When Spencer Jones drops the needle on a record at Monstercade, the mood inside the tiny bar can change.
Choosing from 100 or so records that he hauls most Sundays to Monstercade, DJ Mapache, as Jones is known, can make you feel like you’re in pre-Castro Havana or 1950s Las Vegas or watching a 1960s-era TV detective show.
“People walk in and are like, ‘What is this?’ They like it without expecting to like it,” said Sarah Childrey, a Monstercade bartender.
Childrey tends bar on “Exotica Nights” at Monstercade, 204 W. Acadia Ave. They happen most Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to midnight, with Jones manning two turntables, spinning unusual and hard to find music from around the world.
Jones, 26, has a fascination with musical genres and musicians who have little resonance in the United States, people like Googoosh, who has been called the Beyonce of Iranian pop; Mulatu Astatke, a leader in Ethiopia’s jazz scene; and Esquivel, the Mexican-born forefather of space age pop.
Jones is a seasoned record collector who scours flea markets, estate sales and used record stores in search of sounds that may be forgotten or overlooked but undeniably groovy.
“That’s one of the beautiful things, that you’ll be looking for records and find this music that may have been lost,” Jones said. “You’ll come across some awful music, but you filter through it to find the gems.”
Jones has taken his hunt to other countries, looking for buried treasures in Chile, Argentina and France. Jonathan Hodges, who owns Underdog Records on Burke Street routinely calls Jones when something unusual floats through the shop.
A Winston-Salem native, Jones recalled sifting through his dad’s collection of jazz records, particularly enjoying Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” and Charles Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um.”
From jazz, he ventured into the rabbit hole of funk.
“I realized that all cultures have different music,” he said.
He stumbled into Exotica, a style of music from the 1950s that is steeped in Polynesian culture.
“People who came back from the war experienced all this music while in the Pacific,” Jones said. “It’s sort of faux World Music.”
Lots of listeners hear this music and find it on the cheesy side, yet, it evokes a certain mood, setting off a bit of nostalgia for the post-war America of big cars, skinny ties and cigarette holders.
“It reminds me of old Super 8 films of Hawaii,” he said.
Jones, an anthropology major with a degree from East Carolina University, decided that instead of listening to faux World Music, he should chase the real-ldeal sounds and began building his record collection with all sorts of sounds from Acid Rumba, South African rock, Nigerian funk, Thai pop and Spanish garage rock.
During his sets at Monstercade, Jones typically starts out with a few Exotica numbers before delving into World Music, some of which can induce trance-like states.
From his hobby of collecting records, Jones learned how to become a DJ from his friend Eric Simms, who DJs under the moniker, Evil E. His Monstercade gigs started in 2018, and he will soon be doing some shows at Fair Witness, 290 E. Fourth St.
When he’s not chasing records or spinning tunes, Jones teaches English as a Second Language at Smith Farm Elementary School.
“I think the DJ-ing, the teaching all sort of ties into my higher purpose of interacting with different cultures,” Jones said.