Dj Mayonnaise is one of the most underrated Djs out there, no doubt about it. Today here at Martini & Jopparelli, with this interview, we want to give credit where it’s due. If you don’t know him, you have no excuse, time has come to learn something about the man behind 55 Stories (what a masterpiece) and Still Alive. If you already know him, you got a chance to know him better. He definitely got something to say!
Hi Chris, how are you doing? Welcome to Martini & Jopparelli and thanks for this interview!
I’m well. Just eating a Popsicle before I have to go mow my lawn. Just got in from work.
Let’s start from your name, Mayonnaise, what is the significance? How did you get that name?
“DJ Mayonnaise” is the result of my being bored with “DJ CMG” which is what I used to call myself. There’s no real significance other than my complexion I suppose, but that wasn’t a factor in the choice. It was just funny to me. Hindsight being 20/20 I could’ve picked something cooler, but “Mayo” turned out to be a nice abbreviation that works well in social situations.
Tell us more about your influences…
Back around 1992 or so is when I was seriously into DJing and playing parties. I can really only say that recorded DJ work on songs from groups like EPMD and 3rd Bass was where I first got any sort of influence. Guys like Daddy Rich, DJ Scratch and Jazzy Jeff were a big initial influence. Later I discovered battle DJ tapes and guys like The Rocksteady DJs (later known as the Invisibl Skratch Piklz) and the X-Men blew me away.
After a few years of DJing under my belt I decided to get my hands on a sampler. I had first seen one of those Akai machines at this guy’s house down in Worcester, MA who went by DJ Shame. He did some beats for Live Poets and another friend of mine way back when. I think he had a MPC 60. My friend Moodswing 9 had a s950 and triggered it with this other machine, but I don’t recall the name. Later he picked up a MPC 3000, which he still uses exclusively. I never bothered to learn how to use it since whenever I was over there it was more than likely tied up. My boy Alias was all over that shit though so I after I bought my MPC 2000 in 1998 he taught me how to use it.
After I got the hang of the MPC 2000 I just started looping up breaks and samples that I had been collecting for months and months. Moodswing would just keep taking us record shopping weekend after weekend and be like, “get this, buy this, gogogo”. You see, a little time before these trips he put us onto DJ Shadow’s Entroducing, which was another influence on my music. All those initial record-shopping trips ended up creating 55 Stories..
Between 1999 and 2003 I wasn’t especially productive. Nothing I was making for myself was really clicking so I made beats for Sage Francis and Sole and kept busy that way.
Once I got back to Maine and into a new apartment I started working on Still Alive. During these times I was listening to a lot more rock music than hiphop and that got me interested in synthesisers and using other mediums to add to my sound so I went out and bought a microkorg and a Casio CZ 1000. Early in the making of that record I was heavily into Beck, Tortoise, Radiohead, Boards of Canada, Death in Vegas, The Flaming Lips and The Smashing Pumpkins.
Also I am heavily influenced by all of my label mates and musical friends. All of those guys push me harder than anyone or anything else.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Honestly I think it was some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle record that I would play on a desktop stereo and totally ruin by thrashing back an forth. My first serious record I bought once I had equipment was probably something like Black Sheep’s Strobelight Honey 12”. My first album was probably Michael Jackson’s Thriller and my first Hip-hop album was Beastie Boy’s License to Ill.
Tell us more about your sound, how would you describe it? Can we say abstract hip hop? Or just hip hop? Feel free to insult me if you don’t like those labels.
YOU IDIOT! Just kidding. I would say there’s a definite hiphop influence because of my turntable usage, but the music itself is slowly becoming more and more electronic as I continue to explore my sound. I wouldn’t say abstract because it’s not hard to grasp what I’m doing at all. I like to think I’m keeping it simple to the point where the music can be enjoyable and not have to be translated by a third party. That’s no fun in my opinion.
What advice would you give to a DJ or producer just starting out?
Definitely be yourself and take what you see and hear around you and mold it into something you can call your own. Also, explore all ways to make music. Don’t get caught telling yourself you aren’t going to do this or that because so and so doesn’t do it. Try different things and you may surprise yourself.
Let’s get more personal. I read HERE about a Special Ed tape being crucial in your life. It caused you to stop from listening Teddy Riley. Well, anyway Teddy Riley was good back then, wasn’t it? I like him! Tell us about other crucial milestones in your experience as a listener.
Well, getting my hands on that tape among others was pretty important. We were kids back then and whatever ATCQ and Ice Cube said was the gospel.
Strictly hardcore tracks, not a new jack swing.
And you can New Jack swing on my nuts!
After I borrowed that tape from alias who heard about it from one of his sister’s friends I was instantly intrigued. The sound was raw and seemed like whoever was making it was genuine not manufactured. It was pretty inspiring.
On the same SHORT BIO, I found no reference to you being able to play instruments or studying music theory. I can’t believe that the person who produced “55 Stories” doesn’t know anything about music theory. Harmony is very important in making beats, and that mixtape is really perfect from this point of view. Did it came out all instinctively? Or do you know everything about notes, keys and stuff like that?
When I was in 4th grade I played the viola. That lasted maybe a year and a half. I know nothing about notes other than what I hear. When I did 55 stories I especially had no clue. I suppose I got lucky that nothing was out of tune (or was it?). Beginning with Still Alive is when I really got into notes and harmony etc. I still don’t have the vocabulary to talk about it with any sort of authority, but I think I got by ok playing by ear.
Talking about your masterpiece mix album “55 stories”. I hear a lot of jazzy sounds in it, did you use a lot of Jazz samples? Is this the most stupid question ever?
Good ear! All of the records used on that album were either Rock or Jazz mostly from the late 60s to mid 70s.
I’m very curious about the creative process in making it…how did you built it? Did you started from the sounds, the samples or the beats? Did you produced each track separately and then mixed it, or you performed it “live” in one or more sessions?
I made 55 Stories in one shot from start to finish. I had no blueprint or pre-conceived idea. All I did was made a mixtape album on a borrowed Tascam 4-track recorder. I went back and did some small edits after I was done, but the structure and song order was a straight shot. I just made an intro and recorded it. After that I made a beat and recorded that and scratched over it. I just repeated that process until I hit somewhere around 55 minutes (hence the title).
You made a 10 years break after “55 stories”, is that right? Tell us about this period and what kind of situations you’ve been into.
Like I mentioned before I didn’t really make any music for myself that interested me after 55 Stories came out so I just made beats for other people. It probably stemmed from the fact that I didn’t really dig on the whole music scene when I was in Oakland. There were a lot of shady assholes and nothing was stable in a financial sense and I had bills to pay so I had a day job the whole time I was there. I also wasn’t getting along with Alias at the time so that probably didn’t help my creative juices. Once I moved to Maine I got really inspired and started working on Still Alive. I basically took everything that happened to me between 2000 and 2003 and put it on that album. It’s the most personal piece of music I’ve made for myself to date.
What do you like to listen most right now?
Currently I’m listening to Dntel, Beck, Radiohead, Andrew Bird, the new Alias LP (shit is fire), Prolyphic and Reanimator, Notwist, Why?, Battles, Jay Z, Modest Mouse…
Say what you want to our readers. You can speak about your future projects, give some shout outs, recommend something to buy to our readers or just say goodbye…. whatever you feel, go ahead…
Thanks for reading and I’ll have another project out before 2017, I promise!
Thanks a lot!
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