Fort Knox Five: D.J.s are performers, and laptops and turntables are instruments

by DGO Web Administrator

The music-supporting community is nuts about the D.J. scene. Despite loads of criticism, electronic dance music continues to pack venues worldwide. Music fans and the purists among them will always believe that music needs to be made with instruments, and the ammunition pile for those purists continues to be replenished the farther techno, house, drone-womp and the like move away from its origins of being made with two turntables and a crate full of vinyl records. When a D.J. is onstage standing in front of a laptop, head bobbing and fist pumping, it’s still hard to tell if what’s being done is the playing of a recorded track, if there’s music being constructed out of different tracks, or if email is being checked and a Yelp review is being written. Others will say the turntable decks and other gadgets are an instrument.

Hell, even Frank Zappa, a respected rock musician, writer and composer, dabbled in electronic music in the latter part of his life and career, composing numerous compositions that were icing on the cake to a large body of respected work.

The Fort Knox Five continues to be a band that is able to pull people off the fence, dividing electronic-music lovers and haters, perhaps making people like myself find its worth in the vast sea of mediocre to must-own music. The Washington, D.C., quartet mixes live music and D.J. sets in its sound, a soulful collection of throw-back funk and hip-hop. An alliance with local promotion company Durango Massive has built a strong following in Durango

The D.J. portion of the band, featuring Steve Raskin and Jason “Q-DUP” Brown will perform Friday at the Animas City Theatre.

Its continued growth and popularity may be due to accessibility of equipment, and that equipment and the person behind it becoming center stage. D.J.s are no longer relegated to the corner providing background music.

“When we were growing up there wasn’t this big boom in electronic music, and I don’t think it was built-in and ingrained in the culture. I think a lot of kids growing up now, it’s something more accessible,” said Brown in a recent phone interview.

“People are saying they ‘D.J.’ as they do ‘I play guitar,’” Raskin added. “The idea that D.J. culture has permeated every aspect of music now means that you can have these D.J. performance sets as performance, and not filling music within a space.”

The unique aspect of Raskin and Brown’s set is they D.J. together, working side-by-side creating the set of music. There’s an element of an improvisational band at work; while they have some certain musical outlines that may be in place prior to the start, there’s a free-form approach that can be dictated by mood of the artist and mood of the crowd.

“The thing that’s nice about the idea of this four-deck set is that it is performance, and while there might be routines, every time is different,” said Raskin. “There’s a sense of jamming that we’re allowed to do, it makes it exciting.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].

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