I recently had the opportunity to chat with one of L.A.’s pioneering electronic music Deejays, here is a man that does not need an introduction he has been heavily involved in the L.A. underground scene since the very beginning. I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with one of my personal hometown heroes, Thee-O. He also takes on the guise (Reef Project) when working on Ambient or Chill. In the professional world he is better known as (Jacob Ofilas). Thee-O, just so happens to be one of the first L.A. deejays I began to follow around in the early, mid 90’s. I found his mixtapes through a mixtape booth run by none other than Ken Lawrence of Pure Acid Mixtapes.
I started off with a mix tape titled Cyber Sex mostly because the title and the J card caught my attention. Once I heard what was on this mixed cassette I was hooked. I followed Thee-O at raves, parties, record shops that carried his mixtapes and through the Pure Acid Mixtapes paper catalog until it became www.pureacidmixtapes.com. I followed Thee-O’s journey through electronic sounds for years to come and now I got the oppertunity to chat with the man himself.
I’ve been a fan of Thee-O for over 2 decades so being able to chat with him was a real treat for me. I really hope you guys enjoy this chat session with one of L.A.’s most beloved electronic music deejays.
See: I’m sure your fans including myself would love to know, how you first discovered electronic music?
Jacob Ofilas: Sure. 🙂
Well I grew up in LA and the San Gabriel Valley, in my neighborhood where I grew up in the 80’s there were a lot of DJ crews, party crews, etc.
In my Jr. High, you were either a breakdancer or a DJ. I couldn’t breakdance well so I started DJing by default.
I actually got into beatboxing first and then started DJing. Back in 1986 when I was 13 I got my first pair of turntables with a mixer. I started with hip hop and freestyle. I got into house music in High School around 1988 when I first heard “French Kiss” by Lil Louis, I was hooked. I started playing Hip-House and then discovered techno in 1991.
See: I’ve seen you mix at so many parties but mostly house and techno. I had a feeling you started out with hip hop because you are one of the few Deejays I’ve seen and heard scratch on a 4/4 set.
Jacob Ofilas: You are exactly right.
I graduated high school in 1991 I went to my first rave in early 1992. I pretty much started DJing at raves a month after I went to my first one.
See: Oh wow! So you were exposed to music and soon after to raves?
Jacob Ofilas: I was exposed to the music first. I started listening and DJing house and techno before my first rave. My friends and I used to go to Melrose to buy records and we would see all the rave flyers. One day, after buying records we decided to go to a rave this was February of 1992 and after that I was hooked.
I saw the way the DJ took control and how the music moved the crowd and I wanted that, I wanted to be up there. I was already DJing for a while so I just had to figure out a way to get in.
Back then every flyer had a hot line with voicemail for party information.
I called every voicemail and left messages and I would play a little bit of my mixtape on their voicemail. To my surprise one of the promoters of a party called “Under The Candyground” called me back. He was a DJ, his name was The Kandyman. He asked if I could open for his party and that was my start, March of 1992 at La Casa. I haven’t looked back since.
See: So Kandyman got you into the scene but which producers influenced the sounds that you spin?
Jacob Ofilas: Well as far as DJ’s I was influenced a lot by the DJs in the party crews in my hood, DJ Omar was a huge influence, he was the first person I knew that had Technics 1200 turntables. I used to ride my bike to his house just so I could mix on his turntables. When I got into the scene, Tony Largo, Barry Weaver, Doc Martin, DJ Dan, Ron D. Core and Steve Loria were also big influences.
As far as artists though I was always influenced by artists that change a lot, that is why I love Prince and The Cure, they changed so much stylistically over their careers and that influenced me, that is why I changed genres and styles so much, because I didn’t care about genres, I cared about how the music made me feel.
See: Yes! All great influences from house to hard core. I can totally relate variety is the spice of life especially with music.
This one might be challenging to remember but I would love to know. Do you remember the first 5 records you ever bought?
Jacob Ofilas: Hmmm man. In general, I think The Clash – Rock The Casbah, Joe Jackson – Stepping Out, Men at Work – Cargo, Duran Duran – Rio, Michael Jackson – Thriller
See: All good selections lots of uptempo 80’s flashbacks. I can see how these tunes influenced your overall sound. To me your early mixtapes were usually upbeat, happy but not too happy because they always came with those slightly dark, haunting melodic grooves that I just couldn’t get enough of. I had 5 shoe boxes of mixed tapes and your cassettes occupied a whole shoe box.
Going back to your mixtapes whenever I listened to your mixes I was carried off on a “Cosmic Journey” so to speak. By the way Cosmic Journey was one of my favorite mixtapes that you made. Your mixes always seem to tell story so were your mix tapes planned out? Are they still planned out or do you just freestyle mix?
Jacob Ofilas: Good question, I never plan anything out other than an idea I just go with the flow for the most part. So for my mixtapes I would have one or two songs I know I want to play but I never planned out any of my mixtapes or any of my live sets. I just play and let the music and crowd dictate where the direction should go.
When I was 18 I asked Tony Largo what the most important aspect of DJing was.
He told me it was “Programming” up until that moment I had never thought about that.
I thought beat matching was the most important thing but once he told me that, a light turned on and I focused on not just matching beats, but matching the energy of tracks, and the storytelling aspect of DJing. I began to focus on the journey of the set rather than just playing hits or popular songs.
See: Wow! That is amazing because, just the intro and outros alone of your mixes seem like they are planned out. Thanks for the insider tips too! I’m sure your fans will appreciate that bit of wisdom. I know I do! 🙂
Jacob Ofilas: Thank you sir.
See: My pleasure.
So I’ve noticed you’ve gotten more into production lately. Can you tell us a little more about what you are currently up to?
Jacob Ofilas: Well I started producing in 2000, so it’s been a little bit, I am still doing house and techno and I have some new stuff coming out soon. I also write ambient and chill out stuff under the name Reef Project and I have a new album with a friend Michael Fisher that I will be releasing soon.
See: 18 years of producing that is pretty solid. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you guys come up with.
Before I close the conversation with you. Can you tell us what to look for in the near future? What are your plans with this music thing that you were obviously born to do? Aside from the album you just mentioned. Do you plan on collaborating with other producers or Deejays?
Jacob Ofilas: This year marks my 26th year of DJing in the scene. Wow…that’s crazy to think about. It’s crazy to see how things have grown as well. I am just happy to still be involved. That being said, my day job as a Director of IT for a health care company keeps me very busy but I plan to get into the studio more and work on more music soon. That is my goal right now, just focus on making some good music and yes I plan on working with some good people. For example I plan on working on some music. with Oscure this year. Can’t wait to get that started.
See: What!? Oscure, that is another old-school name I haven’t heard in a while. That is very cool. Can’t wait to hear the tunes you guys put together. Really excited about this one!
Jacob Ofilas: I appreciate the questions and if you have any more please reach out.
See: Music pretty much saved my life. Deejays are like life savers so please never stop doing what you do. You never know who you are reaching with your music. Music gave me something to focus on and that ultimately kept me out of trouble. Well, for the most part anyway. 😛
See: I really appreciate you taking some time out of your busy day to chat it up with me. Respect.
Jacob Ofilas: Thank you so much. I appreciate the love and support more than you realize.
See: Thank you!