DJ Teenwolf Interview
Photo by the wonderful Abey Benga
As the saying goes, “Every dog has its day.” In the case of one particular canine dubbed DJ it’s today. It’s been 8 months since DJ Teenwolf graced the now defunct Snique Peek Thursdays at Arrow with a set of tunes mixed with original projects of his own.
Bravery is a necessary trait to be a DJ. You cant be scared to take risks and explore new worlds. Sadly, the bravery in many DJs translates into arrogance because of inflated egos. But for DJ/ Producer Kevin, DJ Teenwolf, bravery is expressed in a more constructive way. As the producer of way too many projects to name, Teenwolf was never timid about breaking rules and taking music where most wouldn’t dare. As one of the founding members of Ninjasonik he has broke boundaries and continues to do so under many names. I’m ashamed that it has taken me so long to post this interview but as the other saying goes, “Better late than never”…
Nique: When we first met, our mutual friend DJ OneShotDeal was DJing a college party around Fordham U and we linked up there. Is that when you started DJing?
Teenwolf: Around then, I started DJing at Fordham pretty much. I bought turntables mainly to sample records to make beats because I wanted to be a hip-hop producer.
N: So you produced before you became a DJ?
TW: I wasn’t really a producer; I wanted to sample, I just liked the idea of it. I started listening to a lot of hip-hop around the late 90s through hanging out with people that introduced me to a lot of shit. Listening to GZA’s Liquid Swords, Pete Rock, Nas’ Illmatic and shit like that I was trying in my head to mentally figure out what they were doing. So I started listening to jazz to try and find things. I would take notes and I didn’t know how to sample yet. But then I met ECMC up in Buffalo who introduced me to Tone Atlas. One day we went to Tone’s house because ECMC was going to do a song with him and I saw he had an MPC and they were making beats and I was like, oh that’s what I need. So I went back to school. It was like 2000 my freshman year of college. I went back to school, found some money, scraped it together and bought an MPC on eBay. I wanted to use vinyl because I thought everyone used vinyl. I bought a Technics table because that was the good one as far as I knew. I started buying records at weird spots in The Bronx like Salvation Army.
N: Music Factory?
TW: Yeah, Music Factory was later. That was when I started really trying to have records I could DJ with. But before then I was buying any weird thing I could find. Just lots of weird records from thrift stores in the Fordham area. So I wanted to be a producer first and then when I met OneShotDeal I was buying cables at a Radio Shack. He was a DJ so I went to his house and he showed me what he was doing and then I wanted to do that as well. Doing those parties. That was probably one of the first parties I did. Then people knew me as a DJ around school because people would come to our house for parties and would see turntables. Even though I wasn’t even doing anything with them but they knew I had ’em. They assumed I was a DJ even though I wasn’t shit. I still did parties like the one you came to. Next thing I know there were bars asking me to play. So I would do bars and would try and play shit that got people dancing.
N: So, that name Teenwolf. Are you pissed at MTV for having a TV show and not including you?
TW: Nah, I don’t care. Whatever man. I didn’t invent the name. The name was like a joke at first because I just had a ridiculous beard in 2006. So like that guy that was just here, Roofeeo, started calling me Teenwolf. At the same time I was also telling my buddy Jaja that we should start a band like Hollertronix or Flaustrodamus and all these things going on. So I was like Ninjasonik. Well actually, at first I was like Hipstersonik to be ironic and stupid. Then one night it just hit me and I was like.. “Nah son, Ninjasonik!” Cuz it evokes a lot of like ya know, the N-word and also like the excitement of the N-word and the irony of hipsterism and all sorts of stupid shit. He was like, yes! So, we didn’t have a song yet but we had that idea. He was Reverend McFly at the time, I was DJ K. Ross for a while which are my initials. Up to that point everybody knew me as K. Ross. But for Ninjasonik I was DJ Teenwolf. So the next thing you know we came up with some song ideas and we rolled with it and that was that.
N: So speaking of Ninjasonik, You’ve been a part of some cutting edge projects. With Sound Advice, you guys mashed Biggie with Gnarls Barkley. With Ninjasonik, you guys did some crazy things with that song “Pregnant” which was a smash. A lot of DJs played and remixed that. Now you’ve got this project Wolf Couture going on, which is a lot of Hip-Hop craziness. I mean, I have to agree, its true everybody wants to eat but nobody wants to do the dishes. Tell us about this project. Is it just a creative outlet or something you’re trying to develop?
TW: It started as a creative outlet, I think. But like, the Internet is so funny that you can create something and make it real. What exactly it is is still being fleshed out because it’s so new. It’s only been around for 8 months now. It’s primarily a creative outlet now because I’m doing a lot of pop song writing and cheesy stuff that’s not cool. Its fun to do that because it’s totally no rules and the opposite of everything else I’m doing.
N: You were telling me earlier that you have an expansive catalog with Wolf Couture.
TW: Yeah, I have like close to 100 songs now. I put out all the instrumentals as well and I’m letting people rap on the instrumentals. Every song is made in less than 10 minutes. It’s kind of like the rule of how I do it. I don’t ever really work on anything. I just make it as fast as I can and keep it as simple as possible. Part of that is because most of the rap you hear is so disposable and simple anyway so Its like I can make anything that they’re playing on the radio and it’ll only take me 10 minutes. And it’s just as good if not better in a way because it’s not as glossy it’s made to be nasty and simple. I just thought it was funny, you know. I think a lot of people think I’m like dick riding Wolf Gang or Lil B but… I don’t think so, I think I’m just kind of like.. I was Wolf before there was a Wolf Gang. I’m just throwing this stuff out there for fun and it happens to coincide-Yeah, I’m inspired by all that going on but I listen to music too but I’m not out stealing anybody’s steez. I think it has its own vibe and its own sensibility that make it relevant and fun.
N: That’s what it’s all about relevance and fun…
TW: Yeah, I didn’t realize how relevant a statement Doing Dishes was until after. It’s the same thing with Ninjasonik. We made Tight Pants as a joke because Jaja wore tight pants and it was weird. I thought it was weird.
N: At that time it was, yeah.
TW: It was totally bizarre. So I was like “you’re the tight pants n-word.” like that’s you that’s your shit and were going to put it out there and scream that on a record and people are going to freak out. And they did exactly what we said they would do. With Wolf Couture, I don’t know if it has as much potency as that. I think it’s really relevant for the time now. We’re having debates about paying our bills as a country. They don’t want to raise the debt ceiling. Its like everybody wants the be rich but nobody wants to pay the bills. Everybody wants to cook but nobody wants to do the dishes. Everybody wants to create but nobody wants to do all the work that is needed to manage the creation. It wasn’t supposed to be as big of a statement when I made it, I just thought it was funny cuz I was listening to Lil B like ahh this cooking shit. It was kind of corny but its kind of cool. But I thought it would be kind of funny if I just flip it and joked around with it.
N: It makes sense, it has a flippable metaphor. But changing the pace, when we first started playing together we were rocking all vinyl sets how has the digital revolution effected you as a DJ as well as a producer?
TW: I think its been all for the better for the most part. For me personally. Having that background has helped a lot too though because it gave me the chops to transition into this and I can still go back to that so its good to know that. Serato kind of like softens your skills too as much it refines them to make you better. But we used to carry five crates to a gig and it helps a lot to not have to do that anymore. It’s all for the better, it’s all helping creativity in the end. As a producer, it helps my producing sensibilities too. I can play stuff out that I couldn’t play out before. Like I wouldn’t have been able to play out a Wolf Couture song out right now unless I went a printed a vinyl. I’ve done that and it’s an agonizing process. It takes a lot of time and money. Its rad that it’s simplified things and helped us do this.
N: So what’s in the future for Teenwolf? Any projects in the works?
TW: I’m song writing. I’m producing. I got a mixtape of rappers I’ve remixed. I gotta put it out, I’ve been working on it for a long time. I have a mash up album with Matt and Kim and T.I.. It’s like the whole Matt and Kim album mashed up with a bunch of T.I songs. I gotta put that out. It’s pretty much done, I’ve just been waiting to put it out. I got the Wolf Couture stuff. I got this project called Dragon Beaver, it’s like disco funk stuff. I’m even singing on some of the tracks with this producer from San Fran called Tal M. Klein. I have a Jazz Funk jam band called The Mean Jene Oaks. We improve and make up music in random places. I’ve been working with this new girl called Happy New Year. I’ve been working with Hester Prin. Zebra Katz. a good friend of mine Ojay Morgan. I got this project called Reset the Game and then I’m writing pop songs for Japan.
N: That’s insane you got so many projects going on!
TW: Oh, yeah and I also got this project called Cosmo Memory where we write indie love songs about the end of the world. We’re writing a comic book as well that’s based on the band.
N: Well you definitely got a lot of fish hooks out there. I want to thank you again for coming out and rocking with us man.
TW: Thank you for having me.
Tegan A. - Copywriter
DJ Nique - Interviewer
Abey Benga - Photographer