He arrived on the mainland with forty records, a bag full of clothes and $200 in his pocket, without the slightest idea he would become a key figure in a groundbreaking social movement. An artist whose music would shred the sonic spectrum for a digital generation, jonesing to transcend the old ways, Keoki was destined to make a name for himself.
Born in El Salvador, raised on Maui and nicknamed for the mysterious bastard son of a legendary Hawaiian king, Keoki arrived on the mainland US in the late eighties. Landing a job with TWA in New York, tracking lost luggage, enabled Keoki the opportunity to travel the world for free. But it was while moonlighting as a busboy at Danceteria, a hot Manhattan nightclub, that Keoki saw the sights and heard the sounds that would change his life and perhaps the future of pop music.
Fascinated by the powerful connection a DJ could make with a crowd, Keoki himself began to play records, putting his own distinctive spin on other artists music. Flamboyant as hell, he dubbed himself “Superstar DJ” Keoki. “I wore a jeweled crown, big furry collars and gold chains,” he recalls with a laugh. “It was a gimmick, but the fun of it really caught fire”. Though it started as a lark, the “Superstar DJ” Keoki phenomenon quickly became sought after in Manhattan. He worked legendary parties for the likes of Lou Reed, Deborah Harry, and The B-52s. “All the glamorous creatures of New York were there”, he says.
The former baggage handler soon became a jetting-setting commodity, performing to capacity audiences across America and overseas. He continued to discover dramatic new ways to keep a crowd in the palm of his hands. His was a sonic sleight-of-hand in which funk could meet punk, and where a barking Scooby Doo would mix perfectly with a ranting Jimmy Swaggert. “New York really showed me that I could draw on anything around me and make something of it”, he says. “There were just no limits”.
By the early nineties the underground dance music scene had swelled to a critical mass. The rave scene in America was born and as one of the first traveling DJs, Keoki was propelled into the limelight. Through his numerous performances at Los Angeles raves, Keoki caught the attention of Steve Levy, president of Moonshine Music. Keokis personality, flamboyance and glaring musical talent led to Keoki and Moonshine joining forces. Although signed as a recording artist, his immediate skills lay in his DJ-ing ability, and as a result, a series of top selling DJ mix albums including “Superstar DJ Keoki – All Mixed Up” and “Disco Death Race 2000” were released. Between discs and sold out performances, Keoki began crafting original material.
Keokis message began to shine as brightly as a welders arc. “This generation, this rave culture is so highly intuitive, that communicating to them through pure sound is absolutely possible”, he states. “But since I had their attention, I figured, why not take it a little farther and give them a story, a theme?” Keoki the pied piper was born.
For his first single, Keoki teamed with co-producer Dave Aude for what has evolved into an incredible artist and producer journey; it was then that “Caterpillar” was created and released in early 96. It featured the catchy “I just cant cope without my dope” hook that made a playful mockery of drug abuse. Blazing to #3 on the Billboard Dance Chart, the song earned Keoki a spot on that summers Lollapalooza tour and was even featured in an episode of “The Simpsons”. The follow-up single, “Majick”, was released in January 97 as a precursor to the almost finished “Ego Trip” full length. With lyrics suggesting that the communal euphoria of which his audience sought, could only come from the “magic” within themselves. It too, rocketed up the charts.
Having moved from New York to Los Angeles (via Denver), Keokis album was now in motion. Three months later, “Ego Trip” was completed. It was nothing less than a stunning leap, even for someone whose name is already synonymous with breathtaking invention. From the harrowing, multi-layered “Madness” to the hit singles “Caterpillar” and “Majick,” on to the aural sex drive of “Space”, “Ego Trips” 10 songs are a seamless musical excursion that carry the listener effortlessly from one hook to the next. With its trance-inducing synth-lines, mega-ballistic breakbeats and carbonated vocals, “Ego Trip” crackles with energy.
“Ego Trip” was the first full-length album of original material by Keoki, a performer who, until then, had been mainly recognized as one of Americas premiere electronic music mix masters. Whether youre a longtime fan or completely new to the form, this is an aural experience with which you cannot imagine. Built from the underground up, “Ego Trip” is like a wild and wonderful funhouse ride, an album in which Keoki injects everything hes ever learned about sound and its ability to captivate. “Ego Trip” is the culmination of a unique audio odyssey that began over a decade ago.
How does Keoki himself characterize it? “The music can deliver the ultimate orgasm”, he insists.
Every generation produces a key performer who, by the sheer force of their talent and personality, pushes a new form into mass acceptance. For the increasingly influential realm of electronic music, Keoki is that key, and “Ego Trip” his breakthrough.
“This is the beginning”, he says, “of a whole new kind of musical expression”.
That is exactly what happened to Keoki, whose incredible life – part “Oliver Twist”, and part “Johnny Mnemonic” is a unique cyberpunk tale. He has become a record spinner of international renown, the charismatic “Bad Boy of Techno”, a figurehead of the vital and often controversial “rave” movement, and can even claim Bart Simpson among his fans. Superstar DJ Keoki is a work-in-progress and some of his best is yet to come . . .