In this month’s Spotlight, we sit down with Carlos Figueredo.
Once hailing from the Caribbean, North Pacific and North Atlantic coasts, Carlos takes to the orange chair to share how two of his loves in life brought him to his current freshwater flanked home, Michigan. Please read on to see how art continues to shape and influence his life and professions, how he became part of the creative beast that is the Dark Horse Brewing Company, and why Marshall is the place he now calls home.
YPC: Thanks for taking the time to join us, Carlos. To kick things off, please tell us something about yourself and where you’re from.
CF: Hey, YPC. My name is Carlos and I’m a brewer at Dark Horse Brewery and a part-time DJ. I was originally born in Venezuela, but I grew up in California for the most part.
YPC: How long were you in Venezuela and when did you move to California?
CF: I was born and raised Venezuela until I was six, and then we moved to San Francisco where I basically lived until the end of high school. After that, we were off to New York.
YPC: What did you do for fun growing up in San Francisco?
CF: School and soccer. When I was a little I played for the San Francisco Vikings. Just kid stuff. My parents really didn’t let me venture off too far from home, so I stayed around our house and block. Riding BMX, riding skateboards, going to the local schoolyard to shoot hoops or whatever.
YPC: How old were you when you moved to New York?
CF: I was 17. I did my senior year in New York. We lived in Ossining about 30/40 miles north of New York City.
YPC: Did you go into the city a lot?
CF: Every chance we had. We’d ride in to buy records, clothes, or see shows. We saw a lot of shows. It was good to be so close. We could just hop on the train and it would take you right to Grand Central Station.
YPC: When did you get into DJing?
CF: That was in New York. I was in high school and just wanted to do it. I saved up some money after a summer job and bought my turntables. I started with DJing and then slowly progressed into sampling and producing. I was always messing around with it on the computer but it was real crappy. Just learning. Learning how to loop, stuff like that.
YPC: Did you DJ around New York?
CF: I didn’t really DJ out too much when I was in New York. We played at group shows where we would perform songs that we’d produced. There’d be some rapping and what not. We did a lot more of that. I didn’t start doing any solo DJ gigs until I left New York though.
YPC: Talk about how you got to Michigan after New York.
CF: New York were my college years. I went to Mercy College, a small private college that had a music tech and production program that I could easily commute to. I was doing the music thing with my friends and performing and stuff. We wanted to get our songs played on college radio but we didn’t have a team helping us or anything like that, so we would just call stations. We would get their name and hip hop director and then send them a CDR.
And that’s what Liz was doing — Liz, my wife. She was the Urban Music Program Director at Northern Michigan University. So, I was calling her up and then we kind of started talking. This was back in ’99/2000. We were on the same message boards and liked the same kind of hip-hop. The board we were on a lot was a label called Anticon. Back in the day, they were just this left field, weirdo label of underground hip-hop.
Liz promoted a show at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor for the Anticon dudes, and when she got them the gig, she said you should come out. I flew to Ann Arbor and hung out for a weekend, and from there we talked for a few more weeks/months. I invited her out to New York and we hung out for a little bit. After that, she decided to move New York. She transferred schools and we lived together until we were both done with college. With college done, that’s when we decided that we wanted to move back to Michigan and to Ann Arbor.
YPC: What made you decide on Michigan instead of staying in New York?
CF: We just felt like we didn’t want to be in upstate New York and we couldn’t afford to live in the city. We always liked Ann Arbor and thought it was a cool college town with lots of stuff going on. At the time, it was one of the top spots in the Midwest for underground hip-hop shows. It was Chicago and Ann Arbor, maybe Detroit. I moved with the hope of starting a satellite of what we were doing in New York.
YPC: How was the shift from the East Coast to Midwest?
CF: I liked Ann Arbor. That’s when I started DJing. My brother, maybe he was a little heartbroken that I left New York, so he was like, “I don’t want to stay in New York. I want come out there and help with the music stuff.” We are close, and we’re only a year apart. So, he made the move a month or two after Liz and I did. It was great having him around to make music and DJ with.
YPC: YPC: What was the path to Marshall from Ann Arbor?
CF: After Ann Arbor we moved to San Diego. That was work related for Liz. I didn’t do much out there with music, just enjoyed San Diego. Hanging out, being outside. We lived there for almost three years, and then we were like, “We’re going to start a family, baby’s on the way, we can’t stay here. We have no family, no support here.” We were totally alone. Liz could keep her job and work remotely, so we moved back to Michigan and landed in Marshall. We were like, “we can definitely afford Marshall, we can own a home in Marshall, we have family in Marshall”, so we knew we’d have the support needed when the baby came. It would make life a lot easier, and it was a good move.
YPC: Did you have anything lined up here?
CF: I didn’t have any prospects. I knew I didn’t want to do any corporate work or be in a cubicle, which is what I was doing while I was in college and in San Diego. I was just tired of it.
YPC: How’d you get into brewing?
CF: I liked craft beer already from being in San Diego, which is a big craft beer town. I went to a lot of different craft beer bars and tried to learn that side of things.
YPC: How did you end up at the Dark Horse?
CF: When we first got to Marshall I did some construction with a family friend. I asked around town, “What’s up with Dark Horse? How do you get a job there?” They said at this point you just gotta go in there and volunteer. So, I said, “Let’s figure this out.” We had a newborn baby and I started volunteering there a couple days a week. I’d come in on bottling days and stack cases on pallets. Put in a full days work and they’d give me a six pack and send me on my way. I did that for like five months, and that was fine because I wasn’t hurting too bad as far as needing the job. But I knew eventually I would need to get one. I was very patient with the volunteer thing. I wasn’t pushing it, and then five months-or-so down the road Aaron was like, “Do you want to work here or something?”, and I’m like, “Yeah, man! I’ve been coming for months, working for beer.” A month after that conversation I got hired in full-time working the packaging line, doing what I could to learn. I had no knowledge of brewing whatsoever, just the very basics. I learned everything from the ground up at Dark Horse. Asking questions, watching people, just trying to get the knowledge any way I could.
YPC: What kind of stuff do you pull from your music/artistic side into brewing?
CF: I’m the type of person that needs to have some kind of creative outlet. If it’s not music or drawing or art in some way, I just have to create something. I feel writing recipes for beer is just that. I’m creating something that other people get to experience, just like other people get to listen to the music. I guess it feeds the same type of receptors in my brain, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
YPC: What’s your favorite beer you’ve created?
CF: It was one of the early ones, three or four years ago. I felt like there wasn’t enough Latin kind of flavors being infused in beers, so I created a tamarind saison using the tamarind fruit, which is very tropical. It’s found in Central and South America and in the Pacific, and I remember eating it as a kid. It’s a very tangy, kinda sour fruit. It looks like a pea pod almost. I thought that it would be a good, kind of a sour beer, but there’s no traditional souring elements involved. It’s just the fruit that’s so sour that would give it that bite. It was an out of the box, creative idea, and I’m always trying to think of things like that.
YPC: After living in so many spots around the country, what do you like about living in Marshall now?
CF: To me, the best part is the community. Pretty much everywhere we end up around town we’ll see somebody that we know. Our kids are known, and they’re recognized. I like that aspect a lot. It’s a good, close-knit community. Everybody, for the most part, looks out for one another and wants to hang and have a good time.
YPC: Now that you’re raising your family here, the next generation, what kinds of things would you like for them to experience in Marshall?
CF: Broader cultural things going. I know we have one gallery in town, but maybe some more things like that. More artists, more visiting artists, more public art. I thought the mural was pretty damn cool. Stuff like that, public art. Things outside. I like what YPC is doing with social events. Getting people out, getting people talking, networking. That’s an awesome, positive thing to have in a small town. I like the music festivals we do; I just think sometimes it could be different genres. Spread it out a little bit more. There are a lot people in this town who play music and do cool stuff, so let’s get them out in front of other people.
YPC: Any DJ events coming up?
CF: There’s sure to be some DJ events in the future. I’m trying to push that a little bit. Trying to get out there and have some good parties and dance parties for the town. Somehow, some way. That’s definitely in the works.
YPC: What are you listening to right now?
CF: It just came out and it’s not my usual thing, as I’m a through-and-through hip-hop head, but I also appreciate all kinds of music. It’s the new METZ record, and it’s kickass.
YPC: Any parting thoughts?
CF: High five to my wife and kids for all their love and support.
A big thanks to DJ Horsemouth for giving our orange chair some love, for being part of our Spotlight Series, and for being part of the YPC. Marshall is fortunate to have your artistic energy, and thank you for continuing to share it with us all.
Interested in having a dance party of your own? Let us know, and we can put you in touch with Carlos.
Also, special thanks to Dark Horse for continuing to open your doors to us, to Mike Reed for his interview skills, and to Mike, Tylere Presley of Tag Along Media, and Ben Reed of Slipstream Photography for the great photographs. The creativity and skills packed within our small town never ceases to amaze us.