JACK MONFORTE

When was the first moment you decided, “I am passionate about my art/music and I have to share this passion with the world”?

I guess I never had an epiphany about being “passionate” for art or music, it was always in me since an early age, I loved to draw and doodle as a kid and that progressed into me becoming a graffiti artist at the age of 13, the same applies to music, I have always had ear for good music, and I was a dancer before I became a DJ, which in turn gave me advantage over people who weren’t “passionate” about spinning music, the kind who got into spinning just to be “cool” or pick up on girls.

What did you do to cultivate your craft over the years? (For example: practice?how many hours? read? how many hours? network? etc.)

As far as Graffiti goes, I was around during the very first pioneering wave of Graffiti Art in Los Angeles, I got to witness or see the birth of many legendary crews like LA BOMB SQUAD, K2S, WCS, UFK and many others, some of the members of my Graffiti crew went on to become members of K2S, DUKE and TEL to be exact, which whom I still consider great friends to this day, and my best friend JER is still very active with his own crew ICR, in the early days we all put in mad time to piece and get up on the walls, what we did back then was super risky and I was even arrested once, as far as networking…most Graffiti writers met by going to places like The Belmont Tunnel or Radiotron, it was there where we would inspire each other to grow as artists, we would come up with different styles and techniques to outdo each other, it was definitely very competitive, Graffiti has come a long way since those early days, I’m glad it has grown and gotten the respect it deserves.

Music: I started off as a bedroom DJ in my late teens and was “discovered” by a co-worker who happened to be a promoter, he gave me my first break as a DJ, I fell in love with music and ran with it, leaving Graffiti behind, I spent countless hours learning to better my craft as a DJ, I was the kind of DJ who didn’t just buy records, I collected them, I would pay top dollar for obscure remixes and limited edition pressings, I can thank my DJ career for  taking me places I only dreamt of as a kid.

In my twenties there was a time I semi-retired from spinning music, choosing instead to help my father who was terminally ill, and at the same time taking on the responsibility of being a single father and raising my daughter on my own, it was definitely a humbling and dark time in my life.

In my early thirties I attended Sound Engineering school, where I got the bug to become a producer, it really made me see music in a different light and it also changed my mindset about being a DJ, as a DJ you never want to share your music, but as a producer you want the whole world to listen to what you have created, I’ve always been one to network in the underground scene, so meeting people has never been a problem for me, now…as far as working with honest and decent people, well that’s a whole subject I won’t get into. As far as current events go…I now love having my own sound company and doing sound for other people, I believe that sound is one of the most important ingredients in creating music and producing successful events, my studio training has come in very handy when I do sound, I know when something sounds great,  or when something sounds like total shit. I wish all DJs would take some form of sound engineering classes, they would greatly benefit from it.

If you could pick your top 3-5 key influences as a musician/DJ who would they be?

Locally it would have to be DJ Frank Del Rio (RIP), DJ Michael Angelo (RIP), and DJ Danny Poison, I would listen to these guys religiously as a dancer, they were all eclectic in their own way an their mixes were so flawless, I was always in a state of amazement and awe listening t them, they always kept me guessing what they were gonna play next, which to me is the mark of a true artist! I guess my non local influences would  be The Latin Rascals, Danny Tenaglia, and Masters At Work, I would hear these guys on mixed tapes that my best friend would bring back from New York during summer break.

Where do you see yourself as an artist five years from now?

I would love to go back to Graffiti at some point, I still miss the smell of spray paint and creating something out of nothing with only the creative thoughts in your head.

Music-wise, I think I will still be making DJ appearance at parties, and producing music,  I love music, it’s in my veins.

What has been the most challenging aspect of being an musician/artist?

Learning to cope with the anxiety of performing for an audience, I still get nervous when I Dj, but once I have the crowd in my hands-the feeling I get from it  gives me the most intense, euphoric, natural high.

What are you most proud of as an artist/musician?

Being asked to be part of the Getty Liber Amicorum project.

I’m one of 150 LA Graffiti artists immortalized for life in a book.

As a musician-I would definitely have to say…going to the Winter Music Conference in Miami in 2003 and hearing the music I helped create being played in front of thousands of people, definitely a life changing experience.

What are your thoughts on the current state of house/hip hop music?

House music is always evolving, it’s become so fragmented and over-labeled, that good house music is very hard to find these days, it will take me hours to dig through garbage for me to pick out a handful of good tracks, I won’t play something unless I dissect it and visualize in my head how a crowd will react to it, nine out ten times, I’m dead on. On the same subject..while technology has made it easier for almost anyone to claim they’re a producer or a DJ, it also has allowed for a lot of garbage DJs to get gigs and for horrible music to get produced, the same applies to hip hop, commercial hip hop is straight up garbage IMO. I really have profound respect for those who keep their stuff underground and try not to sound like anyone else.

Time of innovation or time of recycled ideas?

I guess music always comes full circle, house music samples heavily from disco, and so does hip hop, so I guess recycling isn’t a bad thing if it’s done right, now as far as innovation- I do see some producers creating new sounds and trying to switch things up, which is always a good thing. There are a couple of local kids creating a hybrid of Cumbias, hip hop, and reggeaton, that have really impressed me. I listen to

everything, I don’t discriminate when it comes to good music.

If you could give an up and coming artist/musician a recipe for success in the business, what would it be?

Never ever let anyone kill your dreams, stay humble and grounded, no one likes to work with an asshole, no matter what it is that you do. By all means practice, create, and innovate, be original! you will always stand out, or you could be like me…the quiet unassuming guy in the corner, with a very deep respect for music and art.