SUNSHINE JONES (live)
IN THE TIME LEADING UP TO NOW...
From 1991 until 2005 Sunshine Jones was on the road. The first gig outside of the legendary Dubtribe house was at a storefront on Haight Street in San Francisco. The first booking was from a guy named Paul who was at one of the monthly parties – he was standing there in the middle of the front room dance floor trying to find the DJ. I was watching him as he realized that there was no DJ, that the music everyone was dancing to was bring made live and it was a beautiful thing. He begged us to play for him, and so we agreed that we’d come to his club and perform. But before that, our friend Perry asked us to come up to his storefront and play. So I packed up everything, and I mean absolutely everything, and drove it up to the upper Haight and set it all up in his shop Housewares and played a 3 hour set. The first gig for Paul went even better than that. Then the guys at Spundae offered me a residency and it was on… Urb wrote about my band, and we piled into a van and drove to New York City. The rest of that story is essentially undocumented history. You just had to be there.
The best thing about playing live, aside from the experience itself has always been the mind-blowing nature of defying people’s expectations. I will never forget being in the middle of a live set at Family Groove in Los Angeles in 1992 and this woman in a fur coat was marching back and forth between the staircase and the DJ booth looking for the DJ. She looked really upset. Finally she leaned over to me and shouted “Where IS the DJ?!!” and I said “I’m performing live right now.” And she huffed back into the DJ booth, and then back to me and shouted again “Where is the DJ?” and I smiled and said “I am playing live right now.” and she leaned over to better yell into my ear, and actually stopped the sequencer and shouted “I just want to know if any Janet Jackson is going to be played here tonight, otherwise I am going home!” and it picked up on my microphone, and everyone in the club roared and cheered and she looked up, and looked around looked so confused. So I said into the microphone “You guys wanna hear some Janet Jackson?” and the crowd went completely mental. So I pressed play on the sequencer, and everyone got down, even the woman who was going to leave if no one was going to play any Janet Jackson.
For the next 10-12 years I traveled around the world with all my gear, setting up on the floor, in the dark, on a mission to express that everyone is a star, and the dancer is the most important one of all. Anyone can create rhythm, melody, words and sounds. I sat down on the floor of record shops, electronics stores, and cafes to host seminars where I demonstrated how plugs, and sync, and midi and synthesizers work together to create music. Eventually I began bringing drummers and other musicians with me to further demonstrate that all music counts, and purity is a matter of perspective, and intention. On the floor of a Tower Records in New Orleans I sampled the hand drumming of a heckler who was offended by my SP-1200 and wrote a riff and performed it right in front of him and made that very tough audience dance, and understand.
Ease and convenience, distraction and re performance have become the tools of today. This isn’t entirely bad, in that we have taken the post production tools and made stutters, and filtering an art in and of itself. There’s a lot of inspiration to be taken from the tools in our hands. But still my heart wasn’t satisfied. After September 2001 it became very difficult to travel with equipment. I tried, and each time I tried I was stopped, strip searched, delayed and missed flights, missed gigs, and it was pretty clear that something had to be done. So I took a closer look at digital techniques, and the world of computers. This allowed me to get where I was going without a TSA agent buggering me, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as much fun. I set my efforts to mixing, and began traveling all over the world performing what I called a live/dj set. That meant I would mix mostly my own music, but also sing live, and add the songs I loved by my brothers and sisters and heroes. It’s been a great decade of proving that 110-120 beats per minute are revolutionary tempos, and force is more powerful than speed. I’ve almost always been able to find a place between what the audience expects and what I want to tell them and bring everyone together. Not that I’ve ever really been a main room thumper – I leave that to DJ Pumpy-Pants and people who are more concerned with things that are “big” and I’ve devoted myself to the disenfranchised, the lost, the lovers and the lonesome. I have always felt that the Larry Levan school of house music was the truth, and so I am no more shy about playing pure techno than I am about laying down a disco track. The truth is the truth, and when you’re in the mix, anything goes. It’s what I love most about house music – it’s practical application as opposed to it’s intention, it’s sedentary conventions, or rules. Because what happens in the moment, between the musician and the dancer can change everything instantly. That’s beautiful. That’s real. I love that.
About a year ago I was leaving San Francisco with much of my digital gear to head to Death Valley, Joshua tree and New Mexico to record, and complete work on my fourth solo album and take a quiet look at the pre production for the forthcoming Dubtribe album. Before I even got out of town my rental car was jacked. I was in the bank for 9 minutes and the window was smashed, and all my gear was gone. I lost it all. Fuck I was gutted. Totally ruined. People were so sweet, and so supportive and kind, but nothing could replace what I’d lost. All my records, personally digitized and then given away, all my music, works in progress, pre production, maters, everything… gone. In the quiet of my grief I took a moment and reflected. Nothing could really be this bad. So what did I want? Did I want to replace my computer, try to replace my music, to re construct what was already accomplished? No. So I asked myself “When were you last most happy? When were you last most productive as an artist?” and the answer was instant – when I was playing live and using physical devices.
Now it’s time to hit the road again. These are inspirational times. There has never been a better time to be an electronic musician. Little tiny devices from my wildest dreams are being manufactured in Detroit, Los Angeles, British Columbia, Pittsburgh, and all over the world – new and better ones are arriving every day. These little sound making boxes and modules are changing everything. And I’m really excited. So I’ve put a little rig together, and I’m packing it up and heading your way. I’m starting in San Francisco, my hometown, and performing my first 100% live electronic set in nearly a decade. I’m not going to play anything from my back catalog, so there is no Dubtribe revival in the set, I am instead going to stop at every modular boutique, every record store, and every gathering place I can find and set up, and start up a dialog with anyone and everyone who is interested in lighting ourselves on fire with live performance, electronic music, modular electronics, and modern synthesis and sequencing techniques. And in every city I get to , I will perform. I am available for DJ sets, live/dj sets along the way if it’s more appropriate, but the main event is this new, 100% live performance. The show is 2-3 hours long (or longer) and the idea is to take everyone on this adventure with me.
w/Mr. Moe The DJ & Sean "Fatso" Evans
• 19+ event
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