Those tuned in to the local club scene in the 1990s will remember Ray Velasquez. In addition to hosting Nocturnal Transmissions, a Saturday-night, electronic-music program on the much-loved Lawrence station KLZR (the Lazer) 105.9, Velasquez was a pioneering DJ at venues in KC and Lawrence from 1983 until 1999, when he moved to New York City. There, he has kept up the pace, with regular DJ gigs at Manhattan clubs and lounges, and has performed alongside such names as Paul Oakenfold, Paul Weller and Suicide.
Velasquez returns to Kansas City this weekend for shows at the Jacobson on Thursday and the Riot Room on Saturday. The Pitch dialed him up last week at his home in Brooklyn.
The Pitch: What are your regular gigs in New York at the moment?
Velasquez: My regular Saturday night is at Mono + Mono, which is a jazz-themed place in the East Village. It's this huge, cavernous, gorgeous restaurant, and there are something like 30,000 jazz records that line the walls of the place. But it's closed for the next two months. About three weeks ago, the roof of the place literally caught on fire at the end of my set. I was packing up and climbing down from the DJ booth when they evacuated everybody. I walked across the street and saw flames shooting 60 feet in the air. The DJ booth was the first to go because it's elevated.
Do you tend to spin at lounges and trendy restaurants?
Lately I've been spinning at Sen, which is a nice Japanese-cuisine type of place in the Flatiron District. But I'd say hotels and lobbies and lounges are probably my specialty. I'm hoping to find a rooftop gig somewhere in Manhattan this summer. I think that'd be a good fit.
On Thursday, you're doing a set at the Jacobson, which is kind of a trendy restaurant downtown. Can you talk about how you approach a room like that?
Yeah, so at the Jacobson, I'll be doing Groove Indigo, which is a format I've been doing every week here in New York since around 2000. The roots of it actually go back to playing in KC way back when. I had a night called Blue Monday, which was kind of acid-jazz-oriented. By the mid-'90s, it had evolved to include jazz-flavored house and downtempo breakbeats and even some drum and bass. I would do it at Liquid Lounge, which is this club that used to be on Southwest Boulevard. Groove Indigo is now all those elements, mixed with even more stuff: jazz funk from early to mid-'70s, some really gorgeous, brand-new deep house, lots of which has a European flavor. What I really care about is emotional content — I'm not really interested in genre. But yeah, Groove Indigo works best in a sophisticated cocktail, dining environment — it's conducive to cocktails, dining, dancing. There's even an element of seduction involved, I think. It's kind of like a sort of social lubricant. I want it to make it easier for people to relate to each other and enjoy each other's company.
Then on Saturday, you're at Riot Room. Did you ever play there when it was the Hurricane?
One of my early gigs was on that patio when it was the Hurricane, in 1986 or so. I would have been playing stuff like New Order, Cure, OMD, Simple Minds back then. It was quite fun. This is the first time I've played there since then, I think, which is like, what, 25 years? So all this stuff is fun. It's crazy — I can't believe how long it's been.