Franz Diego celebrates the Equinox EP and four years of Turnt Up!

Away from the bro bars and $12 dollar drink nightspots of downtown Minneapolis, just past the Grain Belt sign and across the river in Northeast Minneapolis, Turnt Up! has become one of the most successful club nights. It has quietly sold out on the second Friday of each month, and a kaleidoscope of fashion and personality line up along NE Hennepin before midnight to jockey for a spot in the imitate Honey.

The three-DJ crew of Noam the Dummer, Gabe Garcia and Willie Shu spin, mix and scratch over a experimental sounds of old school, progressive and new jackness of the urban and dance varieties as a crowd -- that would make the "Rumpshaker" video jealous -- shine in party glory. You can find Franz Diego on the mic hosting and toasting. Basically it's a fun house party without the stale Doritos sitting on the coffee table. 

Gimme Noise spoke to Franz Diego who is busy this week preparing for the party's fourth anniversary bash and is celebrating his new EP project, which was released last week.

Gimme Noise: So you are celebrating four years of Turnt Up! Did you ever imagine it would last this long? 

Franz Diego: Yes and no, I mean we really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into when we started we just really wanted to have a party and space for our friends and extended networks. I knew I would always be working on events and things but I didn't know that we would gain such a consistently great crowd and attendance. 

How has the success of Turnt Up! helped showcase your network of artists and friends? 

Well Turnt Up!, more than anything, is about creating a space or an environment, everyone in the crew are really good guys that got into what they do because they want to share something bigger with everyone and have a good time. Turnt Up! has become the go-to dance night of the month for a bulk of the inner city hip hop community because, even though it is not a show, it is a hip hop night where everyone can feel a little freer and less like they need to compete. In turn, its easier to talk to people and network in general and I think it has garnered us attention in all the things we do as individuals, as well as the other groups and projects we work on. I also think it shows people that there is a huge crowd that is ready to move past the boom bap playlist and more into different genres of rap and other music, with different rhythms and new BPMs and that in return empowers are artist here to take more risks and try new things in there music because they know there are people here who want that and feel it. 

How important has Honey been to the success of the night? 

I have to say huge. When me and Noam walked around one day scouting spaces to have a party, we stumbled on the newly opened Honey and didn't really know what it was. We asked them if they'd be open for us to do a monthly 18+ and free rap dance party, and they automatically welcomed us with open arms, which is not a common response from places when they are asked to host something like that. The staff and management have been hugely supportive in making sure we have everything we need to be comfortable and strong in what were doing and they really understand the crowd we attract and welcome them just as well. 

Surprised something like this exists in "dress code" Minneapolis? 

Right?! And that's one of the main points of the party! We are coming from a house party and hip-hop background where our peers and us have been constantly turned away at the door for our appearance and whatever other thinly veiled reasons. Turnt Up doesn't have a dress code, stage or VIP booths, and we venture far from top 40 club music although we do play that as well. We have worked very hard to make the party accessible to people that need to feel free to dance however and have a really good time without being judged. 

You are known to rock some fashion forward -- or backward -- outfits, Joan Rivers would love you. What inspires your dress and style? 

I guess I just want to be free to express myself and I know that in doing so, I am also creating space for someone else to be empowered to do the same, so it just makes sense I suppose. 

Do you think club nights have overtaken rap performance nights in general? I know you remember years ago when hip-hop shows dominated the weekday calendar, now it's been replaced with dance nights and club parties. 

I would say you can still find a rap show or dance party most any night of the week, maybe there are less venues before that hosted more predominantly hip hop events, but in general most any night you can find a hip hop night just as easy as a club night or and EDM night. If anything the city is rapidly growing and so are the audiences for everything that's going on. 

Tell me about the Equinox EP, which was released last week. 

Well it's a project I've been working with Xanja on for sometime, Xanja is a younger up and coming electronic producer and messes a round with a lot of genres. I stumbled across his music and got really excited about his approach so I asked him if he wanted to make music together. Long story short, he gave me access to his whole catalogue of music and I decided to make a quick small EP from it during this year and last year's Spring equinoxes to capture that energy of rebirth and moving forward with a new multi-directional sound. I definitely am continuing to expand my sound and have a full-length album produced by Enron Hubbard coming out later this year. 

You think rappers are getting bored and complacent w/ sampled beats and that's why more are moving towards an EDM production style? 

I don't know if rappers are, but I am and I think a huge part of the listening audience have been tired of that sound. The move to EDM is a weird and interesting one, I have always been into electronic music probably as long as I have been into hip-hop, but hip-hop was just a way stronger love affair. But the way this wave of EDM has gained so much momentum, its impossible not to acknowledge and not mix. 

You mention various planetary alignments, I sense an astrologist in there somewhere, are you inspired by the sun, moon, stars and quasars? 

I'm inspired by the natural world and I'm inspired to be a natural human. The only fundamental things in life that have ever made sense to me -- as I try to understand life and the reasons we do the things we do daily -- are things that are grounded in nature. I think as a species we have drifted too far from nature to a point where we misunderstand it and in turn, misunderstand ourselves. So I'm looking to gain a better understanding through nature and paying attention to our space environment is part of that. 

I sense that with many people -- especially in my generation -- who want to unplug and get back in touch with nature and the environment around them, yet everything is going digital and artificial intelligence is dominating. You talk about this on your project. 

I'm also a big fan of juxtaposition and comparing and contrasting things so covering that subject matter fully with electronic music or effects on my own vocals is a good mix for me. Our technology is advancing at rates that our bodies and minds can't catch up to and that will prove more fatal than helpful in the long run. But until the world as whole understands that and does something about it we are on a cruise control for self-destruction. 

So until that fateful day, how do you plan to spend the rest of your time? Four more years of Turnt Up, more experimenting with your sound, long mass bike mobs through the city? 

YES! ALL OF THAT! AND MORE! I'm heading out for a ride right now...

Turnt Up! Four Year Anniversary Dance Party: DJ Willy Shu, DJ Gabe Garcia, Host Franz Diego. #WAG 10 p.m., $5, 21+ Friday, June 13, Honey - 205 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

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