Interview: Mayer Hawthorne

Nov 1, 2011 1:01 pm

Soulman with a DJ past cooks to Ol' Blue Eyes

Hawthorne, at a café he does not own. But could one day!
Hawthorne, at a café he does not own. But could one day!
 

It's DJ Week at Food Republic, which means we are talking to some of our favorite clubland characters — but more about Serrano than Serato. And boy are they happy to tell us about their food adventures. It makes us jealous. DJ's live the life, and they eat very, very well.

Michigan-raised soulman Mayer Hawthorne (born Andrew Mayer Cohen) is known more these days as the vocal doppelganger of Smokey Robinson—and singing a duet with Snoop Dogg(!)—than DJing at your favorite neighborhood sweat box. But the 32-year-old has a dark club past.

Playing under the name DJ Haircut, Hawthorne grew up mixing disco, funk and old school hip-hop in his much-hyped sets around the Detroit area. After moving to LA, he caught the attention of acclaimed producer Peanut Butter Wolf — which landed him a deal on Stones Throw Records. But the contract wasn't for his DJ skills, but a voice that was untrained — and unforgettable.

This is not to say Hawthorne has forgotten his DJ past, often playing after parties and DJ-only sets around the world. We checked in with the obvious food nut about his love of the Frugal Gourmet, tacos al pastor and Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. “That shit is like crack and smack,” he says.

In terms of food, what is your favorite city to visit while on tour?
I live in LA now, so getting back to Detroit and Ann Arbor is always exciting for me. Lafayette Coney Island (or any Coney Island for that matter), Blimpy Burger, Bell's Diner, Cafe D'Mongo, Northside Grill, Eastern Market. Detroit is very good at food. That's why we're so fat.

Do you have any quirky (or strange) dietary habits?
I despise mustard. All kinds of mustard. I hate it. I don't even like it on the table.

First food to hit your lips in the morning is...
Hash browns. The best food to sober up after an evening of Henny and ginger ale.

Your favorite cooking show on TV?
I can't watch people cook on TV because it makes me too hungry. But I do love old Julia Child and Frugal Gourmet episodes.

Do you have any pre-show food rituals or habits?
I try to stay away from dairy before shows. Anything too creamy or cheesy and I'll be slobbering all over the stage. Spicy foods are dope because they clear up your nose and make it easier to breathe.

Do you have any food or drink requirements for your dressing room?
I always have peanut butter and strawberry jam on the rider. Something about PB&J is so comforting when you're away from home for months at a time. And of course, there's always Hennessy.

Your earliest cooking memory as a child?
Making potato pancakes with my Nana. She was an amazing cook and knew how to make all the traditional Jewish grub.

If you're eating after 3 a.m., you're likely eating...
In LA, it's probably tacos al pastor from the late night taco trucks. Or Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. That shit is like crack and smack.

What's your favorite music to cook to?
That's an easy one. Old Blue Eyes. Sinatra is easily the best food mood music.

Who parties harder: Chefs or DJs?
I can still DJ really well when I'm drunk, but if I'm wasted I'm not fucking around with knives and burners and shit.

If you get hungry during a set, what kinds of food do you snack on that won't get the equipment all greasy?
Cheese and crackers is good. You can put them on the turntables and watch them go around.

Another DJ or musician you've worked with who is really into food?
Daryl Hall is a big foodie. I went to his house and we tasted bourbon and roasted a whole pig.

The best thing your mom cooks?
My mom makes the world's meanest beef brisket. The recipe has been passed down for generations. I ask for it every time I come home.

What are three staples in your refrigerator?

  • Cheddar. It Makes everything better.
  • Corn tortillas. I live in Los Angeles.
  • Champagne. There's always something to celebrate.

And your playlist to cook to...
David Axelrod "Merlin's Prophecy"
Serge Gainsbourg "Requiem pour un con"
Labi Siffre "I Got The"
Placebo (Marc Moulin) "Humpty Dumpty"
Stereolab "Op Hop Detonation"
Nino Nardini "Tropicola"
The Moments "Look At Me (French)"
Portishead "Strangers"
Frank Sinatra "I've Got You Under My Skin"
Marlena Shaw "California Soul"

Listen to the playlist:


Other DJs interviewed on Food Republic:

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