The Rocks Off 200: Alex LaRotta, Crate-Digging Fistful of Soul Brother
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? Until Neil DeGrasse Tyson invents the time machine, the rare wax and vintage threads on display each month at Midtown's monthly Fistful of Soul dance party are just about the best escape Houstonians have got back into the golden age of conked hair and skinny lapels. For nearly five years, Joe Ross and Stewart Anderson have been mixing choice cuts from their vast vinyl collections into the city's finest revue of classic funk, R&B and soul music on the third Friday of every month, starting at the Mink and now residing at the Big Top Lounge.
Fistful of Soul's Alex LaRotta
Alex LaRotta is the Fistful brotherhood's Johnny-come-lately, having joined forces with Ross and Stewart last year. He's hardly a newcomer to spinning hard-to-find 45s from the '60s and '70s, however, having amassed more than 5,000 records in his years-long quest to become one of Texas' top authorities on the stankiest tunes from that bygone era.
"I got into DJing from kind of a different angle," says LaRotta. "I bought turntables when I was 15, and at that time, I was really into hip-hop and hip-hop DJs. Through that, though, I got really into sampling and I was really trying to understand where that music was coming from.
"I really liked kind of funky hip-hop tracks," he continues. "So I started going back from there and educating myself through vinyl. I kind of just find myself getting more and more rooted in that music."
Home Base: "Born and raised in Houston, where I currently reside," LaRotta says. "Most often I play at Big Top on Main.
"I started playing with Stewart and Joe, who are the two other DJs of Fistful of Soul, last summer," he adds. "Prior to that, I was living in San Antonio doing a kind of similar '60s soul party once a month. I knew Stuart and Joe through that, because we sort of networked there. When I moved back to Houston, I got to talking to them, and basically they invited me onboard to see if I wanted to join up with them."
Good War Story: "I would say one of my most memorable experiences was playing at Bogota Soul Club in Bogota, Colombia, in the summer of 2012," LaRotta says. "It was a pretty huge turnout, and everyone was dressed to the nines -- sharp crowd. This particular event was at this underground rock club in this seedy part of northern Bogota, in what used to be a male brothel -- there was a stripper pole in the middle of the dance floor.
"The booze kept flowing well into the late night, and people still wanted more by the time we were calling it quits," he continues. "It was so wild, because some people were dancing on the tables and chairs and just all-around frenzied--a riotous scene, really. A lot of good dancers, too."
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I love it here," LaRotta says quickly. "My family is all here; and my wife, too, her family is all here. When I finished grad school, we wanted to come back here and be with our friends and family. We just have a lot of ties here, family ties.
"I really like being here, and I think there's so much going on," he adds. "It's really a first-class city. There's endless things to do here."
Story continues on the next page.