|Photo by Troy Rasey|
“I got engaged, and my future husband’s in New York visiting his son,” Keoki proudly announces as he makes himself comfortable on the couch in Moonshine Music’s upstairs conference room in April. “We’re getting married May 7. And check this out — it’s my grandmother’s birthday May 5, so my mother’s flying out the entire family to Hawaii for a big birthday party.” He grins. “We’re gonna surprise everyone with, ‘Hey, Keoki’s gettin’ married!’ And they’ll be like, ‘Oh, great! Who’s he gettin’ married to?’ And it’s gonna be like, boom!”
Keoki’s trying to choke back his own laughter at the scenario he’s just painted, and within seconds we’re both cracking up. As the chuckles subside, he continues on in that rhapsodic way lovers do when laying out a blow-by-blow account of how they first met. It’s then that you realize he’s not kidding — the guy really is getting married.
“He’s gorgeous, first of all — he’s very like that. Model sort of looking. He’s 25 years old and has a 7-year-old son. I met him at the Bowery Bar in New York. I said, ‘You’re awfully cute. Wanna come over to my place and hang out?’ I was like this pig at the time, this touring sort of monster, like I was leaving the next day and I wanted to get some booty or somethin’. But we didn’t have sex or anything. So two days later we’re talking on the phone and he says, ‘I think I love you.’ We chatted on the phone for a month before we saw each other again. We became very close, and he asked me to marry him eight months ago.”
Listening to the DJ titan’s tales of his love life makes the release of his new disc, Jealousy, seem like a mere afterthought. His first full-length album of original material since ’97’s Ego Trip, the Jealousy set features Keoki courageously doing the vocal work on tracks like “Rush,” “Real World” and a reworking of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ’80s staple “Relax.” While his singing probably won’t send crooners like D’Angelo or Musiq screamin’ for a new vocal coach, Keoki fares much better in the producer’s chair with melodic house tracks like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and the classic progressive beats of the atmospheric “Pass It On.” He also makes good in a svelte, trance-y collaboration with Love and Rockets’ Daniel Ash on Jealousy’s title track.
“We just became really good friends,” says Keoki of Ash, who lived with him in a house in Calabasas for a year and a half while they worked on songs for Jealousy. “He was a mentor and an inspiration. He made L.A. bearable. I didn’t like it here.”
Sometimes known as “the bad boy of techno,” Keoki was born in El Salvador 32 years ago, but his family moved to Maui during his early childhood. At 18, he packed his bags and moved to NYC, landing a job as a busboy at the city’s Danceteria nightclub, where he met famed party thrower and convicted murderer Michael Alig, who would eventually become his lover for nine years. Immersed in New York’s club-kid scene, Keoki got a taste of the decks during his stint at Danceteria, and with Alig’s encouragement crowned himself Superstar DJ Keoki. The flamboyant spinster went on to become one of the most sought-after DJs in Manhattan during the late ’80s, working the parties of stars like Lou Reed, Deborah
Harry and the B-52’s. By the late ’90s he’d established a dominion for himself over the rave scene, spending most of his time on the road for the next several years from one extended drug-laden rave gig to the next.
“My life was really chaotic with the touring and all,” he recalls. “It would be like two and three parties a night. I’d go to a rave in Cleveland and not come back for four days, then go to the next one. It was really free-flowing, like making thousands and thousands of dollars at gigs and knowing that it wasn’t going to be forever.
“And when I started doing drugs, I knew that it wasn’t going to be forever. I knew it the second I sniffed that little line. And I got fuckin’ hooked on everything. So I kicked everything. But I still enjoy smoking marijuana — I can’t say anything bad about that.”
It’s all good with us, Keoki. After a quick jaunt to Hawaii to see Grandma and get married to his model-looking fiancé, Alfeo, the DJ would hit the road again, this time on a single-minded mission to promote Jealousy. He’ll play a smattering of rave parties and clubs across the U.S. before returning to his awaiting husband to look for a permanent home and settle down. All in a day’s work for a superstar DJ. Aren’t you jealous?