Plopped into a sagging couch and framed against a wall full of signed concert fliers, DJ Radar isn't quite the figure most would expect. Clad in baggy jeans and a sunken Kangol, the youthful, soft-spoken turntablist is a surprising study in contrast. His understated style belies an onstage persona that has made Radar one of the best-known musical exports to emerge from the Valley in recent years.
The evening is a bittersweet occasion, as it will mark the final weekly performance of the Bombshelter DJs, the three-man DJ crew he formed in 1994 with fellow record spinners Emile and Z-Trip. It's the end of a two-and-a-half-year run that began at Nita's Hideaway, shifted to Anderson's Fifth Estate, eventually culminating with this final performance at the Green Room.
Late last year, Emile left Phoenix for the Bay Area's much more hospitable dance and DJ environment, dropping the Bombshelter crew to a duo. The three men have continued to work a handful of bigger out-of-town dates and will likely resume some one-off local performances later this year.
But for the 22-year-old Radar, the Bombshelter gig is just one of a handful of projects that will keep him busy recording, performing and traveling the world over for the next year.
The first of these endeavors is FHS, featuring local rapper Puma. The hip-hop-oriented outfit boasts an expanding cast of musicians, including a bassist, drummer and keyboardist. For Radar, the amalgam of musical components is crucial, though he insists the emphasis will remain on the DJ/rapper dynamic.
"Whenever you see a group with a DJ, the DJ is always in the back," he says. "With [FHS] I'm going to be out front with Puma so the whole thing is going to have a different vibe from the standard live music/DJ setup."
Plans for the project include more than just music. Radar's ultimate goal for the group is to combine diverse artistic elements to form a multimedia collective. Among those participating is noted local artist Jim Mahfood, who will create paintings onstage as the group plays.
For Radar, the multimedia aspect represents an endless realm of possibilities. "The potential for that whole collective crew idea is really cool, even though pulling it together takes a lot of work," he adds.
Dealing with so many disparate elements has its challenges, mainly in terms of live performing. Though the group has played out only once, it will be making several local appearances in the spring, including a spot in the New Times music showcase in late April.
Radar has also been busy doing preproduction on FHS' debut album. He and the rest of the group will spend the next few weeks working on the disc at various locations, including Mind's Eye Studios.
In addition to splitting time between his Bombshelter and FHS activities, Radar has been busy with several solo efforts. Most recently, one of his tracks, "Antimatter," was included on the Om records compilation Deep Concentration 3. A 12-inch single mix featuring "Antimatter," "Sectorized" and "Next Millennium" is also set for release (both are available at www.djradar.com). His prospective solo touring plans also include joining an Om-sponsored package in late May.
Radar has won praise from a number of publications and outlets. His growing national reputation was capped last week when he was named to URB magazine's Next 100 List, which rates the top up and coming figures in electronic music. It's an honor that both Z-Trip and the Bombshelter crew have been awarded in the past. Another accolade came a couple of months back when Spin named Radar and Z-Trip among the Top 13 turntablists in the world.
An even bigger source of pride is a possible Japanese tour with hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa. Just considering the prospect makes the reserved Radar beam.
"He was out here last year and asked me to join him on a tour. We're still working on it, but I would love to go with him over [to Japan]. He's the father of all of this. So, yeah, it would be the experience of a lifetime, no doubt."
For all the success that Radar and his compatriots have enjoyed nationally, their popularity seems to have reached a plateau in local circles. While he would undoubtedly receive more acclaim and attention in another metropolis, Radar doesn't see the need to follow other desert deserters.
"It's true," muses Radar, "for the amount of effort you put out here, you get half the response as you would anywhere else."
Radar adds that he's grateful for opportunities the Phoenix scene has given and the way he's been able to use his local activities as a springboard for his national efforts. With a manager in Los Angeles and a booking agent in San Francisco -- the twin poles of West Coast DJ/dance culture -- Radar sees little need to make a move.
"Out here, there is a definite level that you can reach, and once you do, that's it. But Phoenix is my home," says the Arizona native, "and whatever I do, I wanted to be based out of here."
Grave Robbers: As we reported in the January 13 Bash & Pop, psycho-surf-a-billy outfit Grave Danger will make a return to the local stage after an extended hiatus. The group, which features Flathead members Kevin Daly and Vince Ramirez and the Rumble Cats' Rich Merriman, will start up its "World Tour 2000" with a date Thursday, January 27, at Long Wong's in Tempe. The trio will appear at Nita's Hideaway the following night, opening what may be the best local show in recent memory, a triple bill featuring the Gravers, Piersons and Dead Hot Workshop.
The group is also threatening to release an EP or possible album-length collection of material recorded last year. Bassist Merriman says that six tracks from those live-in-the-studio sessions are already completed and mixed and could surface in some form this year, though nothing official has been scheduled.
Grave Danger is scheduled to perform on Thursday, January 27, at Long Wong's in Tempe; and on Friday, January 28, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with the Piersons, and Dead Hot Workshop.
You've Got Dead Hot: Speaking of Dead Hot Workshop, the local twang and bang legends have finally launched their long-overdue Web site. While we usually don't pimp the cyberspace activities of bands -- it seems everybody who's ever picked up a guitar has his own URL these days -- Dead Hot is another matter.
Although it's still under construction, the site (www.deadhotworkshop.com) will be manned by Doug and Kathleen Kramer, the same couple who handle Web-related matters for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.
Regardless of what you think of the band, it's hard to dispute that the Peacemakers have one of the best and most active home pages around. Heavy traffic on the site (www.azpeacemakers.com) helped the group's independently released album debut at the top of Billboard's Online Sales Chart in October, ahead of a slew of heavy hitters that included Santana, Jewel, and the Indigo Girls.
The Dead Hot home page will eventually feature lyrics from all the group's albums, photos, merchandise and an interactive bulletin board/discussion site.
Aside from their Nita's turn on January 28, Dead Hot is set to resume some regular bookings in February as a tune-up for their performance at this year's South by Southwest conference. The group has penciled in a February 4 date at the Arizona Roadhouse with the Carrie Johnson Band.
Contact Bob Mehr at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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