Maybe it's the hopping on and off planes or the constant drone of song requests but something about the DJ world can chew a mans passion for music up before a great majority of folks get their foot in the game. Want to be a DJ? It's 90 percent Radio Shack and U-Haul with a splash of librarian and a touch of talent. Not many are cut out for the long haul, but trust me when I say that Skeme Richards was built for this. He lives to travel, collect, and play records. The passion he exudes is palpable and with more years under his belt than most he's got every right to hand out cigars and wax about the past, choosing instead to have both feet firmly planted in the nitty gritty of this mess, holding the torch to guide the way and all whilst searching for the perfect hamburger. -THE BAG MESSENGER
THE BAG MESSENGER: When did you first get into collecting and at what point did records enter that picture for you?
SKEME RICHARDS: I would have to say unofficially I became a collector around the age of 6 which was during the beginnings of the Star Wars craze and until this day I still own every figure that I received as a kid. Records have always been in the picture for me starting with getting a Show n Tell Record Player and Viewer in 1970’s but as a young adult record became important in 1981 which is when I first started to DJ and was able to buy 12” on my own.
THE BAG MESSENGER: You collect a wide range of stuff, what are some of your favorite pieces?
SKEME RICHARDS: That’s always a tough question for me to answer because as a collector I only acquire things that I have a personal attachment to, things that I remember or have a connection to growing up, it’s all about quality over quantity. But as for favorites number 1 on the list would be my 1981 Stern Muhammad Ali pinball machine, out of 2917 made less than 50 are known to exist and only about 10 are mint (which includes mine). Any of my 1970’s GI Joe with Kung Fu Grip figures and definitely my vintage movie poster collection especially the Shaw Brothers Kung Fu posters and pictures collection. But I collect so much from old race tracks and train sets to vintage magazines.
THE BAG MESSENGER: How has nightlife evolved since you got in the game.
SKEME RICHARDS: Night life has made various transitions over the years, when I first started going out to parties / clubs in Philly to hear R&B, Hip Hop and Dance Classics it was primarily a Black audience going to Center City, then in the early 90's I started seeing more diversity in the crowds but we all shared the love of good music. No matter if it was "popular" music on the radio or underground hit's, good music was everywhere around us and the DJ's stressed playing good music, the club owners spent good money on amazing sound systems and wanted to hear it and they wanted people to dance to it because that’s what makes a party. Fast forward to the present and all that has changed, DJ's only care about their paycheck, club owners only care about how much they are making at the bar and the partygoers only cares about getting drunk. And to top it off the music has become more segregated similar to how it was with Hip Hop in the 80's where only "urban" people listened to it.
THE BAG MESSENGER: What's up with Hot Pea's and Butta? When did you guys start?
SKEME RICHARDS: Hot Peas & Butta officially started in 2008 and it was a way to present people with good Funk, Soul and Rare Grooves on 45 while showing rare footage to tie the whole night together which Supreme La Rock and myself have been doing with guest DJ's ever since. Once Elroy Jenkins our graphic designer got involved it took the visual aspect to another level and since then we've done gallery exhibitions, worked with the Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra, created comic books all in between traveling the globe doing parties in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and countless other places.
THE BAG MESSENGER: You're on the road a lot traveling sometimes for months at a time. What's the key to a well packed bag?
SKEME RICHARDS: It took me along time to figure it out but it really all comes to not only the flexibility of the bag and it's layout but also in how you fold and roll your items. Most people put socks in their shoes but I usually line the outsides with mine, bulky clothes should definitely be kept to a minimum while every corner and pocket should be utilized. I can use the same bag for a weekend getaway that I could use for a week long stay, but when it comes to being away for a month, less is definitely more for various reasons especially if you're a collector and planning on returning home with gems you've found along the way.
THE BAG MESSENGER: What's the oddest thing you've picked up on a trip and flown home with?
SKEME RICHARDS: I've come home with a lot of items from records and toys to sneakers and art which are usually concealed and packed well but the oddest thing would be two 1970's giant Shogun Warriors in the box. I didn't want to pay to ship them home which is what I normally do with large items so I tied a string around both boxes and carried them like a suitcase. If you know me then you know I keep my collecting habits somewhat quiet in public but I got a lot of strange looks and equally as many "hey what's that?" from people who wanted to hold hour long conversations which tends to drag out flights that are already long enough.
THE BAG MESSENGER: What are some of your favorite places to play?
SKEME RICHARDS: Some of my favorite places to play are those with not only a great sound system but those with a great vibe, a certain aesthetic and people who really appreciate the music. The Room (Japan), Club Asia (Japan), Madame Jo Jo's (London), Plan B (London), Lo-Fi (Seattle), Echo (Los Angeles), Le Lido (Switzerland), Bohannon Soul Club (Germany), Sound Holicity (Korea) and LPR (NYC) with special mention to Table 50 in NYC which doesn't exist anymore.
THE BAG MESSENGER: Best burger so far?
SKEME RICHARDS: I’ve had great burgers around the world but I have to say the most consistent with excellent quality of beef and great bun has to be Fathers Office in Los Angeles. I think it's the bacon jam spread that they use on it which makes it perfect and it never fails.
THE BAG MESSENGER:You've got a lot on your plate, how do you stay productive on the road?
SKEME RICHARDS: I'm always inspired by what I see when traveling especially when in Europe, everything from being in railway stations to art, fashion and people just riding bikes through the streets. All of these elements keep me mentally taking notes so once I get back to the hotel it straight to the computer to jot these things down but that then leads to coming up with ideas to build around those inspirations which leads to back and forth emails with Elroy Jenkins or Supreme La Rock and it steamrolls from there.
THE BAG MESSENGER: Favorite slept on flick?
SKEME RICHARDS: Favorite slept on flick I would have to say Seijun Suzuki's 1966 Tokyo Nagaremono (Tokyo Drifter). It's a Yakuza film with a great storyline, shot visually well with amazing scenery and it's definitely a starting point for where Quentin Tarantino draws inspiration from on a lot of his films.
THE BAG MESSENGER: Any last words of advice for the people?
SKEME RICHARDS: Do what you believe in and believe in what you do, if you're an artist live that passion to the fullest, compromise to get what you need or want but don't sacrifice your art nor creativity just to please the masses. Buy into quality not into quantity.
Keep up with Skeme on www.hotpeasandbutta.com and on twitter @hotpeasandbutta
The new book Son of the City: A Memoir by Dante Ross, is the first release by the new author. Preorder is in limited supply and available now
When Victrola introduced the Revolution Go turntable to me and asked if we would be interested in trying one out, I was game, but these days I spend more time at my desk than hunting for records in dusty basements.