Late Night Radio to headline Belly Up Aspen
If You Go …
Who: Late Night Radio, with Def3
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, May 26, 9:30 p.m.
How much: Free until 10 p.m.; $5 thereafter
More info: www.bellyupaspen.com
Performing as Late Night Radio, Alex Medellin has been making a name for himself on Denver’s booming electronic scene. The prolific DJ and producer has an uncanny and original ear for samples and sounds that have positioned him to follow in the footsteps of acts like Pretty Lights and Big Gigantic who’ve leapt from Denver clubs to the international stardom.
Aspen audiences have gotten to know him through some high-profile opening gigs at Belly Up — supporting Big Gigantic in 2014 and Thievery Corporation’s two-night Independence Day run last year. The 31-year-old DJ, who is at work on a full-length hip-hop album with some rap greats like Del the Funky Homosapien, headlines Belly Up tonight. He’s bringing along live drummer Tyler Unland and the Canadian rapper Def3.
Late Night Radio’s releases have included collaborations with singers and rappers, but his best-known work is the wildly popular “Vinyl Restoration” series. Over six volumes of “Vinyl Restoration” releases he’s carved out a niche for himself with laid-back and soulful hip-hop beats that mix snippets of dialogue with old-school sounds from funk, soul, rock and rap. Those tracks and his vaunted live shows last year landed Late Night Radio on Westword’s list of the 10 best DJs in Denver.
I caught up with Medellin recently on the phone from home in Denver. These are excerpts of our conversation.
ASPEN TIMES: You’re from Texas originally. How did you end up in Colorado?
ALEX MEDELLIN: I was out in California, in Big Bear, doing the whole ski bum thing for a few years. I started making music out there. I was working for the resort, doing their snow reports and online videos and all that kind of stuff. And then I got to a breaking point when I’d made one too many Christmas songs. I was over it. For the music I wanted to make, I saw Colorado as the most blossoming, up-and-coming scene. This was seven years ago, so at that time it was Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Michael Menert, Paper Diamond. It was very fresh. I saw it like, “If I can break through in that scene, that would actually mean something.” It’s where I saw a lot of the stuff I wanted to do going on. So I just moved out here from with the goal of being able to play shows.
AT: What’s your assessment of the electronic and electro-soul scene in Denver today?
AM: It’s crazy, if you’re into hip-hop-influenced soulful bass music. There’s no other place you can go and just have everyone from Derek (Vincent Smith) and Adam (Deitch) in Pretty Lights to Grant (Kwiecinski) with GRiZ, to everyone who is popping in doing secret sets. It’s a unique place right now.
AT: What do you have planned for this Aspen show?
AM: These days I’m trying to incorporate all the aspects of my music, covering it all in one nice little package. I will be playing some of the new hip-hop stuff — I have some new tracks with Del the Funky Homosapien and with Def3. We’ve also been doing some stuff with Masta Ace, Skratch Bastid, a bunch of big-name hip-hop guys. I’ve been working on a full-length hip-hop album, so I’m putting a bit of that in the set.
AT: That must be a huge moment for you, working with those legends. How does it feel?
AM: I’ve been a hip-hop head for forever. I’ve been making beats for years. And I held off on working with any MCs until I found some that I felt were the right fit. So for my first hip-hop project, to be working with such veterans in the game, it’s pretty awesome.
AT: And the “Vinyl Restoration” releases must have been attractive to any MC looking for beats. Did you have a sense when you first started on “Vinyl Restoration” that you’d found something laid-back and original that was going to be a signature of Late Night Radio?
AM: I was just working on the beats for No. 7 when I jumped on the phone with you. It’s my baby, it’s my bread and butter. I like making all kinds of music. I know there’s a time and place for everything. And I like getting a little rowdy myself — that’s why I make some of the more funky, big bass stuff that I do, too. But whenever I’m having a bad day, I can make a hip-hop beat and that makes me happy. That’s my release.
AT: When you’re looking for samples, do you still dig through crates of vinyl or have you found an online equivalent that you prefer?
AM: I’m still a purist. I like sampling from vinyl. There’s something personal about going to the record store, digging through, coming home with a stack of records and finding that one. For me it’s about emotional connectivity, finding what touches me. There are things that, the second I hear them, I know they need to go on the record. It gives me chills and I can already hear the song around it.
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