By Gilbert Garcia
Everyone is moving away on Ernest Gonzales. It's not just that he'll soon be waving goodbye to some of his best friends and musical collaborators, he's also about to lose the core of his record label.
Gonzales, 25, a producer, DJ, and graphic artist who performs under the name Theory of Everything, created the Exponential label in 2000 as a vehicle for his far-flung creative concepts. "At the time, I just decided that I wanted to put out my own stuff," says the stocky, bespectacled Gonzales, whose geometric buzz-cut hints at a fondness for math and science. "The original aim of Exponential was to be an art-and-music collaboration. I wanted to have art shows and music shows, and have them coincide."
Along the way, Exponential has become the first resort for San Antonio's underground electronic mavericks, including DJ Jester, Klassen, Crash Kingdom, and others. But that close-knit DJ scene, which Exponential has painstakingly documented, is about to be blown asunder. Klassen is on the verge of taking his virtuoso turntable skills to Brooklyn, New York, where he'll be joined by SA mainstays Clusaki and DJ LowRes. Meanwhile, according to Gonzales, DJ Jester - who relocated to Austin early this year - might join his friends in Brooklyn.
For a fledgling operation like Exponential, that's akin to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili deciding to retire at the same time. "It makes me feel like I'm going to be the only one," Gonzales says. "It's kind of a lonely thing. But I'm more happy than anything else, because I know they're going to be in a place that they love and they'll be doing lots of good things. It just means I have to keep doing my thing, and working with other people. That's what I'm interested in: local talent."
While Gonzales likely has been spurred into action by the impending departure of his friends, a bigger motivator is summer break. A computer graphics teacher who recently completed a demanding first year at Sam Houston High School, Gonzales only recently found enough time to refocus on his own artistic pursuits.
It was while attending UTSA on an art scholarship (he majored in photography) that Gonzales met up with DJ Jester, aka Mikey Pendon. "We had mutual friends," Gonzales says. "My good friend Larry would do things every now and then with a band called Bucket Funk, and Mikey was managing them at the time."
Later, when Jester began to attract a national fan base, he asked Gonzales to design a Web page for him. When WFMU, the prestigious New York underground radio station, expressed interest in airing a DJ Jester mix-CD, Gonzales helped him put it together. The result, Heavily Booted, was Exponential's first release when it hit stores in 2002. Gonzales put out an initial run of 500, which quickly sold out. The disc is currently on its third pressing.
Taking the name Theory of Everything from a college physics class ("For the first time I saw how everything seemed to make sense in the universe, the mathematical nature of it. It was kind of spiritual."), he created stuttering, hyperactive beats based on his fascination with jazz, jungle, and hip-hop. A producer by nature, he slowly fell into DJ work (using CDs instead of vinyl) because it offered him a chance to perform his creations in front of an audience. "The first set I ever did, I just played everything off my laptop," he says sheepishly. "I felt ridiculous, 'cause it was just about pressing 'Play.' That's not really performing. So that's what got me working on it."
At his inaugural Cafe Revolución showcase on June 30, Gonzales takes the stage at 11:30 p.m., and announces: "I just made some new music on my stupid laptop, and I'm gonna play it for you." The teaser for his upcoming disc - which will include the vocal contributions of various local MCs - finds Gonzales exploring grooves that are increasingly intricate and unsettling, with his patented jazz-solo snippets fighting for air.
"This is something I want to do full-time," Gonzales says about his plans for Exponential. "One of the things that prevents me from doing that is my lack of business skills. I'm an artist by nature, so it's kind of the opposite spectrum." •