Major Key: Unite the creative community. Xavier Blk and Jeremy Avalon of WERC Crew talk about the power of creative cohesion.

When you ask a DJ for an interview, please don’t think you’re gonna do lunch. The element of the DJ is as such: If I gotta do an interview for a blog, imma make it look sexy. It was a clear and steamy night (9:30ish, to be exact-ish) when I went to Boondocks to interview Xavier Blk and Jeremy Avalon of WERC Crew before they spun for Blackout. What I got was the best description of what happens when creatives in a big city unite to swap ideas, skills, stories, and connections – and that was only on the record. It was what went down outside of the interview, the actual DJ sets and the most fun I think I’ve ever had at that venue, that spoke the most about the collective power of the creative community, and the power that a small group of progressives could have when they lose the ego and exclusivity. Houston, I hope you’re reading.

Hope Carter: Where are y’all from?

Jeremy Avalon: Originally or right now?

HC: Either? Both?

JA: Originally we’re both from New York City. I’m from Bedstuy, Brooklyn. He’s from Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Xavier Blk: By way of Puerto Rico….even though they didn’t teach me Spanish, g*ddammit.

JA: We both live in Atlanta, Ga. now.

HC: So tell me about WERC Crew; tell me how it got started. You said it was a series of events that turned

Xavier Blk, spinning for Blackout. (Photo: Troy Montes, @troyezeq)

Xavier Blk, spinning for Blackout. (Photo: Troy Montes, @troyezeq)

into this big ol’ thing. What sparked the series of events?

XB: It was like a bunch of creatives in Atlanta, I guess what you would call the East Atlanta community. I don’t know what to compare it to here, in Houston, but it’s the more progressive side – the early adapters that are on the next shit before everybody else. You know, a lot of multifaceted creatives, designers, producers, all types…we just came together  like 2012, maybe? Just to throw some cool shit. Kinda like, hey, we’re all doing things separately, let’s just come together to do some cool shit. At first, it was kind of a casual environment,  then the first couple events were a hit, and we were like, “Oh, I guess there’s a need for this.” Fast forward a couple years later, a couple of us came back together and turned it into what it is now, which is an official collective of primarily event producers. We throw events within Atlanta and around the country, and then just creatives that work together, too – we have a bunch of DJs, visual artists, a couple emcees in the crew…

HC: How does one get invited to be in the crew?

JA: We’re all just kinda organic…

XB: There is no application process. We’ll have that sometimes, at some of the events, people are like, “How can I be down?” We’re like, “It’s not like, a résumé kind of process…” Everybody who’s down with the crew now, it’s all been different stories: some of us met on SoundCloud, some of us met in person – me and him (Jeremy) met at a birthday dinner for a mutual friend…

HC: So have you had anybody who you had to tell, “Yeah…you not gon’ be able to roll…”

XB: (laughs) Ah man…yeah, there’s probably been a few. But I think part of our nature and why we’ve been so successful is that we’ve been very inclusive. The industry – any industry – can be very clique-ish and territorial and not just us, but I think Atlanta is a very unified city which is why we’ve been on the map for a lot of stuff recently. The different sides of the community flow together. The DBoys kick it with the skateboarders and they kick it with the hipsters and they kick it with the starving artists and then it’s just a really cool mixture. We’re really inclusive to begin with, but being down with the team is a whole other thing.

HC: Would you consider yourselves hip-hop culture or rock or…?

JA: Me and Xavier started this party called “Shade” back in 2012. Since we’re both from NYC, we kinda had this fantasy of what early-80s, Manhattan disco was like: where the cats that played everything, from “The Breaks” to reggae to Kraftwerk to “Mickey, you so fine” and put it all together and making dope music where everything was sold. We started a party called Shade and we played everything from dancehall to some of the future stars – we were the first to play Disclosure – a lot of that progressive music. It was definitely a collaborative effort and a lot of good Atlanta culture spun from that party. A lot of people became pretty famous that either used to attend or had their first performances there…Madeintyo, he was underaged. He was the little homie but he always used to come through.

Jeremy Avalon, spinning for Blackout. (Photo: Troy Montes, @troyezeq)

Jeremy Avalon, spinning for Blackout. (Photo: Troy Montes, @troyezeq)

HC: I was looking at that list (on the WERC Crew site) and was impressed.

JA: Yeah, a lot of people came from that: Brittany Bosco, Marian Mareba…Brittany was one of the people who was down with us from the formation of WERC Crew, and a lot of indie stars popped from that.

XB: When you said “inspiration,” like rock or hip-hop, growing up in New York we kinda have that in us. We were not far from where Biggie was, when I moved to the South Bronx I was down the street from Big Pun, so that was in us, but it was more of an indie dance culture that we wanted to fuck Atlanta up with because as with most big cities the bougie dance party is popular, so we wanted to break those barriers of bottle service and looking too cool.

JA: …just come as you are. No hookahs, no VIPs…

XB: …just enjoy the music and let the DJ be the DJ.

JA: …bringing back music discovery instead of being a jukebox.

HC: That’s like the Open Source parties. Y’all have heard of them?

Both: Oh yeah!

HC: Y’all keep up with the newer movements, then? Who got “next?”

JA: There’s a couple crews in Atlanta that are carrying on the tradition, but in their own way. There’s a group of cats called “La Cholotecas” that bring the Central American Latin vibe,  and that’s needed where we live. There’s these kids called the “Morph Kids…”

XB: They spearheaded an underground dance movement for primarily the LGBTQ scene, and they give safe spaces for them to party. In Atlanta, those two are next. On a bigger, global scaled, I’m a fan of how much love the international music scene could be getting. I think from my Puerto Rican roots and then growing up in New York, you have that sound growing up, where you listen outside of your apartment and you hear all different types of culture. I love how the UK culture has been exposed, and I’m a fan of the African music, and even the dancehall stuff, too.

JA: Soca, for sure.

The Blackout crowd. (Photo: Troy Montes, @troyezeq)

The Blackout crowd. (Photo: Troy Montes, @troyezeq)

XB: I can’t say it’s “next” because it’s always been.

HC: Then what’s “next” for y’all?

XB: A lot of our parties at home have taken a life of our own and we’ve been able to take them on the road. We do one party called “The Groove” which is R&B – and when we say that you might hear anything from Luther Vandross to the Internet. We do everything from classic ’70s to the new shit. It’s a real live, full sweaty party. And then, our other party “Whine” which is why we’re here tonight – one of the DJs from Blackout came to kick it with us. That’s our global setup. If it’s made in America, you won’t hear it. We just got hit up by Afropunk, so we’re planning for that in October. We’re expanding our parties and original content, too.

JA: Yeah, for sure. I just dropped a project called “Pedazo de Vida” which means “slice of life.” It’s a new mix I put out, it’s a house-y vibe, uptempo with a lot of Latin flavor on top of it. I used a new project called Serrato Sample on it, it came out really good, and they actually want me to film how I did it so I’m going to New York to film it. Pretty excited about that. Releasing some original music, and keeping it on the road. That’s the goals.

#goals, indeed.

Keep up with Xavier Blk, Jeremy Avalon, and the whole WERC Crew on their sites (linked) and on social media: @xavierblk, @jeremyavalon, and @WERC_CREW.