DJ Dossier: Chromatest

In case you hadn't heard, this year's Best of Phoenix issue should be on newsstands everywhere. (We say "should be" because those babies are getting snatched up like hotcakes.) 

And inside this 300-plus page monster is an award for Chromatest J. Pantsmaker, one of the outrageous organizers of the Arizona chapter of the Cacophony Society. As a member of this countercultural cadre of kooksters, Chromatest has been known to cause stares from Valley urbanites as he tromps dressed as a superhero or a blushing bride, races shopping carts, or just generally causes a scene.

But besides his participation in the Cacophony Society, Chromatest is also a skilled spinster who used to drop their breakbeat sounds every week at Fat Tuesdays in Tempe and now a regular part of the Valley's desert party scene. Along with his fellow members of such DJ collectives as the Salacious Beat Slingers and Warsaw Pact Entertainment, Chromatest will set up a generator and turntables at remote locations out in the Arizona desert, spinning glitch-hop and other bodacious beats until the sun peeks over the horizon.

Party on, Mr. Pantsmaker. We promise not to tip off the cops.

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Name: Ben Overbaugh

AKA: DJ Chromatest

Preferred genre(s): It's currently is a little known genre called glitch-hop. As far as I know I'm the few DJs in Arizona that's into this style of music. I'm still getting a lot of requests at gigs to spin breakbeats though.

Where have you spun in the past: Fat Tuesdays is about it. Then I've also done lots of different house parties and desert raves.

How did you get your start: I started out mixing records in 1997/1998 in my bedroom. I was doing stuff like a club DJ would, mixing records, blending them, beatmatching and all that fun stuff, rather than just hitting play on the CD player. I was also going to ASU, working as a radio DJing at The Blaze and before that at Syracuse University's radio station.

What's the difference between club gigs and desert parties? The main difference is the with clubs like Myst and Axis-Radius, it's more about going up there and being seen, getting the drinks and hanging out with friends. Whereas people that go out to a desert party to dance, listen to music, and probably do drugs. There's definitely some of that going on. Other people go out there totally sober and have some beers and go out there for the music.

So when I DJ, I know that I can get away with a lot more fun stuff out in the versus the being at bar. At a bar, the job as a DJ is to keep the people there so they will buy more drinks. So you can't go too far, you can push the limits, but you can't go out of the limits. Whereas I feel at a desert party, especially for me, where I play several different genres and blend them all in, I can break all the limits, break all the boundaries and usually I find that it works to good effect.

What do like best about desert parties? I can party as long as I want and then go crash out in my tent or my truck at the end of the night. I don't have to worry about driving home, finding a ride. You don't have to worry about police presence so much like the drunk guy at the bar getting into a fight. It's really a lot more peaceful, you're out under the stars, and its always a beautiful night.

How often do the cops show up? It depends. Maybe about 50-50 on the unpermitted ones. And even when [an event] is fully permitted, the cops will show up because some nearby campers will complain there is campers, or they're just doing their rounds. Typically it's the Forestry Service or BLM, or sometimes the Sheriff or Forestry Service. They come by and make sure there is nobody destroying the desert, burning the desert down. The last one that I was actually hired to do sound at got busted just after sunrise, pretty much everyone had had enough partying by that point. I was planning on sleeping for 2 more hours in the back of my truck, but instead I woke up and packed up everything and went home.

Where do you get you're music from? I get quite a bit of it from the original artists, like from their official web sites or I've actually gotten stuff from the artist themselves who have e-mailed me the tracks. My favorite site is a place called Attic Tech, which is an online music retailer, sorta like iTunes but with much better music.

Last album purchased: It was the latest album from Audra, the local goth rock band. I got it from Hoodlums. Or maybe it was NorTech Collective. I saw those guys at Joshua Tree Music Festival and they were the musical highlight of the entire event for me. They absolutely blew me away.

Where can we see you next: As far as I know the next actual scheduled event is Harmonic Concordance 3, which is during the first weekend in November. It's a weekend-long event with three days of camping and two days of DJs being put on mainly by Overmind Works. They do a lot of the psytrance and mixed genre parities and I'm DJing with a lot of locals and some headliners that they're flying in.

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