Since moving to the Bay Area from Fresno several years ago, Jason Chavez, who works in the hip-hop and soul sections at Amoeba Music in San Francisco, has been extremely active outside of work, busily recording and performing whenever possible. Under the name 4AM, Chavez performs and records a rich variety of music. He also DJs regularly around SF at spots including Sip Bar in North Beach, the Beauty Bar in the Mission, and Milk, directly across the street from Amoeba Music on Haight. As a musician (producer, percussionist, vocalist, etc), he is most prolific and has an impressive catalog to prove this with both his solo releases and as a key collaborator with others including with the likes of art-hop group Octavius, Dopesytle 1231, DJs of Mass Destruction, and most recently as a member of Black Fiction, which also features some other Amoeba Music employees. One of those members is fellow Amoebite Big Ant with whom he has collaborated with on a cool DJ project. 4AM has appeared twice on the Amoeba Music Compilation series: on Volume IV as a solo artist on the track "Sorry Wrong #" and on Volume V under the artist name The Dead Have Highways on the song "The Alone" along with the Count of Monte Frisco. His DJ mix CDs, including the Hug Life series are available at Amoeba SF -- ask for them. Meanwhile, I asked the smart and always witty artist some questions about his life as a musician, an Amoeba employee, creator of the "Hug Life" movement, and a former Fresno resident.
jamoeblog: When did you move to San Francisco from Fresno?
4AM: Aaah, the proper term is 'escaped,' around six years ago in order to promote my first album and basically not die of respiratory problems.
jamoeblog: So when did you first start working at Amoeba?
4AM: I did some time at Tower in North Beach first, so, around five years ago I joined Amoeba Music.
jamoeblog: What is the best thing for you about working in a music store like Amoeba?
4AM: It's great to be around like/jaded minds.
jamoeblog: Can you name five new releases creating a buzz at Amoeba this week?
4AM: R. Kelly
and...ummm...the sexasaurus himself, R. Kelly.
jamoeblog: Who is your personal favorite new artist that we should watch out for?
4AM: Wow, that's a tough question for a jaded record store employee. I think the new Lil' Jon is going to change music forever after watching the DVD from Crunk Juice and seeing him front Bad Brains...damn son! I seem to like screw music a lot lately and Baltimore cut ups of songs that you shouldn't dance to.
jamoeblog: We can't deny that the music biz is changing. Where is it headed? WIll Starbucks be the only ones signing new acts?
4AM: Naw, MySpace is about to rule the industry. My hope is that the mass populace will stick to i-tunes. Record stores will shrink and become havens for collectors and ideas...
jamoeblog: How did you get the name 4AM?
4AM: I used to go by Superfly... got the lame tattoo and everything (that's how you can tell I'm a Meximelt from the No. -- baaaad tattoos), but Dr. Dre brought out a rapper named Sooperfly. Too similar. So I noticed I fell asleep around 4AM every night. It made sense: 4AM is the most surreal hour of the day, the darkest hour before dawn. If you've been up all night and reach 4AM, odds are the conversation is about to take a turn for the strange.
jamoeblog: Can you list some of the main groups you have been a part of?
4AM: I started off as the producer for Mush recording artist Octavius, moonlighted for the Christian metal band Gryp, was the DJ for Dopestyle1231. And currently I drum and do backup vocals and other odds and ends for the SF indy band Black Fiction and produce my friend MC Dopestyle in the group Under September.
jamoeblog: If you were to try, how would you describe your music or what you play?
4AM: I'm doomed, when I DJ I can play every track people want to hear, I feel like I can play to almost any type of crowd, but the personal stuff is too personal for mass consumption; I'll always be the perpetual underdog, unstoppably insightful, narcissistic, humble, self aware, not giving a h-e-double toothpick...I make conversational hip-hop...noise...soundscapes and freak out pieces. Like if Prince Paul and Rod Serling had a tryst with the Bomb Squad.
jamoeblog: Would you break down the Hug Life movement you started a few years ago?
4AM: Fools were tearin' up my DJ nights. Fools were getting hit with bottles, holy candles, belts, light fixtures; I saw foolios brawl to "I'm Too Sexy" and I was like: "These thugs need a hug." Hence, "HUG LIFE." I bit the design from 2pac's "Thug Life" album and made a sticker. It has since turned into a mixtape series.
jamoeblog: What are you currently working on musically?
4AM: I'm working with Black Fiction on the followup to our debut CD Ghost Ride and hoping to put out a triple CD of solo material ASAP. The songs are done, just need to dig myself out of debt so I can press the shiznit. If any labels want an artistic/ambitious tax write off or a way to launder drug money...holla at ya boy!