by Mira Rashidzada
Exacta, aka Brian Smith, has been spinning for 10 years and counting. He started in hip-hop, found it too commercial, and two years ago evolved to house. In just a short time in the underground house music scene, Exacta has covered major ground as a DJ, producer, and artist.
In addition to headlining spaces such as Crobar, Discotheque, Pink Elephant, Glasshouse After Hours and Lucorum in the UK, and La Boy in Brazil, Exacta was also signed as an exclusive artist to Erick Morillo's Subliminal Records in 2004. He's already had three original tracks which he wrote and produced--released on Subliminal: "The Beat Is Inside You" featuring Sandy B, "Flippin" featuring LXC, and "Shake My Soul" featuring Angelica de No.
Exacta is a busy man. He's putting together his upcoming record label, Compulsive Music, managing continuous bookings, and constantly making music. In between it all, he found some time to get together for this one on one interview with Clubplanet.
How did you get into DJing?
My parents had a little turntable in my basement where I grew up. I would always play records and play around. I would tape different radio shows. I would always buy records. I was four or five. As early as I can remember - music was a big part of my family. That was one of the big things we did for recreation - listen to music or talk about music. My parents were always up on music and had new records. My grandfather had a huge collection of tapes and 8 tracks. Music was always something really important. When I was 17, I worked as a maintenance guy. I would clean the toilets and was doorman of 39 West 37th Street. I made a lot of money - well, not a lot - but I saved that money. I was 17 that summer and I spent $2500 and got a speaker, amp, two turntables, and a mixer. I worked at D & D Recording Studio - a hip-hop studio. I was working with DJ Premier. I would give him tapes of me DJing.
Yeah, hip-hop. I did house tapes too but I liked to DJ hip-hop better because back then hip-hop was more underground, you could break new records. Back then house was so mainstream - you had to play all the hits.
Where was your first gig as a hip-hop DJ?
I was doing big hip-hop parties in college [University of Wisconsin - Madison.] That's when I started doing my own parties. I would rent out a club, put fliers out and do hip-hop parties but I had music no one had because I was connected from working at the studio and I was really into the hip-hop scene. I worked for Payday Records, a hip-hop label, in promotions. So I was able to do these gigs even when I didn't know how to DJ, I would advertise "New York's Dopest DJ" and I was literally like two months into it - no idea what the fuck I was doing. I'd just play the records.
At what point did you become a house music DJ?
What triggered your evolution to house?
Hip-hop became too commercial and I said I can't do this anymore.
Where was your first house music DJ gig?
It's crazy - the first complete house party I ever did - was Space patio at the Winter Music Conference of 2004. I was standing in the patio - I'm like "Holy Shit! It's my first time ever just playing house." Even when I did Deep or all the places - I always started with hip-hop and would go to house later after like 12:30am.
What is currently your favorite space/venue to spin?
I like playing at Discotheque because I'm able to do what I like to do. I get technical and it's really good to monitor there, to mix and I like that because I do a lot of live remixing and it's really tough at certain venues. They don't have good sound.
I'll play a record and I'll just throw an a cappella on it. It's almost like I'm in a studio creating, like a mini-studio session.
Favorite NYC club venue:
Believe it or not, even though it's recent - Pink Elephant. I love it - I love it there. It's the first place I've seen that really comes off with the right combination as a musical venue. It's small, it's intimate, has a really good sound system. The crowd's really high end, really cool, and it's the only place that's playing the funky house music - not like cheesy, commercial - like really cool, funky house.
Where would you like to spin that you haven't yet?
I'd like to spin at Fabric in England. I've heard a lot of amazing things about it - about the space itself, the sound system and the vibe.
What do you think of the current house music scene?
It's amazing. It reminds me of the early hip-hop scene in the early 90s. It's totally underground now, totally away from the mainstream. There's KTU but the music I play, you never hear that on the radio. Funky house music that's played all over the world, you can't hear it anywhere in New York. Turn up KTU - nowhere, no video, anything. You go to England, turn the radio on, even though hip-hop is getting bigger, house music is prevalent. It amazes me.
Who or what has inspired you as a DJ?
The biggest inspiration to me as a DJ is the whole radio mix show thing that was happening in New York in like the late 80s, early 90s. I would listen to Red Alert, Funkmaster Flex, DJ Premier, Mr. Magic, all those underground hip-hop shows. Even the live broadcasts back in the day when there was house music on Hot 97 and Z100 - all those old school DJs and shows. I listened to it and I loved when I would hear two songs together. That fascinated me when I was younger. I always wanted to do that - blending records. That was really big and that did something for me.
As a producer?
No one. The only reason I started producing is because I'd be walking on the street and I'd hear songs in my head and be like - wait, that's not a song, I just thought of that. I'd write it down and every once in a while I'll get into a creative mood where I'll keep thinking of songs. I just started writing them down before I even got equipment, then I got the equipment. I just knew that was something I was meant to do.
When did you start producing?
Two years ago.
When and how did you get into remixing?
About a year and a half ago. I always loved remixing, I love remixes and it's something fun. I just haven't done too many - I did Nelly Furtado, "Forca" and "Xstatic Process", Madonna. But I'm going to be getting into more remixing now.
Do you play any instruments?
I can play the drums. I played in jazz band. That's my first instrument that I played. I took lessons. I played in bands in junior high school and high school. I had an old school hip-hop band but we won't talk about that one.
What was the name of the band?
Well, it was called "Pumping Tupperware" because I had a Tupperware drum set. (Laughs).
How old were you?
Like nine, ten. But now I also play keyboard - I play everything by ear.
What cartoons did you watch as a kid?
I loved Smurfs, Gummy Bears. If it was still on...
First record you ever bought?
Band Aid "Feed the World".
Top 5 records of all time:
Chaka Khan - "Ain't Nobody"
Band Aid -"Feed The World"
Pete Heller - "Big Love"<