10 Questions with ... Brian Samson
September 20, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 1982-started M.C. Fly Productions as Club DJ and Event Promoter in Stockton, CA
- 1982-1989 - On-Air KUOP-Stockton (first radio job)
- 1990 - Graduated from San Francisco State (BACA Major)
- 1989-1992 - Gavin Rap Mixshow/College Radio Editor, San Francisco; worked under Dave Sholin, Ron Fell, and Kent/Keith Zimmerman
- 1990 - Launched On the Strength Street/Mixshow Promotions, San Francisco, first record I promoted was Sway & DJ King Tech "Follow 4 Now" and 2pac "I Get Around"
- 1992-1995 - Hired as National Dir. of Rap Mixshow Promotions, Mercury/Polygram Records, NY
- 1996-1998 - Relocated to Los Angeles; as National Director of Mixshow and Rap Promotion, MCA Records, hired by Ernie Singleton and A.D. Washington
- 1998-Present - Launched Blueprint Promotion with Big Paul Tuivai, Rhythm Independent Mixshow and Street Promo, Los Angeles
- 1998-2001 - Moved to Virgin Records; National Dir. of Rhythm & Mixshow; hired by Tom Bracamontes and Mark Boyd (R.I.P.)
- 2001-2003 - National Director of Rhythm & Mixshow, ArtistDirect.com; hired by Mark Benesch (R.I.P.)
- 2003-2011 - National Director of Rhythm, West Coast; hired by Rick Sackheim and Benny Pough
- 2012-Present - National Director of Rhythm, EMPIRE, hired by Ghazi Shami/CEO
1. At what point in your life did you begin to realize you were headed to a career in music?
Two turning points:
- At age 15yrs, my cousin Dale Yurong was DJ hosting a Midnight-3am show at KUOP-Stockton, playing HipHop/R&B (circa 1983), and I used to hang with him in the studio picking out all the new HipHop records. Now this was in the middle of the school week, coming home at 330am. And my mom used to yell at me why I'm hanging out til 3am with my cousin, and he had to explain what radio show was to my mom. Later that year, my cousin graduated from Pacific University, and gave me his radio show, at 16 years old, I caught the music bug and knew I wanted to be in the business.
While attending San Francisco State, I used to DJ clubs and throw DJ Battles and Breakdance competitions in Stockton and Sacramento. But in 1987 me and my partner, Harding Fultcher, booked were booking shows, and in the summer of 1987 a song called "Boyz in the Hood" was the hottest song in the streets.
So before they became the most controversial legendary Gangsta Rap group, we booked Eazy E., Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Yella, M.C. Ren, and Arabian Prince, aka N.W.A., where they performed live at the Stockton Civic Auditorium, for $3,500.00. And when I saw them on stage dressed in their LA Kings jerseys and LA Raiders hats, I knew I fell in love Hip Hop.
2. Was there ever a point where you thought he might change career fields?
Yes, I thought if ever made a career change it was after Artist Direct, and I wanted to jump into the Social Media Technology. Because A.D. was at the forefront of the streaming live performances and music over the internet.
3. You're from Stockton, CA and keep strong ties with your home town. How often are you able to get "home"?
Yes, all of my musical roots start from my childhood days in Stockton being around funk bands, and growing up around a family of DJ's. I'm born and raised first generation Filipino/Hawaiian, raised in Stockton, by my father who moved from the Phillipines at 17yrs old, who worked in the fields in San Joaquin valley, until drafted in World War
II. My mother who moved to Stockton from Aiea, Hawaii, in 1962 to worked as a nurse. What's so ironic, is that both of my parents had a passion for big band and Hawaiian music. My fatherwas a guitar player, and played in a Hawaiian quartet and my mother danced and taught hula, as young as I can remember, I was always around Hawaiian music and culture.
I'm in the 209 at least once or twice a month visiting family or promoting/DJing events. I'm visiting Stockton especially, when I'm doing a radio promo run thru the Bay Area or Central Valley, it's my weekend retreat after a hectic week of babysitting artist on a promo tour, lol.
Over the years I've kind of built the reputation as the cool Uncle Brian, as I always round up the family and take my son, Kekoa, and his cousins, my nieces/nephews to the radio shows, and hook them up with the artist meet/greets to the KMEL Summer Jam, WILD949 shows, or the KSFM Live.
My most memorable moments during a Stockton visit, was during my first Rhythm gig at Virgin Records. I told myself I always wanted to hear my records on KWIN. So as I pull into in Stockton after being on promo tour with Janet Jackson, not only do I hear Janet Jackson "All for You" on KWIN, but in addition, I walk into gas station, and see a huge front page article and picture of me and Janet Jackson in the Stockton Record. It was a cool feature article about a local Stockton DJ turned record executive. So, thank you, John Christian/KWIN for the 209 support back in the day!
4. How often do you get to spin in clubs?
I'm not active as a DJ professionally, but I love to DJ, I mean I really love to be DJ Fly for an hour or two hours a month. Being a DJ, or being around DJ's fuels my passion, it helps me understand music, understand a music culture, understand artist and people who are fans of music.
At least two or three times a week you can find me at a club with one of mixers, or club DJs, yeah I'm probably the oldest dude in the club, lol, or at the DJ booth. But for the purpose of passion, I'll DJ a private event once or twice a month, or I'll promote an event as a passion project. I love the opportunity to play classic 80/90s Hip Hop and Soul/Funk. But being a DJ, and being around DJs is still my passion. I just attended the Heavy Hitters DJ Conference in Miami, it was an incredible networking event to share ideas with DJs in such fast changing music and tech culture. But I always tell everyone, despite social media, radio, or streaming, music starts with the DJ.
5. If you weren't in music, what do you think you'd be doing professionally?
Umm, great question. I need to doing something that fulfills my passion to either be creative, or industry where I can correct a cultural injustice. I'd like to be in an industry that serves the community, so possibly politics or law. I recently watched, and was inspired by a movie about Cesar Chavez, a civil rights leader for the United Farm Workers labor movement. He was the Martin Luther King of the Mexican and Filipino Farm Laborers in the San Joaquin Valley in the 60s and 70s. He was passionate about helping people and fixing social inequality.
6. Who were/are some of your music industry mentors?
I tell my counterparts that I officially got my start in the music industry, when I met Ron Fell/Gavin Report, and was hired as an intern under Dave Sholin at the Gavin Report in 1989. But it was Lee Michaels/Gavin and former PD/WGCI, along with Kent and Keith Zimmerman/Gavin Editors that opened the door and hired me as the first Rap Mixshow/College Radio Editor. Through Gavin I met and worked with amazing radio and music executives that I have mentored thru my 25 yrs in the business:
The Gavin Report family who gave me my start: Ron Fell, Dave Sholin, Zimmerman Brothers, Betty Hollars, Natalie Duitsman, Beverly Mire, Linda Ryan, and the Gavin Rap crew Kelly Woo, Ern Llamado, Rod Edwards, and Ivan Rodriguez
From record and radio side:
My cousin's Dale Yurong exposed me to College Radio, and Fred Yurong who taught me how to mix as club DJ, count BPMs, introduced me to Funk/HipHop; Harley Davidson/PD gave me my first radio job; Sway and King Tech/Wake Up Show, Garnett March, Tom Bracamontes/Virgin Records, Mark Boyd (R.I.P.)/Virgin Records, Cary Vance/Virgin Records, A.D. Washington/MCA, Mark Benesch/Artist Direct, Shadow Stokes, Dee Sonoram, Benny Pough/Epic, Rick Sackheim/Def Jam, Noah Sheer/Def Jam, Mike Chester, Davey Dee Ingenloff/Republic, Jazzy Jim, Cat Thomas, Rob Scorpio, Thea Mitchem, Rene Roberts, Mikey Fuentes, Don Parker/KMEL, Cindy Hill/KBBT, Homie Marco/KBBT,
7. Empire? How did that start for you?
EMPIRE is based in downtown Union Square, San Francisco, and was founded by my business partner Ghazi Shami/CEO, and started EMPIRE DISTRIBUTION around 2010. Ghazi, who is also a Bay Area native, is like the "Good Will Hunting" of Hip Hop, a super passionate creative producer/engineer, and super genius computer programmer. His professional background started in the computer tech industry out of high school, but his passion after work has always been music.
During my last year at Island Def Jam, I met Ghazi in the station lobby at KMEL, as he was working at InGrooves/Fontana at the time. Ghazi would always call me about new artist and projects he was developing, and often spoke about developing his own company in a couple years, EMPIRE Distribution.
I left Def Jam in 2011, Ghazi called me immediately, and said it's now our time to put the Bay Area on the map, it's a dream we both share and aspire. We started to focus on developing artist and singles from Bay Area, the first artist was R&B artist JONN HART, the "Who Booty" single was written/produced by my producer Raw Smoov. Ghazi and I worked that single and thru EMPIRE Distribution, and it eventually became a #1 Rhythm single. The next EMPIRE single was from another Bay Area artist LoveRance "Beat It Up." But what really put EMPIRE on the map was Sage the Gemini "Gas Pedal"/"Red Nose," between both of those singles were selling 65k singles a week, both singles went platinum.
8. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Besides coaching my son's basketball team, I really have a deep passion for music, especially 70/80s Soul/Funk/Hip Hop. So I love doing two things whenever I have time and some extra spending money: 1) I love to DJ and play classic Soul/Funk/Hip Hop sets 2) Shopping for classic vinyl, Amoeba, flea markets, pop ups and Rasputin's. I can spend two to three hours in the store.
9. If you had to eat one type of meal every day for a month, what would it be?
Ummmm, great question. I love Japanese food, udon, tapanyaki or sushi.
10. You're quite a road warrior. What's your favorite market to travel to based on food?
San Francisco hands down, Ghazi/EMPIRE introduces me to something new every visit I was in Phoenix this past Memorial Day weekend, and right now the desert has won over my taste buds courtesy of Mikey Fuentes/KKFR.