||Jacob A. Ofilas
||11/16/1973 Los Angeles,
||Spinning since 86...
in the rave scene since 92
If you've ever picked up a few rave flyers
in Southern California, chances are you
saw one unforgettable name: Thee-O. He's
heralded as one of the most popular and
hardest working DJs in Los Angeles, a
reputation which translates into non-stop
DJing at events, starting way back in
the day when raves were rolling out into
the desert like a bass off a warehouse
wall. With mix CDs, writing, running his
own record label and his mixshow on XM
Radio, the slowdown of the rave scene
hasn't slowed Thee-O down at all! We did,
however, manage to catch up with him for
this Raves.com interview.
Jennifer: How did you get started
Thee-O: I was pretty much involved
in music ever since I can remember. When
I was about 5 I used to carry around a
portable record player and play music
pretty much everywhere I went. Music was
a very big deal when I was growing up.
My family used to listen to salsa music
and dance and play congas and timbales
when I was young. When I got into junior
high I was accidently put into Choir but
I am glad it happened because I found
out I loved to sing. The next year on
top of singing I bought some turntables
and a crappy mixer from Radio Shack. I
was 13 at the time and living in West
Covina (about 25 min east of LA). For
some reason there were a ton of DJ's in
my neighborhood so I just learned from
everyone and just kept practicing on my
own. I was DJing Hip Hop and Freestyle
at the time. When I got into High School
I continued singing in the Show Choir
and also kept DJing. A friend of mine
was also DJing and we became a team. We
started DJing at house parties and any
gig we could find. When I graduated High
School in 1991 I was going to study opera
when I was sidelined by attending my first
Rave in Feb of 1992. After that night
I knew what I wanted to do and I have
been persuing it every since.
What was the 1st record you ever bought?
With my own money??? ummm I think the first album I bought was probably by Men At Work or Duran Duran. I am a child of the 80's.
Where and what was your 1st gig as a DJ and how did that happen?
My first rave gig pretty much happened by accident. After attending my first few raves I collected all the flyers I could. I started calling all the voicemails and leaving a message along with some sound samples of my mixtapes. Thinking about it now I probably sounded like a idiot but it worked. A DJ and promoter by the name of Kandyman called me at my house and asked me to open for his event "Under The Candyground". My first gig was March 26th 1992 and it was located at La Casa in Downtown LA. That night I was DJing with people I looked up to like DJ Dan, Ron D. Core and Barry Weaver. It was an experience I will never forget.
Where are some of the biggest/wildest/your favorite places that you've
ummm of course my first gig is one of them. Dune in 1995 would also be one of them. I started playing at sunrise and I opened my set with "Children" by Robert Miles (Before it was popular). People were hugging and crying. It was a beautiful experience. Audiotistic 2000 was also another favorite. The room I was playing in had about 10,000 people in it. The party itself had over 35,000 people. That was a crazy night. I love playing in Hawaii also. Great vibe and love for the music there. I have been at events with 50 people and the most wicked vibe and massives with thousands of people and an abundant amount of energy. I love having the opportunity to do both and understanding that they both can be equally amazing on different terms.
You're also a writer and reviewer - tell us about that and how it got started.
When I first started going to raves I picked up a local rag called Rave Magazine (how generic...I know). I contacted them and asked if they wanted a rave reporter since I was going out a lot at the time. I started writing for them my montly antics in the rave scene. When that magazine folded I was contacted by Meanstreet Magazine in 1993 to do the same thing for them. After meeting with them they decided to do a whole new magazine for the rave scene. We called it Tranz. I was the Editor. We ran the magazine for over a year before we decided to bury it. I think we chose to do that magazine at the wrong time. 93 was a bad year in the scene and I think if given the opportunity again I would have made some changes. In 1995 I contacted URB and started writing 12" Trance Singles reviews for them.
How did you get a mix show on XM
I spun at a event in Wisconsin called Even Further in 1999 and the person who dropped me off at the airport was promoter from Chicago named Luis Baro. In 2000 he called me up talking to me about this new digital radio service that he was now a part of. His idea for the show was called Revolutions. It would be 10 DJ's from 10 major cities. I was representing Los Angeles. Unfortunately only D:Fuse and myself sent in shows regularly so they cancelled Revolutions and put my sets on a program called Boom Box. Right now we are in talks of me doing my own show called The Hazardous Hour but either way I will continue to be on XM for a long time.
How does that work, do you record it in their studio, or yours, and how
often/what times is it on?
XM is located in Washington DC so what I do is record my sets in my studio and then mail them to XM.
How has your creativity and style changed over the years?
People know me for being a Trance DJ but I think that is really true anymore. Actually I don't ever know if that was true. When I first started DJing raves I spun Techno or what would be considered now as Old School Techno. When electronic dance music started branching out and moving in different directions I started buying more and more Trance records. At the same time I was releasing mixtapes with Aphex Twin, Black Dog Productions, U-Ziq. Not really Trance music. I was always trying to push myself and my music. I think I just always wanted to try new things but everyone kept call me a Trance jock and you kinda live with it. I was big into Goa Trance and Techno and just kept moving my sound into different directions. If you pick up any of my old mixtapes from the past 11 years they are all pretty different from each other. That is the way I wanted it. I think when you are pigeonhold into one particular style of music you get dragged along wherever that music takes you. I would rather be in the drivers seat with my music. I don't want to be catagorized anymore with my music. I think right now my music boarders on house, techno and trance and that is what I like. To me, I want to keep people guessing. I don't want people to comfortable with what they expect out of me. That is why I also produce ambient and downtempo. I love to give a CD to someone and they go home and thinking it is one thing only to discover something else...and hopefully still liking it.
What are a few of your current and all-time favorite records and artists?
To me real artists are people like Prince, The Cure, New Order...honestly while I do listen to a lot of electronic music...I tend to listen to a lot of music in general. I have a very broad taste in music and it is hard for me to just really pick out a few. I can tell you this much, I cannot for the life of me take out the new Interpol, Dave Matthews Band and Sigour Ros albums our of my CD changer out of my car...those are amazing albums.
If someone was going to buy just one of your releases, which one would
you tell them to choose?
Man, this is a rough question. Again every one of them is pretty different. I honestly don't know how to answer that. When people ask me what is my favorite CD or tape that I have done I always answer, "The one I am currently working on".
What are some of your releases people can look for in the future?
I just released the new Reef Project CD called "Deep End". Reef Project is the name I go under when I produce ambient / downtemp music. I am also currently working on a couple of new Mix CD's also. On the vinyl front, I just released my first track for Diversion Records called "Hearing Things". My next two tracks are coming out on Allied Records. The first one coming out is called "Rumbling Bass" and that is one of the tracks I produced with Andy Hughes from Orlando. There will be a Frankie Bones remix on the flip of that one. The second track that is coming out on Allied is a track I did with Merlyn called "Bitch Slap" and the label is working on the remixes for that right now. I also have a house track called "Rise" coming out under my real name (Jacob Andrew) on Anonymous Records out of San Diego.
Can people hear any of your music or mixes online?
They sure can. I have a lot of my own
productions as well as a ton of mixes
on my website at www.thee-o.com
and you can also hear mixes and tracks
from the rest of the Biohazard Collective
Have you seen the events you play be at all effected by the police crackdown
on clubs and raves?
Yes I have, The night in late February that the police decided to descend on all the clubs and event locations in LA I was supposed to DJ. They closed the venue that I was supposed to spin at that night. They reopened the next night but some locations haven't been so lucky. Orion was shut down 3 weeks later and still has yet to re-open. That is, if it ever will. I personally don't think the passage of the Rave Act or or increased police activity will alter the direction of the scene much. To me the Rave act is one of those acts that if it ever some promoter does get arrested in violation of that, the litigation would last forever. Honestly the only people this Rave Act really helps or benefits are the lawyers. I have never done drugs and that is a personal decision I have made for myself. So is the decision for someone else to do drugs. That is on them. Not a promoter or venue. I agree we need to be harder on drug dealers at event but don't blame promoters for other peoples actions. What the decision makers in Washington DC don't get is that they are just going to push this thing back underground. You are starting to see some of that happening already.
What are your current goals as a DJ, producer and record label owner?
I just want to keep pushing the music and keep pushing myself with this. As a DJ I want to focus and push myself more in the 21 and over market but also keep DJing at quality rave events. As a producer I just want get into the studio more, produce without thought of genre, and push new music. As a record label owner I want to finally get Biohazard to release vinyl. We have been doing mixtapes and CD's for quite sometime but haven't really stepped up and put out our own vinyl. I think that will happen soon.
What would you be doing right now if you never bought that 1st record and
became a DJ?
Probably being very bored!!
-- interview by Jennifer Warner