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Brown Box Breakout

Albert Lineses III is a student of Socrates and Sun Tzu. He's also a Catholic-turned-Buddhist turntablist and hip-hop and party rock DJ from the south side of Phoenix. Like his penchant for stalwart theories of philosophy and spirituality, his spin-side manner leans toward the wise and the elevated.

"I have a chess game theory. Most DJs are thinking [about] what they are going to play next," Lineses says. "I'm thinking about where am I going to take you in three songs and how am I going to get there? Checkmate."

His fans know Lineses as AL3. His friends call him Albert. And his family calls him "Gordo." Other high-profile cities in the country are constantly trying to steal the 37-year-old DJ away. He's a frequent sound force to be dealt with at celebrity haunts like Opium and Tao in Vegas, and he can easily pack any club along Hollywood's Sunset Strip.

"My signature style is an onslaught of music catered to the group I'm DJing for, while throwing in different vibes that you wouldn't expect," Lineses says. "With scratching, mixing, original remixes, a cappella, and funky beats thrown in."

His no-fear style of sound fusion doesn't come without controversy, however. Lineses says both the local and national industry try to force him into a purely Latino style. "I'll be honest. I hate it," he says. "I'll get an e-mail from an Atlantic City casino, and it will say we're starting up a great Latin night and we want you to play at it. I won't even reply."

Lineses says he's constantly defending the Latino community to people in the nightclub industry who try to gear the tastes and flavors of his fans toward a ghetto vibe. AL3 is quick to point out that when he landed the National DJ Championship title in Vegas in 2005, "It was because of my live mix of Pitbull's 'Culo' that I then mixed over The Chemical Brothers." The set also included Daft Punk, Rob Zombie, Redman and Method Man, and Run-D.M.C. "We are everyone and we listen and groove to everything," Lineses says of the Latino community. "I won't let my fans be shoved in one room one night of the week listening to one sound."

Players in the music biz noticed Lineses' sophisticated but homespun sound from the get-go. Just six years after starting in music at the tender age of 15, he was crowned the 1991 International DJ Times Champion in Orlando. He beat out eight other elite and more experienced performers at the invitation-only competition. DJ Times editor Jim Tremayne said AL3 brought down the house by mixing some classics (like "It's a Small World") into his set. "It was surprising, refreshing, and smartly well-thought-out," Tremayne says.

More recently, AL3 captured the title of Nightclub & Bar National DJ Champion twice, first in 1998 and then again in 2005, where he wowed a shoulder-to-shoulder dancing mass inside MGM Grand's Studio 54 Club. But AL3's high honors had humble beginnings back when he was still in grade school in Phoenix.

"I got a cassette tape. Remember those things? It was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. And I heard this sound. I heard this sound on there that was rhythmic," Lineses says. "And I'm, like, man, what is this sound? I couldn't figure out what instrument it was."

While he tried to uncover the mystery of the new noise, Lineses jumped the bus and rode around to pawn shops in central Phoenix, looking for simple turntable equipment. He'd rifle through bins of vinyl records at Goodwill looking for classics, but nothing helped him solve the sound riddle. "One day, I'm at my grandparents' house. It's midnight," Lineses recalls. "They had this concert on TV of Herbie Hancock. And they have Grand Mixer DST up there, and he's scratching to 'Rockit.' And [then] I realized what scratching was."

The year was 1984, and that's when Albert "Gordo" Lineses III became AL3. For the next year, he proceeded to destroy the home-stereo system of his mom, Paula, trying to reproduce that sound. AL3 was horrible, by his own admission. But he was in love. Eventually, he got his first gig in a pizza parlor just south of Camelback on Central, in what is now a Kinko's.

Just as he refuses to spin a solely "Latino" sound, AL3 cultivated a loyal following based on his refusal to play canned sets mixed by other artists. These days, the pre-recorded mixes are usually referred to as "mash-ups" and they're easily downloaded and stored on iPods or laptops.

"I have a friend who spends $500 a month downloading these and then he plays them out at a club. Now, to the general public who sometimes could care less, they hear this guy playing all these cool combinations and they think 'Man, what a great DJ.' But he's playing somebody else's work of art," Lineses says. "It's like a samurai going into battle and not using his sword, but using an AK-47.

"If you hear me playing Blink-182 and you hear me dropping Aaliyah on top, or Prodigy to a hip-hop song to an a cappella on top of it, I'm actually doing it live," Lineses continues. "I love the danger of DJing without a safety net. When I'm spinning, I'm dancing, I'm screaming, I'm jumping up and down. And I watch. I listen. I don't plan sets. I take the crowd where I think they are going that night. It's like a conversation."

Vanessa Viescas, 24, a new AL3 fan, puts it this way: "He's the best. He plays everything and anything. It's spontaneous the way he switches his discs and everything rhymes together. And he has a tight ass."

Three years ago, Lineses started a company and Web site (www.rleaz. com) to promote a new generation and style of Latino party rockers. "Ritmo Latino Entertainment is owned by Latino individuals, run by Latinos, for Latinos," Lineses says. "I wanted to make sure I did my part to make sure that when we do have a Latino night, that Latinos that actually care about Latinos are contributing back into the community and are benefiting from this night. Just because you are Latino, that doesn't mean your set is going to consist of Elvis Crespo, Selena, and The Kumbia Kings all night long. I'm Latino. I grew up Latino. I love being Latino. But I'm not going to be constrained by a box."