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In a roundabout way, Dory Kahale is a philanthropist. "It's for the good of humanity in general that I get back in the spotlight," he muses, steam from his chai fogging up a pair of round, Harry Potterish spectacles. "After all, it's better for me to be a producer and a DJ than a producer and an ax murderer." That's a joke, of course, but after conducting three interviews at the Urban Bean, I'm convinced that this 29-year-old, with his shaved head and jaded-veteran 'tude, might well make a lean, mean millennial version of Freddy Krueger should his DJ skills not keep him occupied.
But is Dory Kahale a supervillain or a superhero? Kahale, at five-foot-five, appears nonthreatening, but you should never be fooled by a mild-mannered alter ego. Seated across from me is the everyday Dory, born in Lebanon and raised in Germany, having retired from the DJ game, give or take four times in the last 11 years due to the hassles of "excessive politics." But inside, there rages a psychic battle, an internal war between the light and the dark--or at least between ethereal techno and booty bass.
First there's DJ Apollo, the techno rebel known across America, Germany, and the U.K. His tracks (he's produced more than 50) have appeared on compilations by techno gods such as Frankie Bones, Nigel Richards, and Bad Boy Bill. And with track titles like "Chicks Dig It," "Suckapunch" "Be True to Your Skool," and "Bad Ass," his offbeat sense of humor invariably peeks between the pounding beats. It was Apollo who rose to recognition after being placed in charge of the second room of Woody McBride's storied M.O.R.E. (Minneapolis Organization of Rave Enthusiasts) raves in the early Nineties. Flyers circulated the city bearing the name of techno's newest prodigy, a sobriquet he modestly conceived for himself in 1993 after the Greek god of music and prophecy.
"According to the dictionary, it also means a 'handsome young man who makes music,'" Kahale smirks. "I thought it matched perfectly."
Perhaps it was this mild streak of vanity that would lead to the creation of his third personality, ghetto-house trackmaster Ralph Laurenn, a pseudonym swiped satirically from Chicago techno DJ Robert Armani. In 1993 Kahale purchased an Eric Martin release and became acquainted with ghetto house: dirty lyrics and clubby-sounding percussion over a strong, constant bassline. Playing as Apollo at a party soon after, Kahale became so annoyed with a dysfunctional crossfader that he stopped spinning, mid-set. "Dead quiet at a rave with 800 people waiting," he remembers. "After it was fixed, in a fit of fury I decided,I am going to do whatever the hell I want. So I pulled out my new ghetto-house records and played half an hour of straight-up nasty, booty house music. That's pretty much when the groupies rolled in."
As his Ralph Laurenn persona was gaining momentum beyond his control, Kahale was loitering around local record stores, spending $200 a week to boost his vast collection of hard-hitting techno, and attending dance music events, such as Kevin Cole's famed Depth Probe nights at First Avenue. It was here in 1991 that Kahale met and became fast friends with Communiqué Records founder McBride, who signed him to his label and mentored him in making tracks.
"Kevin Cole played the first [techno] track I ever wrote, 'Anarchy in Beverly Hills,' at a Depth Probe in 1992--it was amazing to hear it on the First Avenue sound system with 1,000 people dancing to it," he reminisces. Later that night, Kahale was jumped by four guys at the Riverside Avenue Perkins for trying to break up a fight, incurring a mild concussion and temporary amnesia. "I was bummed out because I couldn't remember Kevin playing my track," Kahale says, "but fortunately I could recall it two days later."
It was Ralph Laurenn, not Apollo, though, who drew attention from the ladies. With his first mix-tape, "Work That Mutha Fucka," Ralph Laurenn nastily deflowered the Minneapolis rave scene to ghetto house. Between 1993 and 1995, this filthy fave sold more than 700 copies, an experiment that eventually proved to have a bittersweet aftermath. While Kahale hoped to establish a straight techno identity, his ghetto-house popularity left him feeling like a prom queen who wanted to be known for her brains instead of her looks.
"I didn't mean for it to take off as it did," Kahale admits. "It started off as sort of a joke. People didn't want to book Apollo anymore, and techno was what I loved to play and produce." Though ghetto house's newness had worn off, its enthusiasts still lusted for more. On several occasions, to make the point that he was saying "peace out" to ghetto for good, he would throw the records out into the crowd (thankfully, no heads were severed--though that Freddy Krueger comparison doesn't seem so unlikely now, does it?).
"Ghetto wasn't a real expression of me. Promoters constantly wanted me to play as Ralph Laurenn, and I wouldn't do it," the DJ says, shaking his head. "The best ghetto-house years were between 1993 and 1995. After that, Boogie came on the [Minneapolis] scene and picked up where I left off," he says, referring to the Chicago-born DJ now heralded as rival to Ralph's ghetto-house crown. "I don't have a problem with him playing it, except that I feel that there is a direct attempt to erase what I have done." The former and future ghetto-house kings are rumored to be in negotiations to partake in a battle against each other this spring. Kahale promises things will definitely get dirty--at least lyrically.
These days, Apollo can be found laying the beat down at First Avenue's Friday night Beatopia events in the VIP Lounge, keeping his performances at parties limited to one gig a month. "People still to this day--though not as much--are asking me to 'play one last time' as Ralph, but I usually turn them down. I may bust out the ghetto again sometime during a rare set, but I want to do it on my own terms."
You can call him a quitter or you can call him a purist. Kahale prefers to leave any interpretation of his complex personality to the real professionals, saying, "They should do a VH1 Behind the Music on my crazy ass."