Local DJ Guy Ruben is often seen behind the decks playing some of S.F.'s most notoriously raucous parties, from Trannyshack to Sunday Fundays at The Lookout. Growing up during the golden age of MTV, he knew he wanted to be a DJ since he could press "Record" on the stereo. Playing a variety of genres with a heavy emphasis on house, he also releases seasonal mixes that feature artists such as Azealia Banks and Disclosure. We recently spoke with Ruben about his love for house music, the perfect party song, and the attraction of "Sunday Fundays." He plays Odyssey this Friday, March 22, in the OddJob Loft at Public Works, with Eli Escobar headlining.
What attracted you to house music?
In the late '90s and early '00s I used to go to raves and clubs and was exposed to some amazing house music. I knew what I liked and was drawn to dancing to house music; the vocals, the rhythm, the vibe that surrounds it. I still have CDs from Bad Boy Bill, Armand Van Helden, and DJ Dan that to this day sound amazing.
Where did you get the idea for your signature red telephone headphones?
That was something I'd seen ages ago in the rave days. It was a trip to see a DJ using that as a headphone and awesome at the same time. It's also rather practical when you think about it. An engineer friend of mine made it for me when I told him about it, and it actually sounds really good. There's real headphone hardware in it.
What's the perfect party-starter song to you?
"Good Life" or "Gypsy Woman" are good go-to's. They're classic, familiar, and have fierce beats. You can't help but want to lip-sync and dance!
Tell us about your latest seasonal mix, "Spring Solstice." What's the inspiration behind it?
I wanted to put together some songs that I currently love and would personally like to hear. Nothing too poppy in it, but as DJ Nita, who's a friend and inspiration to me, says, "It's not about what they want to hear, it's what they should hear." It's got some house, some garage, and some throwbacks that have been updated or remixed. It's a pretty good rep of my current sets.
What's the most best house song you think is out right now?
"White Noise" by Disclosure, which is the second song on the mix. Anything Disclosure touches is next-level amazing.
Since you play Sundays at The Lookout, what do you think is so attractive about the concept of "Sunday Fundays," especially here in S.F.?
I love playing Sundays at Lookout. I definitely keep it a bit lighter and get to play some sugary pop, but I still keep it progressive and in-line with my style. The crowd is always in a fun mood, ready to dance, and ready to shed extra clothes! It's Sunday, the last day to let your hair down before getting back to reality.
Your residencies reflect that you do play some famously wild parties. What's the craziest thing you've seen while DJing?
S.F. in general knows how to party. Once I was DJing while a female was onstage shooting ping-pong balls out of her growler.
What did you play when you saw that happen?
I was between sets at Folsom Street Fair, so my eyes popped out with the rest of the audience.
What's an annoying misconception you would like to get rid of when people come party in gay clubs?
Perhaps that we're all a bunch of lispy Britney Spears fans, queening out at the clubs, while having sex on the dancefloor. That may be true in some cases, but there are so many different shades of gay. I've played leather bars, bear parties, and such, and some of those dudes are tougher than the straight guys who come in with a macho attitude.
Now that you're all around the S.F. circuit and branching out nationwide, what important DJ lessons/reminders do you always have in mind?
Stay true to yourself. You have a sound and style that got you where you are. This is your art, take pride in it. Experimenting is always fun, but don't try to sound like someone else. Learn your craft and always try to get better at what you do. Stay inspired and always think back to why you got into this business in the first place.
What are you most excited about in playing Odyssey with Eli Escobar this Friday?
I've been a fan of Eli for years. His remixes and edits are usually weaved into my sets. He also just seems so down to earth, which I appreciate. I don't want to be a holier than thou, untouchable DJ, either. Most importantly he's majorly into Madonna, just like me.