April 18th, 2008 5:33 pm | by NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns, Columns, Columns

Hang the DJ: The Incredible Kid

incredi33_lDid you know that Powell's not only stocks great books, but great DJs too? Next time you go for a reading in the Pearl room or are on the hunt for your next tome, you just may bump into a part-time employee by the name of Stephen Strausbaugh, aka The Incredible Kid. Bringing international dance music to the floor in the form of many a progressive genre from Bhangra to merengue-house, The Kid has led a globe-trotting life, from childhood years spent in Egypt to a stay in Central America. So it's not only natural, but near expected that his taste in beats are a bit global too.

Maybe you've caught The Incredible Kid at Atlas, the night he puts on alongside DJ Anjali and E3 every second Saturday at Holocene. Now you can catch him below, cluing us in to what role radio plays in his DJ life and how—somehow—Ween has played a role too...

How did you decide on your DJ name? What's your real name?
When I was a child I created a pantheon of superheroes, all closely modeled on Marvel and DC characters, and I created an all-powerful superhero head of the pantheon, which was my alter ego: The Incredible Kid. People who don't call me "The Kid,""Incredible," or "IK," call me Stephen Strausbaugh.

As the Rapture say, "People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this"—how often do you encounter this?
Fortunately my regular parties are well attended by people who love to dance. It will often be the bar that is empty, and not the dance floor, at my nights. The empty dance floors I face are ones I have gone to great efforts to clear myself. I tend to think that the best thing you can do with a room full of people who have come to dance is to fuck with them and wear them out. I am a highly perverse DJ who often tries to push people so far out of their comfort zone that I will occasionally lose them with 150 BPM Balkan tracks, 160 BPM punta rock tracks, 170 BPM meringue tracks, 180 BPM Panjabi Drum'n'Bass tracks, or any of these alternated with 95 BPM reggaeton tracks, just to see if I can throw them. I sometimes approach DJing as if I were a mechanical bull; I would rather challenge the crowd and potentially toss them, than give them too easy of a ride.

Ideal crowd?
High-energy dancers who want to be challenged, hear music from a wide range of cultures, in a wide range of languages, with a wide range of tempos and rhythms, and get the fuck down. People who want to hear new songs they've never heard before (possibly entire genres they've never heard of, possibly from from cultures they've never heard of, in languages they've never heard) and not the same ol' same ol'.

How do you feel about requests?
I complain about annoying requesters endlessly in my blog, but truthfully, sometimes you will get a request by someone that accurately represents the desires of a significant portion of the crowd, and they can really steer you in the right direction if you are looking for, and don't quite have, your finger on the pulse. In general, if you have not personally hired me to DJ your private event, stay away from the DJ booth, unless you come bearing offerings.

Do you have a story about a particular request or requester?
When I DJ weddings I go over board in stocking myself with every conceivable song that anyone in attendance might possibly want to hear. I get out books of top 40 hits from the last fifty years and I start researching the hits from the years I think are going to be "sweet spots" for the crowd at that event. I try to prepare for anything.

After weeks of such preparation, I was DJing a wedding last summer, getting typical requests like Earth Wind Fire, Kool and The Gang, etc. , when the mother of the groom asked if I could play any Ween. Ween? From the mother of the groom? Now that one threw me.

Do you DJ full time? / What do you do outside of DJing?
I DJ part time, and I work part time at Powell's Books downtown. I've worked there for the past thirteen years, and proudly participated in the worker effort to organize as ILWU Local 5 in 2000.

Where can we find you?
At the two nights I have co-founded and on KBOO 90. 7fm. Andaz, Portland's only Bhangra and Bollywood night, which I co-founded with DJ Anjali in November of 2002, occurs at the Fez Ballrooom every last Saturday. Atlas, an international electronic dance night, which I co-founded in November of 2003 with Anjali and E3, occurs at Holocene every second Saturday. Anjali and I also do a Bhangra, Bollywood, Desi Beats show every second and last Sunday on KBOO 90. 7fm from 8pm-10pm.

How'd you get your current main gig?
Anjali and I approached the Fez Ballroom after we had thrown some sold-out bhangra dance parties at Lola's Room in 2002. Blaine Peters, then manager of the Fez, had heard how succesful those parties were, and we started doing parties at the Fez right away. A year later Anjali, E3 and I approached Holocene with our concept of doing an international dance night there, and the rest is history.

How long have you been spinning?
My college radio station didn't get an FCC license until the tail end of my time there, so I only did a touch of college radio in 1995. Thanks to Caleb Winter and John McMahon I started DJing house parties in 1998, and started DJing clubs in 2000.

What drew you to DJing originally?
I had thousands of records and really wanted to introduce people to all the things they hadn't heard yet, but only imagined DJing an underground radio show, never a dance party. Nomadic Noize and DJ Safi started telling me I should consider DJing parties, what with all the records I owned, and once I started DJing house parties I got the bug real fast. A May Day party at the Borthwick Manor in 1999 where I played revolutionary hip-hop, meren-rap and reggaeton for a maniacal crowd sealed the deal.

What are your thoughts on vinyl vs CDS vs laptops?
I have written extensively in my blog about this issue, but essentially it comes down to this: 99. 9% of the music in the world that I am excited about is not available on vinyl. Bhangra, contemporary Bollywood, Reggaeton, Meren-house and Meren-rap, Funk Carioca, Kuduro, Balkan Beats, Arabic music, Persian music, Turkish music, etc., is (except for a small trickle in some cases) not available on vinyl. I love vinyl, I used to play only vinyl, but I am not going to limit the contemporary music I play to a few genres from the United States, England, Jamaica, and Western Europe, which is all that is pressed on vinyl. I'll still always buy vinyl when I can get it, but most of the music I play is only available in digital formats.

What songs will we find ourselves dancing to with you?
Zion "Fantasma"
"Sajanji Vaari Vaari" from the Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. soundtrack
Dam "Mali Huriye"
Nelson de la Olla y La Banda Chula "Donde Estan"
PJD “Boliyan” sung by Lehmber Hussainpuri

How would you describe yourself in five words or less - complete sentence or not:
O: Obsessive, obnoxious, oblivious, overly talkative.

How do you describe the genre you play?
International localized productions featuring the collision of hundreds of years of musical tradition with modern electronics. Resist sonic monoculture!

Who are your other favorite Portland DJs?
My always enlightening and surprising DJ partners: Anjali and E3.

The Incredible KidSpace
The Incredible Kid homepage
Anjali and The Kid on KBOO

Photo by Brian McDonnell
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