John Kelley’s sound can be defined as hard, intense, funky, tribal, uncompromising, even beautiful. Whether he is spinning tribal techno, house, breakbeat, or everything in between, John inspires spirited movement of the body, mind and soul. He works with the dancers, but does not play over them or down to them. He brings them onboard, challenges them. He works in shifting states of consciousness, ranging from the serene to the heavy, from the gritty dark groove to the ecstatic and explosively kinetic. A believer in the spirit of the drum, he clearly understands the mechanics of rhythm, cutting minimal techno plates with chunky house grooves, at his best captivating the crowd with a whirlwind of intelligent and physical music.
John learned his love for techno and house music in the heyday of the LA rave underground of the early ‘90s. Attending legendary warehouse parties like Aphrodite’s Temple and religiously following Doc Martin week after week to Flammable Liquid, John inherited the cultural spirit of the underground while being inspired by the ethos of some of the world’s best underground DJs. The daring sounds of DJ masters like DJ Dan, Barry Weaver and Michael Cook hooked John.
Temporarily leaving a promising career-track to become an MD, John decided to take some time to think and take in his new worldview. Once he bought turntables, his temporary vacation from pursuing medical school became a permanent break. Serendipitously of course, he met Daniel Chavez at an early LA Full Moon Gathering in the summer of ‘93. The outdoor free party experience was new to John, but he instantly connected with its vibe and power. When Daniel heard by chance one of John’s early practice tapes he asked John to share mixing duties with him. As Moontribe’s two resident DJs, John and Daniel helped create the early sound and memories that have more or less made Moontribe legendary. “Legendary” is a rather inflated word, but for those who were there in Moontribe’s early years, it was indeed intense, exhilarating and unforgettable.
An emergent sound spun out of this dynamic milieu, including the psychedelic sounds of West Coast producers like Uberzone, Dubtribe, Bassbin Twins and Young American Primitive. Fused with the breakbeat genius of UK acts like Leftfield and Underworld, John pushed the intensely funky and hard sound of breakbeat techno. Two celebrated tapes came from this period, the unrelenting breakbeat ride of the classic Desert Funk and the supremely psychedelic onset and decay of Lunar Funk.
In time, John’s underground reputation lead to a higher profile, a relationship with Moonshine Music bringing snapshots of his music journeys to an eager and growing following. His popularity continues to grow, even though he never compromises his artistic vision. Spinning edgy but accessible techno has earned him respect from his peers and the personal satisfaction of hacking his own path.
Pushing ahead after ten years, John Kelley’s sound continues to morph, always one step ahead, following the cutting edge of hard techno funk. These days, as a DJ, he plays anything from Peace Division to Jeff Mills to Timo Maas to Circulation. His tribal path is sometimes challenging and solitary, given today’s plethora of progressive trance and deep house DJs. But John refuses to let the spirit of the drum die. And it’s beginning to really payoff for himself and the music he champions. Getting personal respects from the likes of Frankie Bones, Neil Barnes of Leftfield, Josh Wink and DJ Dan is one sign. Seeing new faces and new people burning it up on the dance floor to music-with-balls is another. It’s been a decade-long journey from the hard funky raves of the early LA dance scene and the halcyon days of early Moontribe, but for John the same vision that guided him then guides him today. Whether it is with grooving house music, tribal techno, funky trance or tripped-out breakbeat, there’s a simple, unbreakable dynamic. It’s not about drugs, money or even pretenses to spiritual transcendence. It’s about the people, the music, the dancing: that’s John Kelley’s genuine philosophy and sound – past, present and future.