Before Cahuenga became a “corridor,” or Hall & Oates rivaled Daft Punk for popularity on the dance floor or Steve Aoki made the cover of every indie music mag on the planet, a kid from Indiana by way of Seattle came to L.A. with less than a grand in his pocket, dreaming of being part of a scene and maybe even creating one.
In 2003, Franki Chan didn’t know a soul, had nowhere to stay and slept in his car when he wasn’t haunting the L.A. clubs and bars he wanted to play and promote for, but the former punk rocker with a bit of a stutter and a less than imposing stature did have drive, not to mention a charming combination of enthusiasm and band connects (thanks to Seattle’s Graceland music space, where he previously booked shows and parties).
It all paid off when he was offered his own night (along with singer Har Mar Superstar and Aoki) at Beauty Bar, the now-legendary Fucking Awesome Thursdays. The gathering was not only the place where this trio of trendsetters — and their rockstar pals — honed their chops on the decks, but it was also an epicenter for the burgeoning Hollywood “hipster” scene, choppy haircuts, ironic dance hits and all.
“At the time playing bad hip-hop to rock kids was radical,” Chan remembers. “This was before everyone had laptops and could pull out Salt & Pepa and Young MC on the fly.”
Chan and Aoki went on to throw the popular Tuesday-night dance party at Cinespace, and their subsequent “breakup” soon after has been well documented (though, Chan insists, “the whole story has yet to be told correctly or in its entirety”). We’re not even going to try to do that here, but suffice to say, egos (both ways) were involved, and sides within the scene were definitely taken.
While Chan’s nemesis stayed on at Cinespace, he boldly — some might say unwisely — started a competing night at Safari Sam’s, called Check Yo’ Ponytail. Both clubs continue to crowd in the city’s crooked-tressed cool kids, though Check Yo’ did ultimately end up moving to Saturdays bimonthly at the Echoplex, and recently had its last hurrah there.
“I had to go up against this thing I helped build,” says Chan, of the Cinespace dramarama. “There are so many emotions and events that went down. I was kind of the underdog, but I fought my way back and threw some great parties.”
Indeed, Chan’s competitive streak and ear for talent have made for truly off-the-hook happenings. He was the first to bring neorave rebels MSTRKRFT and Justice to LA, and his ‘Tail nights with Andrew WK and Spank Rock are still burned into our eardrums. He’s also nurtured new sound makers, like Matt and Kim, Toxic Avenger and Heartsrevolution through his own label, IHeartcomix (a name inspired by his comic book/art obsession).
He’s definitely outgrown the ironic rap fluff that felt so fresh five years ago. Just check out his intricate beat blends at Still Fucking Awesome, which he and Har Mar brought back to the Beauty Bar this year (now on Mondays), or his electro-pumpin’ new mix CD for Scion (complete with his own hand-drawn sleeve artwork), free and available at a scenester spot near you.
Photo by Kevin Scanlon