Posted by: Addison – Oct 17, 2012
If you've regularly danced in public in the Richmond or Hampton Roads areas anytime in the past few years, chances are you've done so at least once at Brain Drain, Audio Ammo's legendary monthly dance party. And at that point in the evening when you fell in love with someone you’ve never seen since, chances are that the man who provided the soundtrack to which you danced (not so) casually across the room was Long Jawns. Long Phung, aka Long Jawns, has played shows in Miami and Los Angeles, but he calls Richmond home. He’s an old-fashioned DJ, in the sense that he began by spinning vinyl and prefers to do it that way. He got his start throwing parties as part of the Audio Ammo DJ crew. These days, if you find a banging dance party anywhere in Richmond, Long Jawns is probably rocking it. When he’s not DJing at venues in Richmond, he is collaborating with Washington, DC producer Billy the Gent. Together, Gent & Jawns have been making some rather large moves in the electronic music world. Their first single, “Vibrate,” took the festival season by storm last year as it was played to crowds of thousands by A-list DJs worldwide. Recently, their collaboration with mega-producer Diplo has yielded a track, “Butters Theme,” which helped place the Express Yourself EP, on which it was released, at the #1 spot on the iTunes Electronic charts. Richmond may be Long’s home, but his fame is spreading far and wide. Let’s take a peek inside the mind of Audio Ammo DJ and produer Long Jawns.
It’s safe to say that you have played in nearly every possible venue throughout Richmond. What are some of the earliest memories you have of playing here?
My friends and I used to have loft parties above the 1708 Gallery on Broad. Huge living rooms and stairs up to a rooftop. Those were the first shows I played outside of my bedroom. I was probably 19 at the time.
How did those parties end up, compared to now?
Back then, people went to the clubs and stuff, but actual crazy/anything goes parties were more along the lines of what I was doing. I’m sure there have been those types of parties since, but it honestly felt like a movie back then. Tons of people, loud music... seriously, it was anything goes.
Do you remember the music you were playing back then?
I actually started out playing a lot of underground hip hop. RJD2, El-P... I was playing that at prime time during those parties!
After those parties started to slow down, where did you go?
Those parties went on for quite a while. It was probably two years before I DJed at an actual establishment. I was usually DJing a house party at least once every weekend. This was before there was a crackdown on a lot of this style of music and partying in the city.
Tell us a little about the Audio Ammo crew that you are a part of.
It was just a bunch of my friends and I hanging out for a while. The name did not come about until a few years later. Doddie, Alex, some others, and I were all just playing parties and listening to music together, and [Audio Ammo] just happened once we started to throw parties.
It seems like a lot of the members have moved on to other projects outside of Richmond. What is everyone up to these days?
Alex Seamans (DJvsWILD) moved to NYC and helps throw parties with Trouble & Bass Records in Brooklyn. Doddie has been hosting Brain Drain parties in Virginia Beach, and Bobby LaBeat has a few residencies at places throughout Richmond.
You’ve gained quite a bit of success working with Washington, DC Audio Ammo member Billy the Gent. Tell us how this all came about.
We actually met in 2002. He was living in Richmond and I met him outside of a 7-11 through a mutual friend. Not sure how I remember that. [laughs] But I met him again almost two years ago. I was living in Northern Virginia and our friend Max figured that since we were getting down with the same types of music, it’d be cool to see if we could make some music together.
Your first single, “Vibrate,” was released on the Diplo-run Mad Decent blog. That’s quite a feat for a first production! How’d this happen?
Dave Nada is a good friend of ours and he came over one day and gave us a few suggestions for how to make “Vibrate” sound a lot better. Pretty soon a bunch of people started playing it out, and I guess it made its way to some of the bigger DJs out there.
Most recently, you collaborated with Diplo on his Express Yourself EP, which went #1 on iTunes. From reading a lot of the reviews, your track with Billy, “Butters Theme,” was one of the more acclaimed selections from the EP. How does it feel to work on something that reached so many people all over the world?
Billy had actually met Diplo in Philly a while back and they started to talk. Fast forward a few months; we were talking about doing this collab, and began sending music back and forth. It’s funny to see people talk about how the song title came across. The funny part is, Diplo hit us up and told us to send him a random word and, well, we selected “Butters.”
Probably a year or so ago, I remember you telling me how you disliked playing a lot of the club music that was popular and would much rather play the less-popular hip hop and trap music. Now, trap is on the rise and other genres have taken the back burner. Funny how things turn out, huh?
I got locked in the mode for a while where I was so focused on house [and] dubstep, and I just wanted to play any [other] genre. People would expect me to play a certain type of music all night and it got boring. I don’t want to lock myself in any one type of genre. Think about it, people don’t like just one type of music! There’s so much music to be played, and I don’t want to play a whole set in the same BPM range like I have seen others do.
Do you see yourself producing a certain sound on future releases? I’ve noticed that you’ve released productions ranging from Moomobahton to electro to trap and everything in between.
We just put out a remix for Diplo’s “Express Yourself.” People are calling it trap, but it’s at like 80 BPM. It’s funny, if you look at a Juicy J track that is “trap”--people are throwing that term around without even understanding what it is. You put a Juicy J song next to ours and you will realize how far from trap [ours] is.
What can we expect from Gent & Jawns in the future?
We are working on an EP right now. As far as live performances go, we are figuring out our live set. [We] want to make sure we have enough material to go out there and play our own music, without falling into this generic DJ set thing that seems to saturate the market.
By Alexander Rose/Photos by Nebiyu A Mehari