Interview by Chris Zaldua
Photo by Patrick Noonan
If you’re a San Francisco partygoer, chances are you know Gregory Woo Clarke, whether you know it or not. For years, Woo has resided behind the decks at numerous parties, showing off his versatility as a DJ. He’s one of the longest-running members of the WERD. crew, who have been holding down Sunday night parties for nearly a decade. He’s also a resident at Outpost, whose parties straddle the line between rubbery bass music and lush deep house. And he’s part of the extended As You Like It family, making an appearance at many AYLI throw-downs.
This Saturday, April 15, Woo is DJing at The Great Northern alongside his WERD. family for the launch of As You Like It’s new Unabridged event series featuring Italian psychedelic techno players Tale of Us and the one who preaches the gospel of minimal techno himself, Robert Hood, appearing as Floorplan.
We caught up with Woo to learn a bit about makes him tick — and to learn more about his new AYLI Podcast, a smooth-sailing journey through warm and inviting house music of all stripes, plus a couple beautiful electro diversions. Read on:
CZ: Tell me about your roots — I know you’re from Kingston, Jamaica. What kind of musical culture did you grow up on?
GW: I was born in Montego Bay, then I moved to Kingston with relatives. I think I was about 7 years old or so. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to go out much, so I missed all the parties as a kid. There would be these dancehall parties on the weekends — street vendors would have a recording of the music from that night and sell them on Mondays to all the high school kids — that’s how I kept up with all the latest music haps.
My uncle that I lived with has something like 20,000 records, and I used to come home after school before anyone else and practice on his set up with all his records. Thanks to him, I basically learned to DJ at 15 spinning reggae, dub and R n’ B.
CZ: Although I associate Kingston with dub, reggae, and dancehall, I wonder — have techno and house taken hold in Jamaica? Is there a scene there, and if so, what is it like?
GW: Honestly I haven’t been back since I left Jamaica, in 1996, but I have tons of cousins living there so I follow their musical tastes to see what’s going on. Not much of a techno scene — but Major Lazer are big in Jamaica and they’ve brought Skrillex with them to a few gigs in Jamaica and I hear it’s well received. That’s a dream of mine, to throw an event in Jamaica with various house and techno artists.
CZ: You’ve played a number of dub DJ sets here in the Bay Area. Tell me about dub music and why you love it — and maybe recommend a couple of your favorite records, since although I love dub, I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface.
GW: Honestly I haven’t played a dub set in a long while, although occasionally at WERD. when I start off at nine I do an early juggling of reggae and dub. One of my favorites right now is “Linval Thompson meets King Tubby” — and some favorite classics are anything by King Tubby, The Scientist, Bob Marley’s “Revolution,” Mad Professor, Prince Jammy’s “Kamikazi Dub,” and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Generally, I’m more into the older albums and styles of dub — only a handful of new stuff I dig.
CZ: How long have you lived in the Bay Area, and what do you particularly appreciate or enjoy about the musical culture here? What keeps you here, despite the endless challenges involved in living here?
GW: I moved to the Bay Area in 2005. I was stationed in Southern California in the military and I used to drive up here when we had extended holiday weekends, and I loved it from the first visit. I love cold weather — the sun is overrated 😉
The relationships I’ve cultivated here have had a big impact on my life. Everyone is so well-versed in music and music history. I love that I can go to a reggae show at the Fillmore, then head to a techno party later on in the night.
CZ: You’re involved with a number of different crews and parties in the Bay Area — AYLI, WERD, Outpost. How has working with these different folks affected you as a DJ? Do you find yourself prepping for gigs differently depending on who is throwing the party, or do other concerns take precedence in that regard?
GW: Totally, working with all these different crews has helped me grow musically. The tunes that I might play for Outpost are totally different from what I play at WERD. Doing a weekly party such as WERD. I have to be prepared constantly, which keeps me on my toes.
CZ: On that note, how have you developed as a DJ over the years? Has your style shifted or changed?
GW: Having a reggae and dub background has influenced my tastes in electronic music. I’m partial to low end vibes and grooves. I’m not a bang out kind of person — instead of people having hands in the air I like them to go low enough to rub-a-dub in house and techno.
CZ: Tell me about your AYLI Podcast. How’d you put it together, and what was your thinking behind the mix? What kind of vibe or mood were you intending to present?
GW: It’s an all vinyl mix, and I didn’t want it to be a banging in-your-face mix. More of a cool, laid-back style with an emphasis on low-end feel.
CZ: What kind of music have you been feeling lately? Dance music or otherwise — singles, albums, EPs, anything. What’s got you goin’?
CZ: On a personal note, I know you’ve spent time in the military — not a whole lot of folks crossover from that world into the music world.
GW: Yup. I haven’t met anyone that DJs and spent time in the military, but I know a few party people that are from the military. We’re out there, for sure.
CZ: And last but certainly not least, is there any jerk chicken in the Bay Area that reminds you of home, and if so, where can it be found?
GW: Hahahahaha… I’ve been going to Kingston 11 in Oakland on West Grand and Telegraph. I once brought my parents there — the guy who owns the place asked them what they thought of the food. I liked it but my mom went “Well…” and laid into the poor guy. Hard to please.
Also there is New Karibbean City in Oakland, which is a nightclub at night, but they serve food during the days. Don’t go by what they have on the menu — just ask what they have available. But usually, my mom just sends me a care package with goodies 🙂