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DJ Funkfinger on Tongue Tied's Daft Punk Party and Why He Doubts the Robots Will Ever Visit Phoenix

DJ Funkfinger (a.k.a. Jay Wiggins) performs at Rips Ales & Cocktails.
DJ Funkfinger (a.k.a. Jay Wiggins) performs at Rips Ales & Cocktails.
Dapper Gatsby

Daft Punk has sorta been the focus of Jay Wiggins' world lately. Random Access Memories -- that 13-track gem from the electronica-dispensing, quasi-robotic Frenchmen that everyone's going bonkers over the last couple weeks -- has admittedly been on repeat, and the living room of the DJ's Phoenix home is "full of rejects" from attempts at meshing the act's hits with various '80s throwbacks.

And then there's the Daft Punk party that Wiggins, who performs as DJ Funkfinger, is co-hosting Saturday night at Apollo's, along with his she-jay cohort Michele "Roya" Chinichian, during the second edition of their new monthly dance night Tounge Tied. As we stated in this week's issue of Phoenix New Times, the event will feature the pair dropping Daft Punk tracks and providing patrons with robotic helmets and toys to play with all evening long.

Appearances by food trucks and an interpretive dancer (read: Treasure Mammal's Dave Driscoll) are also planned for the party, which will also involve Wiggins and Chinichian giving away copies of Random Access Memories and tickets to an upcoming performance by the Valley's resident Daft Punk tribute act, One More Time.

Plus, both Stinkweeds and Zia's will be raffling off some recent promotional swag for Daft Punk -- like a five-foot cardboard cutout of the duo, a huge vinyl banner, and other masks.

Wiggins discussed all the activity being planned for tomorrow night's soiree during a recent Facebook chat with Up on the Sun about his DJ career, his love of both Daft Punk and their new album, why he never wants to see them with their masks off, and how he doubts they'll ever make a tour stop in the Valley.

Name: Jay Wiggins

AKA: DJ Funkfinger

Current gig: DJs with Roya at Tounge Tied every first Saturday on the month at Apollo's.

Preferred genres: While I love what I'm doing at Tongue Tied with the indie dance music -- and other fun stuff -- my favorite thing is to mix it all up. I love playing the unexpected

Such as? Tough question, 'cause it just happens...perhaps a Harry Belafonte track or something by Brandy. I have tens of thousands of tracks on my laptop, and unlike some DJs who have a playlist (or even a folder of tracks that they may play), I scroll through them all when I'm looking for that next song. Sometimes that's really nerve-racking.

How did you get into the DJ game? I got into the game fairly late. I was pretty much into hip-hop in the late '80s and early '90s, which turned me on to the turntablists. Went to the Bombshelter [DJ's] nights as much as I could. Always collected music and have a small vinyl collection (maybe a couple thousand records) and have been collecting digital music since pretty much the beginning. No longer really collecting vinyl unless it's 45s. Namely, soul 45s.

I got hooked up with William Reed near the beginning of his night Shake! and was a resident there for a few years. We learned Serato together, along with Kevin MOB and others.

So where else have you performed locally? I was a resident at Shake! (The Rogue), Obscura (The Ruby Room and Rips), Filet of Soul (Chez Nous) and I've guested at a number of different nights and pool parties. I only DJ events that I find fun.

What's something no one else knows about you? People talk about "guilty pleasures." I have no "guilty pleasures" in that I have no guilt.

What's the explanation behind your DJ name? It was a joke that stuck. The joke was, "If I ever DJ, I'll call myself DJ Funkfinger," followed by a scratch-a-record motion, and a smell-my-finger motion. [The] dumb thing stuck. I can thank William Reed for that. He started putting "Jay Wiggins, a.k.a. Funkfinger" on the flyers, and the rest is wrote. Someday, I'll drop it.

What's your favorite track of the moment? Yikes, that's so hard. Currently, I -- like everyone else -- have the new Daft Punk album on repeat. A few weeks back I traveled to see Hot Chip in DC, which was phenomenal, and [I] love their latest album. But after the show there was a 2 Bears after-party which was equally phenomenal. My all-time favorite track might be Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up."

For a little while the Crescent was doing a "15 songs" night in which interesting people were asked to play their 15 favorite songs. I tried to do that exercise, but couldn't narrow it down to less than 24, and the list keeps growing (but here are four tracks based on Ansel Collins' "Stalag 17," which I can't decide between).  

DJ Roya (left) and DJ Funkfinger during their former dance night Obscura.
DJ Roya (left) and DJ Funkfinger during their former dance night Obscura.
Dapper Gatsby

Do you have a particular mantra when it comes do DJing? Yeah. Pretty much that I DJ events that are fun, but I take it very seriously, in that I want to achieve the objective of the event. At a dance party, it's simple: keep the floor hot. At a pool party, I play more fun stuff and more stuff that is unexpected. At an event like the Democratic Party for the election night in 2008, the playlist was a little politically charged and uplifting. At a christmas event at the Saguaro Hotel, I played solely obscure Christmas music.

Why's is your and Roya's new night called Tongue Tied? It's sort of a play on "tongue in cheek." We wanted a name that connoted a fun experience without pretension.

What's your best experience as a DJ? Anytime people are dancing on something they shouldn't be (bars, tables, et cetera) is a great experience.

What's the key to a good gig, in your opinion? Positive energy. DJing for me is a performance, and I feed off of the energy on the floor. Strong drinks and shenanigans doesn't hurt.

What's the craziest shit you've seen at a gig? Shake! was positively insane at times: barely 21-year-olds going nuts. Tongue Tied draws a more respectful crowd that really are there to dance. That said, the last Tongue Tied was pretty fantastic with a girl dancing in a monkey suit, interpretive dancers, drag queens, a large stuffed unicorn, et cetera. I would love for Saturday's party to top that and believe it can.

How much work do you put into a particular mix? Not a lot in a specific mix, but I do practice my mixing all the time. Today I was practicing with mixing Daft Punk tracks with some '80s stuff.

Like what? The acapella part of "Technologic" and the "Sun Glasses at Night" intro.

Have you considered any other combinations? Has anything not worked out? Hah. The living room is full of rejects. Hard to say, sometimes things just happen. I really don't plan much, and that which I do, may end up to be really just for my benefit.  

Daft Punk, who Funkfinger doubts will ever come to Phoenix.
Daft Punk, who Funkfinger doubts will ever come to Phoenix.
Columbia Records

What's your opinion of the new Daft Punk album? I kind of love it. I like the disco/soft rock sound...reminds me of a lot of music that I've rediscovered in my adulthood. Destroyer's last album had a similar feel to me. I loved that one as well.

Where does it rank in Daft Punk's discography? Discovery was such a powerhouse, it's hard to compare. RAM is softer, and I like that, but I haven't spent all that much time with it. RAM is a great summer album. I'm happy for that.

Ever wonder what Daft Punk looks like behind those masks? No, not really. Though I believe I've seen a photo or two. I prefer to think of them as robots or something. The thing about Daft Punk, and I saw them live in L.A. a few years back, is that the show/performance/experience thing eclipses a lot of the generally great music they've put out. But if they just put out the music, and played it live (without the theatrics), it would lose the mystique. Because, let's face it, their show is pretty much pre-programmed.

Do you think Daft Punk will ever come to Phoenix? I doubt it. The show I saw in L.A. was such a production that I can't imagine how they would set all that equipment up anywhere else (they did though.) There was electronic displays that wrapped the inside of the Sports [Arena].

So if they did, how much would you blow on tickets? I'd travel again to see them -- perhaps internationally, if that says anything

Ever see that Adidas/World Cup commercial with Daft Punk in the Star Wars cantina? I did. Great DJs normally have a pretty nerd streak in them. The good ones spend way too much time in their bedrooms playing music to themselves or roommates (or, in my case, very patient significant others). Star Wars is a no-brainer win.

Ever put on one of those helmets yourself? No. I would love to, but, damn, they've got to be hot and difficult to perform in. Also, I'm fascinated by the electronics in them. They're pretty remarkable technically.

Are you gonna don one on for the party? Hah. They're more for the photo opportunities, but sure, we have a couple very rough approximations [of Daft Punk's] helmets.

So what's does the charity aspect of the event involve? Stinkweeds is raffling off some Daft Punk promotional materials -- and I believe that Zia's and perhaps Revolver are getting involved as well. The proceeds will go to tornado relief organizations.

Got anything else special planned for Saturday? Beyond all of the giveaways and all, I never plan a set but always have gems that I'd love to play at the right moment. But those are trade secrets. Oh, and I'm donating my cut of the door to the same charity that the Stinkweeds [raffle] is supporting.

Tongue Tied's Daft Punk Party takes places at 9 p.m. on Saturday at Apollo's. Admission is free before 9:30 p.m., $5 thereafter.


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Apollo's

5749 N. 7th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

602-277-9373

www.apollos.com


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