EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW :: Ori Kawa / The Entals

Ori Kawa

Ori Kawa is a DJ / Producer based in Chicago by way of California. He's been involved in the music scene as an artist for a few years and is now putting a group together to record and tour. The Entals are a group of rotating musicians under his artistic direction. They are crowd funding their costs on the IndieGoGo platform, with just 9 days left to reach their goal.

I had a chance to interview Ori, available here after the jump -

Let's go way back ... what are some songs or artists that drew you into the scene?

My older brother was a big influence in my early days in the bay area underground scene. He followed a lot of trance DJs. Mars & Mystre were favorites ... Dyloot, DJ Denise.

That was in San Jose, CA?

Yes, we had a really good local record store, Solid Grooves, that imported a lot of high quality techno/house that I didn't know at the time was from Chicago. When I branched out from my brother's tastes, I was listening to Donald Glaude and DJ Dan a lot, funky west coast house DJs.

Derrick Carter was the first Chicago DJ that I got really into. From there, I started to get into the roots of the culture and wanted to come here and study! Guys that got me into the scene here were Rees Urban, The Sound Republic, Bryan Jones. We could go further...one year for xmas, my little brother got a Talkboy. It had pitch adjustment...

So, you get to Chicago and start hitting Smartbar and eventually started working there ... yet, you were also booking for a club in San Jose from Chicago?

Yes, for a little while before I moved..maybe a few years..I was running the lounge for this place in SJ called Blowfish. Sushi joint, but was very clubby. I would book DJs, handle the equipment, etc.

Free sushi?

Yes. They treated me and the DJs well. For us local DJs, it was a solid paying gig, with a bar/food tab. Moving to Chicago gave me the connection to bring DJs from here over there.

I would work for sushi! 

So what are some of the highlights from your time at Smartbar?

Definitely working with Mr. Scruff and the Switch NYE stand out. Mr. Scruff is a vinyl junkie and brings all kinds of stuff, even 45s. He only plays the whole night, no time slots. He brings dance music from all eras and will start off the night with old jazz, authentic dub...all kinds of stuff. He makes it a journey from the beginning of the set to the end. My Blowfish days gave me a big appreciation for this, because there, we would play 3-4 hours. But during the beginning of our sets, people would still be eating dinner. So, you can't play bangers, you had to sculpt a mood to have the people dancing by the end of the night.

Mr. Scruff does all that and more. My experience was not just showtime...He brings his engineer, Ben, on all his gigs, and they do a proper sound check way before the show starts. During one of his sound checks, Ben was walking around SmartBar's dance floor. He went back and forth between all four of the Funktion One stacks and finally stopped at one, signaling Scruff to stop the music.

He said the phase was reversed. We had to open up the speaker, and sure enough, it was flipped. (The speaker had just come back from the shop)

A perfectionist?

You could say that. Just wants to set the scene right. As a DJ, you of course have to be able to go with the flow. But prepping goes a long way.

I've got to say Smartbar is my favorite club in Chicago, if not the world. They always bring the best artists, the dress code is casual, the staff is friendly. If you were the the owner and if you could change one thing about Smartbar, what would it be?

It's hard to say what could change with SmartBar...I guess if I was to change one thing about SmartBar, it would be the location! It's right by Wrigleyville and a bunch of sports bars.. but then again, I guess that's what gives it a "diamond in the rough" quality.


You've frequented there...I think I met you there actually! Would you change anything?

Maybe just the location, as you said but I'm not sure there's a better neighborhood.

So tell me about The Entals ... who are some of the musicians you are working with?

So I've got a bunch of music that I've written over the past five years or so. The Entals is the way to deliver this music. The only musician so far that I've worked with a lot before is my big brother Monte. He plays guitar. The others are friends that I've met working at restaurants here in Chicago, or other various industry connections. What I love about Chicago is that there is a lot of talent here, but it does not feel over-saturated. Most people that work at restaurants, or maybe just people in general, have some kind of creative outlet.

I agree.

To make a variety of tracks, sometimes it takes a variety of contributors.

So "The Cosmosis" is your first attempt at releasing music? And you are crowd-funding it?

I've released some music before, solo stuff. Nothing really sprouted though. So I decided I needed to improve my songwriting and performance skills. After a bit of musical solitude, I am ready to go at it again. But this time, I'd like to make it a group effort!

You also worked at Cajual Records. Are you looking for distribution through a label like that?

Yes, that was a great experience. Distribution has changed quite a bit, and it has become easier to release things independently with success. One of the great things about running the crowd-funding campaign is that I was able to get in contact with people who can help with that side of the business.

By the way, it's good talking to a fellow Mighty Boosh fan haha...

Haha yes

They're a bit too out there for some people, but that's what I like. They take risks.

I actually discovered the Boosh through a sample in a DJ mix.

That's dope! what sample was it?

I'm old GREG!!! I've got a MANGINA!

oh it was that one!! hahah yeah my favorite ... mmm Baileys!

So, I got a few questions from mutual friends - Do you have any secret awesome skills that nobody knows about? What are some of the craziest events you have ever performed at? In today's times, is it more about talent or followers?

Hahaha ok first one, skills ... i can gun sling like a western cowboy. I tried to make a music video one time, and the theme was cowboy mixed with postal worker. Don't quite know what I was thinking there, but I got a hold of a couple of authentic replica pistols and a holster belt from this cowboy shop on Chicago Ave.

That's awesome!

It's actually a good workout, the guns like those little 5 lb. dumbbells. Good aerobics.

Craziest event? DJing: probably closing for Mark Farina at Evil Olive. The crowd was already putty by the time I went on, I just rode the wave!

Non DJing: I played taiko drums in this group Ho Etsu taiko a while, and couple years back we drove to Lexington to play 6 shows in 2 days at a summer festival. The heat was intense and the stage was burning our feet through our footwear! It was an exhausting gig but rewarded with authentic bourbon in the heartland of it.

And third question, more about the talent or the followers? ... that's an interesting question. you won't get completely decisive answer from me on that! As I can only answer for myself, it changes at times. At times I have wondered why I have a small following, and it has pushed me to try and polish artistic abilities. A desire for that following can be very motivating. It has also pushed me to change hats in the industry, and figure out some of the logistical stuff that goes into building that following.

In the end, I know I must have a quality product that showcases the talent of my cohorts in The Entals. This is not the case with every act.

Our goal is to take this show on the road, so we can play music for the people and have fun and confidence doing it. So it's circular. And in the music business, sometimes you can get eaten up by the madness. Demands of fans can be harsh and lead artists to lose their own self. In this case, they must take sometime and focus on themselves. Use their talents to do what they and only they want to do. At other times in this business, we become a little TOO much about ourselves, and we have to remember to do it for the fans, for the followers.

All this is why it is important to us to have friends in the crowd. It is OUR crowd, we are YOUR band.

Without them, there would be no business.

Yup! no business, no energy, no participation

Anything else you want to add?

I had 2 rules for myself when I started DJing... 1. Have fun--if you don't enjoy it, how can you expect a room full of people to? 2. Make the people dance. That's it, only 2 rules. I still apply them to my performance, although rule 2 has become Move the people. Gotta plug my campaign of course.

Yes ... Please go and support these guys through this link and share with your friends - http://igg.me/at/orikawa

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