To say that Pete Salaz wears a lot of hats would be a major understatement. The dude's not only trained in both Tai Chi Chuan and kung fu, but he's also a full-time parent, prize-winning salsa maker, and one of several managing partners of Bar Smith. (In the spirit of full disclosure, we should also mention that he's also an employee of Phoenix New Times.)
Oh, and Salaz has also spent time over the past 25 years becoming a Godfather in the Valley's DJ scene.
Name: Pete Salaz Castaneda, Jr.
Current club nights: I can be found at Solstice Saturdays at Bar Smith, Skyline Fridays at the downtown Sheraton, and the occasional Red Monkey (next one is on Thanksgiving 2010)
Genres spun: House music (I'm a one trick pony)
How did you get started as a DJ: In 1984-85 breakdancing was hot! I've always been big boned. I can't spin on my head or do anything else breakdance related. So, the only way I could be involved with that scene was to provide the music. I bought some crappy equipment (back in the day, I didn't think it was crappy) and started my journey. And now, 25 years later, I still can't break!
Explanation behind your nickname: In 1988-89 (it's all a blur), I was hired to do a mix show for Tucson's 98.3 KRQQ. The station voice over couldn't pronounce my real last name (Castaneda). So rather than letting the staff come up with a name (Jam Hard Junior), I decided to create one. I was all about the Chicago styled DJs then, in particular the Hot Mix 5. They all had names with middle monikers. Micky "Mixin" Oliver, Ralphi "Rockin'" Rosario, Kenny "Jammin'" Jason, etc. So, I decided to use my middle name as my last and came up with "SuperMix" as my moniker.
Best experience as a DJ: People I've met along the way. It's my theory that house music attracts a certain type of people. It's not characterized by skin color, size, beauty, religion, lifestyle, etc. To paraphrase my ol' partner Eddie Amador, "It's a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing." (No, really)
And the worst? Well, I guess I'd have to say closed-minded people. Everything balances out. To go along with all the cool people I've met along the way...I've also met some people who are ignorant. I don't hate 'em...jus' sad. Actually, what is sad is they don't know they are ignorant. Who knows? Maybe I'm ignorant.
What do you dig about house music? Well, it's basically the key to get into my soul. It's the combination of the lock so to speak. It just fits. In 1990 I dropped all the other genres I spun at the time, and continued on with only House. It's not for everyone...but it definitely is for me.
How do you see the genre evolving over the next decade: House music has been around as long as hip-hop [and] we are now into our second generation of house heads." I am now spinnin' to Heads whose parents were Heads. What I'm getting at is...for the most part, House is still pretty much the same as it was 20 yrs ago. It's evolution has been subtle. New sub genres sprout up all the time. Some stay, some don't. But, I believe house has definitely passed the threshold of being a fad. It's here to stay.
Has your background in kung fu helped you DJ? I practiced White Crane kung fu for three years before I completely dedicated my training to Tai Chi Chuan, which I've been doing for 7 years. I feel that I am at the point where I can move chi within my body. I visualize what is in my soul coming out of the speakers into other people. Thus, I feel I'm giving my chi to the crowd. In return, they give it back with their response. We share chi/energy!
What's your background in salsa-making? When I was young, my dad would cut and chop whatever he could find in the fridge and eventually turn out somethin' spicy. Each time it was different. It was so routine that I never really paid much attention until he died. From there I experimented. Eventually, cooking (including salsa making) became a hobby for me and my ex-girlfriend. For shits and giggles we entered our secret stuff into the Arizona State Fair in 2009 where we won the blue ribbon.
What goes into the perfect salsa in your opinion? It's all subjective. I don't think there is a "perfect" salsa. The recipe I came up with is pretty basic (tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, cilantro, lemon, garlic, salt, etc). What sets mine apart from others is the way it's prepared. The salsa I make has a smoky flavor to it. How I do [the rest] is kept in a safe!
What are some of the other clubs you've spun at over the years? Holy Crap! I think it would be easier to say, "Which clubs haven't you spun at?" To answer my own question, I have not spun at most of the new crop of clubs that have sprung up in Scottsdale. And I'm very ok with that.
Which bygone club do you miss the most? By far, Chupa! It was an underground club that me and five other partners ran from 1992-96 on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Madison in downtown Phoenix next to the homeless shelter. e were open from midnight to 7am every Friday and Saturday morning. 300-plus peeps every week...almost 20 years ago! We didn't know what we had back then. Wow! That is a chapter in itself.
Craziest shit you've seen go down at a club: At Chupa! I witnessed a full on orgy develop and continue for several hours...on the dance floor! I couldn't help but stare (how could you not?). It started with a couple making out pretty heavily. Her pants dropped. Another person jumped in, and so forth. Two hours later, still going on. People who were there still talk of it.
What's your mantra when it comes to DJing: I don't know if I have one. I have rules that I follow: Know your slot, keep in mind the crowd in front of you, take 'em somewhere. (That's oversimplified, of course.) Since I've been promoting as long as I've been djing...my rules for promoters are: 1. People are flakes, and 2. Don't take it personal.
Worst request you've ever gotten: "Can you play something from Journey?" To which I replied, "Ya know, I saw when you came in three hours ago. You've heard what I've been spinning for the last three hours, right? What on God's green earth would make you think I'd play Journey?!" The owner of the venue plugged his iPod in and asked me to play Journey to satisfy this patron. I did plug it in...and I also unplugged my gear and walked out!
What sites do you use for music: Traxsource, Beatport, and Stompy.
Who are the artists you're currently championing in your sets? My fave producers at the moment: Dennis Ferrer, Tony Loreto, Scott Wonziak, Black Coffee, Wattie Green, Bob Sinclair, Grant Nelson, Quentin Harris, to name several.
Last album purchased: The latest album from Swell Season. By far my favorite group-not house related. I think they're classified as singer/songwriters.
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Track currently stuck in your head: Believe it or not, Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie." My niece listens to it all the time.
Any future gigs you'd like to promote: All nights at Bar Smith and RedMonkey at Chasers on Thanksgiving Night. I will be celebrating 25 years of being a DJ. We've got some really cool off the wall things planned.
When not DJing, where can you be found? My fave thing to do is to hang out with friends for dinner and wine. Usually at Cibo, Postino's, Oregano's, Chelsea's Kitchen, I could go on and on.