I initially got into the DJ game in 1989 because I was a lover of both hip-hop and industrial, and in the one-horse town I was attending in college, there was precious little of either. The college radio station had some great hip-hop DJ’s who would do live shows on campus with four decks, which was great, but beyond that, the only proper club in town was playing the same top 40 songs every night.
This was unacceptable. So I got some 1200’s and started attempting to beat match. My first long mix was “Pleasure Principle” by Janet Jackson with “A Continental Touch” by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Do not attempt at home. I think it was in 1990 that I happened to be at the same tired club that I always settled for, but this time, a young man named Andre Lucero was there. He dropped a track that started me on my long journey to now. It was “Techno Gangsters” by n-joi. My life was altered forever.
The track had the punchy beats from the Techno-esque tracks of hip hop that I loved, but also some of the darker undertones from Industrial. I remember running up to the booth and demanding to know just WTF this was. Andre, the poor guy who had to answer for this, would later become one of my closest friends and very first DJ mentor. Andre and I would go on to co-host Infusion, the very first live mixing techno show on KCSB, the aforementioned FM station broadcast on the UCSB campus. Ron Millar, who would also became a lifelong friend, engineered it while we trained to get our own radio operator’s permits.
Having listened to other DJ’s on KCSB for 5 years, it was both an honor and a blast. In addition to all this, it was the magical time known as “the early 90’s”. I feel very fortunate, in terms of techno on the West Coast, to have “been there at the beginning”. When I think back on those times, my only regret is not calling in sick to work more to go to raves in LA and SF, though I did get to quite a few. Back on the home front, in Santa Barbara, I started spinning here and there at both sanctioned and (mostly) unsanctioned parties. Let’s just say that junkyard bolt cutters were often just as valuable as turntables, amp racks and lighting systems at such events.
Through the years, I got to meet incredible people who both worked and played with me in what now seems like a dream that very few people would believe. It was a bit further into the 90’s that I hooked up with a great crew called the Justice League. Monty Luke, Ray Shomon, Kamahele, Joe Rice et al, were seminal in inspiring me to continue spinning and hitting raves all over California, as much as possible. We also had a cool little party called “Horizon” that would take place at an undisclosed location on a thin strip of land between a lagoon and a beach somewhere in the 805. Great times!
By this time I had spun my share of Old Skewl Techno, House, and Trance, but had really glommed onto what was and still is my favorite genre: Breaks, baby! The problem was, in the late 90’s, I was having trouble finding anything on vinyl that really moved me. So I took a sabbatical and started investing my time and mind into other pursuits, which were fulfilling on different levels.
Until… One day in 1999, I happened to meet Tim Schmidt (aka DJ Tokz), who was working at a coffee shop/accommodations service in SB. In our very first chat, he handed me a teaser flyer for an event he was spinning at. I mentioned that I was a DJ too and he asked my DJ name. When I told him it was “Yoshi”, his eyes bugged out and he almost fell off of the chair upon which he was sitting. In a classic “small world” moment, he informed me that he used to listen to Infusion, as well as the other solo show I did later at KCSB called “Twilight Junkies”, regularly. I was stunned. In short order, he invited me into a DJ/Producer collective known as the Beatnix Labs.
This was great, but I was worried at the time that I had no new tracks to offer. Little did I know that during my sabbatical NuSkool breaks had become a thing. And oh what a thing they were! As if stumbling into a new crew and a whole new sub-genre of breaks weren’t serendipitous enough, an old friend of mine, inspired by parties thrown and music made in the recent past, made the bold decision to begin throwing free parties in the mountains behind our fair city.
There was no party hotline, no map point, and all that you’d see on the flyer for these parties was wonderful artwork, the WoM monogram, and a date. This kept things both intimate and free. And so the Word of Mouth era was born!
For the next 17 years, we were able to manifest great parties in a healthy context out in nature, run by people who, having some experience in both throwing parties and woodcraft, made sure that all eventualities were covered, and that whichever site we partied at was cleaner than when we found it.
There is no way to adequately frame what an amazing epoch this was, and understandably, I felt blessed to keep spinning right on through it. During this time, our crew was also invited to throw down at the annual Santa Barbara Summer Solstice celebration, which was the complete opposite of what we did in the mountains in terms of logistics, but identical in terms of spirit.
We got to share our music with moms, dads, grandparents and little kids on a sunny day at a city park, which had never been a thing in SB. And the crowd was down like gravity for what we served them. Good times! Flashing forward to now, as you all know, DJ Tokz has created yet another Turning of the Great Wheel of Breaks, this time online. I am honored be involved in the SB Crew and the Breakbeat Bestiary at whatever level they’ll have me. As a stubborn dinosaur who got into the game just after the making of fire, I am primarily a vinyl DJ. But Master Tokz, as ever, is driving my evolutionary path forward. As such, I look forward to sharing what I’ve got in my dusty crates, as well as whatever I find in the digital realm, with all of you fellow breakbeat fanatics, as well as the unsuspecting world at large!
More updates, live mixes, and releases to follow. Stay tuned right here for the latest on his endeavours.