Santa Monica might not be known as a mecca of house music, but the city did serve as ground zero for the development of one of the genre’s most prominent DJs.
Marques Wyatt was bit by the DJ bug while a student a Samohi, when the teenage record collector was urged by a friend to play a high school party. His mix of soul and the new wave sounds that were then popular on radio station KROQ went over with the crowd and Wyatt was encouraged to further pursue this burgeoning art form.
“Then it was more like a hobby,” he says of DJing. “I didn’t have that kind of awareness to think it could be a career or anything.”
A few years later, Wyatt had traveled to New York City. It was the mid-’80s and he was drawn to the sound pulsing through nightclubs at that time – soulful tunes built around 4/4 time signatures that weren’t quite disco and would soon develop into house music.
“I really went on a mission where I wanted to promote that music here, because I hadn’t really heard it,” he says. “It had a very profound effect on my spirit.”
Back on the West Coast, though, house music was a hard sell. He launched the club BBC, but the crowd was slight. Wyatt was just about ready to close up shop when he met two British salesgirls who offered to pass out club flyers in front of their Melrose Avenue shops. The next week, the size of the crowd tripled. Then it doubled and continued to grow until Wyatt had to open up a second room and BBC became the stuff of legend.
Since then, Wyatt has become an internationally known DJ, balancing globetrotting gigs with his local residencies. In Los Angeles, he is known as much for spinning tunes as for promoting some of the city’s best loved parties. One of the first to play the underground dance events that became known as raves, Wyatt went on to launch the after-hours club Does Your Mama Know?, which was a cornerstone of the LA house scene throughout the ’90s. Wyatt left the popular Sunday morning dance fest at the end of the decade and launched DEEP, which continues to take place every Sunday night at Vanguard in Hollywood.
“I’ve definitely been careful to not be influenced by others, to not be such a house purist,” says Wyatt of his musical style. “It’s easy to do that and want to please the underground, in our group, what we call the heads. I can’t really let what they want to hear dictate the sort of journey that my soul was calling me to express.”
On December 24, Wyatt and friends will be ringing in the holidays with a special DEEP event at Air Conditioned Supper Club in Venice. Wyatt will also be playing Afro Funké, Zanzibar’s Thursday night event, on December 27.