DJ Leah V (a.k.a. Leah McFly) knows how to throw a great party, as anyone who’s been to ZuZu on a Tuesday night in the last five years will attest. The Boston nightlife favorite and Boston Music Awards winner, who runs ZuZu’s weekly queer dance party with Blk. Adonis (a.k.a. Justin Cameron), will be bringing her special touch to Harvard Square’s new O Sushi Restaurant and Bar this Saturday for “Karate,” a new high-energy dance night that comes with a side of sushi, sake, and Nintendo. (Yes, Nintendo!) Not a moment too soon, either. The party opens up some much-needed new dancing space in Harvard, and more importantly, will inject a bit of genuine fun back into that increasingly bland neighborhood. This week, to prep us for “Karate,” Leah (who, incidentally, has a black belt on her long list of accomplishments) tells us about how a fake ID can change your life for the better and what music we should all be listening to now.
Q. You’ve been DJing live for over 10 years. How did you get your start? What inspired you early on?
A. My DJ quest began when I was 13. I was completely enamored by the whole thing — the records, the turntables, the mixer. I didn’t even know what half the gear was called but I was hooked. I went through high school quietly practicing and teaching myself the craft on the worst Gemini turntables ever, a tiny two-channel mixer, more crates of vinyl than I had room for, and a huge speaker that was meant for trunk of a car … I listened to everything. I spent all the money I made working at a retail store and teaching karate lessons on sneakers, hats, and vinyl records. Oh, and sweet fake ID, which I used to get into Boston’s biggest and best nightclubs two to four times a week. I don’t even think I realized how cool it was to hear so many legendary DJs, I didn’t grasp how famous these dudes were, I was truly there to dance and hear what was being played in clubs. I just thought I was in on something my friends weren’t into. I started playing out when I was 20. I still played with vinyl, and all my first gigs were in New York, because that was the only place my age wasn’t questioned. I had a residency for a burlesque party at a bar in Brooklyn and a weekly in Boston. Not bad. After a forced break from DJing, and living in New York and Miami for a few years, I decided to return home to Boston and plunge head first into a serious DJ career. That was 2009. My first gig back was at the Middlesex with Frank White. What I love most about this is that you never stop learning. There’s new technology, new music, new techniques, endless possibilities with these tools we use to make music happen in a room. Whether it’s vinyl, CDs, or a MIDI controller, you can learn forever. I love that. I think it’s why I’ve done this for most of my life. It’s obvious I love music, that’s a given, but it’s more about the room you will always have to grow in your skill and knowledge. It’s pretty much infinite.
Q. Who were some of the DJs you saw when you were sneaking into clubs back in the day?
A. Sasha and Digweed…I think it was during the release of their mix album “Communicate.” I remember going out to Satellite Records the next day to try to find some of the tracks I heard from them. I saw so many DJs there but that one sticks out in my memory the most.
Q. I love the concept for the new night. In terms of music, what should we expect?
A. You can expect open-format sets from myself and rotating guest DJs from all disciplines. It’ll be a nice mix of familiar and more unique underground genres. I really want to make this a different Saturday night experience, not the expected mix of Top 40 and beatport big room house. We’re going across the board.
Q. What are some of your current favorite artists and tracks?
A. Right now, I’m loving Rizzla, MikeQ, Brenmar, Flume, Uniique, Blk.Adonis, Brooke Candy, JSTJR. I’ve added a ton of their work to my set lists and people receive it really well. As for my personal listening choices? Too many to list. I always listen to local artists, Boston has an amazing music scene right now, and I really enjoy what we have in our backyard.
Q. Who are some of your favorite locals?
A. Moe Pope, Famous Knowbodies, Natural (bar gang), Andrew Mo, Retrospek, Termanology, 7L & Esoteric, Catchwreck, Cassius the 5th, London Bridgez, Dre Hudson, LeoLeo, Bearstronaut, Tigerman WHOA!, Casey Desmond, Doom Lover, Smoke Some, Mark Merren, Caliph, Apollo Knox…. I can’t get enough local music. This is a small list of what’s on my iPod right now, definitely not limited to! I could talk Boston music all day.
Q. There was some mention of a Nintendo tournament. Will this be going down Saturday as well? What’s the perfect track to celebrate a major “Mario Kart” victory?
A. Show up at 10:30, sign up, play a few people in a classic title of our choosing which will be revealed the day-of, and the winner gets a few drinks on the house and a pat on the back. And I might just have to play the “Mortal Kombat” theme song for the winner. Hands-down best victory song ever.
DJ Leah V hosts the opening of “Karate” this Saturday, Feb. 22, at O Sushi Restaurant and Bar in Harvard Square at 10:30 p.m. with guest DJ Ian Diver and multi-surface visuals by A. Skeets.
[Photo: Gizelle Peters]
[Photo: Gizelle Peters]