Mr. P-Body: DJs Have Become Nothing but "Living, Breathing iPods"
Peabody Scott (a.k.a. Mr. DJ P-Body)
Besides the likes of Pete "SuperMix" Salaz, Z-Trip, and Robbie Rob, few cats in the Valley epitomize old-school DJ culture than Peabody Scott. For more than 16 years, the performer known as Mr. P-Body has worked turntables at practically every major club -- both past and present -- in metro Phoenix including his legendary stints at Scottsdale spots like AZ/88, SIX Lounge, and Mickey's Hangover.
And he's done so with class. Few of his fellow DJs would argue that Peabody is one of the more stylish selectors in town as he works every gig in his trademark porkpie hat, freshly pressed suit, and unfailingly clean Chuck Taylors. He also boasts some stylish skills on the ones and twos, as well as a refined taste for primo soul and classic rock, preferably on vinyl. Peabody recently spoke with Up on the Sun and shared his opinions on how DJs have become unappreciated by club patrons (basically becoming living, breathing iPods) and other reflections from his long career.
Name: Peabody Scott
AKA: DJ Mr. P-Body
Genres spun: Quite a few, from hip-hop to house to '80s and '90s to old school and downtempo, remixes and mash-ups. Oh, jeez, and rock.
Which are your favorites? Preference is for those magical times when something you're in the mood for connects with the crowd. This may change frequently during a set or stay in one groove. It all depends on the vibe. If there was any preference, I tend to lean toward variety.
Current gigs: [It's] constantly changing. I've become event-oriented in recent years. However, I've just begun rotating Thursday nights at Merc Bar, switching back and forth with William Reed, and I will once again be rocking pool parties at Hotel Valley Ho this spring and summer.
How did you get into the DJ game? Coming out of the Tempe band scene, I became interested in sampling and produced a hip-hop album. The rappers said, "Hey, we need that guy behind us on turntables, so I bought a couple. After a few backyard parties, and some "sink or swim" training spinning at a legendary downtown spot, I somehow ended up doing it more and more.
And what legendary spot was that? The building was called Jackson Hole, but the Saturday night promotion was called "The Vibe." I was starting on classic stuff like Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest but the club night morphed into . . . well, it changed as hip-hop changed into stuff like early Puff Daddy.
Do you have a particular mixing style when you perform as a DJ? No black book of techniques here. I just try to go with the flow and not overthink things. I don't prepare playlists or charts with what mashes up best with something else. I try to keep it spontaneous and let the vibe handle the wheels. "What's next?" people will ask and I always tell 'em, "I don't know." Annoying question, anyways.
How do you handle a crowd? Crowd management is a science. Things have changed as far as how people view the DJ nowadays.
How so? The computer age, especially Apple, that put playlists in everyone's pocket and on their computer is just the perfect technology for a generation that wants instant gratification. People have become accustomed to hearing anything they want to hear immediately. They don't have to call the radio station, flip over the vinyl, or rewind a tape. They don't have to tape it from a friend or go down to Tower Records and hope it's in stock. Therefore, I have noticed over the years that requests have become virtual demands.
How bad has it gotten? Girls will come up and expect their request next or even gesture, "Cut this song and play my request now." So, the DJ has become a living and breathing iPod in the corner of the bar. And I can't even say jukebox because those receive dollar bills for each request. You'd be surprised at how many people have the attitude and try to tell a DJ that he or she is paid by the establishment to cater to any particular patron's whim. We aim to please, but it's impossible for some.
And finishing the whole computer-age thing, people think that a DJ has every song on the planet on their laptop and are appalled when you don't have their request. But thank God for the computer age. Not complaining. Technology is blessed and I accept a few heckling patrons as part of the job.
Who's the worst heckler you've encountered? It's hard to say because they come in types. It's kind of like cars. You see when coming down the road and you know it's a sedan or a sports car or luxury, SUV, etc. This is a handy and hilarious on-the-money reference.
You always rock a classy vibe when performing. How come? Well, I looked ridiculous in Tims and baggy jeans. The whole hip-hop thing is kind of a lifestyle that you can't fake. This would tie into Z's refusal to join us back in the day cause it probably wasn't real. But more importantly, the answer would have something to do with upbringing, coming from an educated family and I have always liked shirts and suits and cuff links and things like that.
Not from Mad Men but from [the] Rat Pack or Hitchcock films. I guess the popular culture that I embraced somehow influenced me that way. My favorite bands were/are class acts. I am very into style and design. And you can't have a bad attitude in this business. It's my job to make people happy. You have to be a happy person.
What do you enjoy about being a DJ? I enjoy the work a great deal, and just like any occupation, whether bank teller or bartender, there's going to be those few that pronounce themselves by being demanding, drunk, or difficult. Hell, we've all probably done it somewhere, at sometime. It's all good.
What's the craziest shit you've witnessed at a gig? Tits . . . and a Chippendales dude prancing around a pool once and everyone was laughing and cringing at the same time. Sometimes people get crazy. It's not that often, but in the right environment, with enough energy and alcohol, people will start doing stripper booty shakes or flash their breasts. Probably more likely in a wild private house party than in a public club.
How much of a music gourmandizer are you? Probably more of a foodie for how it's made and where it came from. I may be more interested in music evolution than the latest skinny jean band cropping up in the latest H&M commercial. The pivotal shifts in music are quite interesting. How soul became R&B, The Beatles' seismic shift on pop culture, guitar heroes (the real ones), sampling's prevailing effect on today's music, and Dave Grohl inducting the world's most uncool band into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
How often do you spin vinyl? You mean old records not connected to Serato? I'm actually wanting to do that more. It has to be just one of those nights where you can relax and pick out a bunch of stuff and lay it down without worrying about running to another gig. I tried a vintage vinyl night at Old Town Whiskey (RIP), but I guess it was the wrong place for the idea. I'm thinking of doing a few on a Merc (Thursday) night or two.
So are you going to spinning at the Hotel Valley Ho again this summer? That starts in April. Pretty fun scene and I've had people describe it as a little bit crazy yet well controlled and classier. Not an all out posing contest and 4 hours of constant 130 BPM. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I play a variety of stuff.
Are there any challenges to spinning by a pool? Or is it pure fun? Yes and yes. The challenges are making everyone happy. Non-local guests are at times wanting a vacation vibe but local guests want to get their LMFAO on. Then there's the classic battle between house and hip-hop. I have to read the crowd and adjust as I go because EDM people don't wanna hear Kanye and Rihanna (hugely requested) types don't like the techno-sounding stuff. I just play to both sides and I try to make sure everybody gets a little bit of what they want. Even the business guy way in the corner who just wants to hear some Stones.
Are you big on vinyl? In my place, however, I gotta bunch of it laying around and love to play it on an old 1980 Bang & Olufsen. Oh, the warmth and the crackles like a fireplace.
What's the first record you ever purchased? A guy at school was such a Van Halen nut he sold me a copy of Rush, 2112.
What else has changed about the local DJ scene other than the technology aspect? Many more have been infected. They're all over the place. I was reading about Fender Guitars' sales not quite being what they used to be because the kids now have these other things to get into, like DJing and drum machines and what not. Apparently so.
Audibly, the attention span is much shorter with audiences so fragments of a song may be played as opposed to the whole track. Faster mixing and cutting in and out to keep it exciting and fresh. Its interesting to hear how classics are being worked in and you have to wonder sometimes if people know it's been remade.
Every DJ in Phoenix has a Z-Trip story. So what's yours? Well, he DJ'd once in the aforementioned hip-hop group but refused to join. I couldn't understand at the time but his integrity wouldn't allow it. Not long after, I realized that the project wasn't organic or ripe enough for him.
Any other interactions with the cat? I went to interview him for a Java Magazine article and he was under the wire to get a remix done to Fed Ex to Beastie Boys. He had 45s all over the place. He lived and breathed his work. I heard he was handed the isolated tracks to "Tom Sawyer" to remix from the master. Legend has it that the drums took up almost all the tracks with just a few left for the other two guys. I don't know if he ever knew what an honor it was to get to do that. He did a great job and it was in a movie, too. I still play it that track to this day.
What was your involvement in the local hip-hop scene back in the day? It was like this whole new thing and we were all embracing it but it became hard to keep your arms wrapped around it cause it got so big. Crazy learning experience. Met a lot of guys like Biggie Smalls, Ice Cube, Digable Planets, Lauren Hill, Nas, and GURU working for TMC Presents. I remember meeting Radar and being blown away at his scratch skills and he was like 16.
Do you consider yourself to be an elder statesman of the DJ scene? Not really. He preceded me as did Fashen, Roach Clip, Emile, and Z. A veteran? Yes.
Finish this sentence: Kids these days . . . are constantly moving forward -- even if, at times, they stumble over something from the past, they are often smart enough to pick it up, dust it off, and bend it into some cool shape you never imagined.
What's your favorite track of the moment? "Speed of Light," Florrie. Dance vibe combined with '80s resonance. Great vocals. Poppy yet pure and far more depth than the iTunes hotlists. A super-talented singer/musician/drummer/writer from Europe who is unsigned because she chooses to be. Well, actually she has recently decided to be on a major label.
Any others? "Rap Fanatic," Afro Classics . . . to add some hip hop that is part '90s, interesting, and unlike the hip-pop all over the radio.
How did you get involved with Elvis Before Noon? I came to The Vig on a Sunday because Scott Johnson, [who] I knew back in the Tempe band scene from before he joined Gin Blossoms, said he was playing there. He had missed his plane however and there was a substitute guitarist playing. But the singer caught my attention and I had just popped in [a] Walk the Line DVD and Help! for my fiancée to see at home days before and here was this guy singing Cash and Beatles.
The set list was just classic and the originals were great. Kept coming back and jumped up and sang Nowhere Man with him and then thru random conversations, I mentioned that I had a vintage Rickenbacker bass just sitting at home and perhaps I would sit in one day. I did and all of a sudden there was this band. So I just started branding it and marketing it and using many of the resources I had collected thru years of DJing various places. It's no coincidence the band plays the Valley Ho.
What other musical pursuits are you doing these days? I've been assembling my own remix studio with an analog Moog, a Maschine, and vintage Roland samplers as well as, of course DAWs like Logic and Ableton Live to combine all sorts of crazy elements both for productions and on the fly. A sort of alter ego that has nothing to do with the more corporate type gigs, weddings or things like that as DJ Looper. (Another project moniker that references time-- Mr. P-body nickname is not a coincidence as I am really into time travel concept as was the cartoon character from which it is derived). Also, a few of the aforementioned pool parties, I will be bringing a live drummer along.
What separates a good DJ from a bad one? What happens most of the time is that the DJ may not be right for the audience. I always say, "Know your audience." If you don't, you're dead in the water. Beyond the basic mechanicals of being able to beat-match, a lack of flow or continuity would be something that comes to mind. A bad DJ will not understand how to take people on an aural journey, especially when combining different genres.
Ultimately, it depends on the audience. One likes a DJ playing obscure music and others are like, "Um, play something good that we know?!!" That's another thing that's changed. People aren't as much into being educated as they used to be, but there is still a place for it.
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