Cultura Dura is a Remezcla and Mike’s HARDER content and event series highlighting emerging Latin urban culture. We’ll be exploring scenes that haven’t really gotten any coverage anywhere else – from block parties and street art to underground sports and raw, young artists making movements pa’ la calle.
In this #CulturaDura exclusive, Los Angeles’ own Canyon Cody takes us through one of signature sets that you can hear at global bass get-down Subsuelo, melding together selections depicting the always-evolving face of the city.
Get to know Canyon, whose journey that began with Napster-powered digging for some particularly low-quality MP3s, and has expanded to being part of the crew running one of LA’s best parties, set regularly at Eastside Luv in Boyle Heights. Canyon–along with his fellow Subsuelo gente la Tigresa, Gozar, Gazoo, Ethos, photogragrapher Farah Sosa, and VJ Juxli–brings together the city’s cross-section of hip-hop heads, cumbia lovers, electronic music devotees, and more under one roof.
Press play, and read on for an explanation of how Canyon keeps it weird in the club as a selector and party creator.
How’d you get your start DJing?
When I was a little kid, I always liked spinning the radio dial and choosing what station we’d listen to in the car, on the way to elementary school.
When I was a in high school, I went buckwild on Napster. I was big into baseball cards when I was younger, and that sort of obsessive collecting evolved into a fool’s errand of trying to build a “definitive” music collection, which (when I was 15) meant the entire history of recorded music. I was downloading stuff just to have it squirreled away somewhere, for posterity’s sake. Which means that even today, the nether regions of my Serato crates are riddled with unplayed 128k mp3s of Ryan Adams and Linda Ronstadt that I downloaded in 1999.
When I got to college, I bought a pair of turntables from a police auction. There was no Serato yet, so I had to restart my collection on wax, which forced me to focus on building a well-curated collection, rather than just aimless digital hording. Then I walked in a club and told them I was a DJ and they offered me money to play music, which still amazes me to this day.
“It first started just as an opportunity to play weird music for our friends, and has evolved into community.”
What inspired you to create Subsuelo? How would you say it’s been in dialogue with other nu-Latin sounds/movements?
Subsuelo just kinda happened — we were throwing house parties in Boyle Heights and got sick of cleaning up the next day, so we reached out to a bar down the block from my house to see if we could throw parties there instead. The spot is called Eastside Luv, which is where we still do the party, and the physical space itself has been a major influence on Subsuelo. It kinda reminds me of Bembe in Brooklyn, that same sort of intimacy between crowd and performers– it feels like a house party. Plus, the people at Eastside Luv are really cool, from the door guy to the bartenders to the owner to the neighbors…they’re all part of Subsuelo as far as we’re concerned.
In terms of the sound, as a crew we’re a collage of different backgrounds (Cuban, Mexican, Jewish, Guatemalan, Salvadoran), so the musical dialogue has come as a result of our distinct, but intertwined interests and experiences. Before moving back home to LA, La Tigresa and I were both living in Spain studying flamenco, so that’s where that part came from. Gozar had been playing a lot of cumbia, and before that reggae. Ethos has a more orthodox hip-hop background, Gazoo got those deep crates from funk to punta to dembow. Even the non-musicians in the crew like Farah and Juxli bring their tastes and flavors to our sound, whether through booking guests or even just sending us Soundcloud links to stuff they’re digging.
How have you seen the party develop and evolve over the years?
We’ll be turning 4 years old next year. It first started just as an opportunity to play weird music for our friends, and has evolved into community that extends beyond our social circle, providing opportunities to meet new people and connect with different scenes. Los Angeles is blessed with diversity, but cursed with serious social stratification. You get the feeling like there’s lot of cool different things going on around town, but it’s all happening in parallel universes. Like it’s right down the block, but somehow doesn’t intersect with your world, like asymptotes that never touch. Over the last few years, Subsuelo has tilted those plane a little, and managed to conflate some of that distance between the cumbia crowd, the EDM kids, the hip-hop heads…
“Los Angeles is blessed with diversity, but cursed with serious social stratification.”
What’s the feeling like at a Subsuelo party?
I’ve heard our photographer Farah Sosa describe it as bouncy, sweaty, sexy, and full of smiles. I strive for a balance between reliable and unexpected. I want it to be somewhere that you can trust the vibe, but also throw some variables in the mix, keep it weird. And weird means something different to everyone. Sometimes the weirdest thing you can do is just play a Beyonce song.
What are some of the LA-rooted sounds you’re inspired by? Any local artists you’d recommend checking out?
There’s a legacy of global-inspired dance parties in LA that existed long before Subsuelo started, which were major influences on us. Afro Funke played a major role in bringing the Subsuelo crew together– a lot of us actually met at that party. Mas Exitos, Tormenta Tropical, and Bodega were all doing the damn thing here in LA before we started. Mustache Mondays, theLift, and A Club Called Rhonda all helped shaped my vision of community-based parties.
In terms of younger crews, or new stuff that’s emerged since we started, I really like what the Late Night Laggers crew is doing– those kids know how to bring people together for a good time. La Junta has a great vibe. And Soulection is releasing a ton of great music and throwing different kinds of parties, not just your typical uptempo stuff. A lot of my favorite “Los Angeles” artists are actually semi-recent transplants like Captain Planet, Sabo, Dave Nada, etc… but LA welcomes newcomers. Subsuelo is fairly unique in that 90% of us actually grew up here in Los Angeles, but as far as I’m concerned, once you’ve paid a few parking tickets and have a favorite taco stand, you’re a local (if you wanna identify as such).
What direction do you hope Subsuelo will go in over the next few years?
I dunno, I try to stay out of Subsuelo’s way. Maybe give it little nudges here and there, but really the thing has grown so fast that I’m just trying to not fuck it up, and just offer the logistical support it requires to progrss naturally.
I have my hopes, I suppose, like that we will continue to work out the knotty issue of flamenco fusion, which in my opinion, has never been done well, ever, by anyone. I’d also like to do more curated collaboration, like the Tres Marks event we did with Mark de Clive-Lowe, Money Mark, and Nu-Mark. Unexpected pairings that conceptually make some sense. I always love doing free shows at the park, all-ages events under the sun. I’d love to go back and connect the various stages of my past with my present, and bring Subsuelo to Boston, to Cuba, to Granada. I’d like to come DJ at the Remezcla offices, that would be fun.