Mr. P-Body: DJ and Bassist for Elvis Before Noon

Mr. P-Body, Phoenix DJ and bassist for Elvis Before Noon, photographed at his home in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Mr. P-Body, Phoenix DJ and bassist for Elvis Before Noon, photographed at his home in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Mr. P-Body
www.mrpbody.com

Mr. P-Body is a Valley music veteran, playing around town for more than 20 years in various bands and hooking up venues with dance-worthy tunes via his DJ sets. The Scottsdale resident currently plays bass in power pop band Elvis Before Noon, and you can catch him playing music at events and spots around the Valley, including Hotel Valley Ho and private parties.

Mr. P-Body talked about his musical beginnings, what he wishes crowds would keep in mind when it comes to DJs, and what he thinks of the Valley’s music scene. Catch him naming his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents moved out here when my dad got a teaching job in Phoenix. I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and moved here when I was 5.

I went to Alhambra High School. I went to college at Dillard University in New Orleans and ASU to acquire a business degree. I’ve been here since and love the city. It’s nice visiting other places, but I like living here because I like the fact it’s always changing and growing.

How did you become a DJ?

I got into deejaying by accident. I played in bands in the early ʾ90s and was getting tired of being limited in the writing/creativity department. I got interested in sampling and started making beats with a sampler. I found some rappers and produced a hip-hop album, then I got two turntables and started performing around the mid-ʾ90s. I had no idea it would be something I’d end up doing career-wise.

What’s your earliest memory of being interested in music?

I always loved music. I think the first melody I could recall was “This Guy’s in Love with You,” by Burt Bacharach. I still love Burt Bacharach, Glen Campbell and Swing Out Sister, or anything with that Jimmy Webb-sort of supreme, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “My Cherie Amour,” major seventh kinda thing, to this day.

Music is something I always loved, and I’m not sure I can pinpoint when that happened. It’s just always been like that and has always been a part of me. I tend to be more major than minor, and I’m not embarrassed about my love for this happy ʾ70s, AM-pop radio sound. Rest in peace, Karen Carpenter.

What’s your musical training like?

I’m self-taught. I think I had two guitar lessons from Thomas Laufenberg, who plays in The Pistoleros. He taught me alternate picking. Other than that, I’d sit on the side of the bed, listen to records, and figure out how to play them.

I play primarily guitar and bass. I probably started teaching myself around the age of 13. My step-aunt gave me a cheap guitar. I didn’t know how to tune the thing, but I’d try to figure out songs. I would always jam with guys down the street and then played guitar for a band called Spinning Jenny, which would open up for the Gin Blossoms often.

Why did you want to make music your full-time career?

If you truly love music, then it’d be anybody’s biggest dream to sustain yourself through music, which is entirely possible on so many levels.

I’m not the cubicle type. The last non-music job I worked was at Apple, which was a really social job. While there, I got a call from Sam Fox, who was opening the restaurant Olive + Ivy in Scottsdale, to deejay for him. I was already doing a lot of work for [bar with food] AZ 88, and that was the point I decided to do music and sustain myself. I’ve been doing that full time ever since, around 2005.

What do you think makes a good DJ, and what makes you a good DJ?

Your job is to entertain the people who are there. What makes a good DJ is being able to anticipate what they may want. Unfortunately, with people being so accustomed to their iPhones and iPods, people almost want you to be a jukebox, as opposed to artistically playing a set list of music that can entertain, or perhaps educate. There’s a lot less education now. People are wanting certain things, or they’re a little more demanding, because they’re used to being able to hear whatever they want at any given time.

That’s changed things a little bit, but it will always be the art of entertaining people in a timely fashion. A lot of the things that work are based on when you play them. A good DJ is going to be in touch with the crowd, so you have to know your audience and be able to adapt. A lot of times, whoever hires you, whether it be a business owner or party host, may be out of touch with what is needed or may have inadvertently misguided you or described something in a way you find out isn’t accurate.

I did this thing one time for [makeup retailer] Sephora, and the music they described to me that they wanted was not at all what the crowd wanted when I got there. When that happens, you have to adapt and realize, “This is the audience I’m dealing with, and this is what I need to play to entertain this audience.” That is definitely one place where technology has helped, because you now have the capability of having all these songs with you and can adjust to something unexpected.

Coming from a place where I used to have to carry crates of records around, that was a hell of a lot harder if something went wrong. I remember doing some parties for ASU students, and there had been a shift between what they had wanted and what they wanted when I got there. I found myself trying to adapt to this change, and dealing with vinyl, it was a lot more difficult, because I couldn’t have predicted there would have been such a dramatic shift. I ended up playing a couple of Puff Daddy hits like three times. Never again.

Vinyl is totally in vogue now, with even Barnes & Noble selling records and “all-vinyl nights” popping up in nightlife. It’s a lot of fun on a relaxed, isolated evening, but in the hustle and bustle, it’s not the most practical thing in the digital age. There are times when I have three gigs in a day, and vinyl would be completely impractical for that.

What’s the curation process like for your music?

I’m always looking for new things. I tend not to over-process things. I don’t plan what I’m going to play. A lot of times, people will come up and ask me what’s next, and I honestly don’t know. It’s a rather annoying question, anyways — it’s one question away from them telling you what they want. I like to keep things spontaneous. I prepare if there’s a specific theme, but beyond that, I don’t plan.

I go with the flow, and I find a lot of times, the audience can actually educate you about things. I have expanded my vocabulary. Sometimes, I’ve found a crowd has taught me to be a little bit more forthcoming in a genre. Top 40 comes to mind here. Ultimately, in this digital day and age, you have to almost have a little bit of everything.

One of my trademarks is versatility, in that one night, I can do a wedding; the next night, I can do a house party; and the next night, I can do a pool party. I can entertain the popster, rocker, Lil Wayne-r, and EDManiac all in that same night.

Who are your favorite musical acts?

Ultimately, it all started with those four guys from Liverpool, [England]. The Beatles was the first act I really remember as being the most incredible band of all time, in terms of songwriting. I believe, as they say, that nearly all guitar-driven music can somehow be traced back to them. Like, one of my faves, Fountains of Wayne, for example.

But while my dad played The Byrds and Bob Dylan, my mother played Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Al Green, thusly providing my soul and funky rhythm leanings. Paul McCartney and James Jamerson’s bass genius were introduced quite early.

In high school, it was all about arena rock, such as Van Halen and Ozzy [Osbourne]. The musicianship thing, I got from Rush, who are incredible musicians. With them, my favorite guitarist, favorite drummer and favorite bassist were all in the same band. I started to listen to music differently as I started playing bass back when I was in New Orleans, because the school’s jazz band already had a guitarist.

I also began to dig The Pretenders and The Police and the New Wave thing. And then, the new British wave of music that brought me to huge favorites, The Jam and The Smiths, who both had amazing bass players with a very audible presence. It’s just like a tree — all these branches came off. Toss in some post-punk with The Descendents, edgy, fast and melodic bass playing.

My music taste evolved, and it’s just a matter of being open to it. My electronic music beginnings were from the electro gods, Kraftwerk, who are The Beatles of electronic music, and Daft Punk and Calvin Harris and the like, have them to thank. Then, it was early ʾ90s hip-hop, like Digable Planets, then Dr. Dre, and on and on.

Currently, I must say Dave Grohl is here to save rock n’ roll. I mean, now he’s even a freaking filmmaker? And I see he is in the new documentary about The Descendents. How validating. The guy always hits the right notes, welcoming my boys into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, upholding the virtues of analog, chasing musical roots, and melting your face off in a two-hour-and-45-minute concert. Listen, can you hear the haters? He’s currently getting some flak for the mere fact he’s on top of the world right now. I’ve seen pics of him with [Apple CEO] Tim Cook. No wonder, they have something in common.

Do you have a preference between deejaying or playing live?

It must be pointed out that entertaining is still work. It is an illusion that everything is fun. With that, there are some gigs in either realm that can be the best gig ever. It depends on the when and where and the crowd’s energy.

However, ultimately, there is nothing like playing an actual instrument. Being that I started as a musician, I’d have to say playing in a rock band is a manifestation of everything I came from.

What do you wish people kept in mind when it comes to DJs?

Requests are a necessary evil that come with the occupation, apparently. DJs tend to get annoyed with requests, but I wouldn’t blanket it as such. Requests can be a good thing, and they’ve helped me to grow. It’s just how they’re done that makes a difference. You might see a girl do a gesture under the neck, like, “Cut this,” which is just rude. You have to realize, whatever it is you want so badly, someone else hates just as much as you hate the song that’s playing right now.

I wish people would be a little more tolerant and understand it’s not just about them. You’re not the only person here. The song you hate right now is making someone else happy. Just because everyone will supposedly dance to whatever you want is not the point. It’s not that I’m doubting that, it’s just I wish people weren’t demanding.

It used to be a request was just that: a request. Now, it’s gotten to where they’re demands. That’s just because they’re used to hearing whatever they want. They’ll say, “Play my song next,” and I might not want to play their song next.

Do you really think I can play “Turn Down for What” when it’s 9:30? I just got here. If I play that, what am I going to play later on? I guarantee it will be much better when it should be played, rather than when you first walk into a room and get your first drink. I mean, most of that stuff is engineered for those who are turned up on drinks, anyways.

What are your goals?

I want to get into a lot more of making my own remixes and mash-ups. Because I am a musician, I can hear how things fit together. I love this whole new thing where you take things you’d never imagined would go together, and they’re flawless together.

At least DJ-wise, I’d like to compose electronic music in more of a downtempo vein than be like an EDM producer, though I do like working with synthesizers and beats.

And of course, make EBN [Elvis Before Noon] bigger and better.

What advice would you have for aspiring DJs?

Know your audience. It’s the most important thing. You could be the greatest DJ in the world, but if you’re not playing the right thing for the right audience at the right time, it will be a train wreck. You have to know how to read people, because if you’re out of touch with the crowd, your set or performance will be out of touch with them, too.

What would you say the Phoenix music’s scenes strengths and weaknesses are?

I think the scene is pretty good. Our [Elvis Before Noon] singer had the opportunity to go to Nashville, [Tennessee], and he came back appreciating Phoenix more because it was too much. Every street corner, every brunch and every hot dog stand had a band playing. People were playing for whatever they could get, because there were so many people playing. I think Phoenix is good in that it’s not over-saturated like that.

I’m hearing the same thing about Austin, [Texas], where people are climbing over each other for a gig, and you’re playing for free trying to prove yourself to get a gig. I think there is enough opportunity and work in Phoenix for you to actually go out there and work.

I think the scene has grown, and there has been a sizable shift from just DJs to bands. I think it’s coming along pretty well. Crescent Ballroom is a huge success and benefit and now, the fact a live music venue, Livewire, opened within the past few months in the heart of Scottsdale, is proof the live music scene is thriving. It’s great to see it growing, and it encourages local bands to up their game.

There could always be more unity or support in any scene, but the thing that’s truly unique about Phoenix is that the people do whatever they want to do and know what they want to do. Pummeling them with a flyer is almost a waste of time, because they already know what they want to do and where they want to go. They typically go where people go, whereas in other cities, you may find people who are seeking out something unique or different. People here tend to want to be where other people are, and that’s something that could be improved overall. People could branch out a little more and not be so concerned with where the crowd is.

Learn about other Valley musicians:

Learn more about Scattered Melodies drummer Josh Montag here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Jimmy Eat World singer and guitarist Jim Adkins here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Phoenix DJ Sean Watson here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about The Love Me Nots singer and keyboardist Nicole Laurenne here on Phoenix People.