DJ Dez Andrés finds freshness in the grooves

From Detroit, the man who DJed with J Dilla and Slum Village, is coming to the PHI Centre tomorrow. Just ahead of that gig, he told Cult MTL all about how he keeps his craft interesting on the road.

DJ Dez Andrés

Formerly disc jockey to J Dilla and his group Slum Village, DJ Dez Andrés was born into not only Detroit’s musical legacy but into a family tradition of Latin soul. In town Saturday night to make bodies move at the PHI Centre, we talked house, hip hop and handlin’ it on wax from his hometown by phone this past Thursday.

Darcy MacDonald: Slum Village has come up here a couple-few times — the first time was around Fantastic Vol. 2.

DJ Dez Andrés: Yeah. I think we opened up for Nelly.

DM: Slum Village and Nelly, huh? Interesting mix.

So Montreal likes to party, and on that note, for those who might not know what to expect, please tell me about the live set. Is it all records? Is there live instrumentation?

Dez: Sometimes I incorporate live percussion, but yeah, I still spin vinyl. I spin CDs as well, and I just have fun, man! I like to play a nice selection of different music that I kinda weave together to make it work, keep it interesting and try to get people dancin’, really.

DM: Do you build it up live as you go? Are you building new mixes or cutting back and forth between records in a more traditional sense?

Dez: I do remixes live on the spot — like, blends and stuff — and edits on the spot, and really try to have fun. Keepin’ it fun for me is my way of keeping it interesting. So it’s something new every time. I don’t want it to get boring for me because let’s say that I’m playing a series of dates and I got the same records. I gotta make it fresh every night! (laughs)

So, you know, a lotta spontaneous stuff, different blends, stuff I’m doin’ for the first time, stuff I’m not doin’ for the first time — stuff I kinda got in my mental arsenal. So it’s kinda all that, you know?

DM: For a DJ, going on the road and doing the same, like, 90 minutes, night after night, it must get tedious. The same can be said for a band, I guess — but records are records.

Dez: A band is the best thing ever because you can just, you know, not play those songs — you can play other songs or improvise. With records, you gotta keep playin’ them, you know? But you’re hearing it different every night, you know? It’s the same puzzle pieces but it’s you’re putting together a totally different picture.

That’s kinda my style of creating. As DJs, we all got the same shit. We all buy the same records, even though we don’t like the same stuff. But it’s what we do with those records. I’m not a record geek. I’m not like ?uestlove or Madlib; I don’t shut down record stores. I mean, I wish I could do that! But I got some choice pieces — I got a decent collection and I like to show it!

DM: Have you never been tempted to switch over to digital?

Dez: I mean, I wanna get it, but I don’t wanna buy it! I really could use that, but I don’t really need it. I haven’t been thinking about it, (except) in terms of working with other people. A lot of times, the ideas that other people have…like me rockin’ with Karriem Riggins — Serato is probably the best thing, or the necessary thing, because of the ideas he has.

DM: You’re also a drummer. Did you play first, or take up drums after DJing?

Dez: Nah. That’s what I do first and foremost. Just like Karriem, my father is, like, a legendary Latin percussionist, Nengue Hernandez.

DM: What kinda shape is the Detroit electronic music landscape in these days? Is it healthy? Is it fragmented?

Dez: Well, I’m not really the “house” guy. I’m not on the house scene like that. I’m a fan of some of that music, and I’m a fan of them ol’ funk, disco and boogie records. I feel like that’s me showing my love for those kindsa records, as well as the Brazilian stuff and electronic stuff or the techno stuff. My music is kind of a blend of all that. ■

DJ Dez Andrés spins with Rilly Guilty and Pierre Kwenders at the PHI Centre (407 St-Pierre) on Saturday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m., $16.25/$21.25

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