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Over at my pad on a recent Sunday afternoon, DJ ChaseOne has his battery-operated portable turntable on the floor next to his metal box of seven-inches, playing cuts and talking shop about crate-digging for rare grooves -- limited pressings of old funk and soul records -- and the gems he's found. He pulls out an original 1973 record by a Wichita, Kansas, outfit called Chocolate Snow, a jazzy funk cover of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." He found one of these for two bucks in a thrift store some time ago, then turned it around and sold it for $1,400 on eBay. "Listen to that; it's filthy," he exclaims, and he's right. I've never heard $1,400 worth of funky filth before.
ChaseOne is a rarity himself here in Phoenix, an atavistic connoisseur in a town where the kids think music was invented in 1992. But you won't find him here for long.
This was probably the last time I'll get an in-house set played by ChaseOne, a.k.a. Memphian Chad Weekley, part owner of the widely acclaimed Memphix record label, encyclopedic funk and soul historian, and incomparable crate-digger on a par with DJs Egon, Shadow, and Memphix partner Dante Carfagna. For the last year and a half, he was the umbilical connection between Memphis and Phoenix, running Memphix's business operations out of his Tempe apartment, occasionally promoting hip-hop shows, and sharing his wealth of rare funk, soul and classic black rock vinyl onstage.
That's coming to an end, as ChaseOne prepares to move back to the birthing grounds of Stax and Sun Records to pursue a plethora of new endeavors. But sadly, I don't think many music aficionados here in the 'Nix will notice, because they never took the opportunity to check out the guy in the first place.
ChaseOne's expertise on funk and rare grooves is in high demand by musicians and labels worldwide, but you wouldn't know it by the response he's gotten playing live sets here in the 'Nix. "People here aren't used to the funk sound," he says in his Tennessee drawl. "I can't explain it. I never really had it like this before. In the Midwest and over in Europe, people feel it. Out here people ain't so hip to it so they wanna instantly hate."
Besides keeping busy with Memphix during his tenure here -- the label just dropped three new seven-inches, each with a limited pressing of 750, which sold out across the world -- ChaseOne has a new CD of his own coming out on New York's Turntable Lab, a compilation of rare Memphis soul and funk tracks that's being released pseudonymously as Big Mo Live at R.C.'s.
Additionally, he's taking over tour managing and booking duties for the Memphis/Stax supergroup the Bo-Keys. Assembled by Stax fanatic and bass player Scott Bomar, the group includes guitarist Skip Pitts -- Isaac Hayes' wah-wah sideman who played the riff from Shaft -- and Stax vets such as organist Ronnie Williams and drummer Willie Hall. ChaseOne is taking off to England in late April to tour-manage the Bo-Keys while they're on the road with Booker T. & the MG's, and he'll be working for Bomar and the Bo-Keys when he lands back in Memphis.
He's also been tapped to assist his Memphix partner Dante Carfagna in running Cali-Tex Records, the boutique reissue label that's a subsidiary of DJ Shadow's Quannum label. All his projects would make one hell of a business card for any 28-year-old young man. So why didn't anyone in the 'Nix notice?
"They think it's something different, not your normal hip-hop," ChaseOne observes, making the point that hip-hop's roots lie in the jazzy polyrhythms and breakbeats that the rare grooves artists pioneered. "Honestly, the beats and the breaks and stuff, the kids aren't gonna realize that stuff. I think in general hip-hop music is strictly focused on rappin' a lot more now than how the beats used to be."
ChaseOne also tried his hand at bringing some national shows out -- homies of his like Egon (another legendary crate-digger), D-Styles, and most recently Z-Trip and Percy P. "It was tough throwing gigs here, expensive. I lost a little cheese," he says.
The kids who did attend those shows at the Old Brickhouse, as well as other gigs with national artists like Z-Man, where ChaseOne opened with rare groove sets, couldn't make the connection between the '70s funk they heard and the modern hip-hop they later saw. "It was a good vibe sometimes," he says. "Fools were dancing; they felt it a little bit. It never got crack-a-lackin', though, where we see a hundred folks dancing at once. That's the way I wanted it."
It's our music scene here that loses in the long run; this collection of adobe desert suburbs needs all the soul we can get here, and ChaseOne's departure drains the reservoir considerably. But before he's gone, DJ Smite is throwing a bon voyage party with performances by ChaseOne as well as a rare Johnny D set.
"It's just a different vibe out here, bottom line. People call this place mini-Hollywood, and I do see it like that sometimes. That's what I trip on, being from the South. They're younger; kids are comin' up thinking 1998 is old. That's funny to me."