GROOVE WITH A MISSION 

(ALL LYRICS BY JAMES BROWN)

I got the somethin’ that makes me wanna shout
I got that thing, tell me what it’s all about
I got soul, ha, and I’m super bad, heh
Got the move that tells me what to do
Sometimes I feel so nice, I said
I wanna tie myself to a fuse, huh
I, I, I, I got soul, heh, and I’m super bad ...

As his fingers dance deliberately on the smooth, worn grooves of the 45, a wave of warmth washes over him. His headphones are mere accessory, humming a tinny track in his ears; he’s tapped into something spiritual, and the rich resonance is piped directly into his soul. Welcome to class, kids. DJ Deepfeel has arrived to school you in the ways of 20th-century, multi-cultured dance music, with an emphasis on jazz, funk, and the super bad — soul.

Everybody over there, get on up
Everybody out there, get into to it
Everybody right there, get involved ...

Lopez — DJ alias Deepfeel — is an avid record collector of the highest order. You won’t find his collection of funky 45s shelved, enshrined in stifling trappings; his treasures are meant to move and groove, to be felt, heard, experienced. His agenda isn’t entertainment, but education through DJ-ing. “We dig into the past to know today and to see tomorrow,” he says in the mission statement for the massive personal project known as diggindeepquartet. (“Diggin’” is a DJ term for seeking out obscure records; “deep” represents the depth of Lopez’ involvement in the project; and rare groove, jazz, funk, and soul make up the quartet.) The project is centered around three objectives: to educate the listening and participating audiences about the music and the important figures and moments it gave birth to; to emphasize the music’s involvement in — and its reflection on — the 20th century; and to celebrate this joyous phenomenon through dance music’s original and continued spirit — song and dance. In accomplishing these objectives, Lopez applies the DJ-ing skills he has honed over the past seven years of spinning contemporary house, a sub-genre of dance music that has its roots in ’70s disco and soul.

“I love the DJ culture. I got on the dance floor in 1989 and haven’t been off since,” says the 28-year-old. “But DJ-ing is evolving into something new. There is a new wave of dance culture that wants electronica. And now that it’s surfaced and is so popular, I’m sorry to think that it could become bubblegum. People forget that dance music came from live music, naturally based music. They take it for granted. Live music is essential.” A trip to England in 2000 exposed Lopez to the Northern Soul movement in London, where he met DJs spinning rare ’70s groove and vibe, old funk, and soul. He was intrigued by the juxtaposition of contemporary and classical, seeing artists such as D’Angelo and Marvin Gaye side by side in a record shop. “Something clicked,” says Lopez, who returned to the States with a mission: to dig deep into the history of house and dance music, to reintroduce “more simple philosophies in DJ-ing.”

This is a revolution of the mind
Get your mind together and get away from drugs ...

“The arts scene is more conceptually involved. I dig that. It steps it up to another level,” says Lopez, who works full-time as a receptionist at ArtPace. “I’ve learned that there are other forms of expression.” Not coincidentally, Lopez has applied a multimedia approach to his project. Last month, the Honey Factory jumped like a juke joint during the first manifestation of diggindeepquartet’s roots research; Lopez introduced househeads to a hard dose of Southern-based funk, Louisiana soul, Gil Scott Heron, and James Brown. The second installment, “Popcorn,” is a tribute to Brown, scheduled again at the Factory on Saturday, November 16. Together with friends Javier Velas and Albert Rodriguez, Lopez edited a 14-minute silent film of 30 to 40 photos, album covers, video clips (“snagged from other videos, thanks to the public library”), PhotoShopping textual facts on the godfather of soul throughout the short’s 10 segments. A future project merges stills and footage of San Antonio to music of the early ’70s rock movement in LA.

I don’t know karate, but I know crazy ...

Lopez’ long-term plans involve a return to school to study ethnomusicology; he hopes to eventually teach a class in the history of soul and funk. In the meantime, he is archiving the research from his project in hopes of creating a portfolio and receiving a subsequent scholarship to finish school. He has a regular gig downtown at the Davenport on Wednesday nights, where he spins mellow funk in a lounge-like atmosphere. “My sanity,” he says, is his Sunday job at Alamo Records, in the basement of an antique shop off Houston Street, where Lopez is surrounded by rare jazz records. But his current passion is hunting down the bluesy Southern sound of elusive Louisiana funk; in coming weeks, armed with a special order, portable record player, Lopez will visit Louisiana to “dig.”

“When the music really builds, it becomes the perfect communication,” Lopez explains. “I can express what particular perfect rhythm I’m feeling. When I’m spinning, I feel euphoric, complete, solid — I know my place in the universe. And the more complicated I get `on the turntables`, I’m screaming. I want to share this experience.”

Sometimes I feel so nice, good Lord
I jump back, I want to kiss myself
I got soul ... and I’m super bad.

More by Wendi Kimura

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