'In a good club, and even in most bad ones, the dancers are celebrating their youth, their energy, their sexuality. They are worshipping life through dance and music. Some worship with the heightened levels of perception that drugs bring; but most are carried away by the music and the people around them. The DJ is the key to all this. By playing records in the right way the average DJ has a tremendous power to affect people's states of mind. A truly great DJ, just for a moment, can make a whole room fall in love.' --from the introduction to Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: the History of the DJ, by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton
I grew up around music, and around musicians; there was a spinet piano in my maternal grandparents’ living room and an upright grand in my mother’s foyer. My mother is a classical pianist who also played the flute, the clarinet, and stringed instruments in her youth. My grandfather had been a saxophonist. My grandmother dabbled in piano. My uncle played trumpet and piano.
My mother attended college to become a music teacher, and when she recognised my talent and love for music—she insists I was a prodigy, and I supposed she’d know, though I always bristled at being labelled one--she and my grandparents enrolled me in music theory and piano lessons straightaway, when I was five or six. I began learning the recorder in second grade, the saxophone in third, the clarinet in fourth, percussion throughout, and as a teen, picked up a little bit of electric bass, though I’ve never been particularly good at it. I played in my schools’ concert and jazz bands and occasionally in my friends’ rock bands, and also became something of a rapper/poet along the way. I almost attended Berklee College of Music in Boston (funding foiled me), and was a week away from joining the Marine Corps band (I decided upon Army intelligence instead). In my twenties I played in a couple rock bands (keyboards), a Prince tribute band (keyboards, lead and backing vocals), and a jazz/R&B ensemble (clarinet and keys).
Music was my lifeblood, because it was my family’s. I listened to country, soul, and funk in the car with my grandparents; my grandfather listened to blues when alone, and my grandmother preferred Seventies AM radio. My mother would often play the piano for hours; in watching for how shoulders relaxed and her posture changed throughout a session, in observing relief and an absence of stress in her face afterward, the reassertion of some sense of joy, I learned how cathartic performance can be, as well as how energising listening is.
LPs and 8-tracks, and later, cassettes, were throughout the house, and my family was happy to buy more as I requested them. Nana turned me onto Sam Cooke, Chicago, and the Jacksons; (Grand) Daddy turned me onto Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Satchmo; Mom turned me on to Michel Legrand, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, and Prince, and brought me to Luv Bug Starski and Run-DMC concerts.
I went to an all-white school, and absorbed all ‘their’ music; and eventually realised that I understood and appreciated much more than most of my peers, and that through DJing, could earn enough money to at least keep purchasing music for my own entertainment… As my talents improved and my tastes broadened, I realised that DJing was a delight in its own right, and as noble an avocation or profession as any… I DJed in the army, in college, and wherever I could, no matter how rude my equipment, happy to share my love of, and increasing skills manipulating, music…
A monthly gig in NYC where I'm allowed creative freedom within whatever genre the club promotes. And endorsements.
I would love to be the DJ who warms up the crowd for Kelly and Michael, or for Steve Harvey's show, that sort of thing.
It depends upon the details, the how and why, but Trent Reznor, Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Nicole Moudaber, Carl Cox.
I know I'm doing well when people are dancing, smiling, living, and I'm forgotten. There’s electricity in the air, people calling out, people allowing themselves release, ecstasy. It's the highest compliment. People are quick to tell you your performance sucks; they praise you with their feet, their hips, their smiles and the emotion that engulf us all.
Accessibility. Adaptability. Versatility. Flexibility. Humour. Good taste. Peace of mind.
Prince, Ani Difranco, Jay Z, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Immortal Technique, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Hiromi Uehara. Outliers; pioneers; precedent-setters, truth-seekers, legends.
Carl Cox, DJ Rap, DJ Baby Anne, Q*Bert, Jazzy Jeff, Satoshi Tomiie, Moby, Dr Dre, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash Pioneers, every one, and each the best at what s/he does.
Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Jimmy Carter, Dr Charles Drew, Matthew Henson, Dr Marie Curie, Muhammad Ali, Nikola Tesla. When the world experienced each one, a paradigm shift occurred: each was a force for social change and for more inclusive thinking. The last two are my mother and my late maternal grandfather. I have to mention my daughter, too, because shw was certainly a paradigm shift for me.
I need to be able to enjoy it all--even if I won't play it all--so that I know how to best delight my party-goers.
According to Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: the History of the DJ, by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, the first DJ was Reginald A. Fessenden, who, on Christmas Eve 1906, ‘...sent uncoded radio signals—music and speech—from Brant Rock near Boston... (probably Clara Butt) singing Handel’s Largo.’
Access to healthcare and clean water for everyone.
Yes: it's why I like experimental, glitch, ambient, atmospheric, and noise rock music as well as everything else. I hear music in the child's wail, in the garbage truck's growl, in the purr of a sports car's engine. Music is the sound of life being lived.
I've probably had well over a hundred jobs, in part because I always had at least three at a time from age sixteen onward. Among other things, I've been a telemarketer, landscaper's assistant, a key maker, a print shop worker, a US Army soldier, a bellhop, a driver, a dishwasher, a car salesman, and sold lingerie, wedding dresses, and men's suits in a department store.
Dreaded, unedited, hard-headed and
Talented, personable, opinionated, absent-minded, musical, even-tempered, and accessible
It's largely mood-driven, although I usually listen to trance or ambient/chillout when going to bed. Most of the time I'm mixing, practising, and then listening critically to my finished product. In the car, when not checking my mixes, I listen to NPR, or R&B and hip hop or pop with my daughter, or classic rock and modern rock. I have a real soft spot for prog rock and metal, and will listen to that on long highway drives or when on my bike. It just depends...
Only in that the music YOU don't like is bad and the music that you DO like is good. It's subjective. 'Practicing an art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for goodness sake.' --Kurt Vonnegut
I can't make them dance if they don't want to dance. But if they're actively listening and receptive to what's going on, all I need to do is play what they like, and what they might like, my way, and enjoy it myself.
Sara Teasdale's 'There Will Come Soft Rains'; Yeats' 'A Prayer for My Daughter'; Gloria Douglas Johnson's 'Common Dust'
The great misunderstanding is that it's easy, that anyone with an iPod or CDJ or turntable can achieve the results we professionals do, that it's all about button-pushing or playing from YouTube.
Artists are making themselves heard through any media they can, making the Internet work for them, eliminating the middlemen and dealing directly with the hungry fans to whom their music appeals.
Every form of popular music originating in the Americas--country, folk, soul, funk, hip hop, jazz, blues, rock and metal, reggae--has its roots in black culture, and black culture has its roots in Africa (as do we all).
I would have loved to be a clubgoer or DJ during the heyday of Studio 54 in the Seventies; or at the Roxy in NY in the early 80s as hip began its climb to dominance. I would have gone to the Covent Garden Theatre, London in 1832 to see Nicolo Paganini perform, or to the Vocalion studio with Robert Johnson in 1936 to listen as he recorded his legendary songs.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” ―Mark Twain
“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” ―Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back
“I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” ―Malcolm X
“What do you think? I'm not a starfish or a pepper tree. I'm a living, breathing human being. Of course I've been in love.” ―Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
“Whatever the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth--whether it existed before or not.” ―John Keats
“I'm very much aware I can't think. I'm a poet.” ―René Daumal
“This city belongs to ghosts, to murderers, to sleepwalkers. Where are you, in what bed, in what dream?” ―Marguerite Yourcenar
"If we don't believe in freedom of speech for those we despise, then we don't believe in it at all." --Noam Chomsky
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but–I hope–into a better shape.” -Charles Dickens
"...because one day, maybe one day, if I learned how to write clear enough, sing loud enough, I could explain myself in a way that made sense and then maybe one day...someone out there would hear and recognise her or himself and I could let them know that they are not alone." -Charlotte Eriksson
Yes. But I won't bore you with it, unless you ask. I've been doing this since 1988 - from big weddings to little parties, to vernisages, to dodgeball tournaments, to clubs. I love what I do. And I've done a lot of it. And I'm always excited about the next moment for me and music to intersect.BACK TO TOP