The Trash Aesthetic
"What can I say? Some people just don't know how to get on a plane." Longhaired (and currently long-faced) DJ Jack Trash (a.k.a. John Tasch, a.k.a. JT) is humbly facing a restless crowd of ravers from onstage at the Quest. To them, the voice on the mic is familiar, and so is the situation. For the third time in two months of Wednesdays, local rave production and promotion giant Mile High has lost the headliner for its dance-music showcase, Sugar. DJs can be a tricky lot, and even this prolific partnership (which consists of JT, Compass Entertainment booker Rich Best, and veteran turntablist ESP Woody McBride) is vulnerable to such setbacks.
As we retreat to the Quest's green room, JT explains that while some DJs simply have a reputation for ditching gigs (Terry Mullen, who bailed out of Sugar appearances twice, comes to mind), tonight's no-show, Seattle-based breakbeat DJ Donald Glaude, canceled because of flight problems. "Man, I really wanted to hear Donald tonight," JT vents, more disappointed than disgruntled. "It sucks that I have to break it to all these people who came out here in the rain to support this. But," he adds with a savvy nonchalance, "I'll just have to make up for it with a bad-ass house set."
The 12-year Minneapolis rave vet has been summoned to fill the vacant time slot round midnight. Until then, JT aims to simmer down behind the scenes. The walls of a club's green room are not generally, as you might guess from the name, blue. But they are at the Quest--a blinding cobalt blue that will have to do its best to calm JT's nerves. He'll have to do battle with a case of pre-performance jitters--to say nothing of the wobbling bar stool he's chosen to support his 6-foot frame. Perhaps as a result, we confab at an accelerated pace that pushes well into the red on my internal speedometer, JT's zealous interception of my questions and the globules of sweat on his brow indicating not only the ineffectiveness of the blue-green room, but how seriously passionate he is about the music, Mile High, and Minneapolis. "I don't think people realize the coolness of the scene here," he confides.
There's an almost intimate pride in this passion, and, indeed, over the last decade the Wisconsin native has found an extended foster family in the close-knit rave community. If JT has molded himself as a sort of rave godfather to the Cities--local DJ Andre "Madkid" Bennington calls him "a role model for both the old and new generation of party kids"--he himself was similarly "adopted" by long-esteemed DJ Kevin Cole, about whom he gushes unabashedly. "Kevin unselfishly did so much for the Cities," JT insists. "He has been like a father to me."
JT initially linked up with his mentor as a member of the First Avenue crew in 1992. Since 1988 Cole had operated "Depth Probe," a dance night-turned-legend in the grand scene scheme. When Cole assumed duties as program director of REV-105, JT took on the role of Depth Probe "Commander-in-Chief" at the club, a title tenaciously tagged to his name on countless DJ bios and party fliers in the mid-Nineties.
So began the book of Genesis for the local beat bible. Soon after signing on, circa 1992, JT and fellow U of M student/DJ, ESP Woody McBride schemed to deflower Minneapolis to "the rave" with "Return to the Source." Under Depth Probe's wing, 500 people turned out to hear JT spin his first underground party--a respectable number back in the day, though it would be considered a flop by today's inflated attendance standards.
"I will never forget it," JT says, paying homage with hand on heart. "It was a totally new concept." In 1997, the team came back with "Return to the Source II." That same year, JT made the decision to say sa yonara to First Avenue. "I told First Ave. for years that dance music was where it's at, but no one listened to me," he says while swigging on a Sprite. "I have a lot of respect for [them], I just don't want anything to do with it."
With his departure from the club came a desire to conceive a new alias. "Woody and Rich used to call me 'Jack A Lot' and 'Trash,'" he laughs. "Eventually it just consolidated into 'Jack Trash,' which helped me to become independent from First Ave. and move on." Mile High debuted in the Cities with a 1997 party called "Outta Space."
Three short years of operation might seem to qualify Mile High as a baby, but let's face it--that's 21 in dog and rave years. And in that short time, JT has found a comfortable life in Minneapolis. "I've really made a new family for myself here--this is my home now and I want to make it the dopest home possible," he says.
At midnight, JT leaves the psychic consolation of the non-green room behind and plays before a sizeable crowd, including his new bride, Jennifer Millington. But before flipping the vibe upside down, he and Best raffle off Glaude's hotel room at Crown Plaza, an attempt to lighten the crowd's mood. Then, JT opens with a groove mixed by Armand van Helden featuring hip hopper Common, its lyrics promising nothing but the funk. Patrons, let in at a reduced cover, begin to dance on a solid, insinuating house foundation, only to find themselves gradually pummeled with acidic, techno overtones. Cutting obvious club anthems with more obscure trademark tracks, JT displays an instinctive awareness of the crowd's desires, pleasing both casual clubgoer and discerning scenester without pandering to either.
Two hours in, the mood of the shoulder-to-shoulder, pulsating populace has definitely been whipped around. JT and Best end the night by holding a human wheelbarrow race--the first pair of ravers to traverse from the front of the stage to the back of the club wins a pair of tickets to an upcoming event.
"There ain't nobody that does it our way," His Mile Highness beams--off to his new "dope" home in Forest Lake.
DJ Jack Trash performs with Dave Ralph, ESP Woody McBride, Kid Icarus, and Ken Earley at 9:00 p.m. on September 2 at the Quest; (612) 338-3383.
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