Brooklyn-bred DJ Geko Jones is bringing some of the most exciting new music from Latin America (and the world) to his home borough with a Tuesday weekly called Que Bajo. He and his partner in crime, Remezcla favorite Uproot Andy, have been spinning cumbia, bass, baile funk, and other tropical favorites for the past few months now, drawing a curious crowd from all corners of New York on a school night. Oh, and he runs a record label called Dutty Artz, that is involved in all sorts of other parties and musical ventures. But he’s not stopping there–Geko is determined to spread the gospel of good, rare tropical music to other parts of the city, and add some variety to the typical reggaeton/salsa/merengue circuit.
We took some time to find out what makes Geko tick, and discovered a super-ambitious workaholic music lover with a great sense of humor.
Listen to the Geko Jones Remezcla minimix below, and read on to find out how a Puerto-Lombian raver kid named Roberto stole some Bob Marley cassettes (that changed his life), discovered Caribbean music, and moved on to stalk record producers around the world in search of the hottest new beats. Meet Geko Jones…
Name: Roberto Fernandez aka Geko Jones aka Ricky Retardo
Roots: Puerto-Lombian via Barrio Juan Sanchez, Bayamon.
Where do you live now: Brooklyn, NY
Day job: I’ll be unemployed by the time you publish this but I’ve survived on a small dental billing practice I own and run from a small office with one assistant for the past 5 years. Economy is hurting a lot of folks these days.
What kind of music do you spin? Tropical Beats and Bass. I heard the term Electro-Parranda from La Farra NYC and I like that. Some friends call it Global Ghettotech. It’s kinda like walking into an international buffet, grabbing a big wooden bowl and taking a lil something from each continent.
Laptop vs. vinyl? Laptop. I write to producers in countries where vinyl has been dead for years and their music just isn’t available on vinyl. A lot of the folks that can afford the two grand to self-release are usually making some mediocre music anyway.
What did you listen to growing up? I went from rock to death metal to Jungle DnB and Tampa Breaks (I was raving at 14). One night, I was out car-hopping and I stole someone’s Bob Marley cassette collection and it changed me. I sunk deep into reggae/dancehall and through West Indian friends started finding genres I’d never heard: Chutney Soca and House from Guyana, Punta from a Belizean friend.
When did you start DJing and why? Mostly, I do it because I’m miserable at a lot of bars and wish the music was better. I attempted my first wiki-wiki on turntables back in 98 or so, and it was determined by all those present that I should never ever touch the decks again. In my opinion, the reason behind this was that all the records in the house were gangsta rap stuff that I didn’t like, so the 3 records I did find just didn’t mesh well. 5 years later, one of our friends sent an email out that he was selling his decks and my friend Charles and I already had grown our vinyl collection, so we took him up on it. I always had my ear to the Caribbean, but I never thought I’d be playing side by side with guys who travel the world doing the job.
How did you come up with your DJ name? There’s a latino open mic called Acentos in the Bronx. I signed up as Geko Jones as a prank on the host Oscar Bermeo who didn’t get the joke and everyone cracked up when he introduced the next poet. The next week when I came back, it was official.
What’s the concept behind Que Bajo? It’s an outlet for all things Latin and it arcs from traditional rhythms to remixes that won’t be out for another couple years, be it Afro-Latin percussion or deep bass Latintronica club stuff like digital cumbia and Tribal Guarachero. It’s really just an avenue for me and [Uproot] Andy to let loose en español. In past years, whenever Latin and electronics met on a project, it was typically down-tempo stuff or too oontz ooontz ooontz for my taste. When I met Andy, I knew us coming together would be a great thing, not just for New York, but for the worldwide Latin club scene.
How did you and Andy meet? He came out to one of my New York Tropical parties at Glasslands. I really liked the vibe from him, and he knew a lot about the stuff I was playing. I went to his MySpace and then to his weekly at Mehanata that week, and with a little encouragement from our promoter Jean Bernabe, it was a wrap.
What is Dutty Artz, and when did that get started? Dutty Artz is a record label I co-own with DJ/rupture and Matt Shadetek y mas o menos all our releases are in the realm of tropical bass music. Our DIY ethics and M.O. is to record music quickly and dirtily and get it to the people soon thereafter. We run a blog dedicated to this music at Duttyartz.com where you can find writings on everything from “bling bling ethics invading the Jibaro homeland” to nueva cumbia jams and “recession raps”.
What other projects are you currently working on? I’m wearing a lot of hats right now. Currently, we’re getting ready to release a solo album called Buzzrock Warrior by Jahdan Blakkamoore on Dutty Artz. The entire project was recorded at Casa del Jones, and it’s the first project I helped curate from start to finish, so I feel like it’s my album in a lot of ways. I’m helping put together some music videos and projections for parties. Recording podcasts for Afropop Radio and a couple blogs I like and trying hard to book gigs at spaces with Latinos and pushing our music on unsuspecting masses.
What are you listening to right now? Monareta. Their PR people just sent us their EPK and want us to set up a show for them at Que Bajo in March.
How do you discover new music? In the past couple years, I have to admit MySpace and YouTube opened a lot of doors for up and coming artists. Music stores have also gotten better about recommending stuff based on your shopping.
Where do you get your music? I write to producers I like. Some folks have been weirded out by my ability to get their contact info. Blood hounds are no match for a Geko after a song.
Song that gets people dancing every time… Juana La Caribe – Petrona Martinez. (I’m hoping she makes a million dollars in 09 cuz I’m shouting her out every chance I get!)
What other DJs do you dig? No son muchos. Khiasma en Montreal, DJ Ripley, Uproot Andy y Rupture.
Guilty pleasure: This African freestyle tune by Ata Kak called “Obas Sima” [that] all my friends hate. It has been going around since it appeared on a blog called Awesome Tapes from Africa, and reminds me of Miami Sound Machine.
2009 music predictions… what music genres, songs, artists are going to be big this year? I don’t really watch for whats going to be big but instead work hard to define our sound. This year I’ll be playing digital cumbia, tribal guarachero and Latin mash up bizness.
Plans for the future? My mission is to take Que Bajo to the average Latino that listens to reggaeton, salsa, merengue and hip hop. That’s the biggest contingent of Latinos in NYC, and I think they’re ready for something new. We’re currently working with promoters at Villa and Arka to experiment on room-fulls of Latinos in the coming months.
What makes someone a “cosmopolatino”? Fluent Spanglish, an appreciation for good food, great music and friends, and a small but healthy reservation about white folks.