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Amoeblog Interview With True Skool's Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist

Posted by Billyjam, December 17, 2014 11:13pm | Post a Comment
Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist has long been part and parcel of the fabric that makes up the Bay Area's vibrant hip-hop scene - even though he's not originally from California. An East Coast transplant, with a stop en route to Cali in Colorado, Ren is not only a skilled DJ with two decades of turntable experience coupled with a deep diverse knowledge of music, but he is also a revered club/concert promoter whose True Skool parties are legendary. Additionally, via his online magazine / newsletter True Skool website and its affiliated social network links - notably Twitter and Facebook, he provides a unique and invaluable source of information on Bay Area hip-hop and nightlife happenings as well as general hip-hop news and cultural/political updates - all of which demonstrate how well connected and passionate the man born Renoir Salgado is about hip-hop culture and the Bay Area at large. In addition to his own productions Ren is also in big demand at other folks' events too such opening for Wu-Tang Clan at Ruby Skye in San Francisco (photo above) in 2007, or over the summer at the Amoeba Music sponsored Vinyl: The Sound and Culture of Records at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) at where he was among the carefully chosen curators and also a guest lecturer. Then last month at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' (YBCA) cool retro hip-hop event Clas/sick Hip-Hop: 1993 Edition he was an integral part of the two-day event when, among other things, he curated/DJ'ed the official CD mix of event - an excellent mix of hip-hop music from the year of '93. This week I caught up with the always busy Ren to ask him about True Skool - its history, ongoing projects, and future plans. 


Amoeblog: What sets True Skool apart from other online resources for music information in the Bay Area?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: True Skool is an social network which covers a wide range of information such as events, videos, new music, music news, politics and "lessons" on music history.  Since we're based out of the Bay Area, we cater to this region, but the site is open for other promoters from different regions to add their events.


Amoeblog: What would you say are three of the best True Skool parties?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: Right now, we do an event called Golden Era at Slate Bar in San Francisco every first Saturday, which is a tribute to classics from hip hop's "golden era" which arguably spans through the 80's through the mid-nineties. Also Elevation, first Fridays at the Layover in Oakland has been pretty solid.  I'm the resident and occassionally will have special guests spinning a diverse mix of music such as house, hip hop, funk, disco, reggae, trap, etc.  It's one of my favorite parties to spin at, because we have an open minded crowd and good vibes. Soon, we're looking to launch Top Rock at the newly opened Berkeley Underground (formerly the Shattuck Downlow).  We're teaming up with Attraction to bring a unique dance oriented party that caters to a mix of b-boys, house dancers, attractive ladies and people who love to groove to funky music.


Amoeblog: What was main reason you first started True Skool?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: We launched in 1999.  Initially, we wanted to throw a unique event that was anything but commercial hip hop.  So the DJs had the freedom to spin anything like reggae, classic hip-hop, soul, funk, drum and bass, house, electro.  And for many DJs, it was refreshing not to feel constrained.  Our mission became "preserve the legacy of hip-hop."  As the event grew, it became a platform for local independent artists, hip hop legends and turntablists.  We presented artists like Zion I and Goapele to Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jeff.  The list goes on and on.  As the events grew, so did the ideas.  My newsletter served not only as an event guide but as a medium for Hip Hop history and politics.  The website (www.trueskool.com) was only natural occurrence, 'cause I found a need to cover all of the great events happening in the city.  But I had been brainstorming the ideas for the site since I was going to University of Colorado in Boulder back in '97.


Amoeblog: What was San Francisco like when you began your parties and what was the reaction to them like back then?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: When I began True Skool, it was the peak of the dot com era.  Venues in San Francisco were few and far between as compared to today. When we started the event at Storyville, the reaction to True Skool was almost automatic.  We drew a diverse crowd - ethnically and musically.  I think we had a niche in the music scene and were offering something different; live music, local acts and quality music.  In two years, we had won the Best of the Bay in the SF Bay Guardian and were featured in XLR8R magazine.  I think we were in the right place at the right time.


Amoeblog: Before True Skool what related things had you done?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: Before True Skool, I was just a music fan that wanted to be a DJ.  In the 80s, I grew up around the Filipino mobile DJ scene in the east coast and it was thriving especially in Northern New Jersey.  During the early nineties, I was frequented underground rave club NASA (held at the Shelter) in NYC and attended raves in surrounding areas where you'd see Deee-Lite's Lady Kier and DJ Dimitri kicking it on the regular.  After burning out from from raves, I was a regular at Giant Step parties where Groove Collective was the house band, Jamalski was the MC and DJ Smash, Nickodemus and Jazzy Nice were residents.  My experiences inspired what was to come.


Amoeblog: When did you start DJing and how often do you DJ now?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: When I attended college at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I got my first set of turntables in '97 where started to promote my own events and formed a live band collective.  I have at least 4-5 gigs a month.  I've been blessed in the past couple of years opening for the likes of KRS-One, Pharoahe Monch, 9th Wonder, Talib Kweli, Nightmares on Wax, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib.  On New Year's Eve I'm spinning with Mayer Hawthorne, Afrolicious Sound System, and J-Boogie at Public Works in SF.


Amoeblog: How important is being a DJ to your role in True Skool?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: Being a DJ is crucial because I take an active role in educating myself to new music from all genres.  Curating the content on the site requires a deep knowledge of music to maintain quality control.


Amoeblog: What are some of the most notable differences between when you started in 1999 and now in terms of technology and its role as a tool of
information sharing.

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: Of course, Serato is a notable difference.  While I maintain the moniker, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist, I do use Serato.  And my back thanks me for it. [laughs]  Today, the technology of downloading has accelerated our ability to copy and share music.  Whereas back in the day, the cassette tape served that purpose.  While there are drawbacks, like artists not able to make as much money, it is also thanks to technology and the internet that we have seen a resurgence in music and has opened doors to artists who may not have had an opportunity with the old model.  YouTube and the internet is now the new underground.  We don't have to rely on antiquated technology like radio (which have all been co-opted by major corporations).


Amoeblog: What new technology advances do you foresee that will help you in what you do in getting data to people.

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: Funny you should mention that [as] currently I'm creating a new platform for people to discover new music.  We have platforms like soundcloud and mixcrate for DJ mixes.  I'm creating a similar platform except instead of mixes, I'm presenting videos curated by VJs.  It's called True Skool TV and will be a platform similar to Hulu except focused on music videos.  We're looking to launch in the coming months.


Amoeblog: And where else do you see True Skool going in the future?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: True Skool is always moving forward.  Hopefully, we can take the True Skool model to cover many of the major markets in the U.S.  I'm looking forward to a successful launch with True Skool TV.  And of course, our events will be ongoing throughout the Bay Area.


Amoeblog: Anything to add?

Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist: I'm available for booking, contact me at trueskool@gmail.com
Feel free to post your events on http://www.trueskool.com


http://www.trueskool.com     http://www.twitter.com/trueskoolsf    http://www.facebook.com/trueskool

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Dj (36), Turntablism (42), Ren The Vinyl Archaeologist (1), True Skool (3), Bay Area Hip-hop (36), Hip-hop (214)