Meet Your Moombahtonistas #11: Doc Adam
Trouble Funk – “Pump Me Up” (Doc Adam Remix)
(Exclusively created for Cool Breezy! FREE DOWNLOAD!)
Humbly assured and intriguingly intelligent, Adam Arola, aka Doc Adam, has been making unforgettable sound waves from the West Coast to the East coast and beyond. Pulling influences from rocksteady, hip-hop, UK funky, and everything in between, Doc Adam utilizes an insanely expansive knowledge of music and unrelenting inspiration to produce some of the most prodigious, yet underrated, moombahton tracks in the game.
Currently settin’ up shop in Portland, Oregon, Doc Adam thrust himself into the moombahton world almost as soon as Dave Nada created it, taking note from the original Moombahton EP and innovating his own sounds from there on out. He’s a certified OG in every sense of the word and one of the first DJs on the West Coast to fully embrace moombahton. He sensed the potential revolutionary dynamic of a brand new genre and churned out track after track to make sure his fellow West Coasters had a feel of what the East Coast was up to. Tracks like “Sex Sax”, “Calypso”, and “Westside, Bitches!” were staple tracks of early moombahton sets from Portland to DC.
Since then, Doc Adam has evolved appropriately, still maintaining his OG cred but working hard to keep up with the second generation of moombahton producers. Within a demanding lifestyle of being a philosophy professor by day and a party rocker by night, he’s still found the time to release a slew of remixes, edits, and original productions to disseminate throughout the airwaves, not to mention a remarkable EP released last summer titled, La Reconquista. Much like many of his single releases, La Reconquista drew from a grab bag of different genres influences, for example funk from Ohio Players in “Funky Worm”; hip-hop from Slum Village in “Raise It Up”; and rock and roll from Grateful Dead in “Fire On the Moombahton”. It totally seems like he’s having a great time pulling old favorites and updating them to fit into today’s musical climate.
For Doc Adam, moombahton is more than just today’s new rave soundtrack. It’s smart, eclectic, and will put the listener in touch with artists and genres who may have become lost in shuffle as America makes the transition from praising instrument-toting rock stars to turntable-spinning DJs. His discography is a must-have for any moombahton DJ or connoisseur, if not for genuinely excellent quality, but simply to add depth and variety to the evening, all while appealing to a mass audience.
I recently linked up with Doc Adam and was able to pick his brain about the current state of moombahton, being a philosophy professor, and what it’s like to be a DJ in Portland. Keep reading!
Cool Breezy: I did some stalking on The Intertron and saw that not only are you a DJ but you’re also a philosophy professor. It’s probably the most interesting of all the “real jobs” I’ve seen DJs work so far. Do these two parts of your life interact and overlap at all?
Doc Adam: This is true, though I am actually on a bit of a hiatus from teaching at present. It is likely that I’ll go back to work in the Fall in some capacity or another. I received my Ph.D. in Philosophy in early 2008 and have been teaching full-time since then, up until the present. For the most part it was not only possible for these two aspects of my life to overlap and interact with one another but they have been largely complementary of one another. In short, my specialization in philosophy is what people in academia call ‘Philosophical Psychology’ – I’ve essentially spent the last ten years of my life studying various theories and systems that attempt explain how and why people interact with each other & the world the way that they do for reasons based on culture, history, gender, race, cognition, perception, and more. This has often led me to investigate, or at least to meditate upon, the manner in which people relate to the nature of art, especially as a communal phenomenon. The overlap with my DJing and production shows up here. While I also have a well-deserved reputation for being awesome at getting drunk and acting like a maniac behind the decks, I probably spend a comparable amount of time essentially engaging in I guess what one could call ‘field research’ when I’m in the booth. I’m fascinated by how people interact with one another, with music, with alcohol and drugs in club settings – I think they offer a very bizarre yet illuminating window into the deeper operating systems that are at work in our culture. I’ve been planning on writing a book about this for sometime, but my voice has eluded me thus far. Hopefully this will snap to attention soon enough.
CB: Where do you draw influence from in your productions and overall DJ style? Who are some of your influences?
DA: I have been DJing for 14 years (or something like that) at this point, the amount of influences I’ve had over that time are obscene. I was trained by DJ Jammin’ Jay, DJ Scotty D, Deckmaster D, and my fellow members of the Unfadeable Crew in Ann Arbor/Detroit, MI. I learned a lot from Disco D, Matthew Dear, Bill Van Loo, Ryan Elliott and others in a very different capacity at that same time. As cliché as it as to say – my biggest influences on me as a DJ at present are a lot of the folks that I consider fellow travelers with many modern legends. Four Color Zack, Evil One, Excel, Impulse, DJ-R, Morse Code, Cosmo Baker, Jayceeoh, Stonerokk & Graham Funke – all of these folks have inspired me as a DJ in one way or another – whether it be on account of their work on the cuts, their impeccable track selection, crazy programming, or just cold ability to rock a party. As for production, it’s harder for me to say. As far as Moombahton goes, I definitely tend the most towards Sabo’s work as of late on account of his digging back into the deeper vibes of Techno, Balearic and early B-Boy Electro. I’m also a huge fan of Pickster & Melo, both individually and as a duo for their steady incorporation of elements of traditional Latino sounds & samples. But I think my main inspiration production-wise come from the weird disparate amount of music I hold in my brain all the time – I have a long-standing obsession with Hardcore Punk, Jazz, Funk, Techno, Dancehall, Afro-Cuban, Hip-Hop, and nearly anything else that rides heavy on the percussion (I’m a drummer as well, I used to play in a lot of Hardcore bands). Somehow or other all of that stuff fuses together and turns into what I make. Though, I do have to admit, I still struggle as a producer with melodies. I’m a rhythm section guy by trade. I’m trying to start doing co-production work with more people to fill in my weak spots.
CB: Describe the most exciting moment you’ve had so far in your DJ career.
DA: I’ve had a few of those thousands of people jumping up and down in front of me moments over the years – though not a ton. There is no doubt that there is an intensity in such moments that is hard to parallel – it is difficult not to find yourself compelled to pull some douchebag Jesus Christ pose in such instances. It seems we are all hard-wired to be sufficiently narcissistic to loving feeling like an Olympic deity. Nevertheless, for me, the most exciting moments for me are the most personal or subtle. Some examples. Having one of my mentors come up to me during a set back in Michigan two years ago with a hint of tears in his eyes telling me that I got “pretty good at this DJ shit.” Standing on the back of the stage at Whisper in Philadelphia at 3 AM while Jay Ski (a long-time hero of mine) played What We Do and seemingly the whole crowd rapped Freeway’s verse – chills went down my spine. Getting to swap back and forth with Evil One & DJ-R at The Dime in LA to a small crowd, trying to out nerd each other with 90s rap album cuts and B-sides. Having DJs that I respect to the moon and back tell me they think I’m good at this shit – honestly, as dumb and perhaps adolescent as it may sound – that moment is about as good as it gets for me.
CB: How did Portland react to moombahton when you first started playing it? How has it taken since then?
DA: They didn’t other react other than to stare at me and stop dancing! Ha. I kid. That has generally been the response, but with certain crowds in the right room I can get it over on people. Though, honestly, I’m not necessarily the best person to consult about Portland’s response. I’m really a party DJ – just generally. I came up as a hip-hop DJ, I mix like a hip-hop DJ, and I have the ADD of a hip-hop DJ. This means that I bang through tracks and genres really quickly. I have definitely tried to constantly interject more moombahton into my sets steadily over time and it seems to be getting easier and easier. While, I think I have more visibility as a producer in moombahton than a lot of other cats in Portland, Ben Tactic, El Cucuy, Joe Nasty, Tyler Keys, and others have been really pushing to make Tropical Bass-specific parties happen where moombahton can be a centerpiece of the night. From what I understand, these nights have varied in success but are picking up steam now – much like my own attempts to introduce more of the genre into my open format sets.
CB: You’ve been producing moombahton pretty much since the beginning. How did you first hear about it? And what do you think about how the genre’ s evolved so far?
DA: I first heard about moombahton in the same way that I think most of us ‘first generation’ cats did, Dave Nada’s Moombah EP that came out through the T&A site. As usual, I was trolling the web and stumbled upon it via Twitter or a blog or something. I downloaded and didn’t really know what to make of it other than that I found the story of it’s ‘creation’ hilarious and liked the fact that it fit into a BPM range that was kind of a stagnant pit in my sets. Once I started hearing more and seeing where it could go, I got really excited about the prospects of the genre. My feelings about the genre’s evolution up this point are somewhat complex. But I think that complexity is indicative of the fact that the genre has actually burgeoned into a legitimate branch of EDM. I’m not a huge fan of super face melting electronic music of any variety, so in turn, I’m not a huge fan of the predominance of dubstep production aesthetics coming to dominant in the genre – or at least in what is really becoming the forefront of the genre within the consumers eyes. That being said, every genre of EDM has its spectrum and I think as moombahton has grown, that spectrum has grown as well. There are new and exciting tracks and styles emerging everyday within the world of moombahton that are reinvigorating my desire to get on my production grind. Hopefully the aspects of the genre of which I am fan will be reflected clearly in my own future production work. But more power and respect to everyone who is helping the genre grow and expand. Hopefully that means some day I’ll get booked somewhere to play a moombahton party!