Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - Page 10 News List

The Vinyl Word

By Marcus Aurelius  /  Contributing reporter

The hi-top fade may get SmithAgentSmith noticed, but it’s the music that pulls them in.

Photo Courtesy of Derek Putlak

In the mid to late-1980s, hi-top fades were found on the tops of many superstars’ heads. Big Daddy Kane had one to go with his four finger rings. Dominique Wilkins used to blow fans’ minds doing windmill dunks for the Atlanta Hawks with his. The most famous hi-top fade, though, belonged to Kid from the rap group Kid ‘n Play, who also starred in the House Party movies.

Fashion always comes full circle and hi-top fades are back in with hip-hoppers and hoopsters nowadays. SmithAgentSmith (real name Darren J. Smith) — who has been popping in and out of Taiwan quite a lot recently and plays tonight with an instrumentalist at OTS Phoenix — has been rocking the hi-top fade for a few years.

“It’s interesting because everyone thinks I love the attention, but it’s obvious that I am doing it for my career and image,” said SmithAgentSmith in an e-mail interview with the Taipei Times. “I do think it’s kind of cool having this talking point attached to my [head], but it gets old fast. Some people hang out with me for five minutes and are shocked with all of the stupid shit people say.”

Another surprising fact about SmithAgentSmith is that he didn’t love getting behind the decks at first. “I started deejaying years ago, but initially I hated it,” he said. “At the time, I wanted to play songs like Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative, Boys II Men’s Motownphilly, Musiq Soulchild’s Just Friends, but clubs wanted me to play the new Britney Spears’ tracks. As a bit of a music snob, I couldn’t find a happy medium with what they wanted and what I wanted.”

SmithAgentSmith longed to show his virtuosity on the turntables, but it took something new to get his love back. “I couldn’t figure out how to make Serato Scratch Live creative,” he said. “I felt like no matter what, the limitations of the turntable were only going to allow me to play things that were already created. I literally quit deejaying because of this until I came across Ableton Live. When I got Ableton, I became really excited and spent about four months playing with it and figuring out how I could deejay with it.”

Now, SmithAgentSmith calls himself a controllerist, since he uses an Akai APC40 and a laptop to play his live sets. “At this point, the term deejay or turntablist would be a bit disingenuous to what I do. I even have trouble saying that I’m spinning at a certain place because my buttons don’t spin,” he said.

SmithAgentSmith’s fondness for Ableton Live has even made him enjoy what other DJs refer to as their Kyrptonite: requests. “Usually, people request songs you are already going to play anyways,” he said. “My philosophy is if someone asks for a song, they probably already discussed it with their friends so you have a crew of people looking forward to hearing this one song that you’re going to play anyways. It is my job to give them what they want, with my own flavor, of course.”

Taipei may be seeing a lot more of SmithAgentSmith very soon because he has made a lot of friends here and is thinking about relocating. “I’d like to make Taipei my home base soon because I think it is an amazing place with kindhearted people and the location is perfect to travel around Asia,” he said. “I really could see it as a place to live for a long time.”

■ SmithAgentSmith performs tonight at OTS Phoenix from 10pm to 4am, 2F, 297, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 5, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路五段297號2樓). Admission is NT$400 for ladies and NT$600 for men and includes two drinks.

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