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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Bangerz's DJ Cutso on His Menacing Moniker, Dre Day, and Post-Gig Rituals

Posted By on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 8:47 AM

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While most of us found ourselves nervously sipping punch and scouting dance partners during high school dances, Paolo Bello, aka DJ Cutso, preferred to spend his time observing the DJ booth. “I would stand as close to the DJ set as possible, and just soak in everything I was seeing and hearing,” he says. 

Growing up at the height of the local mobile DJ movement with his family members rooted in the culture, he would spend lunchtime showcasing mixing ideas and tricks with a core collective of friends. After a few birthday party battles and one fateful DJ competition at Zebra Records, a crew was born, and today, they are known as The Bangerz. We caught up with DJ Cutso about his DJ name, the birth of The Bangerz, and his upcoming gig for Dre Day. He plays a live-remix set this Sunday, Feb. 15, at The Legionnaire Saloon for Dre Day. 

Tell us a little backstory on your crew, The Bangerz. 
The crew and I all went to the same high school, with the exception of DJ Replay. A couple of the guys, Weezmatic and Nick Ngo, I've known from as far back as seventh grade. We all used to watch each other DJ at lunch and at school dances. We soon started to realize that we had a similar interest in scratching and beat juggling, on top of mixing. On my seventeenth birthday, I invited all my DJ buds from school to bring records to my party. It ended up becoming a scratch showcase and jam session in front of the whole party. From there, we started attending and competing in DJ battles together. One Saturday, we all decided to roll out to Zebra Records on Haight Street to compete in their monthly DJ competition. The following Monday, we became a crew.

When did you come up with the moniker Cutso?
CutSoQwik was my AOL screen name, which I eventually adapted as my DJ name. Nick Ngo of The Bangerz started calling me "Cutso," just as an abbreviation. But I thought it sounded menacing, like Bugsy. So I stuck with it.

If you guys had an anthem to represent you guys, what would it be?
There's a song from our 2010 album with the Jabbawockeez, MUS.I.C., called "Robot Remains." That has been our flagship theme song. But if you asked the crew what our real anthem was, we'd tell you, "I Wanna Be The One" by Stevie B. We used to play that record during our breaks at practice to hype us up. The particular copy we had would skip at "I love you, baybehhhhhh-baybehhhh-baybehhhh...," and we would sing along to it.  
What has been your best or wildest DJ gig in your career thus far?
Voodoo Fest in New Orleans in 2011. It was The Bangerz' first major festival performance. We were playing the same stage as A-Trak, Major Lazer, Z-Trip, Mike Relm, King Britt, Steve Angello and Mannie Fresh. The thing was, we were on at 11a.m. on the first day of the festival, so we started out with about fifty people at our stage. As we got louder and deeper into our set, we watched the crowd grow from fifty to about a thousand people in the span of a few songs. And they were amped on it!

You’ve been known around these parts as a master of beat-juggling. How did the come about, besides lots of practice?
I wouldn't say I'm a master of anything. There are things I'm okay at, like beat juggling, but I always strive to be better. Always a student. Coming up, I really looked up to DJs like Shortkut, Babu, Total Eclipse and Mista Sinista, as far as beat juggling goes. To me, they have always been the best beat jugglers in the game, an even balance of musicality and technicality.

You'll be playing a live remix set for Dre Day. What is that, for those of us that don't know?
So I'm taking some of my favorite Dre tracks and reinterpreting them using the original samples, and giving them my own personal twist. Everything I'm performing are remixes I'm crafting exclusively for this event. Dre started out as a DJ, and his production style, from the first NWA album to Chronic 2001, is evident of that. So, I'm reconstructing these songs live using turntables and a controller.

What influence has Dre had on you personally?
His production style was raw as it was polished. If you just kept the drums and the samples as the only components in his production, they would be raw, traditional hip-hop beats. But it was the instrumentation over those main components that made his style extraordinary. I've always been a fan of the raw side of his production, his more sample-heavy joints. His sample layering was insane! I always approach producing a track the same way I approach mixing; with a DJ's ear. Dre definitely did just that when he crafted his classic albums.

Are you a pre-gig or post-gig meal kind of guy? What would the perfect meal consist of?
Post-gig meals don't really go down for me in San Jose, mainly because there aren't many options on the late night outside of drive-throughs and IHOP. But when I get out of my S.F. gigs, my default joint is Taqueria Vallarta on 24th in the Mission. Their tacos are on hit, and it ain't as crowded as El Farolito. Four tacos: one chicken, two carne asada and one tripas. And a Gatorade for all the whiskey in my system. That or a salad and a Yerba Maté tea from the 24-hour Safeway on 16th and Bryant. When the situation gets really real, there's a gas station on 17th and South Van Ness that has fried chicken.

What's coming up for you in 2015?
Remixes, remixes and more remixes! A lot of collaborations with fellow DJ/producers from all over. I'll be co-hosting a new radio show with fellow SF DJ, Truthlive, called, Rebel Pop Radio. It focuses on the best of DJ culture. It will be airing on a major broadcast outlet, which is really all I can say about it at this time. I'm currently working with the crew on an album with Lyrics Born, who I'll also be hitting the road with throughout the year. I've also been working close with S.F. MC Hopie on her next project. I'll also be releasing some original music throughout the year. One of my goals is to do my first music video sometime by the end of this year, as well. On top of that, more gigs, performances, and other weirdness. 
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Christina Li

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