Seven years later, listening back to Oakland (aka The Town) hip-hop artist Prozack Turner's funky-infectious, Oakland party rap anthem "Feelin' My Steelo" (DreamWorks, 2003), it would seem that the mic-wrecker turned bar-owner clearly envisioned himself one day running a popular music themed bar in Oakland -- something he does today at The Layover, which opened earlier this year.
"Make some noise! Let me know where The Town at. Hold up your drink now. Let me see you pound that. Home of the Silver and Black, killin' the track," enthusiastically rapped the talented East Bay emcee on the single (from the album Death, Taxes, and Prozack). He was "possessed by the ghost of Bukowski" as if penning the later soundtrack for his popular new downtown Oakland music bar which earlier this month got honored by the East Bay Express when it won the Best of the East Bay Awards for Best New Bar.
Born Zachary Turner, Prozack has been a familiar figure for many years on both the local and international underground hip-hop scenes. A successful solo artist (producing as well as emceeing), he is perhaps best known as a member of the super-talented but way underrated Bay Area hip-hop crew Foreign Legion along with his partner-in-rhyme Marc Stretch. Originally a trio, Foreign Legion formed back in the nineties along with DJ/producer DJ Design. Their impassioned ode to hip-hop, "Full Time B-Boy," released as a single by ABB Records, was also the opening track on the first Amoeba Music Compilation series, with their lyrics "All That Glitters Isn't Platinum" even lending the various artists Amoeba collection its title.
In addition to their recordings, Foreign Legion are always an amazing band live, having honed their stage performance from years of tirelessly playing locally and touring the world, building clusters of small but dedicated audiences in far corners of the globe, including Dublin, Ireland, where they have spent so much time over the years that they are warmly embraced as part of the Irish hip-hop scene. It was while traveling the globe as an artist that Prozack was quietly making mental notes for what would later become The Layover on Franklin Street in downtown Oakland.
Prozack Turner "Feelin' My Steelo" (2003)
These days the busy artist/bar-owner has little time for rest, balancing co-running The Layover with spending time in the studio and playing gigs. In the video and text interviews that follow below Prozack talks about such things as the upcoming Foreign Legion album, the correlation between being an artist and a bar owner, and the diverse format of The Layover (even comprising stand-up comedy nights and bike repair workshop sessions), including some of the DJs that have played there. Among those are DJ Zita (who played there last month) and DJ Platurn (who, along with fellow Oakland Faders DJ Joe Quixx played there over the weekend as part of his ongoing 45 Sessions series). The DJs each share below their take on The Layover with the Amoeblog.
Amoeblog: How many owners of The Layover are there in all and are they, like you, deep into music?
Prozack: There are four owners of The Layover, myself and my wife RaeAnne; local artist/painter Tim Martinez, who started Papa Buzz Cafe (now Mama Buzz); and his wife Christi Vaughn. We are avid music and art fans who felt the absence of a bar/venue like The Layover where creative minds can come and bounce ideas around while enjoying a cocktail and some great music.
Amoeblog: When I first heard the name The Layover, long before it opened, I envisioned it being located out by the airport, but it's not, it's downtown. So how did the name come about?
Prozack: The music rotation at The Layover is pretty diverse; you will hear everything from The Chieftains to Foreign Legion, The Black Keys to Mobb Deep, or Tito Puente to Blu and Exile. It's a place where you can come in and you won't hear anything that is currently on pop radio. It's one of the requirements of the DJs, actually. Nothing on commercial radio gets played. I love it because one of the things I can't stand about going out most times is the music, so we created a bar for the rest of the folks who enjoy more depth in their musical experience when they go out rather than playing all the same played out garbage. If The Layover were a movie theater, we would be an art house theater, not a Hollywood blockbuster twenty plex.
Amoeblog: Having toured extensively and played countless bars/clubs all over the world, what insights do you think you had that were advantageous to running your own bar?
Prozack: I have been fortunate enough to see bars and clubs all over the world night after night for the past several years. So when we opened The Layover we knew exactly what we wanted. We borrowed ideas from basement bars in Berlin, pubs in Ireland, night clubs in Melbourne, and coffee shops in Finland. There is a consciousness and appreciation for culture overseas that I think Oaklanders share and we are a lot more savvy than we get credit for. The East Bay is an amazing, diverse place and that's why we all live here. On any given night you might have some West Oakland art kids in tight jeans sitting next to a downtown business-woman, next to a lesbian couple from the City, sitting next to a Mexican guy in a cowboy hat having a conversation with an emcee from East Oakland -- all enjoying the music and space simultaneously. It's beautiful!
Amoeblog: Four Fridays ago I stopped by at around 1am-ish and the place was jumping, with the diverse crowd in the packed house all moving 'n grooving to DJ Zita. Is it always that packed?
Prozack: The weekends are always packed. We have live music and stand up comedy on Tuesdays, so that's been busy too. Even Mondays are picking up now; we have Mathew Africa playing rock all night and a bike mechanic who works on tips only out front giving free tune ups and minor repairs. It's all about thinking outside the box and trusting your ideas.
Amoeblog: It seems like you never have a cover charge. Is that correct?
Prozack: We normally never have a cover but sometimes we have to charge one to pay a bigger name DJ, band, or comic.
Amoeblog: You don't have that "bottle service" feature that seems pretty prevalent in so many SF clubs. Will you always keep it that way?
Prozack: I don't think we will ever have bottle service or a VIP section. That's kind of a "night club" thing and we are a "bar." It generally attracts pretentious assholes. We also don't have a dress code.
Amoeblog: Who has provided some of the most memorable DJ sets since you opened?
Prozack: Last month DJ D Sharp and Tim Diesel came through and played for our Sunday afternoon party and it was amazing. Everybody chilling, drinking Bloody Marys and relaxing on Sunday. We had Kon & Amir do a great set, Shortkut came by one night and burned it down, the list goes on. Platurn does an all 45 monthly. Joe Franco does a Latin night that is always a blast! Too many to name!
Amoeblog: Musically what are you & Foreign Legion up to now and in the near future?
Prozack: Foreign Legion has a new album in the can; it's called Night Moves and it drops in November. I am really excited about how it turned out! It has our friends G Koop, Oh NO (Stones Throw), Night Clubber Lang from Boom Bap Project (Rhymesayers), and quite a bit of production by me. You can download the lead single "Travel Lite" for free, We are also releasing a short film starring us to support it at the same time, followed by a European and US tour.
Amoeblog: Last question: What are your long term goals for The Layover?
Prozack: The long term goals with The Layover are I want to be a staple in this town that has been so good to me. I would eventually like to open another couple joints and become a former rapper/producer turned raging millionaire alcoholic, then get sober and run for office.
I had so much fun spinning at The Layover. I haven't had that much fun DJ'ing in a long time. I love that I can play "other" stuff at the Layover that I usually don't play and the crowd still responds. Typically DJs have to compromise to play different sounds, songs and artists that suit the venue/crowd/event that we're spinning at.
But at the Layover in Oakland I felt at home enough to spin the music I love to listen to myself: classic breaks, deep funk, old school hip-hop, soul remixes, and B-sides such as The Blackbyrd's "Rock Creek Park" and The Rebirth's "Evil Vibrations" -- a format that wouldn't necessarily work at a typical weekend club night in San Francisco. What made it the most fun is how responsive the crowd was! - DJ Zita
The Layover, as young as it is, already holds a unique and distinct place in Oakland nightlife. A place with no room for pretentious attitudes towards the vibe or music has set the tone for a bar that anyone can feel welcome and enjoy themselves. The Layover is probably the only place in Oakland that a party like the '45 Sessions' can exist, a gathering of music aficionados that are there for one reason and one reason only -- the groove. - DJ Platurn, aka Deejay Platurnipus
Prozack Turner outside his downtown Oakland bar The Layover (2010)
Click here to check out The Layover website. The Layover FaceBook page is a good way to keep up on the happenings at the bar or click here for next month's calendar. Right next door is the depARTure art gallery which features monthly installations by local artists. And finally, you can click here for other installments in the Town Amoeblog series.