Having been around DJs for over 10 years now, I’ve seen hundreds of DJs come and go. What really interests me are those who keep at and make a career out of it. It seems these DJs get into it almost by accident. Do you think Ayres knew he’d be a professional DJ with 2 kids after graduating from Vassar in the late nineties? Did Herbert Holler, a big Jewish kid from AC, realize that he’d eventually DJ on BLS after pause mixing CDs at NYU frat parties? Yeah, those are two examples, but there’s so many more. Another interesting theme is when the love of the music you initially drew you to DJing conflicts with the music that you get paid to play. Do I keep grinding at $150 all-nite gigs or play Kesha at a douche-fest and make 5 bills plus? When does it become strictly a job?
I’ve witnessed Roc’s journey into this DJ world firsthand… from DC battle DJ to Lab DJ to Bottle Service DJ to Vegas / Miami headliner to writer/skater in exile to being sucked back in it…
Roc and Ross One (another headliner DJ) released a mix entitled Notorious Party Boy Soundtrack (download / CD details at the end of the interview). Roc is one of the finest technical DJs out there, but what really got me about this mix is that he seemed to solve the quandary of love music and money music. You’ll hear Moz nestled up against Katy Perry, Gaga mashed with classic house… but it all seems to make sense. Did he figure it all out? Let’s find out.
i thought you were through with club dj circuit, what happened?
On a personal level I am totally through with it. I didn’t work at all for 6 months at the end of which I realized I had to move out of my one bedroom and get roommates and a shitty job or start djing again. So I started djing again. I’m not passionate about it the way a 25 year old is but I try and do the best job I can, and I enjoy the mechanics of the job, but I really don’t want to be a working dj for that much longer.
seems like every DJ struggles with the mass appeal vs. personal aspect of djing. you seem to solve that dilemma within this mix… any revelations in the last couple years?
A couple years ago, I found myself single for the first time in 4 years. And this was around the same time I was really gearing up to change the direction my career was going. And I hit a wall really quickly—I was not meeting any hot girls at like ‘music’ oriented events. I met like one fine girl at a techno party but she came over and literally wanted to listen to my disco records. I was trying to fuck, and she’s trying to get turned onto new music. What a nightmare!
So, clubs are about getting laid, sex should always be first music second. I always knew this, but I had to be reminded of how little ass there is at anything where people really ‘care’ about the music. And that is really why this mix exists, because the music scene is a vaginal wasteland. It’s basically let’s make a fun mix of music we like, but still in line with what girls we’d want to bang will ‘get’… Sex first music second. Like do you think I would have done this mix if Flashing Lights was swarming with girls that I want to bang?
the big club dj gig seems pretty cushy: someone booking your gigs and travel plans, djing big clubs, big checks… what’s it really like on a day to day, monthly, yearly basis?
There is only one word that describes it for me and it’s Lonely. Your always alone, because that’s the only way it makes economic sense. And Flying all the time is really hard on your body, and it’s not like you go on a little tour, It never ends. You just go and go and go and go. Ross spends more time traveling than he does at home; It is really a job. It’s a good job that pays really well, but it’s a job you do by yourself that requires you to travel constantly. And the people you encounter, we have a running joke about Hummers. Like if Ross or I is playing somewhere in the south or west, we set odds on whether the club owner is going to pick us up in a Hummer or not. 75% chance of hummer, 38% chance of hummer, etc etc. We are playing places that are doing bottle service which means that the owners generally are people that have bought into this idea that money is the be all and end all, and can justify their existence. Not all of the owners or people that book us are like this but a lot of them are and they are a trying bunch. Then add drugs and booze into the picture… It’s a job, it’s a great job that pays really well, but it’s not an easy one to get. Anyone you see doing it that is not some form of celebrity, has worked just as hard as any lawyer or doctor to get where they are. Only we don’t have a piece of paper that says we put in the hours, we just did it, and hoped for the best. It’s a hard job that not a lot of people can do. If you think you’re a good dj and could do what we do, I assure you, you can not. Maybe you have the potential, but I don’t think people have any Idea what this takes.
i can’t imagine you working with someone on a mix like this, what was that like? what did you guys do individually on the mix or was everything done together?
We made lists of songs separately then a month later we met and basically had the same list. So I went to Miami for a week and we sat on his couch and we laid the whole thing out. He did two sections and I did two sections but we both had input on each others parts and we had to line them all up flawlessly, so I would design my little set to end where his started. We didn’t have any real ego clashes, Ross is pretty easy going and I’ve sorta calmed down, so it went really smoothly.
technically, this mix is intricate and clean. how did you record it with? how long did take. were the mixes planned/spontaneous.
I made a top 40 cd maybe 6 years ago where all the mixing was done in ableton then I went over it and added scratching to give it texture and life. As far as I know, it was the first of it’s kind. Sure people had made mixes in ableton, but mine was the first open format one that was made this way. This cd and it’s sequel were the main reason I started getting so much work out of town. People loved them, because they really were, at the time, better than any body else’s CDs. So i’d get booked and then on top of them liking the cd in person I was good too. And I built a reputation on quality, not my winning personality.
Anyway, that’s the same formula we used on this, ableton, flourished with live scratching. We were painstaking in getting the best sound we could (using mp3s too lazy to use aiff or wave) out of ableton and reducing the warbles. And I think it’s the best of the three commercial mixes i’ve done. Time wise, it was a full week of 14 or more hour days compiling and getting the track listing right, then a few hours of recording scratching. We did this with an engineer because on the last cd I made with cuts on it, I spent 5 hours working on one 20 second patch, of scratching. SO because I was paying someone this time I got it all done in 4 hours.
Anyway, doing a mix this way is totally different than doing one live, the whole process is different. But it’s still not like we’re producing, I never want a mix to sound produced, or like too cut and paste ish. It still needs to sound like a mix, just a mix on adderall and PCP.
you’re probably the best dj i’ve heard mixing rock records, any tips to aspiring DJs?
Everything I do, I’ve coped from Stretch and Riz or Eli. Hearing them taught me how to do it. I think I do it in a way that is more reckless and less clean than those guys, which I think when it works it really works, but bombs too. I think rock is one of those things that more than a dj’s skill, it’s about taste. Rock & Roll really is about being cool, in a way that top 40, hip hop, or house is not. You have to get why it’s not ok to play some songs, and you have to break rules too. Listen to all those cliches from the movies about the 70s, all that Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs shit. and approach it with that attitude, that I don’t give a fuck thing. I’d rather play Fall Out Boy than Iggy Pop, in this day and age Iggy Pop feels more typical and homogenized than Pete Wentz
any parts of the mix that you’re particularly proud of?
I think all of it, but I like the weird gay section that goes into Van Halen. That’s the best mix, Small Town Boy into Panama. It makes 0 sense but makes total sense and changes the direction flawlessly. It was just a strange, hum maybe this will work moment I had, and it did…
can’t believe that’s the first time I heard that Gary Numan track on a mix. What made you pick it?
It’f funny Ross had it on his list too and I have no Idea why he did, but I had it on mine cause it was in I think the Girl and Antihero tour video, and I was like oh shit, forgot about this song it’s really dope. Panama was in a Crail Tap video too, Hi Fives up the I Five, maybe this is just a skate video music mix?
you end with Stone Roses and Weezer…
Well the stone roses is a nod to two things. Two years ago during fashion week it was the last song at Sway on a Sunday night, a party that influenced a few of the tracks near the end of the mix. Anyway this particular night was just insane, and so many people were going nuts and singing along to it. Then I was at Lloyd and Eli’s summer party at Roberta’s and they ended with it there too and it was the same kind of feeling. I used to play it a lot at Marquee, at the rock night I used to do, and it’s not like I copied it, it’s just a classic Rock night ender in NY. Ross really wanted to use the Weezer somewhere and we could not fit it in. And I was like wouldn’t it be funny if we made it like a hidden track? But instead of some lesbian poetry like the Roots out of nowhere a great Weezer song?!
Ross One is a pretty quiet guy in person, what’s he really like?
He is a pretty quiet guy. He’s like super sensible and down to earth, works really hard and makes good decisions. Like basically the total oppisit of me. His apartment is all nice and well decorated and he’s got nice clothes and furniture and stuff. He’s really good at djing and all the club people love him, he knows how to navigate that world in a way I really can’t. So yea he’s normal and nice except for when we went to Paris and he was hammered and got in a fight and shit.
STOP BY THE NY OR LA STORE TO PICK UP A FREE CD COPY OF THE MIX (while supplies last)