DJ Dennis Owens: An Endlessly Fascinating Human Construct • Long Beach Post

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Dennis Owens. Photo by Sander Roscoe Wolff.


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Dennis Owens is a DJ, and is probably best known, locally, for his long running dance night, The Good Foot, which started at Que Sera, Sera and, more recently, migrated to Alex’s Bar. He is also a founding member of Suburban Rhythm and Action League, and played for many years in Ikey Owens’ band, Free Moral Agents. Tomorrow, he’ll be at 4th Street Retro Row as part of the massive Beach Streets event, doing live DJ sets at 11:30AM, 12:30PM, 2:30PM, and 3:45PM.

Long Beach Post: What role did music play in your home, growing up?

Dennis Owens: I’ve been obsessed with music since I was a child. The first band that I loved was Kiss. How could you not love a band that looks like cartoon characters, whose members breathe fire & spit blood and play guitars that fly out of their hands in a blaze of sparkling glory when you’re a five-year-old boy?

My parents were always very supportive of my musical endeavors. My dad was a professional singer during the 1950s, so he understood where I was coming from. My parents never really played music in the house, so everything I got into was strictly through my own inquisitive nature. I used to listen to the Mighty 690, KMET (especially the Doctor Demento Show!), KDAY & KROQ. I loved it all. That’s why I’m pretty open to all music and to new sounds. Music was—and still is—what lifts me up when I’m down and makes me fly even higher when I’m happy. It’s an endlessly fascinating human construct.

What inspired you to move from being a listener to being a participant?

I’ll never forget the date: September 23, 1987. Fender’s Grand Ballroom. I saw No Doubt for the first time and they totally blew me away. Their energy was undeniable and overwhelming to my young, impressionable mind. Seeing them that evening made me want to play in a band and capture that same feeling.

For the next few years, I tried to find people to start a band with me, to no avail. The summer I graduated high school was when I finally found a group of friends who wanted to play in a band. After a few line-up changes, it morphed into my first real band, Suburban Rhythm. Our first show under that name was in March of 1991, opening up for Sublime in the backyard of our bass player’s house. About 500 kids showed up. It was amazing!

Suburban Rhythm was a group of very different individuals who, somehow, had a really great creative chemistry. The music we played was mostly ska-based, with a heavy dose of punk rock energy. We were around from 1991 to 1994 and played mostly in and around southern California. Our only out of state shows were two shows in Utah—Salt Lake City and Hurricane, UT. We went during the worst snow storm SLC had seen in 60 years.

We played a bunch of shows and our following got bigger and bigger and then we broke up due to youth-driven, irreconcilable differences. I started another band with the members who remained called Action League, which was more of a power-pop outfit inspired by our love of the Buzzcocks & Elvis Costello. A month after that band broke up, Rodi Delgadillo, (who played keyboards in both SR and AL) and I started The Good Foot, which then led me on a completely different musical journey.

About a year before Action League broke up, Rodi took me to a club in Santa Monica call Science, that played strictly Drum And Bass music. The first night I went was a revelation. From the moment I walked in, everyone was moving to the music. The closer I got to the dance floor, the more intense the movement. As soon as I reached the dance floor, I noticed the most diverse cross-section of people I had ever seen at a musical gathering, and every single person was lost in the music. I had been a music fanatic/record collector for years before that night but, on that night, the seeds were planted for next unintentional journey.

I was already becoming disillusioned with the late-90s rock music scene and my role in it and wanted to do something completely different. I had been collecting funk & soul records for years before that and wanted to link up with some other existing club so I could play these records. Rodi had a better idea and suggested that we start our own club.

At the time, Rodi worked at Meow and his boss, Kathleen, suggested we call up Que Sera to see if they had a night open. We met up with Benz, the owner, and told her our idea for the club. She loved it, and gave us the second Friday of the month. That first night was my first time behind a pair of turntables and a mixer. A total trial by fire. It seemed to work out okay.

Que Sera is a very welcoming place. Benz, the owner, is a wonderful human being and LuAnne, the manager, is a gem. It’s kind of a weird set-up, but it’s great vibe is a reflection of the great people running it. They’re very supportive and will give anyone a chance at running a night. They gave Good Foot a chance and supported us through thick and thin. Plus, it has a great dance floor! We were there every second Friday from September 11, 1998 to September 10 (my birthday!), 2011.

Rodi left for Japan in 2006 and I ran it by myself until 2011. I took a couple of years off, did a handful of one-off Good Foot nights here and there, then started it back up again as a monthly at Alex’s Bar in September of 2013.

During those off years, you toured with Free Moral Agents. What was that experience like for you?

My experience with FMA started in the summer of 2004, when Ikey called me up for a jam session. The first FMA album had recently been released and he was trying out different musicians to flesh out his then-solo project for live shows. He kept calling me up and eventually I became a full- fledged member.

FMA was a real learning experience. I’ve never been in a creative situation with someone who worked as hard as Ikey. He was a motivating individual to say the least! Overall, my time in FMA was wonderful. I loved—and still love—the people I was in the band with, and feel fortunate that I was able to play lots of great show and tour the U.S. and Europe with a group of very talented individuals.

I met a lot of really amazing and talented people during my time in FMA, many of whom I’m friends with to this day. Ikey brought a lot of people together and nurtured a lot of young talent. If he liked your attitude and your work ethic, he would give you a shot at working with him, whether it was a musician, an engineer, a filmmaker or any other type of visual artist. Most of the FMA records and videos are a testament to this. He planted a lot of seeds that grew into beautiful flowers. He could be rough around the edges, but he was genuine and had a very big heart. He was someone who used his power for the cause of good.

Do you currently have any band projects in the works?

I’m not working on any musical projects right now. I’m just focusing on DJing. It’s where the mojo is for me, right now, and it’s paying the bills. It’s the best “job” I’ve ever had!

You’ve had some huge shows, recently. What are the stand-out highlights?

One of the biggest shows I’ve done to date was the Saint Laurent show at The Palladium in Hollywood on February 10. I DJed before and after the fashion show itself as well as between bands at the after party. Joan Jett, Beck, Father John Misty, The Allah Lahs and a bunch of other bands played. I got to play my Black Flag, Ramones, Dead Boys, Count Five and crazy raw soul & funk records to an audience that included Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Sylvester Stallone, Demi Moore, Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Gordon, Lenny Kravitz and Chris Novoselic. It was an amazing and surreal experience.

I had no expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised that people were grooving to the music I was playing. Another amazing thing was that I was set up on the side of the stage, so I got to watch all of the performances up close. Seeing Joan Jett perform was one of the highlights of my year. She rules. Thanks to Lee & Sean at Burger Records, who co-promoted the event, for inviting me to play my music.

Are you a hard-core vinyl guy, or are you embracing digital DJ tech?

I love collecting records, but I am by no means a vinyl purist when it comes to DJing. Although Good Foot is an all-vinyl affair, I also DJ weddings, private parties & corporate events so, for most of those types of gigs, I’ve gone totally digital. It just makes more sense. It’s more compact and allows me to carry more music, plus most of those clients don’t care what format I use to play the music. Plus, it’s easier on my back! I still have plenty of outlets where I get to play vinyl. Hell, I played records at the Saint Laurent show! I’m still the same DJ whether I use a controller, Serato time-coded vinyl, or regular old vinyl records.

What’s next for you?

The Good Foot takes place every third Friday at Alex’s Bar. I also DJ every First Friday at 4th Street Vine. Gigs, gigs and more gigs! I keep plugging away, doing what I do, to the best of my ability. I’m extremely lucky that people seem to enjoy what I put out into the world.

To connect with Owens, follow or friend him on facebook. You can also find him on Instagram.

Visit LongBeach.gov/BeachStreets to find maps and performance schedules. Visit AlexsBar.com for performance schedules, cover charges, and other pertinent info.

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