March 7, 2016 - Interviews
Because we here at The Lovely Daze make two mixes each and every week for you, we go through a TON of music to pick out for the mixes. We are constantly looking for new tunes to share and when we stumble on something that’s really special, it takes us away and reminds us why we do it.
Rutes, from the United Kingdom, did just that. We really got our ears turned way up with his new EP, “Moment Metal” coming out of the label, Macadam Mambo. After hearing Rute’s EP, we reached out to the producer and he was kind enough to do an interview and mix for The Lovely Daze. Hope you enjoy both!
The Lovely Daze (TLZ): For those that don’t know you, please introduce yourself.
Rutes: Easy! Im Rutes from Croydon UK – DJ, digger and music lover of all styles. Rutes is one of my aliases and looks more into my record collecting side. I’ve been doing mixes for a good few years now and started off by sending to Overfitting Disco where I feature on a regular basis. Ive been playing at a number of UK festivals and I also play at Camp Cosmic in Sweden. Rutes is more edits and rare music and my other aliases are more of my own production.
TLZ: What came first producing or DJing?
Rutes: DJing came first, it wasn’t until a few years later that I started looking into making my own music and re-editing.
TLZ: How did you get into DJing?
Rutes: During my school days there were a lot of pirate stations playing all week on the radio. Drum and Bass was the main thing we were all listening to and every day, I would record tapes and start looking into the latest tunes they were playing. There were a few record shops around that would bang out tunes all day so you could just go in and listen or pick out a few and play yourself. A few of my friends were into buying records so we would all meet up, smoke weed and do mix tapes most evenings. The main tunes I was buying back then was old Hip Hop and DnB/Jungle, but after a while I started getting into older music like funk and disco – also Techno was making a big impact in my life. Even today you see me carrying a big bag of records on my back. It’s a right pain in the ass but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
TLZ: How did you get into producing?
Rutes: I always used to wonder about how it was done but never really knew anyone that could help me start learning. Then an older friend that I worked with had a nephew that said he would teach me the basics. At the time it was just a little hobby, but after a while I really felt that this was something that I’d like to make my career.
TLZ: What type of music got you into production?
Rutes: Listening to Jeff Mills tunes and other Detroit Techno in the 90s really fascinated me. Minimal sounds with maximum effects! Also Cosmic Records a UK techno label released some of the most tribally shit you would ever hear at a party, it would literally hypnotise you in the club!
TLZ: What is your process from beginning to end on making music?
Rutes: I wouldn’t say I have the same process every time when making a track. I just like jamming and see what happens. Im a big one for machines, as just staring at a screen does my head in after a while.
TLZ: How long does it take you to make a track/edit?
Rutes: I get the main part of a track done in a day. Then I usually leave for a while and come back to it a few days later for a fresh outlook. Then its mostly just altering and tweaking a few parts here and there. I never spend too long on one tune. If I keep going over it I always end up getting bored and messing it up so best to just leave it as it is.
TLZ: Any good tips for the producers out there?
Rutes: Sometimes you have days were you have production block and nothing is going right. Everyone gets them so don’t give up and push through, it comes eventually. Also there’s a lot of good labels and nice people that will give you the time and listen to your music! Everything comes to you if you work hard!
TLZ: How did you link up with Macadam Mambo?
Rutes: Me and a few mates met Sacha and the crew at Camp Cosmic a few years ago and we kept in contact from there. One of my close friends, George Kamm, had a release last year so was talking regularly to them and said that I had a few edits that I wanted to send over so they were happy to give them a listen. After that they picked the ones they liked and we went from there.
TLZ: What inspired these songs on “Moment Mental”?
Rutes: I’m really into weird and unusual music. I guess it just shows the different styles I like to listen to. The Pitch tune is one of my all time favourite tunes so that was a must to have on the release.
TLZ: Can you tell us about Camp Cosmic?
Rutes: I first went there 2013 with 3 other mates. It really blew our minds as it was so different to the usual festivals we would go to in UK. It was only a couple of hundred people, but everyone was so friendly and by the end of it you felt that you had made a whole load of new friends. I also got to play at that first one. I really didn’t think I had a chance but when I messaged Albion he said yes straight away! I was well chuffed! Coming back home after that first year was really hard, especially as all my mates ended up staying in Sweden a few more days and I was coming back to work!
TLZ: Who do you look up to on the DJ and or production side of things?
Rutes: There are so people that have had a big influence in my life so here are just a few to give you an idea, Steve Bicknell, Jeff Mills, Gang Starr, DJ Loxy, Rodney P, Paul Johnson, Roy Ayers, Scientist, Loud-E, Albion, Lord Finesse, MF Doom, J Dilla, the list can go on and on!
TLZ: Are you big on internet digging? If so what are your go to sites to listen to new music?
Rutes: Yeah I’m all for internet buying now a days. When your younger you have loads of time to just travel around digging but when you get older finding the time to look for records is hard. Too many things to do nowadays and I’m trying to spend most of my time in the studio now doing my own production. I still get out occasionally but I’m starting to run out of room so can’t be coming home with shit loads of tunes! Im a bit funny with my collection and have been going through all my records and the ones that are really battered I’ve been ordering fresh copies. Also, Im a bit of a hater of white labels so if I can grab the proper release on the net I will, it’s a bit of an OCD thing!
In my day job I get quite a lot of time to listen to other music and most of the time I’m going through different Soundcloud mixes. I love checking out peoples stuff and think its the best way to listen to new music. Theres some really good DJs out there and some of the production people are doing is unreal.
TLZ: What is that one record you always come back to?
Rutes: Its gotta be Rinder & Lewis – Willie And The Hand Jive. I always stick in my bag whether I’m playing disco, house or a techno set. Such a wicked tune!
TLZ: What is a record that everyone loves but you hate?
Rutes: I haven’t really got any record in particular that I dislike. Each to there own.
TLZ: What is your guilty pleasure record/song?
Rutes: I recently got a copy of Laurent Voulzy – Le Soleil Donne, so cheese but I love it!
TLZ: How was the mix you made for The Lovely Daze produced?
Rutes: It’s a little different to the usual mixes I make, but with the Mambo release being more 80s I thought id do it to fit the style. Some are favourites and others are tunes I’ve picked up recently. All vinyl just the way we like it!
TLZ: Best party in the UK right now?
Rutes: Over the years the best parties by far were Lost Nights run by Steve Bicknell. He still does one every now and then, but anything he does is worth checking out. Also a night called Body Hammer run by Joe Hart is a wicked night, proper goes off in there!
TLZ: The best records stores in the UK?
Rutes: Phonica and Reckless Records up Soho are definitely a couple you need to visit when up town. Also Beggars Banquet is a great place to get tunes. It’s one of the shops I’ve been buying from since the start of my collecting days.
TLZ: Anything new coming up in the works?
Rutes: I’ve got another release coming out this year for Passport To Paradise so keep an eye out for that! Also loads of other stuff by my other aliases, all my own production.
TLZ: Last words?
Rutes: There’s always some hater that’s gonna try and bitch about how this and that ain’t right and try to bring you down from your high of whatever you are doing! Ignore these idiots and do whatever makes you happy!
Peace and Thanks to The Lovely Daze Crew!
February 24, 2016 - Interviews
Cole Medina is a wiz when it comes to production. whether it’s his original House tracks or his Disco edits, the listener can really feel the heart and soul that comes out of his tracks. He also stays busy running his labels American Standard, Licorice Delight, and House Arrest. We catch up with Cole and ask him everything from how he started to his first rave experience in this lovely interview! Enjoy.
The Lovely Daze(TLZ): Please introduce yourself…..
Cole Medina(CM): Yo, I’m Cole Medina, representing West Coast!
TLZ: Big fan of Tone Loc?
CM: A fan for sure, not sure how big though. He definitely seems like someone I’d hangout with.
TLZ: What came first, DJing or making music?
CM: Making music. I started when I was really young, around six or seven. Believe it or not, the accordion was my first instrument. Back in the day, or what you kids refer to as the good dope days ;P, there used to be these accordion salesmen that would go door to door seeking out potential candidates to take accordion lessons. My sister was the first sucker to take the lessons, she did that for a few years. Then it was my turn. I did that for about 4 years, I got really good at it. Got to the “pros’ as they say in the accordion world (sarcasm). Had to buy this $5k accordion that was almost as big as I was. About a year later, I lost interest. My Dad was pissed he spent all that money! To this day he still has it in the hopes he can sell it for a good amount of cash. There’s probably this huge graveyard for all those accordions being sold to other “potential candidates”. That whole thing was such a racket to sell accordions & music lessons. None the less, it was a start & it planted the seed. Later on I got into the school band & eventually jazz band.
TLZ: How did you get into DJing?
CM: I come from a long line of DJs in the family. 12 DJs to be exact. I remember as a kid going weddings, quinceañeras, hall & house parties with my cousins. I remember being in middle school, going to hall parties with older kids, high school & up. My sister got me all dressed up n that GQ/Hi Energy disco style at the time. I was corrupted very young!
TLZ: How did you get into producing?
CM: The producing came when I was in high school. I bought a used Amiga 500 with a toaster card. This was the first desktop computer that could do video editing & recording. The first DAW. I could lay down loops in a program called Tracker. There was just so much going on at the time musically . It was such a natural step for me to get into it.
TLZ: What type of music got you into production?
CM: I would say early 90’s Techno & 90’s Hip Hop. I made a couple of friends who would introduce me to jazz breaks which is basically where all your 90’s Hip Hop loops come from. Of course, being a long time jazz student, this was a very natural step for me as well.
TLZ: What is your process from beginning to end on making music?
CM: I like to keep it very simple. I’ll go through songs trying to find an interesting loop if I don’t have one in mind already. It’s usually the one I have in mind that’s more difficult to work with. I will also set aside songs if I come across a good loop, so that if one day I need inspiration or a starting point, those songs are ready to be cut up & go from there. I might take a song & time correct it in Abelton Live. Mostly though, I use Reason, since version 1.0. I like it because you don’t get stuck in the process of making music. You just make music. I constantly tell people, if you find yourself spending hours learning a program or plugin to get it to do what you want it to, you’re not making music, period! Yes, we all have to learn the tools we have, but be very careful how much time you spend doing that. What good is it to have 2000 cracked plugins that you downloaded if you’re going to spend the next year learning how to use it. In my opinion, that’s someone who wants to look busy, not someone who wants to make music. Learn one thing, learn it well, and make music. DJ Shadow seems to make pretty damn good albums on an MPC. it’s not what you’re using, it’s how you use it.
TLZ: Favorite plug-in Reason?
CM: I don’t have any favorite plugins per-say. I have a few favorite instruments in Reason that I’ve been using since version 1.0. My current fav is “Thor”.
TLZ: When it comes to production, Are you more of an analog guy or do you embrace the digital age?
CM: I try to keep my sources as pure as I’m able to, but I’m not going to say ones better than the other. They both have advantages & disadvantages. With the newer equipment, the disadvantages are minimized as technology advances. I would say that I use digital heavily but when I sample a record, everything has to be done right & analog all the way till it gets to my soundcard. If you start with a really great recording, you have a pretty good chance of being able to keep that sound all the way through. If you start off with a crappy 128k mp3 recording of a song that used a plastic needle, all you can do from that point is polish a turd.
TLZ: Could you walk us through the first party/rave that you went to that was playing House/Disco music?
CM: It was Mr. Fridays in Southgate. It was a weekly party that was put on by a promoter named Alex I. He was one of the OG’S from the Eastside scene. They were playing tracks like The Prodigy’s “Charly” and SL2’s “Way In My Brain”. Lots of what is now Techno classics. The lights, Mickey mouse gloves, & dancing was something I have never seen before. It was made up of people who were friendly, imaginative people who did not want to follow the norm or status quo. They were what you would call “social outcasts.” I remember also, I got my first Techno mixed tape that night from Mr. Flashback, whom I later hooked up with & became my mentor. He helped take my DJing & programming skills to another level.
TLZ: Anyone you look up to music wise?
CM: On the DJ side: My cousins, Mr Flashback (aka Eddie “chill” Posadas), Barry Weaver, Junior Vasquez, Danny Teneglia, John Ceglia, DJ Harvey, & recently DJ Kent (Forces Of Nature). On the music side, mostly in the 90’s era:Junior Vasquez, Masters At Work, Danny Teneglia, Murk, Todd Terry
more recently: Ooft and DJ Kent. These 2 influenced me so much that I changed the type of music I made & currently making.
TLZ: Favorite records of all time?
CM: De La Soul – 3 Ft. High & Rising, A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders, John Coltrane – Blue Train, Soul 2 Soul – Back To Life, Sade – Love Deluxe.
TLZ: What is one song that everyone hates that you love?
CM: That’s a tough one. I would say hate is a strong word, more like people do not get the same reaction from the song like I do. The last one I remember was The Jet’s – Rocket to you. the 12″ remix version. I don’t like to force tracks on people so I really don’t run into that.
TLZ: What is one song that everyone loves but you hate?
CM: Hotline Bling and before that, “Happy” from Pharrell.
TLZ: Are you big on internet digging? If som what are your go to sites to listen to new music?
CM: Yes, I spent almost 10 years of Disco internet digging. I literally have terabytes of the stuff. I started in 2003 just to give you when I started getting into the Disco side of things. I haven’t done it in few years, all my fav blog spots are dead. They probably still have the same Rapidfire links, if they’re even still existing. Maybe the Ooft blog, Sleazy beats, AOR disco, Beat Electric, and Dream Chimney that I can think off the top.
TLZ: Any new upcoming projects?
CM: After a mind blowing set from Dj Kent when he was in San Diego, I decided to change up my production style. Yes, it was that good! I’ll be working on synth-y type original compositions. Because I’m going to do it my way, this is going to be new territory for me. I tend to push the envelope rather than follow the current trends. I know Disco has been the hype for a while, & I will continue to make more, but after 13 years of it, production wise, I’m glad to get some new inspiration & start working on other things. But for sure, I will be making a few more Disco records. It will never leave just like House music will never get old to me.
TLZ: What kind of set should people expect this Thursday at The Continental room?
CM: That’s a good question. I’ve been there a couple of times. I heard my friends band play there. Out of all the clubs on the (Fullerton) strip, The Continental Room is actually my favorite one. I’m really big on feeling the crowd & being in the moment. So it really depends on the crowd what I will play. I’m hoping to drop some Hiphouse type bangers (House Arrest) along with some energetic Disco tunes/edits that cross over well. When I DJ a club/underground event, I really like to keep the energy & crowd communication level up. I like to play what I call party music. It’s fun, no nonsense, booty shaking music, yet still creative & intelligent enough for the ol’ timers like me. :)
TLZ: Last words?
CM: The end.
You can catch Cole Medina this Thursday, Feb. 26, 2016 @ The Continental Room.
December 13, 2012 - Interviews
Jeff “Yoki” Yokoyama has successfully built 3 different fashion labels from the ground up (Maui & Sons, Pirate Surf, and Modern Amusement) and there is very little he hasn’t done in the fashion industry over his 30+ year career. He is currently writing the latest chapter of his life alongside Scott Andrews building Yokishop, blazing their own trail for something completely new. We sat down with the guys behind Yokishop and conducted an in-depth interview, discussing current projects, business sense, and music.
The Lovely Daze (TLZ): Please introduce yourselves, who you are, what do you guys do?
Jeff (J): I’m Jeff “Yoki” Yokoyama and I have been designing clothes since I’ve been about 24.
Right now we’re working on projects where we take things that are left over in the market. For instance, a used beach towel, we find old sweatshirts and then we cut them up and make a new beach towel hooded sweatshirt.
That’s just one example, but our main goal is to design different, make different, and sell different. Those are the things that we’ve been practicing for the last 5 years.
Scott (S): I’m Scott Andrews and I’ve been designing different, making different, and selling different with Jeff Yokoyama for those past 5 years.
TLZ: So you guys started about 5 years ago?
S: It’s kind of evolved since then, it started about 7 years ago and then kind of turned the corner about 5 years ago to what it is today.
TLZ: What is your focus?
J: Everyday there’s different types of things that we work on, just so happens today that we were working on the commissioned work that we have right now, but we focus in on the USC program right now because it is part of the season. Then we’re making about 15-20 new beach towel hoodies because we are anticipating the holiday.
We want our store to be more one of a kind items.
S: Yokishop is the umbrella that houses the three different brands that we do, as well as being able to sell our friend’s lines that are like minded as us, as far as making it here and making different.
Day to day, is a matter of keeping the different plates spinning and keeping it at different heights. Right now, like he said, we’ve been spinning the USC plate, the Yoki’s Garden one, for a while just because it’s football season. We’re starting to get into our one off items like the beach towel hoodies because it’s getting into holiday season and people want something a little different.
TLZ: Who is the Yokishop team?
J: Myself, Scott, and Sergio.
TLZ: Does everyone have a specified role, or does everyone working together and have input in everything?
J: His role (Scott), just 5 minutes ago, was to bring a ladder in, so is it specific? No, it’s whatever happens throughout the day, something has to be done so we do it.
S: There is no real job titles or hierarchy. We wear the same hats and work on things together. Obviously Sergio has more of a distinguished role, as far as he cuts and sews and makes the patterns, thats his world. But we all kind of flow between production and design and sales.
TLZ: What brands are under Yokishop?
S: There is Pidgin Orange, which is the “Mucho Aloha” t-shirt line, all the graphics are inspired by the Hawaiian Islands. There are funny little sayings like “Double Shaka” and “Lahui Vuitton.”
We’ve been working with Wahoo’s and doing a hot sauce with them, so if you go there, they have Mucho Aloha hot sauce, which is a combination of Hawaiian and Mexican, its a good synergy there. We also have beer that goes along with it, which Mucho Aloha beer and Double Shaka beer.
We also do Yoki’s Garden, which is our red purposed college line and we’ve been doing that with USC, which is our 3rd year now and we’re looking to expand to other schools right now.
J: And the Yokishop line.
TLZ: You guys also save some space in the store for other brands right?
S: Yeah, we’ll pick a couple of brands and feature them in our shop for a little while. We’ll give them their own little section where they can do their own deal and then we’ll house it in here and be able to tell their story when customers come in.
TLZ: Do people come in and bring garments and say “Can you do something with this for me?”
S: A lot of people bring in beach towels, because that is what we’re known for, beach towel hoodies. We’ve also had moms that bring in their son’s baseball uniforms and we’ll turn them into blankets for them. Or our USC lines, people bring in jackets or button ups and we’ll sew on our “Fight On” fingers and a number on the back, and customize them for them as well because we have the ability to do that — it doesn’t take a few months to ship it to China and ship it back, it takes a few days and its done.
TLZ: What about other companies? Have companies approached you guys to do some work for them?
J: We’ve been commissioned by friends that we know, locally. They’ll come in and ask us, like Scott said, make stuff out of kids’ uniforms and things like that.
S: Smaller clothing lines will come in here and ask us to do small runs of really cool stuff for them.
TLZ: Regarding commissioned work, do the customer’s ask you to do specific things? Or do they trust you guys to work your magic?
S: A little bit of both, they have an understanding of what we can do. They’ll ask “Can we do something like this? Or what would that look like?” We’ll do it and say “Oh wow that is better than I thought it was going to look like. So yeah let’s do that.”
A good example of that would be, the USC tennis team, they’re a 4 time national champion. They asked us to do a t-shirt for them, and we did the big “Fight On” fingers in the front and they wanted just a screen print in the back of 4 time national champ. Instead we cut out a back where we cut out of their uniforms, number 4s, and sewed them on and screen printed around that to make it say 4 time national champs.
TLZ: Design different, make different, sell different, seems to be the motto of Yokishop and it’s brands, where does that idea stem from?
J: For years I was designing one way, which was to design from CADs, go to tech packs, and send all this information to China. They’d send it back and I’d send it back, and we would send back and forth for months. We decided to design differently, so we decided to design things that were made from things that were left over in the market, which meant we didn’t have to send it to China.
The make different was to make it here so it’s not sent to China and the sell was to sell directly to the end user compared going to a trade show setting up a booth and selling to 1,500 stores across the country and try to collect from 1,500 stores at the end of 2 to 3 months.
We figured if we could sell 10 items and we could sell them within a week, it’s better than selling 100 items in 3 months. It works out better for us as a small company to put our destiny, so to speak, in our own hands. We’re not relying on anyone else to tell our story, we’re telling our story directly to the end user.
S: We thought, who wrote the rules that you HAD to have the sales rep and you HAD to make things overseas and you HAD to have a lookbook and you HAD to do things the timing that everybody else does? We stepped back and just did our own deal with whatever came to our mind.
We would make make stuff that day and put it out in the store, take pictures of it, tell people about it, and they’d come in. When it was gone, it was gone and we’d make new stuff. There was no structure to it as far as we need to go to this trade show in January and all of that.
Like Yoki said, we wanted to put our destiny in our own hands and be able to control what we were doing and a lot of that was being able to make stuff here and sell it out of our shop.
A lot of that had to do with the economy at the time, stores would buy stuff and hopefully they would put it in the right spot and hopefully they would sell it and hopefully they would pay you back, so there was a lot of question marks. You give them your baby, you give them what you’ve spent your time and energy and your money on. We just thought, if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it ourselves; nobody is going to do it better than us.
TLZ: Are the Yokishop brands exclusively sold through Yokishop?
S: It has been for the last few years.
We have started to grow, now we’ve streamlined our production a little bit more and figured out how long things take to make and how much it costs to make. So we sell our beach style hoodies at a store called Max Field, which they have one on Malibu and one on Melrose.
This year is our first year selling to the USC bookstore, we sell a few pieces to them and that’s been real huge for us. Then there are a couple just small boutiques around here that we sell to.
J: And the Pidgin Orange line now goes out to a variety of different stores.
S: That one is a bit more of our traditional one, where we make it and sell it – it is more of a wholesale line, but it’s always done well in our own store.
TLZ: Is everything you guy’s do repurposed? Is that the focus, or is that how things turned out?
J: That is a focus, and it didn’t just turn out that way.
Over the years when trying to figure out how to build a market, how to sell to the market, how to collect from the market, and design for that market, we had to come up with a whole new business model. The business model was to make things that are from things that are left over, but also sell it back to an actual market that is thriving.
Right now the sport market in the United States is thriving. At USC there’s probably about 30,000 kids going to school there. They are there for 4 years, they’re 18-22 years old, and that’s a market that is everybody’s dream age, demographic, and everything. We realized that if we do something that they want out of things that they’re throwing away then we can have a continual business and reoccurring revenue and we could sell to 1 door instead of 1,500 doors.
So USC likes Cardinal and Gold, we don’t have to talk them into Cardinal and Gold, they like the “Fight On” and they like the Cardinal and Gold on the “Fight On” fingers. They also like that they’re the first in the nation to do a sustainable program with an outside company that is doing things with things that are being thrown away on their campus. When we sell it back to them, part of the revenues go back to the athletic department and back to the school.
So they in turn are going to be participant because they’re saying, “I’m here for 4 years, I love Cardinal and Gold, it’s not made in China, it’s made here, everything seems to be pretty much one of a kind thing because these guys touch it in a way that it is hand done.” So all these hot words come spitting out of everyone’s mouth are, “sustainability,” “repurposed,” “recycle,” “regurgitate,” or whatever the heck they want to say, but all of a sudden it is a buzzword on campus.
As long as we’re in business with a company that has been in business for over 100 years I think we have a built in market, and that is the idea to “it didn’t just happen,” it was very well thought out in the way we thought how can we do this in a different way? Even in the marketing and the selling of the product.
When we take our POs to a contractor, it is not a PO that is coming in from Yokishop it is a purchase order coming from the University of Southern California and these contractors, at that point, are willing to work with us because the orders are substantial, they’re big enough for them to do items for us and on top of that they know they are going to get paid because it’s not like it’s “Yokishop is making how many shirts? For who?” it’s “Yoki’s Garden is making X amount of shirts for USC.”
Our next adventure would be to participate with UCLA and then Stanford, Cal, Oregon, and so on and so forth.
S: The repurposed part of it not only contributes to our make different part, but because we also have to touch each piece from random stuff, it gives it that individuality as well. That was another selling point or a big part of what we wanted to do because we didn’t have the money or the financing to make a whole bunch of stuff and sell it. We would just go and find random things.
There’s no 2 same pair of shorts that we have in here or no 2 same beach towel hoodies, everybody finds value in that because nobody else has that.
J: There are companies out there in the world that make 10,000 units of the same thing, then there are companies like us, I don’t know how many of them, but we make 10 units of beach towel hoodies and they’re gone, then we make another 10.
It’s been a real interesting 5 years because the market wasn’t necessarily always thinking like that. They’re thinking that the volume is the leader in the market. Well they have so much volume now and so much merchandise that they don’t know what to do with it and it’s not individual anymore.
The market is individual right now, one of a kind, simple, hand made, we want them to taste OUR cheeseburger. Our cheeseburger taste like this, it’s one of kind, its different, its hand done, its special, it’s not a mass production of hamburgers.
When you go to a hamburger shop where do you go? Do you stop in an McDonalds or Carls Jr.? You might … but you might go one up and go to In n Out. It’s a little bit better, its tastier.
Before, the masses used to eat at McDonalds. Nothing against McDonalds, but you can say good things about In n Out because we all like it. Or the local hamburger shop that the dude is like us, he makes 40 hamburgers and then he goes home …
S: and takes a shower.
J: He lives life, that’s his way of doing it. I much rather go to the guy who makes 40 burgers than the guy who made 400,000 burgers.
TLZ: How do you feel about Etsy? It seems you guys were doing things they are doing well before.
S: It’s kind of proven that there is a market for it, there are people out there that are searching for those artisan or hand crafted or little whatever it is. Now the masses have turned to that and there is now something for everyone. The people have changed from wanting the same thing for cheap to now finding that cool thing on Etsy or on wherever. The hunt for it, and finding the story and buying it is now what the people are looking for — so it’s good.
TLZ: Where does the design process start and end?
S: It’s almost backwards, we have the fabric or material and figure out what we can make out of it, where somebody might draw up on the computer a silhouette of a jacket and say “I want this fabric for it and these buttons.” We kind of go with whatever we have. We have some sport mesh, lets make a wind jacket out of it. It’s almost the opposite of the normal way of doing it.
J: For so long, in design you built a full range or a full collection. For the last 5 years, we’ve been looking at things where categories and areas are trending. Categories and things that are moving in the market, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be clothing.
The Mucho Aloha beer, beer is trending so try to participate in that if you can. Coffee is trending, can we do a Mucho Aloha coffee? Let’s do something else that goes with it. I keep saying it’s the cream that goes in our coffee that is the trendy thing. Everybody has coffee, but they don’t have a special cream that goes with their coffee.
So design, you think of things that will have an enormous opportunity because the market is trending there.
At USC there’s thousands of people that have phone devices, is this a trend that we can put something together on a case with our logo on it? Possibly. Is it something that is made here and it’s true to form with we are? That is the criteria it has to have or else we’re not going to do it.
I could probably sell 10,000 of these (phone cases), but this is made in China, so I’m not necessarily going there right now, but if we can find somebody to do one of these in wood and then be able to do some type of some appliqué of Cardinal and Gold on that, possibly we’ll go there.
Right now, backpacks are trending at the University of Southern California, at almost any university and at almost every school. We made a backpack out of a football uniform and we sold 2 of them within a half an hour after making them.
Can we make TOMS shoes out of football uniforms? Can we collaborate with New Balance because they’re made in the United States? Do kids wear shoes? Yes. Do they wear Cardinal and Gold Shoes? They would if they were going to USC. A variety of things set the stage, so to speak, or underpins our designing concept. I don’t just design a whole bunch of woven shirts because I have to. I know it’s not trending here right now, woven shirts are not trending.
Whats trending? New fleece.
What are you going to be buy in the fleece market? Don’t know. I’m not going to make new fleece out of old fleece, I’m going to try to come up with something new. So that’s where the design starts for me is, I always start with what the challenge might be or what the need might be, and then I go out and say, “How do we do this?”
We got to do it in a different way.
TLZ: If you find something that is trending and have an idea, how fast does it take to get things going?
J: It could happen today. If Justin Beiber’s haircut is in, we can cut 15 Justin Beiber haircuts in 1 hour. I used to be a hairdresser. It just depends on the things.
TLZ: It seems like you guys are always inventing something new. Thats so hard to do.
J: It is hard to do. The hard part is getting other people to accept it.
If you make popcorn and you put salt and butter on it and you serve it up, it’s hot and everybody likes it. If you make popcorn and now serve it up with something else on it, it takes a little bit of time for somebody to go, “Let me taste that … oh … I think I’ll have some more.” Popcorn with salt and butter, everybody has had that. Now we have to create something new with this popcorn and we hope the flavor is there for the people that want it. It’s not easy.
TLZ: How did Yoki’s Garden come about?
J: The idea came about 5 or 6 years ago, my daughter went to school up in Oregon. She played volleyball up there and she used to get tons of stuff. I asked, “What the heck do you do with all of this stuff?” She said, “I have no idea, I give it back to the equipment manager.”
As a girl athlete, playing at a school called Oregon she received new shoes every time she played, and sweatshirts and t-shirts, travel bags. I could just imagine what the rest of the country must get. We took that concept and kind of broke it down and looked at it, and said “ah that’s where the design different could come in.” Take where people are throwing away things or take where there’s an abundance of. That’s the name “GARDEN” G-A-R-D-E-N, Gather, Abundance, Repurpose, Demonstrate, Ethos, Now.
I figured if it could happen at one school called SC then it could happen at any school across the country. It’s not just at the collegiate world at this point, we’re going to start expanding to high schools because high schools, locally, can create and generate sales on a day to day basis. If the football team is fantastic then the season is football, if their basketball team is fantastic, we might have an opportunity to sell there.
S: Every year their school colors are the same, so you get to eliminate that process. All the stuff we get from them is done in their school colors. From a selling aspect, we know where that consumer is. They’re up there on USC’s campus, that’s the clientele we know that’s going to buy it. We don’t need to figure out if I design this button up or this fleece, or this whatever, will somebody buy it from New York or Hawaii? You kind of just focus in and know that every year there’s 5,000 new kids coming in and there’s alumni that’s never seen this before, and its done with their pride and their school colors and done a new way.
TLZ: How about the Yokishop line?
S: Those are the more one off or the one of a kind pieces. The general it’s made for everyone because its unique, the individual part, the youthful part, but they’re basic things, they’re sweatshirts, they’re pants, it’s nothing crazy, but the crazy part is what they’re made out of and how individual they are.
TLZ: What’s the idea behind Pidgin Orange?
J: We haven’t evolved that because we wanted to keep it a t-shirt company. The t-shirt company is a crack up because by keeping it that way all of a sudden everybody wants t-shirts.
Most lines always think that the more products they have or the more opportunities or more diversification they have in their line that they’re going to grow and become big and everyone is going to want ALL the stuff that you make. Not the case here, we’re better off just making some t-shirts, some sweatshirts every once in awhile, some ball caps and fanny packs.
TLZ: You guys do an event called “Burger Wednesdays” every once in awhile. What is that and how did it come to be?
S: 2 or 3 years ago we started. It was inspired by asking “What is something that always brings people together, or what is something that you always spend money on everyday?” Food.
There are special days, Taco Tuesdays, and whatever. We figured what is a day that isn’t taken up by one of those, and figured Wednesday would work. It’s the middle of the week and you want to have something to look forward to, so we started “Burger Wednesdays.”
It was a way to get people into our store. (Our old store) was off 16th and Pomona, kind of out of the way, off the beaten path. It was also a way to see new stuff that we were making, for new people to meet and it just evolved. Every time I did it I wanted to make it a little bit better.
At first it started off with little hockey puck frozen burgers, just regular patties and it eventually evolved into handmade ones that I marinate overnight and it turned into a special thing. To this day, people come in here and say “When are you going to do it again?”
It was also a way for us to get beach towels as well, we would trade our burgers for beach towels because sometimes in the winter time it’s a little harder to find than in the summer, someone always has an old towel. Sometimes we get shortages of them. Someone always needs to eat something, so give us a beach towel and we’ll give you a burger.
We’re going to try to bring it back especially with the holidays. We’ve done it a couple times right here, but it’s a little bit more challenging now that we’re here on PCH than our other spot, where it was a little bit tucked away. It’s always a fun way to get the community involved and to get people they don’t normally interact. Food always brings people together to come down here and see what we’re doing.
TLZ: Jeff, as somebody who has built multiple companies from the ground up, do you have any advice for anybody?
J: Make sure it’s original, make sure it’s something you really have a passion for doing it, you’re not just doing it because you think you can become an icon in this industry. The surf market was not easy back in the 80s, but when we started there was an opportunity there, there was an opening. You got to find that opening now, whatever it might be.
I don’t discourage from anyone making a new board short, but it’s not as easy necessarily as it was back in the early 80s because there’s a lot of options now than at that point. I went to school for half a semester once, and the guy goes, “If there are a bunch of burger shops on the street, you might want to make a hot dog stand.” It stuck with me, I was like “Wow, shit, what was that all about?”
S: Another thing with that is, things take a lot longer than you think. You have an idea, to get it going, produce it, make it, and sell it to not be an overnight success you have it grow legs — then you feel like you’re doing something. It takes commitment and it takes some drive. When I got out of school, I started here full time. I just thought if I work as hard as I can for 6 months things are going to turn the corner. Not that it hasn’t, but it takes longer.
Jeff showed me “Kung Fu”, the kid is in the temple, and says “I’ve been here a long time, and I’m ready to move on,” a guy asks, “Well how long have you been here?” he says, “A long time,” and the guy asks him again, “How long have you been here?” He says, “Not long enough.”
J: He always said if you can snatch the stone from my hand it is time for you to leave, and the kid always tried to get it. The guy would open up his hand and it was still there, so it’s not time for you to leave. You have a long ways to go, not to necessarily become a master at something.
This type of stuff that we’re doing, it’s not necessarily ever been done. I don’t know the path and I’ve been doing it since I’ve been 24, I’m 57 now. I have no idea of the path of going to a school and talking to them and asking if we could get all of their left over crap. It’s never been done before. So blazing your own trail is like “Oh … man,” but that’s where the door opened for us, it didn’t open for us by making another board short.
TLZ: You’ve spoke about a “Warm Water” concept before. Do you think it is a reason for your success?
J: Yes, well early on it was. I was a surfer and after I graduated high school I moved to Hawaii and I was looking literally for warm water. By finding the warm water in Hawaii it gave me an opportunity to go surfing and stay out longer and enjoy it even more. I put that in front of all the things that I do. If it feels like warm water you’re going to be OK with it. If it doesn’t feel good you might want to go look for that warm water.
TLZ: It sounds like you have a really good business sense. Did your past companies teach you business?
J: We’ve learned a lot over the years. I did not know the first thing about business when I started. I remember going to a friend of mine who was starting a company called Action Sports.
I called her and said, “Susie, can I come down?”
She says, “Yeah, what do you want to do when you come down?”
“I just want to look in your filing cabinet.”
“Because I don’t know exactly what type of envelopes you’re supposed to have inside the filing cabinet.” I had no idea.
So she let me go down there and says, “Yeah, you start with ‘A’ and it goes all the way to ‘Z’.”
“No shit, but what do you put in here?”
“Different receipts, different things.”
“Well if you’re entertainment you start with ‘A’ and it might be attorney, then ‘B’ might be business cards and ‘C’ goes to such and such, ‘D’ is development.”
I had no idea. ‘E’ was electric bill and ‘F’ “Whats ‘F’?”
“Well you just go from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.”
“So accounting would be ‘A’ right?”
She says “Yeah, do you have an accountant?”
“No what is an accountant?”
Seriously, you try to be 24 years old and having a company that’s banging out about $300,000 worth of stuff in your first year. You’re saying “What do we do?” You got lawyers that are calling and attorneys. Lawyers, is that ‘A’ or ‘L’? Where do you put this thing, and what do you say to an attorney when you get there?
This is 1981, I had no idea, I was a hairdresser, and everybody is going “Yeah, you’re the man!” You start believing you’re a man and then you start screwing up. We took it from $0 to about $18,000,000. I had millions of dollars. Who taught you how to do anything with millions of dollars? Where do you invest it? If I gave you $10,000,000 what would you do with it?
TLZ: Don’t know …
J: Isn’t that crazy? I use this example all the time, but if I gave you $10 you’d know exactly what to do with it. Isn’t that a shame? You never know when somebody is going to walk up and say “Here’s $10,000,000, good luck!”
Try being Britney Spears or Paris Hilton for a day, what the hell are you supposed to do? I’m the heir to the Hilton empire or whatever the hell it is, what do you do? All your life, were you groomed for that? Does Harry know what the hell to do when he’s King of England? Is that really what we want? I don’t know. It’s a great question. I had no idea, but design wise I had an idea.
S: You know what people wanted. At least being a hairdresser was a good transition of having a good idea of what people wanted to knowing the mothers in the town because you did their hair and hear about all there kids and now knowing what their kids want.
That transition as far as that business side of it is the vision of it and being able to say “OK I have this idea for this product and I know I can sell it to these people” I think you had the creativity and then you had that. Then the numbers and the filing and all that stuff came later.
TLZ: Did you have a mentor?
J: No, I wish I did, but I didn’t know the word. I didn’t know the word nor did I know a person that would do that.
TLZ: So it was really true trial and error.
J: Yeah, we blazed our own trail so to speak and we had no idea what it was supposed to be. If we had a business plan, if we had a business partner, I didn’t know any of those words, if we had all those things I wouldn’t be sitting here necessarily doing another clothing line. We could have jolted this one out of the park and it would have been done, game, set, match.
I’m glad it didn’t work out that way, I’m glad it worked out the way that it is because it made me stronger, and taught me a lot of things. At this point now, I’m confident when I go into any design room that I know I can design new and exciting things for any company, from clothing, to packaging, to advertising, or to just create direction for these companies, a new direction so to speak. That’s the good thing that I got out of this. Business wise, it was very difficult, and it still is very difficult.
TLZ: Scott, would you consider Jeff your mentor?
S: Definitely. I’ve had no sense of business, I went to school for drawing pictures pretty much and now its evolved from doing t-shirts, to helping run the business, or doing excel spreadsheets to figure out cost analysis of how long things take. I’ve learned that here.
J: He’s learned retail, he’s learned how to change light bulbs, he’s learned how to communicate with other people, he’s now found love. Shit, there’s so much stuff.
Try it when you’re young and you’re doing it all on your own. It’s a gnarly freaking experience. Nobody is telling you to pick up your room or brush your teeth at night and say your prayers. It’s either in you or it’s not. Waking up at 6 in the morning, it’s either in you or not. Going to bed on time, eating your vegetables, whatever, it’s all up to you now. It’s a funny little thing, but man do I wish I had a mentor, I would have loved it. We had money in a floor safe that I had no idea what to do with. What do you do with $100,000?
TLZ: Right now? I don’t know I would probably give it to someone who knows what to do with that.
J: Exactly, there you go, but then again if I did give you $100,000 would you really give it to someone else, or would you say “Shit, I know how to do this now, I can do this” Tricky little thing.
TLZ: Much like “Let My People Go Surfing,” it sounds like you were doing everything for fun, but had to learn business on your own.
J: In Chouinard’s case, he was living on the edge, every single minute of life. So business was not easy, but it was just another thing living on the edge, but he took his experiences of climbing a rock and being on the side of the rock, brought it down to business and his day to day operations, and it didn’t frighten him.
Business frightened me early on. Business still frightens me now. You have to pay the bills, you have to make your payments on different things, and you have to have revenue coming in. It’s a business, and I chose this funny little business of clothing because I like designing clothes. I like doing that, but when the business part came along, somebody should have helped me out with what to do with $100,000 in that floor safe.
Even today, how do we keep this business going month to month? Going to different schools, was out of necessity. I still have the same bills in January as I do in December. If I don’t look at new jewelry, or if I don’t look at getting new product in here, or if I don’t look at getting some bitching one off surfboards from Hawaii, or getting something different in here that nobody else has, then I didn’t do my job. I still have to make sure that Sergio gets paid, Scott gets paid, the lights get paid. It’s gnarly.
TLZ: What’s currently in the Yokishop playlist? Individually and collectively.
S: That’s always evolving.
J: If I get Frank Sinatra on the radio, I absolutely love it. If I get Oingo Boingo on my radio I like that too. It’s things that bring back some special or fun times in your life.
The new music, I enjoy, but it doesn’t have the same memories as of yet. There’s certain things that I hear now, like the “Fight On” song, I never really enjoyed it, but when you’re at the game and you hear it and the players are marching out, you’re sitting there selling your product there, you know these are going to be good memories. I’ll remember that when I’m 70, 80 years old that “Holy shit, we did something that nobody else has done before.”
We produced some product out of the stuff that they’re throwing away. Again, all those, even the smell around there, throwing the football back and forth with him (Scott), and the funny little pictures that we have, all lead back to certain memories. The music is a big part of my life and there are places I remember.
S: I was going to say, that song will always remind me of here, Beatles “In My Life.” I think 50 years from now, if I hear that song I’ll just think back on working here, along with Cat Stevens and Billy Idol.
J: I’m sure you guys have crazy songs that bring you back to a certain time in your life.
It’s funny in other interviews a lot of people have asked me about what’s on your radio, what’s in your cassette, or what’s in your CD. I always thought I had to be really clever in answering that question, but I think this is the first time I said what I really felt. It’s the memories and the things that make the music for me.
“Only a Lad” was a big hit by Oingo Boingo and I was 24 years old when I started Maui & Sons and that song was played almost everyday and it was crazy, I loved it. Then Michael Jackson, shit, he came along in the 80s too and absolutely killed it. Those days of Thriller, I’d call my friends “THRILLER IS ON!!!!” Those are memories that go along with the music.
TLZ: What song(s) remind you guys of Yokishop?
S: Beatles “In My Life,” even Greenday.
J: Yeah, Greenday day man, oh my god. What’s that one song?
S: “Time of Your Life”
J: Yeah, that song, definitely.
S: Which is funny, weird songs like that, I don’t have on my playlist, but those just bring me back to here.
TLZ: Any last words?
S: To go back to starting a business, obviously he didn’t fully have a business plan or know if year 2 or year 3 was going to happen, or have it all planned out. You guys don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but you’re going to jump into it because you enjoy it. You will figure it out your way, and I feel like that’s a good way of doing it.
If you sit around and think about starting a business that you want to do, you want to figure out “OK, I want to get it to here.” Yeah there needs to be some planning, but there’s a lot of things you don’t have any control over. You can’t wait for that perfect day that it’s going to be set.
Know this is what you want to do and go for it, figure out how to do filing and that stuff along the way because if it’s your passion and it’s something you love to do, you’ll do those little things and you’ll do those things to make the business go, while you do the other stuff you enjoy doing.