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DJ Jonas Tempel accomplishes more in one week than many of his peers have this decade. He is perhaps best known at present for his residency at the Church, one of the most recent additions to the local nightlife. But this gig is only a sideline to the real love of his professional life: the Factory, a design firm that in less than a year of existence has made a name for itself in Colorado and beyond.
An operation that shares its name with Andy Warhol's Sixties/Seventies creative hothouse, the Factory juggles assignments from across the media and business spectrum. Staffers supervised the overhauling of Zuma, a Denver eatery, into Z Teca, and is doing the same for Metropolis, a club in Los Angeles. They also assemble pamphlets for organizations such as the Cherry Creek Arts Foundation and put together fliers for many of Denver's after-hours promotional companies. Many traditional design outlets shun rave work, but not the Factory, whose employees include a number of DJs, promoters and electronica community regulars. Tempel admits that making first-rate fliers can be a labor-intensive grind at times, but he takes on such tasks out of love for the community. Besides, they bring in substantial revenue, as do Factory assignments for an Airwalk music tour and a Fila athletic shoe. As Madison Avenue's love affair with the dance universe heats up, Tempel likely will be among the prime local beneficiaries.
At first glance, this trend-setting, carrot-topped twenty-something seems an unlikely candidate for business success--but Tempel has always blended his love for dance music with commercial savvy. He began DJing during his high school years, and before long, he had become something of an entrepreneur. "I threw these beer parties in my basement and I would DJ with one turntable and two CD players," he recalls. "Then I joined a fraternity at Colorado State University, where I started a mobile DJ company. That ran every weekend for two years and, thankfully, I never had to play a wedding. I mixed the Cure and 'Brown Eyed Girl,' Run DMC and Tone Loc. It was your basic party music."
Before long, Tempel was the biggest fish in the modest Fort Collins party pond. But rather than continue building his reputation there, he moved to Denver in 1991 and hooked up with one of the city's most enduring electronica pioneers.
"I started hanging out with DJ John Chamie, who was mixing at a club called Fish Dance [now Club Proteus], and he turned me on to techno and house music," Tempel says. "That music really excited me as a DJ. He introduced me to local legends Hipp-E and Tribal Touch and the early rave scene. We all started running together, and by the end of the year we had a lot of small parties going."
Such events, which introduced the U.K.'s exploding dance-music culture to Denver, led to the creation of the Energy Posse, a company responsible for some of Colorado's first raves. But instead of operating exclusively in this realm, Tempel stuck his toes in mainstream waters following his 1993 graduation. His first professional DJ job, at a doomed venue called Club Chaos, was, in his words, "a nightmare. The place was truly whacked. I DJed there for about a month and then I simply could not stand it anymore."
Fortunately for him, this disaster did not have an adverse effect on Tempel's club career; after escaping from Chaos, he quickly blossomed into a respected and in-demand jock. "I held residencies at the Deadbeat Club and Aqua Lounge, and I worked Friday nights at Rock Island for a year," he says. "And I started up a Tuesday night in the basement of Club 1082 that continues to this day. The main floor is not as adventurous, but my basement night is just like a night at Fab. I'm talking about 200 ravers who pack themselves into the space religiously, every week. They come to boogie."
The sonic style that pulls in these kids by the bucketful is house music, the calling card of every self-respecting DJ who doesn't play rock or do a morning show on local radio. Tempel soon grew to love it. "I used to be a fan of break-beat and techno when I started out and the scene was young, just like everybody else," he says. "But now I've progressed into house. To me, the genre has more flavor to it. There seems to be a hundred house DJs in Denver right now, but I separate myself from the pack with a dubby, East Coast sound. I'm not talking about that Detroit garage sound; I'm talking East Coast. I also listen to drum-and-bass on occasion, but only the intelligent stuff. I don't enjoy that ragga sound [a branch of drum-and-bass derived from hip-hop]. But when it comes to mixing, house is my baby. Some of my favorite producers and mixers are Danny Tenaglia, MURK, Armand Van Helden and, of course, Masters at Work. Helden can be a little harsh, but he makes great Hi-NRG club tracks. And that's where my sound is now."
For a time, Tempel was able to spread his version of the dance gospel to a wider audience via KJMN-FM/92.1 (Jam'n). He hosted Denver's first house-music show from midnight to 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays for nine months on the now-defunct outlet. "It took me years to convince the powers that be that the Denver radio market was ready for eight hours of beat-mixed dance music," he says. "Scott Adderton and Tribal Touch did a lot of mixing for the show as well." He adds, "A lot of the kids thought I sold out when I went on the air with my mix. But the funny part is that all of them listened to the show while they were bitching. Just having a DJ-mixed house and techno show on the radio really legitimized the town and gave it a cosmopolitan air."