Suburban house

DJ Deka’s sweet ride
By MICHAEL FREEDBERG  |  January 7, 2008

PRACTICE! Deka has worked hard to develop his own brand of “hard New York tribal” house style.

At Rise the Saturday before Christmas, DJ Deka played a four-and-a-half-hour set. Deka has become the most prominent of the new breed of Boston-based house-music spinners, and he drew an almost full dance floor of fans. He did not disappoint. For the two hours of it that I attended, it was the best set I’ve heard him do. His style, he says, is “hard New York tribal,” but he has of late also favored electro-house and tech-house sound effects, and at Rise he used both, adding them as a kind of aural frosting atop his cake of deep, thick, fist-like beats.

There were also vocals: tape-distorted low-frequency male voices and slutty girls’ monologues coaxing and funning at the dancers with lines like “Close your eyes,” “Lose control,” Danny Tenaglia’s “I’m gonna take you on a tour . . . of a 12-inch.” To insert his vocals, Deka used three turntables: two to overlay rhythm sounds onto another track’s silent patches, the third to overlay them both with teasing voices. As for the beats of “New York tribal,” he made them as hard and thick as the genre (created, he says, by Victor Calderone) offers, in a syncopated, flirty texture that forced feet to dance, legs, hips, you name it. He did it to the dancers and then did it again, imaginative mixes — radical tempo changes, from down-beat to revved-up — that kept the surprises coming.

Deka’s fans were a diverse group: a few muscle guys, a lot of slender young Euro and Asian guys with very short haircuts, here and there a gal or two, many of them Rise regulars. The crowd also included other DJs. The mix of dancers was very Ibiza, even if the weather outside was Moscow.

Not Ibiza at all is Tabu, a bunker-shaped nightclub on Route One in Saugus, where Deka DJ’d back in November. But it is suburban — Deka’s roots. Here are guys wearing flared slacks and open-neck shirts. They gather along the sides of the dance floor, avoiding the metallic purple light show. The gals are wearing office dresses or pencil jeans and snug sweaters — one or two actually step onto the dance floor, moving to the rhythm. It’s an aggressive mix, almost rough enough for Rise.

Deka not only DJs, he produces his own tracks. He records for Jon Viera’s Escuro label, for Coraza, and — newly signed — for New York City’s legendary Nervous label. Several of his tracks (“In the Darkness,” “Industrial Tribal,” “Amor los batido”) are top sellers at, the Web site where nearly every DJ (and a few obsessive fans) buys his stuff.

Deka — Alex Karangioze is his real name — grew up in Lowell, far from the neon runways of house-music Boston. Lowell is best known, in the music world, for rock concerts at Tsongas Arena; still, says Deka, it was house music for him, not rock. “There used to be a music store called Banana’s. They did mix tapes there, and mix CDs. They had a DJ booth in the store, so you could mix too! There were very few of us listening to house mixes at that time. Then I started working there.

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