Tarrant County, particularly Fort Worth, is better known for classical music than for underground dance music, but local DJs are trying to change that. Meet some of the artists working to expand the dance music scene.
Skyler Salinas, known as Kowboy, was raised around house music. His mom went clubbing in Dallas and his uncle was into drum and bass. He was exposed to popular house music from the ’90s by his mom, and that early exposure to house music has grown into collecting house records ever since he was 14.
His sound is rooted in original house and techno music from Detroit. He prefers to use analog equipment for his sets instead of digital ones. He also was involved with Parole Ones, the curator of Meet Me Underground, in the project’s early days and would help him set up the lights and sounds for his warehouse parties.
Salinas would like to see more diversity of house music in the local scene, he said. He also would like DJs to broaden their venues from clubs or warehouses and focus on alternative venues and spaces that people don’t normally go to dance, like a tunnel and alley.
Tarrant County’s DJ community is growing, and Salinas said he wants to introduce more people to the dance scene.
“But all the dance scene used to be in Dallas, like in the ’90s, up until recently and now like Fort Worth exploded, Fort Worth running the house and the techno (scenes.)”
Asa Aziz, better known as DJ Ace, had been deejaying for six years before she became a “vibe facilitator” full time. She used to split her time as a respiratory therapist. She would often DJ on her days off from the hospital, but the pandemic changed her feelings about working in that industry.
“Just spiritually, I wasn’t happy going there,” Aziz said. “The energy in the hospital just wasn’t right. I wanted to heal people but that wasn’t the way I wanted to heal them. So I stepped away from that.”
After delving into her passion full time, she discovered sound healing, a type of therapy that uses aspects of music to improve someone’s physical and emotional health. Her sets are heavily influenced by afrobeat and soca music.
Her sets transport listeners to different times and areas in the world because she doesn’t like to play familiar sounds that one might expect at a nightclub, she said. She picked up the approach to music when traveling around the world.
“Those types of (sounds), you feel it more because it comes more from their soul and it’s like more spiritual,” she said.
Aziz is currently working on her collective Love is Real, which focuses on encouraging creativity throughout the community. Under Love is Real, she curates events and connects businesses with other artists.
“My goal is to create events and services that encourage self-development and self-discovery,” she said. “Trying to develop a sustainable community where creativity is nourished and it’s celebrated.”
Tad Ezell and Garrett Leech, or DJ Behave and Chemdawg, who asked not to use their real names, are known as the Frontale Club. They were both born and raised in Fort Worth and have known each other since high school. The pair would go to a venue called 1919 Hemphill to witness hardcore punk rock shows. The duo’s sound is associated with industrial music, an abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music, but they also have a love for hip-hop music.
They started producing industrial music in 2018 before starting their DJ careers with a couple of live shows around DFW.
“I just think a love of music is what drew us together,” Chemdawg said.
The pair are obsessed with subcultures and try to incorporate them into their sounds and shows, Behave said. They try to capture the punk attributes that one would associate with warehouse shows and impromptu raves. The group plays at clubs, but attendees don’t get the full experience.
“I felt like the types of gigs we do have a tendency to get, I guess a little out of control sometimes. So I think that might be intimidating to a lot of venues,” Behave said.
Frontale Club said they would continue bringing the sound of raw techno music to the Tarrant County area.
“We’re both pretty obsessed with just subcultures in general. And I think that that has a tendency to play into what we do, just different subcultures,” Behave said.
Jake Gatewood has been a DJ since he was 16, when he played with hip-hop artists Playboy Carti and XXXTentacion. Now 23, he’s shifted to house music and has a successful monthly show known as “Take a Break.”
His events started out as YouTube videos, where he would do sets in unusual places such as an open house or in the kitchen of a restaurant. While “Take a Break” has grown and evolved from its YouTube roots, Gatewood wants to explore other opportunities to revive the video series, he said.
“I became very big-headed, but I had achieved a lot and so I was always reaching for the stars. I love that about me. However, I wish I would sit back and become a student more,” he said.
He is taking on more knowledge from older, more experienced DJs in the community and new ones as well. Gatewood would like to do some events at the Fort Worth Zoo, Modern Art Museum and Water Gardens but doesn’t know how to go about it with the city, he said.
“I’d love to be able to work along with the city to do even weirder things,” said Gatewood.
Beverly Hills Cowboy
Beverly Hills Cowboy is a techno collective of three DJs who were raised in different parts of the Metroplex. It was founded by Jesus Freak and includes Maya Loft and Luna, who have a combined six years of professional experience.
The collective was originally supposed to start deejaying in 2020, but the pandemic delayed its start to 2021. Beverly Hills Cowboy strives to host a safe space for people that don’t have one in the local techno music scene. These parties helped the collective meet other artists, which is how they met their second resident Loft, and helped gain local attention.
“The community keeps growing and growing every day. It’s really inspiring to see actually,” Frank said. “This is ultimately what we all want as a community is for the scene to keep growing.”
While the trio just started they have always been surrounded and influenced by all types of music from ghetto house, a subgenre of house music that originated in Chicago and featured minimal 808 and 909 drums, to groovy techno.
“I love to go the experimental route by exploring different varieties of sounds. I don’t like limiting myself to one specific sound,” Loft said.
The DJ community in Tarrant County is tight-knit, Luna said. That is the main thing that he admires about this scene.
“The same people who inspired me are now my friends and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of it all,” Luna said.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter.