interview by David Paul
Bomb: How did you become involved in DJing?
Curtis: I started djing back around 1976, a 10th grade high school
student with aspirations to go to college and major in art &
advertising. I did my first party for our high school basketball
team because they were trying to raise money for new uniforms. My
friend`s father was a local mobile dj and he had some extra Peavey
equipment he said we could use (rent). His father ended up with the
$40.00 we charged to do the event, but the dance was so successful
the team not only got new uniforms, but sneakers and warm-ups. So we
called ourselves "THE DYNAMICS", kinda like the dynamic duo. So
every Friday night, some school organization wanted to have an after
school dance. This all took place at Washington High School in
Princess Anne, Maryland.In 1978, I started college at the University of
Maryland-Eastern Shore to study commercial art. But my reputation as
a dj had prededed me and soon I was doing all the fraternity,
sorority and homecoming parties as well as any event in-between. I
lasted 3 years in college before I made the move to Los Angeles.
Bomb: While in L.A. what did you do? What led to the gig at KDAY?
Curtis: In LA, I worked at various retail record stores, until I
landed my first mastermix mix job at KJLH-FM. This really wasn`t my
first time at a radio station. Years before while still in Maryland,
I spent a lot of time hanging out with Chris Barry, who was running
WJDY-AM in Salisbury, Maryland. He gave me my first opportunity to
experience what the radio side of the music business was all about.
I lasted at KJLH for almost 2 years - quite an
accomplishment considering all the bullshit that surrounded the
station at the time. I was contacted by KDAY to come over and handle
their mastermix show, which at the time I believe was in a little
disarray. Jack Patterson and Ed Kerby gave me my first opportunity
to fully express my creative dj abilities and with that the "Curtis
Harmon Quikmix" was born and lasted the last 2 years of KDAY`s life.
Without a doubt, KDAY was the greatest experience in my entire life.
Bomb: What was the hip-hop scene like in L.A. when KDAY was on
air and what kind of effect did the station have on the market?
Curtis: When KDAY was in it`s prime, it was untouchable. At the
time, LA was consumed by the more uptempo techno-beats of Uncle
Jamms Army, Egyptian Lover, Unknown DJ, The Soulsonic Force,
Cybotron, Hashim and Orbit. It was a special flava that was strictly
west coast. Soon KDAY changed all that when they introduced Run DMC,
Whodini, Biz Markie, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, EPMD and the FRESH FEST
TOURS.This introduction of the east and west coast flavas would go
on to shape the LA hip hop scence as we know it today. The air
personalities also made quite an impression on the communities, such
as Russ Parr, Lisa Canning, JJ Johnson and Greg Mack. Each had their
own personal flair for their time slot. "MAGIC"!
Bomb: How and when was the first time you went to Japan?
Curtis: While I was on KDAY, I was contacted by a
group of japanese promoters who wanted a guest dj for one of their
events in southern Japan. They got at me thru KDAY and in the summer
of 1990, I visited Japan for the first time. I was contacted again
by another company and in October 1990, I was off again to Japan,
this time for three months. When I returned to LA, KDAY was in it`s
final stages before it would officially close. After KDAY went off
the air I was contacted by KJLH, so I returned there for what was to
become a complete nightmare. After 6 months, I left. And in October
1991, I officially moved to Tokyo.
CURTIS HARMON with (L) ROBERT "KOOL" BELL
with member (R) Bilal with ladies Simone
and Tonia from London at underground club
MISTERIO in TOKYO
Bomb: Who were the promoters that brought you to Japan and what
those experiences like?
Curtis: The first time I came to Japan I was
contacted by my friend Eddie, who works for JDC Records. Eddie and I
go way back when I was the music buyer for Wherehouse Records on
LaBrea and Rodeo in LA. He told me his friend needed a dj to do a
gig in Japan. At the time I was working for KDAY and had never
really thought about djing outside of America. Another dj, Terrence
Toy, had gone to Japan many times to dj and he said it was the bomb.
So I met with Eddie and his japanese connection, Mar Takeuchi.
Takeuchi worked for Korean Airlines sales office in LA. So we worke
out the particulars and the next thing I know, I`m in Japan! For
about two weeks prior to leaving to Japan Takeuchi took me downtown
to Little Tokyo to introduce me to the foods. That in itself was a
The promotion company in Japan was called Nova 21
Group. They owned a vast chain of discos all over Japan and Hawaii.
The event started at 6 o` clock on a Saturday. The promoters came to
my hotel around seven and informed me they had about 900 people
waiting at the club and 80% were female. I was like "Goddamn, I died
and went to dj heaven!" Later that night I djed at an after hours
I returned to LA with a whole new perspective, of
couse, about everything. About 4 months later I was contacted by an
enterprising young businesswoman by the name of Terri Schiavo. She
had an entertainment placement company called Odessey International
in Fontana. She put two dancers and myself together in a group and
sent us to Japan, this time for a three month tour. The first time I
went to Japan the trip was only for a week, but three months there
really allowed me the opportunity to really experience the true
culture of Japan. That trip really changed my life.
Bomb: Why did you decide to move to and work in Japan?
Curtis: My first two times in Japan allowed me to
see the growth potential for hip-hop. There was so many clubs and
events based around hip-hop and black music, I was kind of blown
away (and working alot).
Bomb: When you moved to Japan in October of 1991
did you have a gig lined up before you left LA?
Curtis: When I arrived I had club dj gigs lined up, so my transition
Bomb: How do the japanese hip-hop fans react to
hip-hop at concerts? Are they into it?
Curtis: At most concerts or live events most fans
are really quiet and shy and seem to be studying every facet of the
dj or artist. This trend is rapidly changing however.
Bomb: Do dj's get props out there?
Curtis: Just like in LA, dj`s get mad props, because unlike the
radio doesn`t cater to the underground scenes. So it`s up to the dj
to be the voice of that culture. People like DJ Aladdin, Chilly
Chill, Red Alert, Funkmaster Flex, Kid Capri, and Q-Bert have much
respect among the japanese hip-hop community.
Bomb: Are there a lot of mix tapes, re-issues, and bootlegs out
Curtis: In most record and CD shops you can pretty
much find whatever you`re looking for. There are quite a few bootleg
CDs and records floating around as well as a lot of cassette tapes
being sold from mix shows around the USA. Funkmaster Flex and Power
106 seem to be the two most popular tapes. You can always find
out-of-print LP`s re-released on CD.
Bomb: So what are you doing right now in Japan?
Curtis: I managed to land a job with a young record company,
INTERLINK MUSIC, that desired to dive right into the heart of the
black music market. "Perfect!" I became INTERLINK`s international
A&R coordinator, handling licensing deals and signing artists to the
company. Although I remain in this capacity, I constantly tour Japan
as a dj, do guest appearances on radio mastermix shows and TV
programs, organize hip-hop events and in June 1994, released my
first CD (a compilation of American artists).