Where are you from and how long have you been DJing?
-I was born in small town in Oregon, but my adoptive family brought me to live here in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was still a baby. Apparently, a basketball player (my adoptive parents aren’t sports fans, so I’m missing a few details,) flew me here and handed me off to them at the airport, and Utah has been home ever since. I started DJing about 16 years ago. My cousin was doing mobile gigs in a small town so when he had an event, everyone came out. The place was always packed; it blew me away. He invited me to lift his gear for him, and I was hooked. I picked up my first mixer from Radio Shack with a pair of Numark CD players, and a huge heavy coffin. I found myself playing at school parties, and even weddings within a year. I eventually moved to vinyl in 2003 shortly after I picked up my high school internship with KUUU. I was sifting through crates for years, and eventually the records started coming to me in the mail at the station from the labels. I’m on Serato now, but I definitely did my time carrying crates from party to party.
Who has been your biggest influence in your life?
-My father has been one of my biggest influences. He’s got a hell of a work ethic, he never complains and just goes and goes and goes. Growing up, he was nothing but supportive. He bought me my first mixer and drove me to a lot of my first gigs. Whenever I play somewhere I can invite my parents, they do their best to be there and it’s really exciting for me because they don’t know much about the industry and I try to keep in mind what they would want to see and hear. If I had to pick a celebrity, it would be Walt Disney for a lot of the same reason. Insane work ethic, sees no as a challenge. Musically, I can’t answer that question without including E-Flexx. He pushed me to go way further than I would have done by myself and was always the first the offer tips and tricks. He was the one who really taught me the business side of the business. A lot of my musical style reflects what he does. He is big on working in 70’s funk and Motown stuff, and I try to incorporate a touch of old school in everything I do.
How is it being on three radio stations like KUUU, KUDD, and KURR?
-Well, I’ve been doing this now for over half my life, so for me it feels super comfortable. I have to stop and remind myself sometimes that my job isn’t your average job. Every day is something totally new, you never know who is going to stop by or what you’re going to be involved in. Those moments make me feel incredibly lucky though. Being a part of different stations is largely helpful to me as a DJ. One of those stations is a rhythmic station and turns songs over like crazy, so it pushes me to stay sharp and keep up with the music trends. The other two are top 40, so my crossover in the genre of songs I use in my sets is very open. It keeps me very broad in my selection, and makes it possible for me to mix in songs that aren’t typical to the club scene. It’s also exciting to get to know all the artists we play on a personal level; it’s a lot easier to break new artists after you’ve met them face to face and know them personally before their music really blows up. I take a lot of pride in knowing I was there when they were getting their start.
How did you link up with the Plain White T’s?
-This is actually a great example of what I was saying earlier. I was working as the Promotions Director for KUDD, and we were the first radio station in the country to play “Hey There Delilah”. As a thank you, Plain White T’s did a radio tour and stopped to see us in Salt Lake. I worked alongside them and got to know them there, and ended up working closely with them over the years for subsequent shows they did in Salt Lake City. Then, recently, KXRK (where I am currently the Promotions Director, is anyone else seeing a trend?) was the first radio station in the country to play their newest release, “Pause.” When we started to build out there show, we asked them if they wanted us to grab any local talent or smaller bands as their opener, and because we had interacted enough times for them to know a little about what I do, they asked if I would be interested in opening for them. I was totally stoked and had a blast touring with them. Their crowds bring a tangible energy that you can really feed off of.
How do you feel about DJ Battles?
-I have a respect and an appreciation for DJ battles. Where that style of DJing isn’t my main focus, I don’t participate much in them, but I recognize the skills it takes to do them well. I could watch battle videos for days.
Do you embrace the evolving technology in the DJ world?
-I do. I think the technology is really fascinating, and I think it takes a very intelligent person to use the technology tactfully; not let it use you. I was lucky enough to carry crates of vinyl and put needles to records, so nothing will ever replace that. But Serato has been a huge game changer and I am super grateful for that. I am crazy impressed with all the different controllers and the amount of effects that we have at the touch of a button. Because of that, you can see where the burst of new DJs have come from. I feel like you really have to learn your roots and appreciate where DJing has come from to ultimately be successful though. My favorite DJs use a combination of midi controllers and turn tables. Looping and tone play have always been around, but the way they are accomplished is so different now; in a way you’re taking some of the mastery out of turn tables, but at the same time you’re bringing in an entire new skillset to master and utilize. The technology really is incredible. Everyone can be a dj now, but what sets good DJs apart is playing the effects instead of letting them control what you’re doing. Your style needs to be more than just your music selection with a few effects laid over top. I don’t really use a lot of effects. I could, but I don’t. The way technology has changed has definitely made my radio edits much smoother and cleaner. And in that format, nothing is more important than smooth and clean blends.
How do you feel about laptop DJs?
-Uh, what’s the point? Apparently I am more against it than I like to admit. I like to try to support everybody in the industry and be positive, and I get that there might be a time and a place where they work (House parties, maybe weddings) but otherwise, I feel like it just isn’t the whole experience and really limits the skillset.
How do you feel about independent artists compared to majors when playing on radio?
-They don’t always go over well in this market. But it’s a DJ’s job to help break those independent artists and help give them a chance. I was really proud when we broke Dolla, but right as he got signed, RIP. That was heartbreaking. Tech N9ne is another one. He is pretty mainstream now, but he is someone we have been championing for a long, long time. I will say that some Independents I’ve interacted with tended to be a little cockier; one thing they need to know is how to do business like there is a corporation behind them. They need to know how to have a press kit together and how to interact professionally and the protocol for their events. I also think the independent acts can be bigger game changers than labels. They have more freedom to express themselves and explore and create, and I feel like they are the ones changing what radio is. It’s when they get picked up that the industry starts to incorporate that change, so the independents really play a crucial role in the industry overall.
What, in your opinion, makes a great DJ?
-I think a good DJ can move a crowd and recognize the type of audience they are playing for and then play for that crowd. Their set isn’t heavy with technology but still has a unique style and song selection. And a good DJ isn’t cocky. It’s someone who does something that people want to be a part of. Their attitude before and after they start playing is part of the act.
What advice would you give someone who aspires to be like you?
-Some of the best advice I ever got is don’t play stuff you don’t like. Sure, you have to play for your audience, but when I started out I was catering so much to people that I was miserable, and that came across in my sets. Once I started playing things that I liked and found that balance between me and the crowd, I started playing better sets and getting gigs that I really enjoyed. That in itself has moved me further in the industry than anything else.
-Be patient. Learn your roots. Be yourself, and support each other. We are all ultimately working for the same thing. And then stick with it. If you’ve got an image or a logo or whatever is going to define you as an artist, push those as far and wide as you can. Incorporate other sides of you into your image so people can get to know you and share interests with you. I incorporate my nerdy side into what I do all the time. Oh, and DJ in front of a mirror. Get a feel for what you look like and how you do things. Ignore people who tell you not to do that; it isn’t cocky to watch yourself, it’s thorough. You are creating your image, so understand yourself from all angles.
Where can we find you?