J.R. Clark (Jesse Clark) is a legitimate hero in Huntington W.Va . His parties (Grown Ass Folks) have brought in a variety of high-class guests, but more than anything it’s J.R.’s attention to detail and deft party instincts that make him, and his events so well loved. He does travel too, so look out for him in your city! In the meantime, fire up his fantastic mix, and read about what he has cooking right now…
Cosmic Incantations : From the little backstory I know, you pretty much got started DJing in NYC. What prompted the move to Huntington, and how quickly after the move did you start performing/throwing parties?
JR Clark : It was actually the other way around. I was working at the Huntington Mall in 95’ at Camelot Music (RIP!) and the manager there was a “party time DJ”. You know, proms and birthdays and stuff. He had two Technics 1200s and a mixer for his DJ biz, but started getting into dance music when a girl that worked with us came back from California with a box of 12” singles. We all went over to his house, he set up the decks, she threw on “Rollin’ and Scratchin’ ” and I was hooked. I spent a year or so collecting records and practicing mixing at his house before trying to find a space to play out in Huntington. I started doing things at a small club that was just a little back door space behind a restaurant called “Gravity” (can you tell it was the 90’s?) and then started doing stuff all over the city. Then I met a girl who was going to NYU when she was home on summer break and ended up moving there with her and one of my best friends who was going to SVA. I started doing parties in the East Village at Sin Sin/leopard lounge and a few other places shortly after. I also worked at Syntax distribution in Long Island City which exposed me to all kinds of music that I had not found up to that point. The Idjuts, Metro Area, Soulphiction… really deep stuff that moved my point of reference for dance music to a new place.
I ended up moving back from NYC to help with my ex-wife's family business, but brought all that influence with me. I started doing little things at a coffee shop and moved into larger scale things at a local rock venue. That party was called “Smashed” and I think it was the start of how I approach parties to this day. Trying to make it an experience rather than just a dude playing records. That idea evolved over a few different parties till the concept of Grown Ass Folks came up and I have been pursuing that in different ways for over five years now.
CI : Grown Ass Folks, was/is a meticulously put together party. From the guests, to the visual elements and decor, plus a definite signature sound. What was the impetus behind putting that together, and are there any major influences from other nights you’ve been to?
JRC : For sure the parties/clubs I went to in NYC had an influence, but also it was sort of a culmination of things I had been wanting to do for years. Going to Body and Soul and seeing full families showing up to dance together on a Sunday afternoon was eye opening. Plus the focus on dancing for dancing’s sake is something that was a bit hard to get across in WV. People treat dancing like a mating ritual more than a form of expression and that was something I wanted nothing to do with. I mean, if you and a person you are attracted to want to get sexy, have at it, but don’t come to my parties with the intent of trying to rub your junk on strangers. They are on the dancefloor to dance, not be molested.
Now though the people who truly want to lose themselves in the music are the ones on my dancefloor and it makes me soooooo happy. Hearing people talk about how safe and comfortable at Grown Ass Folks and the associate parties makes it all worthwhile.
CI : Can you talk to us about the mix, and how it relates to the ‘Together’ party you have planned for May 5th (2018)?
JRC : The impetus to do something at a private venue comes from the desire to explore music that ventures into deeper territories than what I may do at a public venue. When doing a party at a venue owned by someone else and open to the public, there is an almost sub-consious need to please the crowd and second guess your instincts to ensure they all have a good time and the owner makes money. Doing “Together” at a private venue that I fund and fill with people aligned to the same vibe allows me to play exactly what I want when I want. This mix explores some of those nooks and crannies that I have been exploring at home and the labels/artists that lean hard into the deep house side of things over Disco edits/RMXs. Not that it's a huge departure, but this mix exposes people to a side of my interests that they may not have heard at previous parties.
CI : Vinyl is very important to you, in terms of performing there are some gigantic benefits especially in terms of sound and even the focus that derives from a ‘limited’ selection. There’s also a few challenges that exclusively using vinyl poses, how do you approach those, and perhaps mitigate?
JRC : First off, I want to say that me playing vinyl is more about my laziness and not wanting to digitize my collection than trying to prove a point :) That being said, I do prefer the feel and immediacy of playing records on a well set up system and the potential positive impact to sound.
I actually built an isolation system that takes queues from THIS article about how Mister Saturday Night do their set up. Mine is fairly easy to break down and set up so even if I am playing someplace else I can bring it along. My current mixer/turntable/effects set up (two Tech 12’s, Allen and Heath Xone S2 rotary, Pioneer RMX 1000) is something I am super happy with and have been tweaking for years. While I can walk in to pretty much any scenario and make it work, there’s nothing more comfortable than playing on your home court.
CI : What’s your top 3 ‘must-have’s’ checklist for throwing a dynamite party?
DANCERS!!! Not people holding up a wall, but for real, get on the floor, eyes closed, hands in the air, dancers.
Good Sound. It doesn’t need to be huge or overly loud, but it does need to be able to fill the dancefloor with enough presence that people can lose themselves in it without needing ear plugs because it's EQ’ed like crap.
A Safe Space. You cannot give yourself over to the music if you don’t feel safe and surrounded by people who care about your well being.
CI : What do people need to know about ‘Together’?
JRC : It is a private party on Saturday May 5th in a newly remodeled raw space in downtown Huntington, WV. It is invite only. I chose to do it this way to ensure number three in my list above is locked in. We are trusting those invited to invite other like minded people, but if you have not been invited and clicked “going” then you will have to wait till the next one. If you didn’t get an invite or know someone who did but want to come, you can hit up the Grown Ass Folks FB page and we will see what we can do.
I have around 3000 watts of my own sound, but I am renting another 4000 watts to supplement it. I am also working on tuning the dancefloor with various forms of acoustic treatment to ensure that number two on the list above is on point.
My man Clark Littlepage will be rocking a live video setup as he does at my other shows. We are also beefing up the lights a bit with a few other fixtures. We aren’t trying to make it look like some bad EDM show, but there will be a bit more visual candy at this one.
I am looking for artists interested in doing installations in addition to the lighting and projections planned by Clark. We have a lot of space to play with so I want to provide a possible venue for artists who want to share something that aligns with the vibe. If that artist is you also reach out to us on FB.
Since this is private, 21+ and BYOB we will be allowed to go LATE. I fully plan to play till the sun comes up and walk out of the venue that morning still jazzed from sharing what I love with awesome people.
CI : Have you ever had an Alien Encounter?
JRC : So, I have a very vivid dream from childhood that involved the ceiling of my house opening up and me walking up a ramp to what in hindsight looked a whole lot like an alien. I sometimes wonder if that was the memory they implanted to cover up being abducted or just a fever dream from eating too many Coco Crispys before bed. I may never know.
Thank's so much Jesse. Check out more on his Soundcloud.