?
AA: I don’t think so. Our approach to this whole thing was just to keep it in our hometown and provide it for that part of the bay area. Everywhere else, it’s abundant in major clubs. In San Francisco, we have 1015 and a bunch of other clubs that do what we do. The reason why we wanted to throw these parties in the beginning was because we didn’t have electro and dubstep in San Jose at a major venue. I think we just want to keep it in San Jose.
MB: Like your own unique thing?
AA: Yeah, it’s kind of like giving back to the community. If you think about it, people are driving all the way to the city just for this kind of music and having to pay $20 to get in. Why not throw it here? We’ve got enough talented DJs in San Jose as it is.
MB: How long do you think Hella Proper will last? How long are you going to be doing this for?
AA: We want to do it for as long San Jose wants us to do it. We saw exactly what we thought: that there are a lot of people in San Jose that appreciate this kind of music. From then on we were excited at the thought about having a one year anniversary (laughs). It’s always such a daunting thought for me. You never really know because the San Jose scene is fickle in that sense. We have big plans for the crew in general and what we want to do as far as giving back.
MB: Can you maybe give us a little teaser?
AA: Sure, yeah (laughs). We want to do a party where all our proceeds will go to a charity. That’s one of the major things we had in mind.
MB: How do you come up with the names for your events?
AA: (Laughs) The names of the events come from how we feel and the track names of the songs we play. Speaker Bump was more like our thinking of how we like our parties to be and Get Blasted is actually a song. At first we were thinking of making the events just one name, but at the same time we wanted to do something different and let people remember us by instead of the parties that we throw. It’s more personal in that sense.
MB: Any final thoughts about your crew and the electronic dance community?
AA: I think ever since we started throwing parties with dubstep and electro, a lot more people have taken into account how popular dubstep and electro are. I really love that. That’s the whole reason why we set out to do these parties. It can be one of those things that it’s just not taboo. Any club that you go to in San Jose now they’ll just be more open to it now. I hope the electronic community grows some more as far as San Jose goes. None of that top 40 shit. You can get that anywhere (laughs).
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