Miami Stories

DJ Le Spam recalls how Miami’s Haitian music scene influenced his own career

Andrew Yeomanson, AKA DJ Le Spam, started his own band, Spam All-Stars, in the early 1990s.
Andrew Yeomanson, AKA DJ Le Spam, started his own band, Spam All-Stars, in the early 1990s. HistoryMiami

I was born in Montreal, Canada, on June 16, 1969.

My father is English and my mother is Venezuelan, and they ended up in Canada. I lived in Montreal until I was 7 and then we lived in the U.K., Tampa and Colombia, until I settled in Miami in 1990.

I came in January of 1990 to stay with my aunt here whom I’ve always been close with. I got a restaurant job a couple of weeks later. When I moved here I made the commitment to pursue music for 10 years.

My aunt lived in the Fontainebleau area, in this big, ugly apartment complex thingy she had just moved into. There was a utility closet, and that was my room. I had a bedroll, my stereo, turntable and a guitar, and I sat in there and did my thing for a year.

I found the local record spots. There was one on 97th Avenue, a place called White Rabbit where I got some Frank Zappa records. On Bird Road, there’s Yardbird Records. They had blues, jazz, funk, African, Latin, all kinds of stuff. I just kept feeding my taste, and at that point I was all over the map.

I would buy stuff, put it on the turntable, and learn as much as I could. Then, I went to school/hung out at Miami Dade College to learn and get the information, but I never took a test, never turned in a paper.

I would go, hang, and observe what I could, and certain teachers there I liked. I got some music theory, some classical guitar, and some jazz theory, just to be able to communicate. I could see and understand chords, but I wanted to know bonehead, basic music theory. After that I went off on my own and did what I could. That was my first year in Miami.

Then I met this guy at the T.G.I. Fridays, where I worked in the Miami International Mall. This busboy was a Haitian guy named Max Selesteen, and he found out I played guitar, so he wanted to get together and play. I started going over to his place and we got together once a week for a while.

I got really into his playing style, and I found some Haitian records that I started checking out. I already had a conception and familiarity with Haiti from when my family lived there in the 1950s. My mom always told me good things about Haiti, and I was curious about the music.

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Andrew Yeomanson, AKA DJ Le Spam, has been working in the Miami music scene since the early 1990s. HistoryMiami

After playing with him and listening to Haitian and Vodou records, I started thinking, “Is there a music with some combination of guitars and these Vodou drums?”

Then I walked into this venue on South Beach called Stephen Talkhouse. There was a band playing on stage, and they were doing just what I was fantasizing about. They had the voodoo drums, and other instruments, and it was really cool.

I was looking at it, and standing next to some Haitian guys there. And they asked me, “Do you play?” I said yes, and they asked me to play a gig with them two weeks later at the Marlon Hotel. It was totally wild.

Eventually I started my own band in ’93 or ’94 and called it Spam All-Stars. I’ve been working in the Miami music scene ever since. We recorded, toured and eventually got a Latin Grammy nomination. I saved money for the first time in my life, so I was able to put it down on my house here.

Now I make part of my living from playing in the band and I make a little money from being a DJ. We’ve basically kept it pretty steady for almost 10 years. I make about the same amount of money every year, and keep doing what I like to do. The venues come and go. At this point we’ve outlasted every single venue, with the exception of Churchill’s.

I had to have a name to DJ. I already had Spam All-Stars, and at that time (late ‘90s and early 2000s) there were a lot of French house DJs in Miami. I was just being goofy and called myself “le spam.”

Miami’s made of many, many sounds, and it always has been. There’s always going to be a million different intersections of things going on at any given time.

To me, I see every band as having its own unique mythology and texture. I think people look at our band scene here in Miami, and it’s fractured. Miami has had for many years a big experimental, outside music scene, and it goes way back. I think it’s almost a reaction to how slick music comes out of Miami.

Disco came from here. Then in 1980s it was the Miami Sound Machine, and these kind of bands that were creating a slick sound. Now the music we’re mostly known for is Pitbull and Rick Ross, and it’s slick.

But if you don’t really dig deep into the Miami scene you would never know that it’s there. It’s always been, since the ‘70s, a dance music town.

We’re in a real tropical environment and we’re in a place that’s very transient, very new — a place that’s not dwelling on the past very much, for good or bad. This creates a certain amount of energy in the people who live here. If I lived in another place, the music that I make would be totally different because you’re feeding off of everything around you when you create.

I think we have a deep genetic pool for creativity here, and we are all bouncing off of each other with this stuff. This goes for all the artists that I’ve worked with — whether in visual arts, choreography or theater. Each person is what makes Miami. I’m happy to be a part of it in some way.

This story was transcribed from an interview between Andrew Yeomanson aka DJ Le Spam, a local musician, and the HistoryMiami South Florida Folklife Center as part of a research project exploring the question “What Makes Miami Miami?” The Florida Folklife Program, a component of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, directed the project.

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