Story and Images by Malakhai Pearson
Edited by Etenish Abebe
As some may already know, Malcolm Gray has been a heavy hand behind the Boston music scene for some time now. He has been (and always will be) an avid supporter and influencer for music culture in Boston and beyond. Gray is also one of the original founders of cllctv.us, the full-service creative agency that hosts one of Boston’s best dance parties, The Wave, and writes for Live Nation’s Ones to Watch. Now based in Los Ageless, Malcolm is a social media manager with Live Nation and continues to have a presence in the national music scene.
While he was in town for thefour year anniversary of the Wave, I got the chance to sit down and chop it up with Malcolm about the beginnings of cllctv.us, The Wave and how the music scene has changed in Boston.
MP: How did cllctv.us get started?
MG: I met everyone almost five years ago. Paul (or Yvng Pavl as most people know him) gathered a group of creatives, artists, photographers and DJ’s in the city. We wanted to come together to fill a void in terms of a creative space in Boston. We planned to build a space where creatives could come and not only listen to music but to also collaborate with one another.
Around that time, I had a friend who had spent some time in LA. When she came back, she told me how poppin’ the day parties were out there. That’s when we realized we wanted to try something like that here in Boston because no one was doing anything like it. We just said, why not?
MP: You used to work at Emerson’s radio station too right?
MG: Yeah, so I went to Emerson for grad school and I got on the radio program in 2011. In the early days, the station was the unofficial meeting spot for cllctv.us. Me getting the job there was really random, I just sort of stumbled into it. The popular stations then were ones like 88.9 WERS and had programs like ROCKERS (the legendary Reggae show). While I was at the station I was trying to engage with the local scene as much as possible – going to events whenever I could. I wanted to connect local artists with radio airplay and I was successful in doing so. In my second year with the station, I became the urban program director.
I was with 88.9 for about three years and then station ended up switching initiatives, ultimately cutting the hip-hop and the Reggae shows. I had done so many interviews during my time there just trying to bring a voice to the new scene that was coming up.
MP: Ok, so that party became “The Wave” – why did the team decide on that name?
MG: We sat down and started brainstorming names and we were listening to a lot of Max B – classics. So the wave just felt right. We didn’t want to overthink it…
“Free Max B.”
After that we threw the first one in January of 2014 – 75 of our friends and family came out to that. We just kept going from there.
MP: What was the Boston music scene like when you first started The Wave four years ago?
MG: Four years ago Boston was just finally starting to make waves on the internet, coming off the heels of the hip-hop stuff from12 for 12… it was starting to get national attention from the big blogs like PnP, XXL. It was good to see early Stizz at that time, Michael Christmas, and a bunch of other people, too.
Around then, we were finally starting to see some of the acts breakthrough a level outside the Boston showcase circuit. It’s crazy to see where it is now. Five years ago a lot of people probably wouldn’t believe that Stizz would sell out the House of Blues (even though he might have told you otherwise). It has grown tremendously and it has been great to watch everything grow and mature so organically.
MP: How do you go about booking acts for the wave?
MG: I’m very tapped into music, I go to events in LA and New York so I see what people are listening to. A lot of my friends are DJs so I ask them what they are into. I’m really paying attention. I’m also digging on SoundCloud all the time. I talk to our crew, too, to see who they want to bring in – so it’s a balance between a lot of different factors.
MP: Why is curation important?
I think Boston gets a bad rap for not being “cool” and that’s not anyone’s fault. But there are people here who do know what a good vibe is and we throw events for them. A lot of other venues won’t bring the DJs that we bring in because it won’t fit their audience. There’s also a part of Boston that just wants to hear top 40 and that’s fine, but we do it for people who have an eclectic taste in music – we do it for them.
When I was 21, I didn’t have something like The Wave to come out to. If I did, who knows – cllctv.us could have started way earlier. The Wave is what it is because it’s a space for creatives to come together and chop it up, dance, have fun and hopefully create and build on some ideas. We want the next cool app to come from The Wave, the next dope event. We would like anyone working on something creative in the city to come. At the party there aren’t sections or VIP – it’s everyone in the same room on the same level.
Cllctv.us is for sure a passion project. It’s more of a service than anything. We are doing this because we know there are people who want something else that’s not always available in Boston.