I met DJ Intel in 2010 at Bad Meaning Good, a monthly trashy movie night at the Burlington that he hosted with fellow DJ Jarrett Spiegel. In the years since, I’ve frequently run into Intel (real name Jason Deuchler) at hip-hop shows and horror movie screenings, and I’ve ended up at plenty of concerts and festivals where he performed. He seemed so ubiquitous that I sometimes wondered if I’d hallucinated him! Since March, there’s been another way to see Deuchler on the regular: he and Bric-a-Brac Records owners Jen Lemasters and Nick Mayor opened the Brewed, a horror-themed coffee shop in Avondale.

As told to Leor Galil

I guess I’ve always been a B-movie, Godzilla, Universal monsters fan since I was a kid, through my dad, who used to show those to me. My dad is also a music fan, but it’s weird, it’s more on the musical-theater side of things—I grew up listening to musicals and that kind of stuff. And then my brother got turntables when he was in junior high, and I gravitated from my interest in movies and music into DJing.

My brother got turntables, and I used to get home from school before him—it was one of those, like, “Hey, don’t touch my turntables. Stay out of my room.” I would go into his room and DJ until I heard the back door open at the house; I would quickly shut everything down and go back into my room and pretend I wasn’t in his room DJing. Eventually, I started buying my own records, and he was like, “Oh, you can use them, it’s fine.” Then I found a pair of turntables—which I still have to this day—at a pawn shop, and the rest is kind of history. 

A couple of my friends and I formed a crew called Chicago Tribe—we used to throw parties for 17-and-over kids, and the first one was in Forest Park at this place called the Playhouse, which is no longer there. 

We used to throw hip-hop jams out in Forest Park, and all these kids would hop on the CTA or buses and come out from the city to the Forest Park, Oak Park area. And then we slowly moved into the city—Chicago Tribe was a thing, and then that went away. Spryte from that crew and I formed Platter Pirates, which was a turntablist crew, and then did that for a few years. I’m still DJing to this day.

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One of DJ Intel’s pandemic sets, livestreamed in August 2021

In the 90s, a majority of the parties we threw in the city were in Humboldt Park or Logan area—it was a much different time back then. I had a full-time job at a bookstore out in Oak Park, and other friends in the crew had jobs too. We would take our money, walk into a banquet hall, and be like, “How much to rent this place on a Friday night?” And they’d be like, “$400.” “Great, here’s $400, cash.” 

We would have a date, we’d make a bunch of flyers, and then we’d bring our own sound equipment and DJ equipment. They’d unlock a door. We’d charge money at the door and throw a hip-hop party. We did that successfully for many, many years. That’s how I know a lot of people in the Chicago hip-hop scene.

Jesse de la Peña was still doing that kind of stuff. DJ PNS from the Molemen—the Molemen in general were throwing parties. Kanye and those guys from the south side, all the Nacrobats and all those dudes. I know them all from doing underground hip-hop parties. 

I had friends who were also in the rave scene—I was going to underground raves at the same time. So we’d do a hip-hop party on a Friday or Saturday and then go to a rave afterwards. People responded pretty well. The people from our starting scene—the Forest Park, Oak Park area, the Schiller Park area, that kind of thing—some of them migrated into the city, some of them did not. We were definitely the outside kids coming into the city, but we started throwing enough parties where people just didn’t care anymore, and we became a cohesive thing.

The Brewed’s decor is steeped in horror—Jason Deuchler is standing in front of a re-creation of a mural from Candyman’s lair in the original film, and he’s checking out a sandworm from Beetlejuice built for the shop’s Halloween party earlier this month. Credit: Steven Piper for Chicago Reader

[In the early 2000s] the anti-rave act was passed, and they started shutting down doing illegal or banquet-hall style parties. That’s when I kinda started doing more legal venues that had actual proper licensing.

Abbey Pub was a big home for a lot of shows, over on the northwest side. Threw a lot of shows there. SubT was definitely a good spot. We did the original Lava Lounge on Damen and then also the second home of Lava Lounge on Milwaukee. We did Rodan for a long time. Just wherever we could find spots that would let us do it, we would do it.

Horror was always in the background. Fangoria magazine used to have a thing called Weekend of Horrors, so I was going to those conventions. Svengoolie has always been a part of my life since I was a kid. People always tend to think horror is a rock ’n’ roll, heavy-metal kind of scene, but there’s also the Gravediggaz, Flatlinerz, and some of that—I guess, for lack of a better term, “horrorcore rap.” I’ve always been a fan. Dr. Octagon, that sort of stuff.

[Whether somebody’s part of the horror fandom is] one of those things that you don’t really know until you start talking to [them]. But DJ Risky Bizness, he’s a Chicago guy, he’s a huge horror fan—he’s definitely into it. Matlock is a local rapper who’s into horror. The more you talk to people, the more you find out.

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Jason Deuchler assembled this show reel to promote his work as a cinematographer.

A little-known fact, but I also went to film school at Columbia College Chicago; I’m a real Columbia College four-year graduate with a concentration in film and cinematography. So I do cinematography work. I’ve also shot some horror shorts and some horror films.

I worked on The Unborn—I was a camera PA. I’ve done some stuff for First Jason, which is Ari [Lehman]—if you’ve ever seen Friday the 13th, Ari is the Jason who jumped out of the water at the end of the movie. He lives in Chicago, and he has a band called First Jason. I’ve done some music videos for him. I worked on a pilot for a Chicago ghost show with him that’s still in marketing or whatever they’re trying to do with it. I’ve done some horror shorts with One Tear Productions with my friend Kevin Epperson as the director. I’m always looking to do new things I haven’t done before.

A view of cases full of horror memorabilia at the Brewed, next to a television displaying the pumpkin from the Silver Shamrock ad in Halloween
If you can see the Brewed’s TV and not immediately get the Silver Shamrock jingle stuck in your head, then you definitely haven’t seen Halloween III. Credit: Steven Piper for Chicago Reader

I was working at this place called Creepy Company, which is a Chicago-based horror-themed [brand]—they do T-shirts and home goods. Jen [Lemasters] from Bric-a-Brac was also working there, and we became pretty good friends. We used to carpool together. We would stop for coffee on the way to the old office, and she would always say, “Hey, I always wanted to open a coffee shop that’s monster themed.” I was like, “That’s totally awesome—whatever happens, I will be your barista. I will work there.” 

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WGN-TV uploaded this feature on the Brewed in May 2022.

Once lockdown happened, DJing stopped. Jen had left Creepy Company at that point. She was doing merchandising for bands—like, working at venues selling T-shirts—and that shut down. Nick [Mayor] was working for a restaurant, and that closed, so he lost that job. We decided, “Hey, if this ever goes back to normal and the world opens up again, we should do that coffee-shop thing.” So while we were in lockdown, we put into motion a plan to open up this horror-themed coffee shop. And that’s the Brewed.

It’s been about six months, and I enjoy every day I go in there. I hadn’t worked a person-to-person retail sort of job in a really long time, so I really enjoy having regular customers and talking to random strangers on a daily basis. I still love coffee, and I love making coffee drinks. Somehow it’s magically worked out.

It gets a little hectic sometimes. That 7 AM opening shift can be real difficult when you’ve DJed till three, but you make the best of it. I’m doing what I love, so you do what you gotta do.