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Spin Doctor: While The Pandemic-Ridden World Quieted Down, San Jose DJ Cutso Made Noise

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TWITCHY TUNES: Paolo Bello, an East San Jose native known for DJing and making music, has been livestreaming on Twitch twice a week. Photo Courtesy of Cutso

TWITCHY TUNES: Paolo Bello, an East San Jose native known for DJing and making music, has been livestreaming on Twitch twice a week. Photo Courtesy of Cutso

It’s the night before Valentine’s Day, and Cutso is spinning records on Twitch from his living room. Framed by the glittering words “Lovers N’ Friends,” and standing before a sign that reads “Punk Haircuts, any style $2.75,” he transitions from reggaeton to the soul and jazz sounds of Sade.

“You can never have too much Sade in the set,” he announces, before shouting out another DJ in the chat: “Nasty Nate, what up dog.”

Since the lockdown order last March, Paolo Bello—better known as veteran DJ, producer, Wild 94.9 radio show host, and founding Bangerz member, Cutso—has been livestreaming on Twitch twice a week. While 2020 was far from an easy year for him, he says that the pandemic allowed him to stoke his love for his oldest flame: DJing.

“I’ve been DJing for twenty-plus years, but the last few were starting to take a toll on me,” Bello says. “Having to DJ in clubs four nights a week, I’ve been in and out of burning out. But the pandemic brought me back to the music and art form that I love.”

On top of the twice-weekly livestreams, the San Jose native released last year a flow of new music via Bandcamp, including some very dancefloor-ready remixes of Fleetwood Mac and Everything But the Girl, and two volumes of I Love Loosies, a new series of remixes—or, “DJ tools.”

“They’re not full-scale remixes, they’re not full-on productions, they’re just tools that I make for myself for livestreaming,” Bello says. “But it turns out that non-DJs love these edit packs and treat them like singles.”

It’s not hard to see why. I Love Loosies Vol 2, released this January, opens with “All 4 U (CUTSO ROLLER RINK EDIT),” a shuffling, booty-shaking remix of Janet Jackson’s “All For You.” In Cutso’s hands, the millennial hit sounds simultaneously more modern and more nostalgic than the original, its most immediately notable feature being a thumping bass drum tuned to the key of parking lot tailgates and summertime bbqs. 

On Vol 1, from last November, “Ego Death (Cutso Dub)” takes the intro and ominous beat from Ty Dolla $ign’s reggaeton-inspired “Ego Death” and twists it into a disco-y Bay Area freestyle, complete with unexpected appearance from Queen Latifah.

Born (in his words) “the same year as MTV,” Cutso was raised in a musical household. His uncle, a hobbyist DJ, moved into the family’s eastside San Jose home when Bello was eight, bringing with him his unmatching turntables and Radioshack 32-1200B mixer. 

“It all started with my uncle,” Bello says. “He was showing me how to blend records, how a mixer works, why you need two turntables in the first place, all that.”

While attending Silver Creek High, Bello met and connected with other like-minded turntablists, who soon banded together to form DJ crew The Bangerz, originally (and thankfully no longer) named the Fingerbangerz.

If you’ve ever seen the liquid moves of masked and bucket-hatted dance troupe the Jabbawockeez (first winners of America’s Best Dance Crew) then you’ve heard The Bangerz. For the last 17 years, the troupe has danced almost exclusively to the San Jose crew’s music.

“In 2003, we had just dropped our debut album VI-R-US, and they were making routines to our album,” Bello says. “We just kind of put this album out into the world, hoping someone would hear it, and those somebodies were the Jabbawockeez.”

Now split between San Jose and Vegas, where the Jabbawockeez have held a run of shows, the Bangerz still make almost all of the dance troupe’s music. TIMELESS, their most recent show, is directly set to the new album by the Bangerz (also titled TIMELESS). Both were supposed to premiere the very week the country began to shut down due to the pandemic.

“We’ve had this new show and this new album just floating in the ether, waiting to be unleashed,” Bello says. “But we’re fortunate in that they still trust us, still trust our sound. The Jabbawockeez are our brothers.”

Back on Twitch, where Bello goes by CuttyCutso, the set is heating up as more and more DJs pile into the room. In the chat, a scroll of hearts, fire emojis and the single capitalized word “VIBES” unfurls at length. Valentine’s Day is still hours away, but right now, it’s all love.

“I feel fortunate to have grown up in the Bay Area and it’s rich DJ culture,” Cutso says. “I feel like I learned from the best.” 

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