Ham on Everything has been a staple of Los Angeles’ events scene since 2011, but a decade on, co-founder Adam Weiss is facing the new challenges of a COVID world. Even as he reminisces on humble beginnings and hard-earned successes, Adam’s looking to the future – and, as he tells David McCloud, it’s looking bright, sweaty and underground.
It’s 2014 and I’ve just walked into my first Ham On Everything event. I waited in line amongst other twenty-somethings in the middle of Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row to get into what seemed like a rundown, abandoned building. I flashed my phone to show my ticket to security, ascend the wooden steps, and turned into the jungle.
Everything felt larger than life. Similar to Alice’s experiences in Wonderland, I was immediately disorientated. Before entering the main room, I turned into a small bathroom that was transformed into a bohemian bazaar where any and everything was for sale. Walking through spilled Pabst’s Blue Ribbon and American Spirit smoke, I make my way to the almost full urinal and relieved myself next to a swaying peer. “It’s so fucking lit out there man,” he said as sweat dripped from his face. “Yeah bro, I just got here, can’t wait…”, I reply, but as I turn to him, I notice he’s vanished back into the acrid bazaar. After washing my hands, I maneuvered my way into the void. I’m in a packed, small warehouse with over 150 other peers, sweating profusely and looking towards a stage. DJing is Adam Weiss, the party thrower. His friend and co-founder, Romoface, whispers something in Weiss’s ear which prompts him to fade the music down and grab the mic. “Are y’all ready for our special guest?!” The crowd cheers. The stage turns black. Pitch black. Silence. And then…“Grove St. Party” comes on.
Weiss has been organizing events like this since 2011, providing a space for the youth to come out and express themselves. He hosts and curates a cavalcade of madness all while managing to maintain a safe environment for those participating. The parties are small, sweaty, and quintessentially underground. Longtime fans, affectionately known as ‘Hamily’, are compassionate youths who look to maintain safety and order within the chaos. The experience is communal because you feel you’re at an event that is so illuminating and exclusive that the crowd becomes more than just ‘peers’.
Memories like these are incredibly bittersweet to look back on. It seems like it might be a few years before I can experience anything like that again. At the core of Ham on Everything is a loving and dedicated community looking for a memorable experience. These crystalline memories are littered with images of sweaty embraces, blunt sharing, and a sense of oneness. The culmination of this feeling for me was the first LA Gives Back. The three-story, five-room carnival was truly one of the most fun nights of my life.“LA Gives Back” is a charity event hosted by all the LA event scenes that give 100 percent of its profits to the city’s various homeless charities, raising over fifty thousand dollars in 2018. Adam’s involvement is that of compassion. Living in Los Angeles, you, unfortunately, become accustomed to the homeless population that drapes the city akin to window dressing. When IHEARTCOMIX approached Weiss to be apart of ‘LA Gives Back’, he jumped at the opportunity.
The Los Angeles unemployment rate in Jan. 2020 was at 4.5 percent, skyrocketing to 21 percent in May. This significantly took a toll on the homeless population, and most moved to Skid Row. In addition to the location of my first HAM event, Skid Row is a homeless community in LA consisting of 4,000 to 8,000 residents in a two-and-a-half-mile radius. Over the past four years, “LA Gives Back” has raised approximately $190,000 to help the people find jobs, homes, and medical treatment. Due to the current restrictions and dangers associated with the pandemic, this event is unable to raise money when it is needed now more than ever. The ‘Hamily’ has been in a sort of limbo since the spread of COVID-19 and the rippling closure of live shows. There hasn’t been a HAM show since “LA Gives Back 4” in December 2019.
Being such a staple in the community, it’s difficult to not be able to go to a HAM party on the weekend to dance the night away; be it rap or a rave show. Alas, when I look back on the times I’ve attended any live show event, I realized that they were almost always thrown by Ham on Everything. Their growth has been gargantuan, from booking underground acts such as Father! and Lil Peep (RIP) to well-known acts such as Lil Uzi, Cam’ron, and Waka Flocka. This got me thinking about not only the future of Ham On Everything, but about its creator, Adam Weiss.
On Feb 5th, a sunny Friday afternoon, I video chatted with Adam about the ballooning of HAM, its future in the restrictive COVID era, and much more. The interview, lightly edited for content and clarity, is presented below:
David: Did you see HAM being as big as it is when you first started in 2011?
Adam: No not at all. That wasn’t my plan at all.
Things just worked out–
–organically, yeah. Before HAM I did another show series called, “Hipsters Who Heart Hip Hop”. I used to rap and also I used to be on drugs so every year, I’d be like, “Yo, this is the year. I’m gonna focus on this rap shit. I’m gonna buy beats from the right people, I’m gonna get features, do this and that” and I wouldn’t do shit. I would just get fucked up instead.
So when I was in jail in ’09, I was like, this time for sure, I’m gonna get sober. When I got out of jail, I went to rehab. Prior to that, I was living in Echo Park, going to hipster shows, going to noise bands in different gallery spaces. I was pretty disconnected from the hip-hop scene. So I started looking on MySpace. Before that, there used to be a lot of underground hip-hop shows where you go — this is a different era of hip hop — and not be able to go inside but you can hang in the parking lot and cypher. So I started going to where all the rap shows were so I could meet more rappers, and there were no cool rap shows anywhere. There was this theater/restaurant in Pasadena, the atmosphere was not cool, and I was just sitting there thinking, ‘this is fucking wack!’
I was doing more research so I’m hitting up emcees I knew in the scene — actually, like VerBs. I would ask him where the shows were at and there wasn’t much happening back then. So when I got out of rehab, I went back to Echo Park to stay in a sober living home, and when I left that I decided to throw my own rap shows. I went to these gallery spaces where I used to watch bands play, and before even building Ham On Everything, I’ve always wanted to be a part of ‘scenes.’ That Echo Park scene really knew me because I made myself a part of it before going to jail, because I would volunteer at the venues. For a while, I was making these vegan chickpea salad wraps and I’d go sell the wraps in front of the shows. It wasn’t like I needed to make money, it was just a way for me to be like, ‘oh, hey! There goes the dude from the shows who sells the chickpea wraps.’ I always just wanted to be a part of the scene. So the dude who ran the space in Echo Park knew me, the now-closed Echo Curio, and I asked him if I could throw a rap show there and he let me.
It’s interesting to see HAM’s growth but it still is ‘underground.’ In the past, you’ve said you like not having a website because it adds to the aesthetic of the event. Do you still like having that social secrecy?
Yeah, I like that. That’s cooler. Yeah, in its prime I could’ve sold Ham On Everything to GoldenVoice, or I could’ve started doing Rolling Loud before Rolling Loud. I got into this because it started with me playing music I wanted to play, but that turned into playing music and booking people that kids ten years younger than me want to hear. I grew up as an underground rap kid, so for me, I’m now in this position where I can help these kids out by — or me 15 years ago — giving them a space. Underground culture and DIY culture are why I do it.
Having to go to your shows and seeing the debauchery that happens and being a recovering addict; how do you manage to keep a level head while throwing these types of events?
Honestly, dude, when I’m throwing the events, I’m really wearing so many hats. I’m really working. I’m trying to DJ, I’m trying to host, and I’m trying to stage-manage; which is not easy with young rappers [laughs]. So I’m doing a lot of different shit; I’m so busy. As far as the debauchery, I like that DIY is about not policing people about anything. Age, gender, sex…I don’t want to police anybody. If people want to do some shit that’s not aligned with my values, that’s fine because I just care about people being able to express themselves in however that looks for them.
I noticed on your Twitter that you post a lot of food that you cook. Do you plan on releasing a recipe book?
No. But before HAM, that’s something I thought about doing. There’s a natural school of cooking in New York that focuses on natural recipes and vegan cooking. I thought about being a health food chef before starting HAM. So it’s something I’ve been into for a long time!
How long have you been vegan?
I’m not vegan but I stopped eating meat..damn, about 15-years-ago.
What prompted you to do that?
So 15-years-ago, I was on this medication called Accutane. It’s for acne, it was very popular 15-years-ago but it was very intense… like it made people commit suicide(?!), there were some weird-ass side effects about it but it was so intense that when I was on it, I had to get blood drawn every month. I had bad acne, and it took it away forever but I was 24-years-old and they told me I was at risk for heart disease. I just got off dope; I wasn’t sober yet but I stopped doing hard drugs and so I was eating a lot and getting a big belly and the doctors told me, ‘you’re at risk of heart disease at 24, you need to change your diet.’ So I tried a few different things, Dr. Atkins was a fad, I did that, I did all this shit. At the time, I had a live-in girlfriend and we went to Mexico and the last day we went to a restaurant and she made fun of me for getting a hamburger in Mexico and she said, “I bet you can’t go 30 days without eating meat,” and I went 30 days without eating meat. Then I went a little more than 30 days.
[Then] — my girlfriend’s Korean — and her dad was in town and wanted to meet for lunch. We had just eaten but suggested a Mediterranean restaurant and figured we’d just eat hummus. We go there and her dad doesn’t speak very good English, and neither did the waitress, and he tried to order a kabob with different types of meat but the waitress thought it was for all of us. So she came to the table with mad food with meat. But in Korean culture, eating together is really important, so I felt like if I didn’t eat with him he’d feel disrespected. So I ate the meat, I was already full, I haven’t eaten meat in like 40 days and it felt disgusting. I felt sick afterward. I felt like I needed to go home and brush my teeth to get rid of the dead animal… and since that day, I have not eaten meat.
Obviously, these times have changed things. As you said, you didn’t plan the large success of HAM, do you plan on the future of HAM? Where that’s going as far as these restrictions? Are you going to be doing virtual events in the future?
I’m not interested in doing a lot of digital events — which I know a lot of people are doing. I know a lot of people do that because they’re afraid their relevance will go away if they don’t. I’m not worried about that at all. I’m not going to throw parties until it’s safe again. Once it is safe again, I think people are going to be so excited to party it’s going to be a renaissance. Prior to COVID, I was getting kind of lazy. I wasn’t doing as many warehouse shows. I was doing shows at 1720 because it was easier to do — I can just walk in and everything’s already there. The venue at 1720 is fantastic, but a venue doesn’t feel like a warehouse. My plan is when it does come back, I wanna go back underground. I want to do small warehouses, sweaty… when things come back I wanna make it feel like 2012. I want to go back to my underground roots, back to the sweaty late-night warehouses.
You’re very interested in mental health and self-health, can you talk more about the Community Meetings in LA?
It really started when Lil Peep overdosed. That was such a big blow to the community. It made me realize the problem these kids have with opiates and depression. So we were like, ‘we need to give these kids something other than parties,’ and getting them together was a big part of it, but really there was this organization called EndOverdose and he does….uh….whats the name of the medicine if you’re overdosing….?
*he looks it up*
Narcan! Narcan’s amazing! Someone can literally overdose and then you spray this thing in their nose and they come back to life. It’s crazy! So we started doing these Narcan presentations because I wanted kids to know about it and how to use it so they can be safe. So that’s how Community Meetings came to be. But as far as my own self-health, that’s important. That’s the main thing I try to use my social media for. I want younger people to see that you can be somebody in the scene that does shit and it doesn’t have to be all about partying and doing drugs and fucking bitches or whatever, y’know? It doesn’t have to be all of that. You can also care about your mental health and actually put your mental health first before everything else.
What do you have planned for the rest of the day?
Later I’m going to go to the coffee shop and read. I have therapy at 6 p.m.
Yes. At first, I didn’t know how I felt about it but I kind of like it. I don’t know if I ever want to go back to regular therapy. It’s nice to do it from home. I feel the same connection with her as I did in person. We started in person, then when the pandemic hit we started doing it on FaceTime.
That’s awesome, man.
Then I’m probably going to make cauliflower rice risotto with shrimp and some garlic-y greens.
You gotta make that book man!
[Laughs] I should. Something I’m thinking about doing actually… So at Echo Park, on the weekends, there are mad vendors like crazy and you don’t need a license and I was thinking during the summer, every Sunday, I’ll set up there with vegan plate, and I’ll do something different every Sunday. I’m thinking about doing that. Y’know, why not?