Deep, funky house never had it so good. Keepin' It Deep at BLU Lounge will live up to its name this Thursday when they welcome funky house soldier Wally Callerio as special guest DJ. Wally's production sound and DJ sets pair strong soulful vocals with jazzy, funky productions that leave a mark long after you've left the club. His imprint, Duffelbag Records, has been home to more than 75 releases, including Wally's own Soul Society LP. In advance of his set at BLU, Wally agreed to speak about his label, influences, and artists that inspire him.
RUDY: Still based in LA?
WALLY: Yeah - actually, an hour south of LA in Huntington Beach.
RUDY: There's been a lot of talk about a transition going on in the LA club scene - a transition away from the "open format" sound that was made famous by guys like DJ AM, into a more traditional house sound with a lot of very pop-friendly vocal house tunes being dropped in the clubs. That has to have been a boon to you since your sound makes use of very accessible soulful vocals...
WALLY: It definitely has been. You know, the trends the last five to six years have definitely leaned towards electro and sounds with a lot less meaningful vocals and programming behind it. I just keep doing what I love to do and hopefully people receive it well. The trend seems to be swinging back, so it will continue that way.
RUDY: When you were working on original productions, with so much of the industry moving towards the electro and minimal sounds, did you ever feel any pressure to take that swing into the more minimal or electro style of production rather than sticking to your guns and maintaining that funky, chunky vocal sound?
WALLY: I never really produce for the trends - I always just produced music that I liked. To me, it was always something with melodies and vocals; something that after leaving the club you could sing for the next two weeks and not get out of your brain... I come from the older school of house where I like to tell a story with my music instead of making it a "track-y" thing. It's just a different way of approaching it, and I'd love to see house get back to that point where it's accepted as widely as the other dance genres.
RUDY: In relation to DJ sets, the Djs that have the most impact are the ones that are able to take you on a journey throughout the duration of their set. Who are some of the DJs that have affected you that way?
WALLY: My two biggest influences were always Mark (Farina) and Derrick (Carter) back in the day. There were a lot of sub-influences like Sneak and Doc (Martin) - all those people definitely are pieces to my puzzle, but Mark and Derrick are the people who I feel I absorbed the most from. Those two guys are similar, but so different, and I tried to take the best of what each one had to offer and incorporate that into how I DJ and produce my music... There are so many people out there who do it right - Diz, Heather - but when I first started those were the two people who grasped my attention.
RUDY: Who are some of the artists that are lighting your fire these days?
WALLY: Wattie Green is putting out a lot of good stuff, Sonny Fodera, Nonfiction... There's so many kids, I could go on for days. It's crazy - the level of production jumped so hard in the past couple of years because these kids that started producing four or five years ago are starting to get the hang of it... I wish everybody made music because all that does is give me more of a chance to be inspired by somebody else.
RUDY: Let's talk about the album for a second. The Soul Society LP has been out for about six months now on Duffelbag Records. How has that been doing?
WALLY: It's done great. As far as promotion and being visible again in people's eyes, it's been great for me... When I started Digibag (the digital component to Duffelbag Records), I took some time off from Djing and production to concentrate on the software. Music's what I love to do, and the business has always been second to me. Digibag was a shot at security in life and a foundation to be able to do music for the rest of my life. After the album jumped off and created a bit of visibility again and started bringing in some remixes again, it definitely sparked my interest and gave me some drive in the studio.
RUDY: We've got you this Thursday at Keepin' It Deep at Blu Lounge. You've played here before. What was it like the last time you were in town?
WALLY: It was a few years ago, but honestly, it was one of the more fun parties I played in the Midwest. Back in the day, it was one of my most memorable moments. Slater (Hogan, promoter for Keepin' It Deep) has always been a really good guy, loves what he does and has always represented really well for house music so I'm always excited to play for anybody like that.
Wally Callerio will be at BLU Lounge this Thursday, May 15, for Keepin' It Deep, with support from Manic, John Larner and Slater hogan. Presale tickets are still available at www.keepinitdeep.myevent.com.
For a taste of Wally's sound, grab his Live at Focus mix.
Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of "Hit The Decks" on X103.