By Gilbert Garcia
Before Eddie Spettro was a respected house-music DJ/producer, he was a dancer, basking in rave euphoria at warehouses in his hometown of Dallas. At the core, Spettro remains a dancer, and you can see it in the way he DJs.
Take Spettro's March 18 SXSW gig at Austin's downtown club, Copa. Before he takes over the turntable helm from Dallas' Brett Johnson, Spettro moves through the crowd, swaying from side to side, and greeting friends along the way. When he goes on at 11:30 p.m., he quickly has the swelling crowd whooping and hollering. As he gracefully juggles three turntables and the faders of his mixer, he compulsively dances on the DJ platform. Even when he anxiously searches his vinyl crate for the next record of choice, with his back to the audience, he continues to dance around.
Pencil-thin, with a shaved head and wire-rim glasses, Spettro is a picture of intense concentration as he moves from one turntable to another. Every now and then, however, he looks up, surveys the beat-mantra party he's created, and smiles broadly. Without question, this is a man who loves his work.
Spettro, 25, was first attracted to house music at age 12, when he heard Renegade Soundwave's 1990 album, In Dub. At 16, he attended his first Dallas warehouse party and noted that the DJs were spinning house music. "They were truly underground parties," he recalls. "A lot of word-of-mouth, tons of people. We were the youngest by far. You had punkers there, hippies, all kinds of people. I was like, 'This is what I want to do. This is my life. I love it.'"
House emerged in Chicago in the '80s, eventually spreading to the East Coast and becoming a British club mainstay. Formally rooted in '70s disco's four-on-the-floor (four bass-drum hits to the bar) beats, house added a more pulsating sense of groove and trippier sense of sound textures.
By the time he had finished high school, Spettro and his friend Benny Fingers had started collecting records and experimenting with turntable techniques. An ace tennis player, Spettro came to St. Mary's University on an athletic scholarship.
The night before he headed out to San Antonio, however, he got into a fight and his adversary kicked him in the leg. For a month, he tried walking with severe pain, before discovering that he had blown out his anterior cruciate ligament. His tennis career never recovered. "That's when I decided I was just going to save money and get my own turntables," he says. "From then on, I've just gone. That's all I think about."
His commitment to house was strong enough to withstand a disastrous first gig, at a college party on the patio of Fatso's.
"All I had was house music, right?" he says. "It's the wrong thing to do at a college party. They want hip-hop. So we were on the patio, I had brand new turntables, new mixer, and people were bitching at me left and right. I couldn't understand why they didn't feel it.
In most cities, house scenes tend to be on the outside looking in, devoted subcultures that get overshadowed by hip-hop and trance on the underground front, and mainstream pop on the commercial front.
"There's always a battle," Spettro concedes. "Even at the Winter Music Conference `in Miami`, this girl comes up and asks for Britney Spears. That's happened in San Antonio tons. People come up and scream at you. They'll say, 'Play some good music,' or 'Play some dance music.'"
As a way of making his name more prominent in house circles, Spettro started producing tracks three years ago, and has established himself as one of the most respected producer/composers in contemporary house. Working in his home Pro Tools studio for up to 80 hours a week, he's created tracks for labels such as Brique Rouge, Big Chief, Amenti, Aroma, and Tango, and earned raves from URB magazine.
In recent months, however, the music industry recession has hit home for him. After a couple of years making a living off his record-label advances - supplemented by a few hours of tennis instruction - he took a promotions job with Red Bull in September to compensate for his flagging income.
But, in a way, Spettro welcomed the slowdown. He's always considered himself a DJ who happens to produce, not a producer who happens to DJ. While it may be a career aspiration for many of his peers, production work for him was a stepping stone back to his roots, as a turntablist. With monthly gigs at the Davenport, and a recent blowout at the Josephine Theatre, he continues to be a mentor for the local house scene.
"All I ever really wanted to do was DJ, and I knew if I could get some tracks out, I could DJ, because my name would be better known," he says. "The spontaneity, the whole improvisation of it, it's such a rush. The energy is a snowball and it builds. It's the best feeling in the world. I think it's better than sex." •
` By Gilbert Garcia `