DJ/Promoter Ana Calderon: 'I Think A Lot of DJs Hate Me Because...I Made the Promoter/DJ Situation Become More of a Norm.'

Categories: Q&As, interview
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Doug Neil/OC Weekly
DJ Ana Calderon (with hat) at a recent Club Mesa event. To her left is SUN Group co-founder Brendan Thomas.
If you're one of the lucky ticket bearers, the doors of the Fox Pomona will part Oct. 19 so you can witness the sold-out, ethereal post-punk glory of Interpol.  Arrive early enough and you'll be privy to a DJ set by Los Angeles music industry insider Ana Calderon, who's experienced the quintessential local-girl-makes-good success story.  More than just a DJ, the 30-year-old Kansas native made her way to Los Angeles in 2002  and developed a penchant for building networks of influential friends in LA's indie music scene. (Devendra Banhart and Steve Aoki are part of Calderon's circle of friends.) 

Photos of Calderon usually show a girl in a wide-brimmed hat with long dark hair framing her cherubic face. Her lips are always accented by bright red lipstick. Her influence as a promoter has recently crossed the LA/OC border in the form of her collaborations with Club Mesa promotions outfit Sophisticates United Network. The Network's principle Brendan Thomas was mentioned in The Weekly's recent "Best of" issue for his work with Orange County DJ Kedd Kook and the promotion he's done the past two years at La Cave. 

Recent semi-private events held at Mesa Tuesday nights have featured appearances from Calderon's menagerie of musical personalities including: DJ sets from Banhart, performances from indie buzz band Warpaint as well as French ingenue Soko. This week Club Mesa was host to internet "it" girl DJ Cory Kennedy, a friend of Calderon's who achieved worldwide fame through internet exposure as a teenager largely without the knowledge of her parents. 

Calderon recently returned from Texas where she performed at Austin City Limits. She took a few moments to talk with me about her upcoming show at the Fox Pomona, the music she's currently digging on and how she got where she is today. 

Really quick, what's your back story?
(When) I came from Kansas City to Los Angeles, I just wanted to work in the music industry. I took a job as a receptionist at this label in the valley called Hopeless Records...within a couple months I got promoted and eventually was running their entire marketing and doing tour promotions and radio and video. At night I would go out to clubs in Hollywood and that's how I met Steve Aoki and Franki Chan. I would spend my whole days working in the record industry and my whole nights getting to know Los Angeles nightlife. Steve and I just became really great friends. He had a record label, Dim Mak Records and I would give him advice that I learned at my job, and the next thing you know he's like "You know, maybe you should just come work for me.

What did Aoki have you doing for him?
I took over as label manager and did that for four years.  It was great because I got to be a part of signing bands like Bloc Party and The Scanners and the Rakes and the Mystery Jets and all these great British bands...a big part of it was throwing events. I've never fancied myself a DJ though I've been collecting records my whole life.  We'd go to these events and the DJ would show up late or not at all so I'd get up there and put a CD on or an iPod--not necessarily DJ, but kind of pick songs out until the DJ showed up.  Randomly a promoter saw me doing that and asked me to do this girls' night called Hang the DJ in Echo Park.  That one DJ set turned into another.

So how do you classify yourself? As a DJ, an insider, a promoter?
(Laughs) My main income is DJing. So professionally my title would be DJ and secondary would be promoter...I think a lot of DJs hate me because when I first started DJing in Hollywood I did this thing where I said I can be a DJ but I can be a promoter too. So I made the hybrid promoter/DJ situation become a little more of a norm.

How did you get involved with the SUN group's Brendan Thomas and Chad Penry bringing in the talent at Club Mesa on Tuesday nights?
 Devendra and I went down there. We weren't sure what to expect just because every time I've gone down to Orange County it's been more electro or punk or surfy stuff. I didn't know what to expect. I was like "They are not going to like what they hear because we're just rock DJs, we play weird music and stuff you don't hear in nightclubs even in Hollywood." When we got down there  we were a little nervous but we were so well received and people were so nice and dancing to Os Mutantes' songs and weird psychedelic rock from the '60s. I showed my enthusiasm to the guys and we started talking and said  "I could probably help." Cause they mentioned they were having some problems programming for the next couple months and just because of my connections in Los Angeles..I mentioned a few names here and there and the next thing you know I'm helping them program.

Obviously there's a big difference between the hipsters experiencing a dusty festival like FYF and enjoying the chic decor of Mesa. Is what's going on at Mesa  too exclusive or snobby?
I think one of the things that's funny about this sub-genre of people we call hipsters or the fashion crowd is that it's not about money and status, it's just about being in the know. These kids that go to Fuck Yeah Fest, you'll see them at these clubs and they'll be able to get in. They know what's going on, they have great taste in music they have really great conversation skills and they'll get in their over some rich oil heir who shows up and tries to slip the door guy 100 bucks.

Is there any different approach in how you prepare to open up for a band like Interpol? 
I've never set up a set list before. Every time I DJ, it's always been the vibe I'm feeling. I always start by using the same (Os Mutantes) song, but where I go from there might be the song that's been stuck in my head all day...I'm just all about feeling the vibe... Maybe I'll see a kid in the crowd wearing a Clash t-shirt and I'll play a Clash song...I tend to stick with rock music, I like old school hip-hop and soul and Motown and definitely a lot of new indie rock music coming out of Los Angeles.


What bands are you big on right now?
I tend to fall in love with friends of mine's bands and I don't know if I already appreciate their personalities and I tend to love their bands more. I'm really digging Warpaint, I know they played at Mesa a couple weeks ago and I've been seeing them a lot live lately and they're just getting better and better every week. I'm opening tonight for The Morningbenders, the Growlers out of Orange County are amazing.

You like Gram Parsons?
I had an imaginary relationship with Gram Parsons when I was in college in my head...I never really planned to move to California but I think I imagined settling down in Joshua Tree with some Gram Parsons look alike. (Laughs) There's still a possibility for that to come true in the future.






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