Interview with DJ Studebaker Hawk for Taco Fest!

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Taco Fest is coming up, and I bet you’ll have some questions about the entertainment! This year, we’re welcoming back DJ Studebaker Hawk, who is about to embark on an exciting stay in Guadalajara, Mexico. Learn about what get’s him grooving, how he makes a set list, and how he got started.

How did you first get interested in record playing, collecting and selling?

I was lucky enough to grow up with my parents’ great record collection and an older brother who was deep into music early on, so record collecting started for me as early as I can remember. I was always one of those kids that made mix tapes, obsessing over the song order and transitions, showing new records I found to anyone who would listen. Once I reached high school, my brother bought a set of turntables and left them in my parents’ house when he moved to the West Coast. As soon as there were decks and a mixer at my disposal, I assumed I would start DJing. On the quest for more records to spin, I found my way into buying former DJ’s collections. I suddenly had many thousands of records and didn’t want them all. Luckily had just opened up to the public and I was leaving my day job to go back to school. 10 years later, I’m still dealing records full time.

Describe your taste in music. What makes you say “wow”?

When I’m shopping somewhere new, record sellers occasionally ask me what I’m looking for. The only true answer is that I’m looking for amazing music I’ve never heard before. These days, the things that jump out at me tend to be exotic. Something funky from a part of the world or a walk of life that I’m unfamiliar with, whether that’s Psychedelic Cumbia, West African Boogie, Malaysian Garage Rock, Israeli Disco, funky Gospel, Russian Synth, or something brand new from the many thousands of musicians and producers creating exciting music around the world today.

I’m continually floored at how much great music still comes out every day. I’ve been excited to be working with the record label Peace & Rhythm, who are releasing vinyl for independent bands from around the world, playing Latin, Funk, Afrobeat, and Reggae. I’ll have the full distro available at Taco Fest and you can check out more info at

What do you like to listen on in your own time?

I listen to new music everyday, whether it’s records I’ve picked up, new digital promos, or recommendations from fellow diggers. Most of my listening is about discovering new music and getting to know new music I’m excited about, but the mood does strike me to pull out old favorites on a regular basis. I’m often checking out mixes online from DJs I follow or I’m interested in learning about. 

What do you put on when you’re with your friends?

As odd as it may seem, even though I listen to music constantly when I’m alone and I love spinning music for crowds, when I find myself choosing music for the background of a social setting I’m part of, I often don’t know what I want to play. When I’m getting together with other DJs and record people, I’m excited to pull records out of my collection to share, but when I just need to put on an album and hang out, I’m generally overwhelmed with possibilities, and rely more on chance, knowing everything in my collection is good.

What kind of music makes for a good party?

A party can be so many things. A great DJ set is a conversation between the DJ and the guests. Though the DJ is certainly steering the ship, the DJ is responding to the energy of everyone present. When I see a DJ I’m hoping to hear fantastic music I’ve never heard before, but it can be just as exciting to hear music I already know and love, presented in a new way, or to be taught how to love something I didn’t think I did. I’m regularly spinning, disco, house, funk, and soul, as well as Latin music. With so much variety of rhythm, energy, and emotion, it’s not about following a great recipe, it’s more about seeing where the music can take us together.

How do you put your playlists together? Is it systematic? About how long does it take?

Preparation is pretty different for each gig. It’s generally more about picking what records to bring then plotting out sets. For some gigs I’ll figure out some short sets, 3-6 song runs, just so I have something to fall back on. I don’t necessarily play those short sets, or play the entirety of them. It’s more about figuring out good ways to play difficult to mix songs or good ways to play the songs I’m really excited to play at any given gig. Since I’ve been doing this for years, I often remember short sets I’ve done lots of times, so I’ll pick a song, knowing 3 more songs that work perfectly after it, if I decide to do that. Oftentimes, picking out which records to bring and plotting on some possible sets, is more exciting than the actual gig. I lead such a busy life and don’t get to DJ at home very often, so forcing myself to take an hour or two and prepare for a gig is a rare luxury. 

For the all day party that is Taco Fest, my preparation is a bit different. I’ll be using both vinyl and Serato (the vinyl simulation DJing software). I have ever growing playlists of different genres of Latin music in addition to records. With so much music to choose from, it will be more about making playlists of the new music I really want to play, so I don’t forget about them. With the playlists separated by genre, it makes it easier to make sure I’m playing a wide variety of Latin music. There’ll be a heavy helping of salsa, but people can expect Cumbia, Merengue, Cha Cha, Mambo, Boogaloo, Bachata, Latin Funk, and more. I might even get into a Latin House set if I’m feeling it. I’ll definitely be representing the fantastic Latin releases on Peace & Rhythm from Bio Ritmo, Orquesta El Macabeo, Peliroja, Mariachi Flor De Toloache, M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, Ola Fresca, Los Terrificos, C.A.M.P.O.S., and brand new releases from Spam Allstars and Fulaso.

Tell me about your imminent move out of the country!

I guess the rumors are out. I’ve been spending more and more time in Guadalajara, Mexico. I love the city, love the warmth and the tacos! I’ve been discovering so much great music there. Don’t worry New England, you’ll always be in my heart and I won’t be a stranger. I plan on always being up North this time of year, and periodically throughout the year. I’ll be bringing to Taco Fest, quite a few great records I’ve found in Mexico. Looking forward to sharing the music with you all!

#tacofestpvd17 will be taking over Westminster street, from Eddy Street to Mathewson Street, packed wall to wall (or curb to curb?) with only the best in local flavor. Come visit us on May 6th from 11am-6pm!

See you in Downcity!

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