The Hone Collective | KRONIKA
Hone Collective is an independent magazine based out of San Francisco, CA. We serve to collaborate and create a space for doers, thinkers and creatives to share their narratives in the lifelong process of becoming and honing their craft. Our aim is to document the journey and the effort made in actualizing one’s dreams.
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KRONIKA

While We’re Here We Might As Well Dance

by. Jon Reyes

“earning fifteen hundred 4 an hour set is just straight up krazy 4 me like who da F am i if my dad was still here he’d be crying wit me…” read a status update on Kronika’s Facebook page. The sound selector had just wrapped up a show in Santa Cruz opening up for Swedish megaband Little Dragon. Overwhelmed with emotion after seeing the nights’ takehome cut, she took to the internets to express her raw, unfiltered, disbelief.

 

“I wasn’t trying to brag or anything when I wrote that,” she explained. “I was just speaking from the heart. I’ll never forget that moment.” As the number of likes on that status update swelled into the hundreds, it was evident no one felt she was bragging. Rather, friends and family alike were happy seeing her win.

 

These unforgettable milestones are happening more and more frequently for Angel Mercado. By day, Mercado works as a caregiver assisting an elderly woman with her special needs granddaughter. At night, she runs Los Angeles as “Kronika”, a DJ commanding dance floors throughout the city, and working as an A&R for Soulection, a record label dubbed as the “Sound of Tomorrow”. Her mixes are the soundscapes for thousands of listeners all across the globe.

 

Quezon City is one of the smaller cities that make up the bustling metropolis of Manila. It’s where Mercado grew up in a small apartment with her father and lola. Her dad was a pot dealer who played drums on the side. He’d invite other musicians to the house for jam sessions, exposing Mercado to music at an early age. “My dad was a pothead,” she laughs. “He would always have his homies over to jam and I was that little girl in the corner observing the experience.” While her living room stereo was tuned to the local soul station playing Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle and Bobby Caldwell, Mercado had to dig for more under the radar music to shape her musical upbringing. “I had homies that were into neo-soul and put me onto Erykah Badu and I just fell in love with it,” she reminisced. “I loved Miguel Migs. We would go to the beach and always play deep house.”

In 2003, Mercado left the Philippines and moved to Los Angeles. She began working as a word processor and a proofreader at an escrow company. Like most young people grinding in the office life, she constantly had music playing in her headphones to help the day pass. Noticing her passion for music, a coworker put Mercado onto imeem, a now-defunct social networking site that allowed users to interact by sharing music and music videos. She began posting under the handle “Kronika”, a tag she kept from her early days as a young Counter-Strike player, and started to develop a following. “I started making playlist after playlist for my own listening pleasure.” Mercado explained, “I uploaded almost 10,000 tracks!”

 

When imeem shut down in 2009, (“I LOST ALL MY TRACKS!” exclaimed Mercado) most of its users, jumped ship to a new music-sharing platform, Soundcloud. Here, Mercado found a new home to upload mixes that she made using a program called, Virtual DJ. “Honestly I was one of those bedroom DJs, I had my laptop and that’s it,” she recalled. “ My mixes were noob. They weren’t blended well because I didn’t know how to mix then.” Despite whatever technical flaws the mixes had, Kronika’s selection and ear for quality music garnered her a following. It wasn’t long before websites and brands began tapping her for guest DJ mixes, expanding her profile. One of these first guest mixes was for Sticky Sugar Shack’s “Nothin’ But Butter” series, a “honeycomb of soulful classic grooves inspired by love, hustle and struggle”.  The series featured DJs spinning soulful, jazz-inspired R&B and hip-hop. “That’s actually how I first met Joe,” she says, referring to Soulection founder Joe Kay. “I remember looking at the playlist for his guest mix and was like ‘This guy listens to the same shit I do!”’

 

During that time, Joe Kay was hosting Illvibes, a podcast started in his grandmother’s basement. Connected by a mutual friend, DJ Santana, she and Joe began trading music online and bumping into each other in the front row of shows around LA.  It was during one of the legendary Boombox parties when Joe first approached her about his idea for Soulection, bringing together like-minded artists and DJs with a shared passion for soulful electronic music. “He came up like, ‘I have this thing I want to do and I want you to be a part of it!’ I think he was drunk, you know, yelling in my ears,” she says laughing. “’I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I was like ‘Yeah!’” Soulection was still in its infancy. The crew was a trio, consisting of Joe Kay, 96 (artist Guillaume Bonte) and Andre Power. When Kronika joined, she was tasked with managing the group’s Facebook page. She and Joe would post tracks online and slowly build up Soulection’s fan base and web presence. “I remember our first Soulection night at Little Temple,” she recalls. “Only 30 people came out! ” Today, Soulection is a globally known brand, broadcasting to an audience of millions on Apple’s Beats 1 and making tour stops everywhere from London to Capetown.

Initially tapped as an A&R for the record label, Kronika began to learn how to DJ. “I never thought I would DJ,” she said. “I’m just like everyone else, a music lover.” But in February 2012, she made the leap from music lover to music provider by playing her first DJ gig. Andre Power invited her to spin for his monthly “Art in the Park” party in San Diego, and she got through the set without even having the proper equipment. “I didn’t have any controllers, I was just doing everything internally on Virtual DJ!” But the music was good. The people didn’t mind the simplicity of her setup and showed love. The experience was enough for her to catch the DJ bug, so she began to hone her craft.

 

Kronika spun parties throughout LA, developing her skills and cementing her reputation as a selector. In 2014, she got her big break playing Soulection’s 3-year anniversary party at Madave LA. The crew was expecting a capacity crowd and had two rooms of sound available in the venue. Kronika was given an early slot in the “B” room, a spot usually reserved for more inexperienced DJs. Motivated and hungry, she asked Joe Kay for a better timeslot. “I remember telling him, my set’s going to be the freshest. My set’s going to be the one people remember,” she recalls. “I wasn’t trying to sound cocky, but I have to speak up for myself otherwise he’s not going to give me a chance.” Her hard work and belief in herself paid off, as her set was one of the most talked about of the evening. The next day, Daddy Kev of Low End Theory, tweeted her, “Kronika, trying to book you for Low End”. Her set at Low End Theory started a chain of gigs leading to playing SXSW, Coachella, and opening up for Little Dragon.

 

“Anybody can wing their sets, but I like to prep my set because that’s what makes it more special,” Kronika says, explaining her approach to DJing. “That’s how you give back to the people that support you.” It’s that respect for her audience that distinguishes her from other DJs and keeps supporters rooting for her continued success. You can hear a lot of her personality in the way she programs her sets. She starts with a heavy emphasis on the intro track, setting the stage for where she’s going to take you. But what she chooses to play right after is just as important. “You have to keep it going, you can’t lose them,” she advises. From there, she focuses on mixing it up (“keeping it wavy”) while maintaining a good flow so the audience feels good, tweaking it or throwing in some surprises to make it unique, then finishing with an ending is just as memorable as the intro. While she’s a digger, discovering music far below the radar, she’ll also incorporate music in her sets you wouldn’t expect her to drop. The goal is bringing folks together to have fun. “I take pride in my musical knowledge, but I’m not gonna be a music elitist,” she explains. “I’ll throw in a ratchet song just so we can be silly together. It’s fun. As long as it moves us, then fuck yeah we’re gonna dance to it!”

Slider Image. Reggie Biala

Photos 1,3,4. Reggie Biala

Photos 2. Oli Sari-Goerlach