“I’ve always been seeking out exploratory music,” says Santino (or Sonny, like in The Godfather) Romeri, a Golden Hill–via–Chula Vista experimental beat musician (Illuminauts), promoter, and overseer of boutique vinyl and cassette label Kill Quanti.
“I’d run my tape player into my guitar pedals and play Lee Scratch Perry through it. I’ve also been into R&B since I was really young. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I picked up a sampler and ran it through my pedals, and I’ve been refining my style ever since.”
That style has come to include nods to noise (Romeri cites Per Mission, Soul-Junk, and Three One G Records), hip-hop, and ambient music.
“Generally, we’ll have a few samples and a key, some changes, but it’s loosely structured,” says Romeri, a 26-year-old web and graphic designer by trade. “There’s a good amount of improvisation. We take cues from free jazz, where there’s a theme but everyone’s doing their own thing.”
Equipped with SP404 samplers, synths, loop stations, effects boxes, and turntables, Romeri (former guitarist of Get Back Loretta) and a rotating cast, including Nicky Castañeda and David Peña, have shared the stage with Zach Hill, Dhani Harrison (George’s son), and Subtle (Doseone).
“It’s been a slow start,” says Romeri, “but now there’s a big local audience [for beat music], which is what I’m focusing on right now.”
Romeri’s recorded repertoire includes a track for an Adidas commercial (“Southern crunk meets a J Dilla vibe”) with Soul-Junk’s Glen “Galaxy” Galloway, stray CD-Rs from shows, and a glow-in-the-dark Illuminauts seven-inch split release with Single Screen Records
“Kill Quanti has been this growing idea for about two years now. Booking and bringing the beat scene to San Diego — Gaslamp Killer, Teebs, Strangeloop, Schlomo, Ras G — anybody exploratory with electronics. Stuff I really believe in.”
Kill Quanti is set to assassinate with a pending ten-inch vinyl split of local’s eLan (a Critical Beatdown resident soon to tour Europe with Modeselektor’s label Monkeytown) and DJ Pound, who was recently sampled by D-Styles at Los Angeles’ renowned Low End Theory weekly showcase.
“San Diego is legendary for its music,” says Romeri. “I want to keep that legacy going.”
Illuminauts play with Dam Funk and Matthewdavid on November 4 at the Casbah.