By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
"Our vision's much broader," Fact says. "We have much higher goals set than just playing local shows for our buddies."
In some ways, Megadef and Fact are remarkably similar. Both of them are the only boys in their families, with two older sisters. And both were white kids who grew up besotted with old-school underground hip-hop.
But they took radically different paths to their present partnership. Fact grew up on jazz and blues, and learned to play practically every instrument under the sun.
A skateboard kid with no musical background, Megadef probably never would have become a DJ if not for a fortuitous experience at the age of 15, while taking out the trash.
Hearing a clunk in the garbage can, he found two dilapidated, belt-driven Technics turntables and fished them out. Suddenly motivated to give DJing a shot, he bought an $80 Gemini mixer and woodshedded in his room for months on end.
During this period, Megadef met Fact, who'd relocated from New York in 1997. Fact had come off a painful breakup, sunk into a brief period of depression and drug abuse, and lifted himself up by committing his energies to turntablism.
One night in early 1999, Fact was preparing to play a backyard party for 400 people in Tempe, when his turntable's needle broke. He ran into a nearby store to get a new one, and struck up a conversation with Megadef, who was hanging out there. The next day, they bumped into each other at Plastik Records, and Fact invited him over to his house.
"We were both into the same style of hip-hop, both had the same ideals as far as what we wanted to do with it; we'd both been into DJing for only about five months at the time," Fact recalls. "It was a good time for us to try to come up together."
It may have been a good time for their creative collaboration, but it was a tense time at home for Megadef. His no-nonsense, working-class father (a plumbing maintenance worker for Phoenix public schools) was getting fed up with Megadef's rebellious attitude and disinterest in school. When Megadef suggested that he could make a steady income from turntablism, he says his father responded, "That's if-come, not income."
With father and son butting heads, Megadef's mother agreed to an unorthodox solution: She signed her son's legal guardianship over to Fact, who was only 23 himself at the time ("My dad was like, 'I'll rent the U-Haul,'" Megadef jokes). In part, it was a way for Fact to get his underage partner into clubs.
"When we first started doing shows, he couldn't get into bars, 'cause he was only 16," Fact says. "He was spending so much time at my house, with us practicing and getting ready for shows. He was having some drama at his house, and I pretty much looked at him like the little brother I never had. So I took him in, got him back on track, got his priorities straight."
One of the duo's most consistent champions has been Russ Ramirez, owner of Swell, a store that sells electronic music, DJ gear and clothing, as well as a promotions company that puts together many of the Valley's biggest raves. Fact works at his store, and Ramirez has booked the twosome for several of his shows, including last week's Musik festival -- a ninth-anniversary party for Swell -- before an estimated 3,000 people at the downtown spot Jackson's on Third.
The Jackson's show is the prototype for what Ramirez is trying to do with Swell-promoted raves. Namely, he let alcohol be served, making it a decidedly 21-and-over event. It's part of Ramirez's strategy to steer local raves away from the stereotype of young kids sprawled out in Ecstasy puddles.
"We just want to do things with 18 and over, to take the whole minor element out of it," Ramirez says. "We don't have to worry about curfews, it's just more responsible. And it seems most of the people who are doing drugs are the younger kids. If you're 16 years old, you don't belong out at four in the morning with 30-year-olds. And also, if you're 30 years old, and you want to go out to a party, you don't want to hang out with 16-year-olds."
Surprisingly, both Fact and Megadef -- who worked raves before he was old enough to drive a car -- agree that teenagers have been the source of major problems at local raves. While the rave scene has lost some of its energy over the last five years, both DJs actually prefer the more mature, club-type crowd they're now encountering at local raves.
"Yo, when we first started doing this, some of these kids were just out of hand," Megadef says. "A bunch of eighth graders acting weird. I walk into a spot, the last thing I want to see is someone wearing angel wings and giant gloves. I don't see none of that now.
"They had to flush some of those young kids out. I was there when I was 15, but I was spinning. I wasn't getting all crazy and drugged out."