Los Locals: Pete Salaz, owner of the Monarch Theatre

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In this new column, we talk to culture makers and shakers around the country – people doing cool things in nightlife, photography, fashion, music, booking, etc. – about their opinions on the best local bands, venues, parties, and….. hangover food, because obviously.

This time we’ve got PETE SALAZ, part owner of Monarch Theatre, where we’ll be on 2/8/14 at REMEZCLA PHX. Don’t forget to RSVP!

My name is Pete Salaz Castaneda Jr. Most people know me as Pete Salaz. Back in the day when I was mixing on the radio, the voice over/bumper guy, couldn’t pronounce “Castaneda”. So my station wanted to create for me a new “easy” name. The names were silly! So, I went with my middle name and created a moniker: Pete “SuperMix” Salaz. I’m a 46 yrs old, Mexican American living in downtown Phoenix.

What do you do in Phoenix?
I’ve been spinnin’ for 29 yrs and been a nightclub owner for 4 yrs. I am one of 3 partners who own Monarch Theatre and Bar Smith in downtown PHX.

Describe your style.
I like many genres of music but I only spin house music. Sometime in the early 90s I switched from hip hop and R&B to house music. I haven’t looked back since. If I need to get more specific than that…I can’t. Within’ house music there are many sub genres. I feel I cover the spectrum. Deep House, Latin House, Disco House, Tech House, Acid House, etc. I don’t concentrate on only one style of house music.

Tell us one about your craziest Phoenix nights?
One would figure with 29 yrs of giggin’ there would mos def be many crazy nights. How could there not be, right? Honestly, I could write a book on the things that I’ve seen. One of the craziest nights that come to mind happened in the early 90’s. I was still spinnin’ hip hop at the time, but I was hanging with the early PHX underground scene. The party was called “Chupa!”

(A sidenote, Chupa! eventually became a weekly underground club/party in a warehouse that me and 5 others owned in the hidden bowels of downtown PHX that lasted from 92-96. Every Saturday during those yrs, from midnight to 7am and beyond, people gathered and danced! It was tribal! And the city was oblivious. I lived in that warehouse and loved every minute of it.)

Anyhow…back to one of the craziest nights…

In a matter of minutes the conglomeration of naked torsos became the center of attention.

This particular party took place in an empty warehouse near downtown PHX. The place was packed, the house music and techno were pounding, the lights cut through the fog, the people were euphoric. Because it’s rare that I dance, I was propped up against a wall people watching, taking it all in while waiting for my set to begin. As the night progressed, the people, the music, the lights, all became symbiotic…with the exception of one couple heavily making out on the dance floor who for some reason caught my attention. Making out in a club is not uncommon, of course. But, this particular session was right smack in the middle of the club. I couldn’t turn away. As I continued to watch with a few other DJ friends, a random person approached the couple, embraced ‘em, and the 3 became united in bliss.
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Hmmm…this is getting interesting, I thought to myself.

No sooner did I finish that thought, when several other bodies joined in the frenzy.

“What the hell?! Could this really be happening? I’ve only heard about this happening in NY or LA.”

It resembled the organized chaos of worker bees tending to the queen. Only there wasn’t just one queen. There were several! In a matter of minutes the conglomeration of naked torsos became the center of attention. While the energy of the night was still strong, it had hit a speedbump.

Alas, it was my turn to spin records. I reluctantly left the exhibition of “I don’t give a fuck” and headed for the party command center, aka the booth.

My set flew by in no time. What was an hour set felt like only 15 minutes. I guess I was in the zone. I returned to the mayhem and it was still in high gear. But by that time, it was already old news and simply meshed with rest and once again the celebration moved as one, like the branches of a willow in a steady wind.

What’s the perfect night out in Phoenix?
The perfect night out for me, away from work, is usually somethin’ quiet…like a cozy lil’ restaurant. Being in night clubs all the time, I long for quiet times with a friend or friends. Throw in some wine, some good food, and some great conversation and I’d be happy as a lark. Nothing too fancy but still very special to me. Phoenix offers some great outside dining. With the exception of about 3 months out of the year…the weather is perfect for outside dining.

What local Phoenix bands/DJs should we have on our radar? Why?
If you’re new to Phoenix and looking for what djs to check out…well that all depends on what you are looking for. If you’re looking for hip hop and such…I’d say find out where DJ M2 or Robbie Rob are playing. Those cats are badass! If you’re lookin’ for house music, check out Solstice on the rooftop of Bar Smith on Saturdays. All the djs that come thru are tried and proven! Of course if you’re looking for everything under the sun all mixed together…check out Djentrification! I can’t help but smile when I catch this dude spin…all vinyl!

Best venue for live music?
I don’t get a chance to catch live acts often. I’ve had fun at the Marquee, as well as Crescent. I’ve also enjoyed live acts on the rooftop of Bar Smith and on both floors of Monarch Theatre. Really, if there is a group I wanna see…I’ll go see it. The venue is a non-factor.

Best Latin place to get hangover food?
At the wee hours of the morning, if I’m craving carne asada or a quesadilla…I’ll head over to El Taqueria Vaporcito.  I think they’re open 24hrs. But since I’m on a diet and trying not to be chunky…I’ll have to get the taco salad next time.

Best place to hook up?
I’m king of the friend zone so you’re asking the wrong person where the best place to hook up is. I dunno…in the middle of a dance floor somewhere!

Next question!

Which bars/clubs should we avoid if we’re going to Phoenix?
I’m not a negative person so rather than telling you about what clubs to avoid, I’ll concentrate on what clubs you should check out. Obviously, I’m partial to my own clubs, Monarch Theatre and Bar Smith…but I do truly believe they are the best around as far as quality music, sound system, atmosphere, etc. From Latin music to hip hop to EDM to live acts…you can always find quality music on the 4 different dance floors between both clubs. As far as other clubs I enjoy…I usually stick to little hole in the wall lounges like
Bikini, Sidebar, or Lost Leaf.

Where can we party with you?
I use to spin all around the valley prior to becoming a club owner. But now, due to a heavy work schedule, I only concentrate on one night. You can catch me spinnin’ at Solstice on the rooftop of Bar Smith on Saturday nights. My partner, Sean Badger and I, started the night almost 7 years ago. It’s still going strong!

(EDITOR’S NOTE: And, of course, REMEZCLA PHX!)

Most inspring person?
My dad has been gone for over 10 yrs now but he remains a huge influence on me. His work ethic was second to none. He was well liked and was always respectful to everyone. At my dad’s wake, the pastor said, “He lives in everything you do.” He most certainly does!

My partner Sean Badger has also been a big influence on me. He knows me well. When my mind wanders, or when he senses I’m straying from my goals, he has a unique way for getting me back on track. Sean is very intelligent and thinks outside the box.

Lately, my friend Susan Gasparovic, who is a life consultant and a motivational speaker, has really inspired me to improve myself and the way I think. She has shown me that attitude is the biggest characteristic in being successful. If a person teaches you one thing that you use all your life…is that person not your teacher? I have many wonderful teachers!

Best hidden gem in Phoenix?
I think Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix is a hidden gem that is about to be exposed. Big music festivals and events are migrating to Margaret Hance Park from other parts of the city. I also know they are re-formatting the layout of the park to accommodate many more functions. It’s gonna blow up soon. I ain’t mad at that!

Favorite Spanish curse word?
I don’t really curse too much but if smashed my thumb with hammer (why would I do that?), I’d probably say, “Ay cabron!”