Artist Spotlight: César Velasco of Thin Skin

Recently Denton has become divided into two categories: the Haves and the Have-Nots. We find ourselves taking sides: the Haves are welcoming change in our city, and the Have-Nots are hesitant in embracing transformation that seems far off from Denton’s small-town roots. However, as Dentonites we can all agree that being part of Denton’s music scene is vital, and being one to help present music to Denton’s masses is admirable.

César Velasco is doing just that—he is bringing the house show music scene to all of us.  Velasco spends his days playing in bands called Thin Skin and Black Outfit, going to school for media arts with a minor in marketing, and running his own business called Panic Media & Entertainment.  With such a busy schedule he still finds time to film live shows. Sometimes he is paid for the corporate work and other times he films bands in town without pay. When The Dentonite asked why he devoted so much time to filming these shows, he replied simply, “For the love of the bands and what they do.”

Velasco became interested in filming live music when he worked with North Texas Television for a few semesters. He worked on the NTTV show Ardillando, and then worked as producer and director on show called Habitable Zone Asteroid B612. This documentary-style project on the Denton house show scene is his current passion— “That is still a project I am working on,” he says. He manages to film house shows around town to capture the essences of live performances and what they do for the young Denton population, especially newcomers to our college town.

“When I first started going to house shows in Denton I didn’t really know anyone. I knew it was a really great scene but I was just new to Denton, so these shows allowed me grow and get to know a lot of people, and play with new people,” says Velasco. This experience gave him the idea to capture that feeling he had—which resonates within all of us—on film. He wanted to explore what that party scene was and ended up displaying a community that embraces each other and the art we make.

This became a good training ground for the other music-filming ventures he does now. Velasco can be seen around town filming for bands at shows and producing full-blown music videos for our local bands. He does it on the corporate side all the time, so he understands what local bands are up against in trying to make music videos. “I love to take videos and I love music…it’s expensive for bands to get film of their work and to have the right people who know how to edit, produce, and who they trust to do right by their music,” explains Velasco. If he does make some money in filming these bands then that would just be a plus; however, he is really after creating an artistic community that helps each other out when it’s needed.

The most recent project he has done was a music video for the satirical rap group Gross Bitch. He said the whole shoot took one day. “The concept was discussed with the girls in the group…we created this house party setup and worked with blood-related imagery that went with the song,” he explains. Velasco likes to work with many different genres in our town’s music scene. “It important to represent all types of music in Denton, and let everyone get a chance to have themselves be heard,” he says. Velasco has worked with many Denton bands such as Pearl Earl, Mother Tongues, The Heavy Hands, and many others on what is now titled The Craft House Sessions.

Velasco works with the owners of Midway Craft House, Rahim and Sean, to give bands a place to exhibit their music and allow them to have that experience filmed. “Rahim and Sean care about this community, and they know a lot of people that play music around town, and they try to stay actively involved with the people that come out of their stores. So they decided one day that really wanted to start booking shows,” says Velasco.  Velasco has teamed up with Midway Craft House to record these shows. Velasco says, “I talked to Rahim and asked if I could record these shows to help with foot traffic, and just get these bands music out there and their venue noticed.” Every genre is represented in these sessions, from rap to punk to country, even DJing. Velasco says, “As long as you are respectful, all you have to do is talk to Rahim and you can book your show.”

Velasco’s work in filming these live shows takes a lot of planning. He has to make sure the audio comes through, and there are many aspects to take into account when filming live music. It depends on what the band wants, but Velasco can do anything from creating a b-roll and placing a live track over it, to placing live parts over the recording to make it sound real. “I need a lot of audio either way…[I have to be] prepared to try to sync the music with the visual,” Velasco explains. He also has to take into account the environment he is filming in. “At the Jagoe House show there were like three hundred people there and my lens kept fogging up, and everybody was moshing…I had to set up my camera to make sure nobody was pushing me too hard, but I had to go along with it too because that’s what makes it cool,” says Velasco. He has to literally roll with the punches in the moment to help show the atmosphere the band wants to capture.

To see someone who is passionate about their town is something we are used to in Denton. To see someone finding a way to help their community grow is a breath of fresh air that both the Haves and the Have-Nots can take in.  César Velasco loves the music scene we have in Denton. Whether it is changing or not, he will be here filming every moment of it.

Photo by Natalia Velasco
Header image by Jason Lee