With his linebacker frame and imposing presence, DJ Collage is hard to miss. For years, he worked security at the Baltic Room, and in recent months he's shifted over to the War Room. But for as large a figure as he is in real life, his music has yet to make an impact with Seattle audiences.
The name "DJ Collage" is a bit of a misnomer: Collage (born Lawrence Chatman) doesn't DJ—he's a vocalist, an MC, a toaster, adding dancehall flavor to live performances and to a lengthy list of tracks. He's been producing since the early 1990s, gaining attention not so much for his own output as for his varied collaborations, which include artists as diverse as Dubtribe, Meat Beat Manifesto, Ghislain Poirier, and Seattle's own Truckasauras. Most recently, he's collaborated with the BC bhangra/Celtic fusionists Delhi to Dublin for "Celtic Dub," adding raggamuffin vocals to the track's dub bass line, fiddle, and tablas (yes, it's as bizarre as it sounds), repeating the refrain it's a worldwide thing.
"It doesn't sound like it would work, but it does," Collage says of the track. "Even though the styles seem different, the nature of the group fits what I'm about. It's a Canadian take on a world-music dance party."
Perhaps it's that sonic adventurousness that keeps DJ Collage on the fringes. His local profile has definitely risen over the last few years, enough to garner a wildly varying string of opening dates this year (Yellowman, Amon Tobin, Cut Chemist, Datarock), but Seattle audiences seem not to know what to do with Collage's electronic urban music.
"In Seattle, the part that's weird about me is that there's no connecting platform already between reggae, dub, dubstep, techno, house, etc.," Collage says. "I think I'm the connecting platform. Other places that I've lived or performed, there's already a foundation for that, so it's not as peculiar in Austria or on the East Coast to see what I do."
Describing himself as "enthused and energized," Collage plans to increase his profile further in 2008 by relaunching his long-dormant label Masse-One. The first release will be his new EP, Marathon Man, a double entendre on both his lengthy time in the music business and his desire to bring back some of the fun in the music with crowd-friendly tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
"It's still hardcore lyrics, but it was just exploring things that you don't hear a lot of today," Collage says. "Today it's more focused on the production and the producer, the techier aspects. I'm trying to bring back the sexy aspect of it, songs that make people feel good."
To that end, the new EP isn't produced by DJ Collage, but is instead the product of his more beat-centric alter ego Dutty Larry. Collage says the new material is the result of all of the various things he's done this year, pulling from any number of electronic music genres as well as dub and reggae, giving Seattle another chance to accept his kitchen sink of influences.
"I have my own style," Collage says. "I know that's hard to sell, but it is what it is."
DJ Collage performs at Elixr at Chop Suey on Thurs Dec 20, 9 pm–2 am, $7, 21+. With DJ Element, Dubin Hood, and Selecta Gro.