Tour Necessities Q&A: DJ Halo on Doomsday Roadshow 2016
Currently residing in Oakland, California, DJ Halo is a man of many hats: a DJ / turntablist (and has been one since 1997), a producer, a remixer, a man behind Fake Four’s Four Finger Distro, a hard worker, and a Virgo. I’m not sure how the last one is entirely relevant here, but he assured me that by being one, it meant that he was going to give me cool answers in this interview.
Before I get into this interview, let me give you a brief rundown on the man known as DJ Halo (or HaloDoesntSuck, or just Halo). Whether remixing or producing, his music styles lie with hip hop, funk breaks, downtempo, electro, and dubstep. He has toured all over the country, as well as Canada and Europe, as a solo act and accompanying various emcees (ie: Grayskul, Domer, Sadistik, Ceschi, Sole, Brzowski, Corina Corina, and PremRock, to name a few). He once held DJ residencies in New York, Connecticut, and Maine, but currently holds two residencies in Oakland (at The Legionnaire and Bar 355). He has performed at SXSW five times, and will be making his sixth round this year. He has created DJ-friendly remixes and re-edits of songs by artists like Ghostface Killah and Danny Brown, Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, Kay the Aquanaut, PremRock, DJ Shadow, Acid Reign, Brzowski, and more (listen to some here and here). If you visit his website, you’ll find out even more information on this busy, busy guy.
Personally, I became familiar with him a few years ago, when he would be doing his Fake Four Distro thang by sending me dope hip hop to listen to and review. Around the same time, I got familiar with his name by seeing it associated with Maine emcee Brzowski‘s a lot–both in music and shows/tours. Then, we became cool on social media, I reviewed the Wichitah EP he and Brzo did together, he did a song for CrayonBeats‘ third installment of The Monsters Are Due On CrayonBeats compilation series (check out “The Living Doll“), and here we are today.
Brzowski and Halo will be embarking on their West Coast tour, called Doomsday Roadshow, between January 13th and January 23rd. It’s a 10-stop tour and they will be hitting cities in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Check the Tour Necessities Q&A below, where Halo talks about meeting Brzowski for the first time, the Doomsday Roadshow tour, relating 666 to his car, ghost writers, his core packing essentials and being incredibly organized, music that will get him through the trip, his pre-show ritual, his wild and sweaty stage performance, his most memorable tour story, tour advice, and being a cheap and environmentally conscious health-nut when it comes to snacks and beverages. Read it below, and make sure you attend a show in your city.
Tiffology: You and Brzowski have been friends for a long time now, and have played plenty of shows together over time. Tell me about how you guys met and the relationship between you two.
DJ Halo: Let’s hop in the way back machine now; Let me see… Well, I wish I could say something more interesting, but I was on tour with BrokeMC and Swordplay, in Spring 07 or 08, and we did a show in Portland, ME, which is how we met. Sleeping on Gym mats in the old Grant St. apt. Booked Brzo to do some shows in CT and we developed a good chemistry, and we are both maniacs and we both had heart-wrenching break-ups with beautiful redheaded women at around the same time, so we just naturally developed a friendship.
Tell our readers a little bit about the Doomsday Roadshow tour, and why they should attend a show in their city.
Doomsday Roadshow is like our way of saying “we’re coming to town.” The music we do live is kinda looking at life through a terrifying perspective and saying, “yeah, the world’s going to shit and we don’t care (that much).” Our stage banter and chemistry as MC/DJ is something to see as well, no show is exactly alike because we are always improvising on each other to keep the energy up while delivering pretty depressing subject matter. Plus, I’ll be doing my newest set called “JUKEBOX HERO” which is 45 min of open format DJ to the extreme. Yes, the Foreigner song Jukebox Hero is featured in the set.
What is the main mode of transportation?
Funny you should ask about that. Over the last 6 weeks or so, I have been essentially rebuilding my Honda Element after a hard life of almost 200k miles in only 6 years. $6k and change later, I have my beloved Mech Warrior of a car back and we don’t have to mess with a rental and such. It’s a Standard transmission though, so only I can drive it, which is a bummer for some of the drives, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. BTW, you see what I did there with the numbers I cited?
I imagine that your lodging largely consists on staying at someone else’s place–sleeping on a couch, an air mattress, in a sleeping bag on the floor, or whatever set up you will have. That said, what type of houseguest are you / do you try to be?
We are THE WORST house guests ever–we roll like Beastie Boys ’86, hella Redi-whip whippets and smashing mirrors with the empty whipped cream cans, actin’ all types of loud and pissing off neighbors, bags of poop on every doorstep; you know just usual rock star behavior. HAHAHA. But seriously, we try to be the same type of guest that I wouldn’t mind having in my crib and hopefully the facilities comply with that thought. There are some people out there who really don’t clean their bathroom at all. It’s all I need really is a reasonably clean bathroom, and anything else can wait for a truck stop or whatever.
When you’re traveling with other people, in the same vehicle, are you a talker or one who prefers to keep to himself?
When I’m not driving, I am either checking email and furiously working via my phone or asleep, so I guess keep to myself? If I’m not doing either of those things, I’m definitely talking, mostly out of my ass.
What do you do to alleviate road-induced boredom?
Conjure the spirits of Gore Vidal and William Buckley to debate for our enjoyment, only they speak backwards (guess that’s the deal with being dead), so we record it for later.
How many bags are you packing?
ONE BAG ONLY (a Timbuk2 messenger bag to be exact), aside from my DJ Pack. I travel hella light. Also, thankfully, my natural core scent is quite enchanting. Been told it’s spice sandalwood type smell.
When you pack for a trip, do you pack just enough clothes for the amount of days out or extras, just in case?
I pack the same thing almost every time: 1 pants, 7 boxers, 7 t-shirts, 7 socks, 1 hoodie + what I am wearing (1 pants, 1 boxer, 1 socks, 1 t-shirt, 1 sweater, 1 jacket). Usually you’ll stay with someone you can wash your clothes with, if you are out for more than 7 days.
If I were to open up your bag(s), what is the first thing that I would see? Also, are you a neat and tidy packer or a bit on the chaotic side?
Super neat and tidy: dirty clothes inside out (to differentiate) and at the front of the bag, separated by a hoodie or sweater, clean clothes in order of boxers, shirts, pants. Socks reside in the right side of my bag and my dopp kit (canvas attache bag for toiletries, BEST TRAVEL ITEM EVER) reside on the left with my old man pill case with all my dose of vitamins in there somewhere as well. Usually extra stickers and business cards in the front zip pocket as well.
Tell me about your top 5 (or more, if necessary) albums that you will be listening to on this trip.
1) Last Child – Humble and Low EP (Galapagos4), this is my favorite rapper of all time and his only work, recorded in 1998, released in 09 I believe; this is EXACTLY how I feel about life for the most part.
2) Danny Brown – XXX (Fool’s Gold), Kinda late to the party on Danny Brown, but super feeling him lately.
3) Roots Manuva – Brand New Secondhand (Big Dada), The first release of Big Dada and just really great record for driving can fade to the background but also keep your attention.
4) Tycho – Dive (Ghostly Int’l), An amazingly beautiful and melodic album really great to help drift off into just zoning out on the road for hours. Their work with guitar and keys for melodies is incredible and super unique.
5) Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels (Fools Gold/Mass Appeal), This album just never fails to get me HYPE AS FUCK. More of a record for the last hour before getting to a venue or after a good show.
6) Tracks in Progress playlist from my phone: always listening to stuff I have made and tweaking it.
Top 5 travel necessities?
1) Sleeping Bag: Came late to the sleeping bag on tour party, but damn am I glad I made it, REVOLUTIONIZED touring for me.
2) Towel: NEVER assume there will be any amenity available to you while traveling always bring your own.
3) Pillow: Can use a hoodie or a bag in a pinch, but it’s always better to have the real deal.
4) Dopp Kit: I mentioned it earlier, but it’s essentially a canvas leather-bottomed attache case, kinda like the old doctors used for house calls. Keeps all your toiletries in one easy to use place. Even if I don’t bring my bag into the crash spot (some places I don’t, because I don’t want my clothes smelling like the place), you can bring this in to at least take out contacts and such.
5) A Hoodie: NEVER underestimate how nice being able to throw up a hood and block the world out for a bit can be on tour, can sub as a pillow usually and just a great layer to have on hand. The only time I ever traveled without one I suffered for it–SXSW ’10 when Austin was colder than NYC the whole week.
Top 5 snacks and beverages for the road?
1) TRAIL MIX: I try not to buy much food on the road because it’s terrible food and I don’t want to feel like shit, so Trail Mix is my weapon of choice to keep hunger at bay and not feel like crap. Not the candy ass trail mix either, this trail mix smells earthy as hell (dried cran, raw mixed nuts, dried cherries, dried blueberries) and packs a whallop nutritionally. Literally, 3 handfuls and you just ate a meal nutrition-wise.
2) Loaf of Bread: Not ass white bread either, good whole wheat based, Hi-fructose free, dense bread for sandwiches.
3) Jar of natural Peanut Butter: A good way to keep your protein intake up and full of good fats.
4) Jar of honey: It’s nature’s perfect food for a reason
5) Apples: Sweet and delicious, also thirst-quenching in a pinch
6) WATER WATER WATER: I refuse to buy a bottle of water, so I bring my own bottle (Camelbak to be exact) and most gas stations have a place you can fill your bottle at or any fast food/coffee shop/etc. will fill it for you. Cheap and environmentally conscious.
Gas station coffee: yay or nay? If yay, how do you like your coffee? If nay, what’s your possibly-caffeinated, pick-me-up drink of choice?
NAY, NAY, NAY, in a pinch sure why not, but I actually prefer energy drinks when on the road (sugar free), because I feel they work better for me and are usually on sale 2-3 cans for $3-5. Just about the only recurring expense I try to have on tour. However, in EU, I will drink gas station coffee all day, because they give a shit about the quality of the coffee, how the coffee (espresso really) tastes and how it is made over there.
In regards to food, do you plan ahead? Meaning, do you make a budget, have an idea about what you’re going to eat for meals, try to eat well (healthy / healthy-ish), etc? Or, do you just wing it and hope for the best?
I don’t spend money on shit when I am touring, so I def plan ahead and bring supplies with me: PB, Honey, Trail Mix, Apples, Crackers (Triscuits or a whole grain cracker) and Cheese (usually a cheddar and a soft cheese like brie). If a meal is not offered as part of the show deal, I usually just eat a PB&H and some trail mix or an apple. Always try to eat well on the road so, if I am buying, it’s usually a Subway veggie delight 12″ w/EXTRA veggies.
When touring, especially for this one, are you most likely to be: a fast-food / local food spot junkie, a grocery store shopper to make your own food (healthy or otherwise), or are you most likely to be seen buying random cheap stuff in a convenience store and throwing something questionable together as if you’re on an episode of Chopped?
Grocery store shopper and making my own food (healthy), for sure. I am a Scotsman, so I am thrifty by nature and just can’t spend the money (budgetary or politically) on eating out all the time.
Touring isn’t quite a vacation, especially when you have a show per day, in different cities, and one might be slacking on personal hygiene and a good night’s rest. That said, when you DO have time to spare in a city of the show, what kind of things are you likely to do?
Go to a record shop or, most likely, post up at a coffee shop with wifi and get work done. Boring, I know, but them’s the breaks juggling running a label, a sales position and being on tour, simultaneously. You get behind pretty damn quick.
Are there any special stops that you’re looking forward to for this tour?
Always like hanging in PDX. Seattle is a great town and I usually get to stay with one of my favorite rappers up there. Interested to see what a show in Medford, OR, is like.
Do you have a tour rider? If so, what kind of things are on it? If not, will you ever be the type of artist that has something weird and/or extravagant on the must-have list (whether for real or for a joke)?
We do have a tour rider, but it’s all real tech details that we need (mics, DI boxes, etc.). Maybe when we are getting more famous we’ll have like a blanket knitted from love, or some nonsense like that.
Any pre-show rituals?
I used to smoke like a billion cigarettes before a show, but now I just set up and start DJing immediately, which I like because after about 5-10 min people are like, “Who the fuck is this guy?” Whether that’s a result of my skilled performance or I’m just playing really strange stuff for a rap show, I can’t say.
What are a couple of songs that you guys will be performing?
We’ll be performing most, if not all, of the Wichitah EP and crowd favs like “Atlantic”, “The Tourist” and “Out Of Turn”. I’ll be doing different cuts and such most every night, because I’m a jerk like that.
Describe what a DJ Halo performance looks like.
Basically, me playing super crazy music (anything from Punk to Trap, Metal to Trip Hop, Underground rap from the early 00’s), scratching a lot and going nuts, cut outs on tracks, yelling shit, sweating.
What is the first thing you do after a show is over?
I used to always, as soon as it was quiet, say, “That’s all I have to say about thaaaht,” in a Forest Gump voice. Now, I just pack up and figure out what’s up with crash spot as fast as I can, sneak another Soda water with Cran.
Merch; will you have it?
We will have copies of Wichitah on sale for sure, Brzo will have specific merch. I am always behind the 8 ball on merch, so no HALO-specific stuff, but I will have shirts and a new remixes comp. on sale, for sale, enroute to SXSW this year.
What do you like most about traveling / touring? And, in contrast, what do you hate most about it?
I love meeting new people and just being in different areas than my East Oakland hood all the time. Hate being behind on work and missing my GF.
If possible, tell us one of your most memorable (for whatever reason) touring stories.
Hooked up with a girl, in Minneapolis, who ended up representing U of MN on College Jeopardy a few months later, and I saw the entire episode at the gym with the sound off. She didn’t win. What made this scenario more funny was one of the things we talked a lot about was College Bowl, which is like Jeopardy only for college students. She said Jeopardy was total bullshit how that guy Ken, the most winning Jeopardy contestant ever, was a total sell-out because he started on College Bowl. Then, sure enough, she was on Jeopardy not 3 months later. Funny how ethics fall by the wayside when offered a slot on prime time national TV.
Whether from the business side of putting a tour together or from the artist / performing side, what are 3 tour-related tips you’d give to others?
1) Plan your route as best you can to avoid back tracking or 12+ hour drives.
2) Always bring a hoodie (this is good for any travel really).
3) ALWAYS PUT ON A SHOW whether there are 500 or 5 people. You are there to perform, so don’t be a bitch and do a shit show because no one is there.
Anything last words?
HALO DOESN’T SUCK
Wed. 1/13 – San Jose CA – Back Bar Sofa
Thu. 1/14 – Sacramento CA- Blue Lamp
Fri. 1/ 15 – San Francisco CA – Honey Hive Gallery
Sat. 1/16 – Reno NV- Studio On 4th
Sun. 1/17 – Portland- OR- Ash St. Saloon
Tue. 1/19 – Olympia WA- Le Voyeur
Wed. 1/20 – Seattle WA – Substation
Thu. 1/21 – Medford OR – Johnny B’s
Fri. 1/22 – Eugene OR – Wandering Goat
Sat. 1/23 – Bellingham WA – Swillery Whiskey Bar