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Jul 31 / Josh

Crate Digging with DJ Le Spam


Hello Epicurean Musician Readers, I’m Stephanie. This is my first post for this delicious blog. A little about me, I grew up in South Florida, love tropicália culture, owed a clothing exchange in Miami for a while, eat and breathe music, and now live and study in NYC. I was asked to fill in for this interview of the Miami-based DJ Le Spam and the Le Spam All Stars. A home-grown band that I’ve enjoyed for many years in South Florida. We talked a lot about music and of course food…

Your music has always been heavily electronic influenced and how was it coming up in Miami during the early 90s and the whole electronic scene? How you originally got into it?

Well to be honest, my first reaction to living in Miami was like at the height of break beat popularity when I moved to Miami in 1990. During that time there was a lot more b-boy stuff happening around my DJ-ing.  I was 20 years old and was at a crossroads in my life, I had dropped out of school and did a bunch of traveling and I just kind of drifted into Miami. When I started to get settled down here and got a job, I decided that I wanted to do music and I would give myself ten years. At that time my instrument was guitar. I started playing at the age of 8, but gave it up my last couple years of high school and abandoned any musical hopes.  I never had any musical aspirations really, but when I moved to Miami I realized that it was all I ever dream of.  Just to play music in a band with other people and to do something multicultural, which was part of my vision. I wanted it to be unique. I was always more into the roots and world music stuff.  The first two years I was here I played in a Haitian band who were doing a fusion of really root-sy, Voodoo-ish music, with political lyrics and rockish guitar solos, and that was really the beginning.

Then I started Le Spam Allstars around 1994. I got a studio and started making loops. The early Spam Allstars stuff was really just myself experimenting in a studio with a few guests. I was always into the idea of making loops and I was using a few different drum machines because I didn’t have a band or people to play with. Then I got pulled into another project with Nil Lara who had just gotten a record deal and we ended up touring from 1995-98. I was hardly in Miami then, just always on tour. It really was a dream come true. I never thought I’d be out there touring, in a band, on a label. I was really focused on my instrument and by the time we winded down and I was back in Miami again around 1998 I started to re-form Spam Allstars.

At that time a new sampler came out called the Dr. Sample and it was small enough and easy enough to use and I just started creating beats like crazy. And back then I was super, super into crate digging, buying like 100s of records a week.

Speaking of crate digging, what were some of your spots in Miami?

I was going like three or four days a week in between my part-time jobs just driving around going to every thrift store and every record store, and there was a record fair that happens four times a year in Ft. Lauderdale. It was a good place to go cause once you made a personal connection to all the dealers there you’d go to their store or even their house. So needless to say my record collection quickly filled up my efficiency, then I filled up my one-bedroom apartment. I bought a house about ten years and moved all my records in there.  I still buy records, but I’m not as active as I used to be. I’m at that point where I can still make discoveries in my house, so that’s cool. And I have friends that are always bringing me records too. But that period of time from 1998-2002, I was really experimenting making a lot of loops and using breaks off the records. It was the most heavy vinyl influenced part of my output. Le Spam’s first two albums were really based around making beats on the SP-202, but I also didn’t want to feel to limited by copyright laws, so I was just putting out records underground. And that was it. The band started playing more and more in Miami and people took an immediate interest in what we were doing. As time went on we moved our gig to Little Havana at the place where we still play, Hoy Como Ayer.
Also on the music tip, before we get into food, what have you been listening to lately?

Hmm, it’s sort of funny. I go through periods where, and this might sound really ironic, but I’ve been recording a lot of groups in my studio now. I have this vintage studio in my house and when I’m not making or recording, there are times where I don’t really listen to much. But about two weeks ago I went on vacation and when I go I always make a playlist. This last playlist was a lot of Jamaican 45s and 1970s stuff, I also recorded a bunch of Columbian and Peruvian Cumbia stuff and a friend lent me a bunch of Moroccan stuff too, so it was a really great soundtrack to drive around Costa Rica too.

So on to food, where have you eaten so far in NYC?

Well I just got finished having amazing dumplings at this place called Buddha Bodai on 5 Mott Street. I love dumplings and it’s hard to find the veggie ones, so when I do I have to order lots of them.

So you have a pretty large band- do you ever have cook-offs and who claims title of best chef?

So our sax player, AJ Mill is quite an accomplished raw food chef. He even used to have a raw food restaurant in South Beach for a couple years, called Food Without Fire. And they were kind of ahead of the curve, it’s more in people consciousness now, but at the time they were the only people doing it. The desserts that AJ makes are really some of the best.

I love to cook. I cook a lot and usually make big batches of different beans. I’ll probably try to perfect my black bean recipe till I die. I try to do a lot of staple stuff like beans, lentils, dal because when I have recording sessions going on, I like to have something ready to go and won’t have to take to much time out. But I cook all over the map and usually don’t follow a recipe—well maybe loosely follow a recipe and improvise around that. I like using olive oil, coconut oil, a lot of Indian spices, cayenne…

Have you ever thought about the connection between creating through your hands by making food and making music?

I think about it because I have to be careful not to injure! If there’s one thing I’m super conscious about it’s that. Actually our percussionist right now burned himself pretty badly a few weeks ago with some hot oil.

What are your thoughts our beloved, South Florida Publix?

I gotta tell you, I am trying to get out of the mode of having to go to a supermarket. One of the things that struck me so much on my last vacation was that it was much easier to get produce.  We were dealing directly with the farmers in most cases. When we were in Costa Rica we went to the central market in one of the bigger towns and it was just incredible the freshness, and not having to deal with stuff that was wrapped up in packaging and Saranwrap. So I’m trying to get away from that. There is a farmer’s market movement all around the country and I think Florida, and Miami in general is a bit behind the curve. I mean people are trying, but we are not there yet.  If I could get everything I needed without having to go to Publix or Whole Foods, I’d feel a lot better about my consumer habits. There is one major growing area in South Florida, and if you get down closer to Homestead you can connect with some of the farmers down there and it’s so much cheaper. If you buy from the vegetable stands down there is almost half the price.

Have you done any gardening or grown your own food?

Yes, I have a fair amount of fruit trees and plants. Unfortunately, our soil isn’t exactly what it needs to be but I’ve been composting for years and years. All the scraps from my table go out back into the soil and I have this really, really good compost heap with tons of worms in there and it’s been going on for about 10 years. So anything that gets planted out there tends to spring up. There are seeds that I’ll throw away and end up sprouting and I won’t even know it.

Like everyone in South Florida I have a mango tree and avocado tree. I just planted a cashew tree. I have coconuts, bananas, papayas, passion fruit, lemons, and just a lot of the stuff that grows well in South Florida. Unfortunately, I feel that the output versus input of trying to grow vegetables in Miami doesn’t seem to work out. I would have to go buy soil and planting boxes. I have a couple coffee bushes, but our soil is not really suited for that.  And I have a lot of little random things, peppers, and different kinds of basil. I had to stop planting in my house, I just can’t plant any more trees, I ran out of room.

The past few years in Miami there’s been an explosion of foodie-centric restaurants. What’s been your favorite and what do you want to see more of in the Miami food scene?

Right in my immediately neighborhood of North Miami there’s a really good cross-section right off 167rd Street and North Miami Beach Blvd. There’s a huge mix of cultures. There’s a really good Thai place called Panya Thai off NE4th Ave & 167th, it’s a little pricey but it’s worth it. It seems like there’s Thai places everywhere now and some are just okay, but this place is the best I’ve had in South Florida. Also in my neighborhood there’s finally this Chinese place in Sunny Isles called Chef Phillip Ho. He does a bunch of veggie dim sum and that was the thing for years that just didn’t exist down here.  I had gone to Tropical Chinese on Bird Road a number of years and ended up eating shrimp, they kept saying “no meat, no meat”, yeah no meat, but…

But I’ve never seen another place with such an extensive veggie menu as Phillip Ho, so that’s pretty high on my list.

I’m also really picky about falafel and there’s this place on University Drive in Sunrise called Sunrise Pita. They have the garlic carrots and everything like that so I have to go there periodically. And this whole stretch of University Drive is pretty amazing. There are two different incredible Indian veg places. One’s called Udipi and I had my birthday there with my whole family and the bill didn’t even come to $50. They bring you out a gigantic dosa after you go to the buffet and you think “Oh my god, what am I going to do with this?” The other great Indian place up the street is called Woodlands which is the same type of thing, South Indian style and that’s another favorite.

And for Mexican there’s a place down south called Morelias. I can’t really find the real authentic Mexican food in Miami-metro, you really have to go to Homestead to find it. There’s two Morelias, one that is just connected to a gas station and they have a salsa bar with like nine different types of salsa. And their other location is on 312th Street in Homestead too. I have to go there like every other month or so.

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget?

Just a cutting board and knife, that’s all I really need. And a cast iron.

Finish this sentence. You haven’t experienced Miami unless you’ve experienced
Cuban coffee. You have to have had a real Cuban coffee.

Lastly, what’s coming down the pipeline for Spam Allstars and your own record label?

We’ve been working on our next album for way too long. At this point I have a bunch of really nice things recorded and I have to find the time to mix it all.  I’ve recently had a bunch of clients in the studio and between that and live performances, I’ve really haven’t had much time to get through everything. But these next rounds of recordings I’m really excited about and we just put out a video about a month ago for a song called Ruby Carat. I’ve been working with a visual artist friend of mine who’s a good fit for what we do. We are still performing quite often, not traveling as much as we did, mostly staying within the state. We’ll be performing some new stuff tonight too.

One Comment

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  1. บันเทิง / Sep 19 2013

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