I have waited close to 4 years for this. Ladies and gentlemen, KNXWLEDGE. (at THE NWBLK)
I had the honor of interviewing Amir Raad, co-founder of San Francisco’s freshest music collective HGMNY, about the roots of the crew and what they have in store for the future. Ch-ch-check it out, y’all. <3
Every music scene needs a shepherd and Bay Area collective HGMNY is quickly separating itself from the flock. Bringing such acts as Mr. Carmack, Djemba Djemba, King Henry and rising star Saint Pepsi to San Francisco in the last three months alone, HGMNY is proving to be a sure bet on delivering a good time. On the eve of the collective’s latest show with bass music heavyweights Lindsay Lowend and DJ Hoodboi, both making their San Francisco debuts, we spoke with co-founder Amir Raad about the roots, rhyme and reason of the Bay Area’s newest noisemakers.
Do415: First things first: What is HGMNY?
Amir Raad: HGMNY (pronounced he·ge·mo·ny) is a music-based collective that was formed in the pits of Santa Cruz in 2009. Our aim is to bring together great people and the music we love to enhance our social and auditory lives. We support innovative artists and the term “genre” is just some French word we don’t adhere to, but we generally bring acts that are developing music with new perspectives in hip hop, R&B and bass music as a whole.
Do: How did HGMNY start?
AR: We started HGMNY when I was in school at UC Santa Cruz. My friends and I were dabbling in the “DJ” world and had gotten really into electronic music after attending our first festival together, the Raindance Campout. It was the fall of 2009 and my birthday was coming up and I wanted to throw a fat party with loud, quality music. One problem with Santa Cruz is the city has a very strict noise ordinance and amplified music or anything deemed “noisy” is considered an infraction. So if you threw a house party and the cops came to break it up, usually right before midnight just when things are gettin’ sexy, they have the power to write a ticket for every tenant. This noise ordinance really sucked and still sucks, so we had to escape it by throwing what is known as a “renegade.”
Do: What’s a “renegade?”
AR: It’s basically a party thrown without a permit. The idea was to take over a public space and throw a legit party for us and our friends. We rented a sound system and a generator and went up to the Santa Cruz Mountains to party from midnight ‘til 7 in the morning. Although it was technically illegal, we felt strongly that we weren’t causing harm to anyone else and if you’re going to pass a noise ordinance, well there’s no one to complain about noise in the middle of nowhere. And the renegade was sort of political and a fun form of direct action- that’s how the name HGMNY came to be, actually, after Gramsci’s theory of Cultural Hegemony. So the first HGMNY party literally went down in the middle of a road haha. Everyone had such an amazing time that we decided to do it again. And then again and again, about 5 more times before we graduated.
Do: How did you make the transition to legal parties, or indoors, as it were?
AR: We started to really make a name for ourselves when we brought Matty G out to one of our forest renegades. From there we started playing house parties, when they didn’t get broken up because of the sound ordinance that had driven us to the forest in the first place. But a lot of the DJs you see on our current roster are the same peeps who played in the forest and at house parties. And then eventually we all moved up to the Bay Area and began DJing here, and that led to a monthly residency playing the backroom at F8 | 1192 Folsom. Soon the owners and GM Rafael Fierro offered us the opportunity to throw a party of our own and that’s when it really clicked. Throwing those parties in the forest required a lot of planning and preparation, and throwing a party in a club is no different, except for money being on the line and more paperwork haha, but it’s in the same vein of having to coordinate a bunch of things to make sure the party is successful. So HGMNY started as a group of friends that loved similar styles of music and were down to party. Shoutout to the homies who have made this shit successful through the years and are part of the HGMNY Crew- Monique Biega, Daniel Fried, Michael Gushanksy, Dylan Macturk, Levi Williams, Parker Catalano, Anthony Schwartz, Max Siekierski and Angeline King.
Do: Where do you see HGMNY going?
AR: The plan is to keep pushing the boundaries and bringing artists we love to the Bay. Hopefully one day we can create a following where we’re able to book that dude with 200 Soundcloud followers and the show would sellout because people trust what we bring to the table. That’s my dream. I would also love to do some more hip hop shit. My roots are in hip hop. My older brothers introduced me to the Fugees, Blackstar, The Roots and a lot of other music when I was in 6th grade, although the first tape I ever bought was in 3rd grade and it was Chumbawamba, that one with the “I get knocked down” song on it haa. But yeah, I’ve always loved music, and hip hop is where my heart rests for sure, so I’d love to bring more of that to SF.
Do: What’s next for HGMNY this year? Who would you love to book in 2014?
AR: Well we got some crazy shit in the works. This Saturday we’re featuring the SF debuts of Lindsay Lowend and DJ Hoodboi. March 8th- we have a show in celebration of International Women’s Day featuring all female lineup, with Astronautica, Sosupersam, Kittens and a bunch of amazing local acts. And March 29th we got something special as well but we can’t announce it just yet. As for the rest of the year, we’ve got some big ideas in store… But really, if we could book Ginuwine with an Aaliyah hologram, I would be in heaven.
Interview by ladymisskate