A month ago I came home on from a late Friday night at about 3 AM. I turned on my radio and began scanning the channels and found some of the best jams in NYC. La Mega 97.9FM is the big Latin pop station in New York, but at about 11 PM on weekends it turns into a balls-out electro dance party with DJ’s mixing live on the air. It rules. So I set up an interview with DJ Polito Jr. (whose name I only found out by hearing a sample of it blasted over the mix), who, with his partner DJ Bacan, runs La Mega Afterparty, Saturdays and Sundays 2-5AM. I sat down with him at the studio.
What would you say La Mega Afterparty sounds like?
The way to say it is, we’re a Latin station, so the typical format is salsa-meringue. My partner is DJ Bacan, and we give it a twist so we mix in latin house, American house, we mix in Brazilian and if we do meringue, we do meringue from the streets, not your typical meringue. Most Latin people know meringue like most white people know rock but some white people know good rock and underground rock. I’m into a lot of good rock too, I don’t listen to basic rock, I like stuff that’s up-and-coming, stuff that’s obscure, breaking ground, and I apply the same shit to this Latin stuff. Where a lot of Spanish people know ‚”so much” about Latin music, there’s still a lot they don’t know about so we dig that up and do our own mixes. We can throw it over Brazilian beats or house music and flip it up. I’m trying to break even more ground by throwing on a Spanish rock set. I don’t know if you know Spanish rock but a lot of it is just imitations of American rock, like in the 80’s when Depeche Mode were doing their thing you had a lot of bands in South America, same sound but just in Spanish. But we’re finding stuff that breaks out of that mold a bit. I’ve got half a Spanish rock set and I’m trying to incorporate a bit of American rock into it. Stuff like Soda Stereo who are kind of like a Pet Shop Boys, that 80’s/90’s electro sound. I’m finding stuff that’s obscure but you wanna stay danceable. It’s the afterparty. One thing we’re trying to hook up is putting that song ‚”Electric Feel” by MGMT into a set. That keyboard hook could go over a lot of things.
How do you find the stuff that you play?
The foreign stuff, my partner and I are in a record pool, always on the internet, always record shopping. There’s not a lot of record stores left but when we go shopping we try to keep it exclusive to us. We also trade and share stuff with a group of DJ’s but we can use it in ways they never would so we take advantage of that. And we swap hard drives. It’s a common thing, but nobody’s biting because everyone has their own approach.
Do you have an event you do around here?
We have an event called The Skybox in Rozelle, NJ. We do it from Sunday 11-2. We’ve only been on the air 2 months so we’re trying to find more stuff to do. We played at a strip club in Queens last week, called Cityscapes. That was cool. And we hosted a skybox at the Knicks game. So we’re trying to get more gigs.
What about events you go to?
The only event that I’ve gone to, that I like is APT. It’s 13th st in the meatpacking district. It’s Bobbito Garcia and it’s once a month and it’s called Apartment. APT. That dude is the man. Right now he does once a month there but he’s all over the globe and he does a lot of progressive shit. Whatever he’s mixing it won’t hit till 8 months from now and you gotta be ahead of the game on this. Even in here there’s competition amongst DJ’s and you always have to have that new sound.
Is there any new sound that you’re kind of taken with?
That mix [note: mix posted below]. That is one of my favorite mixes we’ve done. It’s crazy what we did there. I’m into house, that electronic house stuff that makes people move.
It seems like there’s a global language showing up where so many people got ahold of drum machines and synths and the internet in a few years and now MIA is with Jay-Z on MTV and white kids in tight pants can find street music from Brazil.
Yeah man, I love it. I love listening to rock because it’s getting that electro sound and the bands are from everywhere. Germany, Mexico, everything is connecting and you can hear the same sounds in a lot of it. Ten years ago you probably would never pick it up and hear about it. That’s the sound we want, trying to pull from everybody and make our own thing. My partner and I, we’re Puerto Rican but we’re born here and we’re the only DJ’s on here like that. I think it gives us our own thing because we know the Americanized sounds too. The other DJ’s will school you and even me on the pure Latin stuff that they specialize in, but that’s all they have, but we’re looking global.
The reggaeton, cumbia, dancehall sound is making a lot of inroads in Brooklyn thanks to labels like Mad Decent and Dutty Artz. And while Brooklyn’s diverse, it’s still quite a bit whiter than La Mega’s usual listenership. Do you think there are appropriation issues or anything like that involved?
I think it’s great. Part of our initial goal was to branch out and it’s amazing because that’s what’s happening. Even the ratings for our show show that. We came on in January and in the past six weeks the ratings have skyrocketed, and that already shows us we’ve broken ground. To have more audience means more ratings and it also means more diversity and more diverse advertisers. Maybe guys who advertise to people like you wanna knock on the door now. That’s exactly what we wanna do is open it up. I’ve been doing this for 8 years and when I was coming up I was doing hardcore hip hop and house stuff so I never thought I would end up at a Latin station. Now that I’m here I wanna open it up and the more that I get other people listening, the better.
This is part of the mix mentioned in the interview: La Mega Afterparty
So if you’re just back from a late night and it’s 3AM, turn on 97.9FM and listen.
THE MEGA AFTER PARTY WITH DJ POLITO JR. AND DJ BACAN, EVERY FRI AND SAT 2AM TO 5AM, ON MEGA 97.9FM