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Thursday, November 12, 2015

DJ Jerry Nice on Loving Tape Singles, Working at Groove Merchant, and Two Years of Straighten It Out

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 12:52 PM

click to enlarge TRACI ZECH
  • Traci Zech
Ever since he was caught dancing to Snoop Dogg’s “Who Am I? (What's My Name?)" at the age of 8, Jerome Zech, aka DJ Jerry Nice, has had a unique attachment and addiction to tape singles. “My babysitter bought it for me at Tower Records because I liked the cartoon characters on the front. When my parents got home, I was dancing to it and rapping along, which I think was their ‘uh-oh’ moment,” he remembers. From then on, his collection of music continued to grow through his high school and college years, where his time was often spent bartering tapes with friends or hunting for vinyl.

Since moving to San Francisco from Seattle in early 2007, he has chosen to share his collection through channels like DJing, throwing parties, and making mixtape series. We caught up with Nice about working for Groove Merchant, his vinyl addiction, and two years of his local party, Straighten It Out. The party celebrates two years this Saturday, [11/14] at Madrone Art Bar

How did you make your way from Seattle to San Francisco?

I visited the City for the first time over 10 years ago, and was immediately drawn to the amount of culture here. Every couple of blocks was a new experience and I was determined to make the move shortly after. San Francisco is like Seattle on steroids in several ways, in a much more confined amount of space.

When did you realize that you had an addiction to vinyl?
I used to mostly buy records to actually play out, but since then my tastes have grown over time, so naturally the collection does as well.

I think I had that moment of realization when I took a road trip to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, to not only visit friends, but also pick up the James Mason LP my friend had on hold for me. On the way back, I said to myself, ‘you kind of made this trip happen to get that record in person, didn’t you?’ It was worth it!

How did you connect and become part of the Groove Merchant crew?
Groove Merchant is synonymous with San Francisco to me. It’s not only one of the greatest record stores of all time, but has influenced countless vinyl spots over the past 25 years.

From day one, the guys who work there have been like family and have introduced me to so much amazing music over time. Cool Chris runs the ship and has been a huge inspiration over the years. Vinnie Esparza actually gave me my first major gig in the city at Elbo Room, which is one of my favorite memories since moving here. We’ve joined forces to play parties countless times over the years, and I’ll do my best to keep that going as long as possible.

What has been your favorite memory thus far of working there?
That is a tough one! Coming up on specific records always comes to mind. I’ll never forget walking in there in the early days and seeing an original Skull Snaps on the wall – it took me about four installments over time to pay it off! Top Ramen dinners were in heavy rotation around then.

There have been some classic moments from behind the counter too - talking about Al Green and his recording process with ?uestlove, laughing about the difficulty of mixing with disco rap with J.Rocc (“there’s no chorus!”) and talking about the future of Lord Quas with Madlib. Obviously, all of them have been huge inspirations to me, and being able to have that platform to speak to some of my heroes has been priceless.

You've also released two all-rap 45 mixtapes in conjunction with local collective Grown Kids Radio. What have you found is the best strategy to hunt down rap 45s?
I really do love those mixes. Not only because of the genre, but also because of the challenge with recording and mixing 45s in general… not much margin for error there.

It used to be so much easier to hunt them down, but always pretty expensive the deeper you go. Since most of them are from the UK or US promo, they can get very tricky to locate regardless. It’s really a healthy combination of trades, linking with dealers and digging at record stores.

This Saturday, you celebrate two years of Straighten It Out at Madrone Art Bar. What has been the theme of the party?
My favorite part of this night is that there really is no theme (hence the tagline, “all genres, all good”). It’s really become the perfect night for what I envisioned when I first moved here. It’s basically a big dance party without any restrictions, where DJs can get outside of their comfort zone and just do their thing. Obviously, we play a healthy mix of hip-hop and R&B, but eventually go all over the place as the night progresses, like funk, soul, house, or re-edits we like and create on the fly.

It seems to get better with each night, so I’m really excited about the future!

Tell us a little about this mix you and Marky (DJ Proof) have worked on for the anniversary.
We’ve been planning this one for a while, but obviously want to ensure that the sound is representative of our night. We’re finalizing it as we speak and have been sharing ideas back and forth for some time now. So far, it’s focused on re-edits we like or made ourselves, with all types of genres sprinkled throughout. It’s sounding really good! 
What do you think is important about preserving the culture of local parties and not just having big-name headliners/clubs?
As most people know, San Francisco has changed vastly in the past five years or so. The most noticeable change is with the nightlife scene. The option to DJ or go see DJs at local spots just doesn’t exist like it used to.

Local venues that pay well and let you do your thing are rare these days. They become incredibly important to the music scene because they not only create a sense of community, but also add some much needed diversity to the City. I see Madrone as one of the few places left that embraces this role and creates a family-like environment for everyone involved, but don’t get it twisted. Madrone gets just as rowdy, if not more, than any big name club in the City. Not only that, but being able to have home base near two of the most historical and funky streets in the country is pretty special too.


Lastly, what are three favorite songs that will always remain on rotation for you?
Another tough one… if I had to pick three tracks that I’m feeling in particular right now though (and playing out), I’d go with the following:

Showbiz & A.G. – “Party Groove”

One of my all-time favorites. It’s one of those perfect records that heads love and keeps the dance floor moving every time.

Missy Elliot – “I’m Really Really Hot (Kaytranada Remix)”

You could insert a majority of Kaytranada’s catalogue in here, but this one in particular seems to turn things up a notch every time. It’s a healthy blend of genres, very uptempo, and when her vocals finally drop it’s game over.

Robin S x Kid Ink – “Show Me Love (Cutso Special Blend)”

Cutso is Straighten It Out family, and has done a couple of our parties so far. This edit is one of my all-time favorites and has become a staple each month. The concept is perfect and the execution is even better. This is my jam!
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Christina Li

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