In a city famous for its rolling terrain, setting yourself apart as a DJ in San Francisco is an uphill battle. It’s a town where everybody with a laptop and a playlist thinks they’re King, and where anybody with an inkling of an opinion screams so loud that sometimes its hard to be heard. But on this Wednesday night at 222 Hyde in the Tenderloin, with a brand new, shiny, white sound system behind him and his version of the truth on the decks, DJ Mateo’s got the floor, and everybody on it is in his hands.
For the past 6 years this Detroit native has made a name for himself in the San Francisco scene by staying true to his Motown roots. Spinning mostly rare Psych Rock & 60’s R&B and Soul, Mateo (aka Matt LaCasse) has made believers out of whole new generation of listeners never properly introduced to the genres. A few days before the 222 Hyde gig, he sat down with EG15M to share his 2 cents on spinning records, and to chat about some of his favorite things.

Describe your style.

My style is really a fusion of everything, Soul, Hip Hop, Funk, Psych, Garage, Techno, House, Disco, Post Punk, Latin, 80s, Rock n Roll, Porno Beats and weird shit. I have never believed in limitations or boundaries, and always keep an open mind when hearing new music. There are just too many sweet melodies in every genre, and if you put restraints on yourself, you will miss out.

Your influences and eclectic taste in material sets you apart from the average DJ in San Francisco. What is it about 1960’s R&B and Soul that moves you?

I’m the most moved with 60’s soul or really soul music in general, because I believe the music reaches down to the very core of human emotion. It is genuine, sincere and real. It is raw, never scripted and always in your face presenting the truth…Take it or leave it.

If you could meet any musician from any time period, who would it be and why?

That is a hard question almost as difficult as “what kind of music do you listen to?” or “who is your favorite singer?” I’d like to chill with “the Duke” learn to be more of gentleman while picking up little class…Would love to hear Bix Beiderbecke play a note or two. Party with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, David Bowie… Pick at Brian Eno’s brain. Go to the Disco with Donna, listen to Larry Levan on the decks or a Tom Moulton mix…Spend a day with Funkadelic on the Mothership…sooo cool…

Describe your perfect gig.

A gig where your family and friends are present, speakers that bump, no drama, no shady club owners, or other DJs sweating you to get off the decks. $$$$ are always a plus, and most of all a good time.

Do you feel that the introduction of Serato has affected the DJ industry in a positive or negative way and why?

I’d have to say both, Serato has totally revolutionized DJing, and it has made it possible to have infinite tracks at your disposal, while decreasing the load of having to haul around crates of records (That is of course unless you’re a superstar DJ like Paul Oakenfold or Tiesto). Serato is merely a tool and should be taken lightly. It has created too many “Serious DJs”. Unless you’re putting out good tracks or holdin’ down on the decks doin’ a vinyl set, then shut the fuck up and get off your high horse.

Who are some of your favorite DJs?

Other then myself, hmm… I’d have to say any of those Hip Hop DJs out there juggling beats and keeping it real by dropping that hot wax…Detroit Techno DJs. Twonz (always killin’ it and demonstrating true skillz) DJ Bone (First DJ that I had ever heard) Jeff Mills (aka the Wizard), Theo Parrish, Stacey Pullen (every time I’ve seen this cat he has always manages to get the crowd into a frenzy) Terry Mullan (Back in the day) Green Velvet, Paul Johnson, DJ Funk (making the booties shake) Dam Funk, Madlib (U can’t step to this fool) DJ Craze, Drum and Bass DJs, My homie, A Bow Holdin it down in the Chi, and San Fran’s “The Future”, just to name a few.

What is the biggest “no-no” that a DJ could commit?

Playing wackass remixes, oouch…hurts my ears…

If the “big one” hit tomorrow, what record would you want to be spinning while you were going down?

Why, anything from Sam Cooke of course…

What’s the most common misconception about DJs today?

Everybody is a DJ.

What has been the most satisfying moment in your DJ career up to this point?

Probably having my dad out here in San Fran hearing me play for the first time ever…. He was stoked.

What do you say to people who say that DJ’s aren’t “real musicians”?

My first thought is to take it with a grain of salt. For me it doesn’t really bother me, because I’m not a musician. I don’t produce or create anything. I take other people’s work, and I re-work it into it’s own medium and art form. I’m more of an entertainer, but then again, that’s also what a musician is. As far as a statement like that, its just ignorance. A lot of DJ’s are musicians. They are producers who create their own music, and then work it into a DJ set. For someone to say that, it’s just kind of an empty thought.

Aside from the turntables, if you could play any other musical instrument, what would it be?

Sax…it’s the sexiest of instruments, next to the Hip Harp.

In addition to being one of the resident DJ’s at Gestalt in San Francisco’s Mission District, DJ Mateo spins the last Wednesday of every month at 222 Hyde and starting in March, every 1st Friday at 111 Minna.