There are many reasons DJs choose their craft: Some do it for the love, some do it for the fame, some for the money and some for reasons too unsavory to mention. Most, of course, do it for a combination of those. DJ ALIAS is a special breed though. While some of us are striving to have our names up in lights or to earn a bazillion ‘likes’ on our Facebook fan pages, DJ ALIAS directs his turntable superpowers and Hip Hop knowledge towards a more noble, more respectable cause: Our youth. (I’ll let the man tell you more about that himself below.)
This Saturday (4/28) you can catch the man DJing at the 2012 Tucson High Unity Festival (<-Click for more info).
You can also keep up with his upcoming gigs and check out some of his mixes and podcasts here:
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hmmm let’s see. I’m 28 years old. Single. Retired stock broker (how much money can you make, really?). I like to work out two or three times a day…ok scratch that. I’m most definitely a family man. My little girl and my wife are my life. About to turn 40 in June. I work in the IT field as a systems analyst at the University Of Arizona. I’ve been a fan of Hip Hop since about ’84 or so and that’s really where I picked up the love of DJing. I started as a DJ around 1995 and really stayed a bedroom DJ until just a few years ago. In the past few years I’ve finally stepped out and I now spin the occasional club or bar sets and I have a monthly spot with Bonus at Mr. Head’s. The majority of my gigs right now though are providing tunes for events that support causes I’m involved with like fighting for ethnic studies, immigrant rights, border issues, etc.
I also run a (soon-to-be) non-profit called RebelArte Collective with my brother Progreso. Our first project is called ELEMENTary Hip Hop Skool and we work with an amazing group of young people to bring original Hip Hop culture (4 elements, etc.) to the hoods of Tucson as a healing tool for the youth in our community. Among other things, we hold park jams monthly and will eventually provide a Hip Hop based curriculum and classes for young people to learn about Hip Hop, how to get started with one of its disciplines (DJing, MCing, writing, or breaking), how to promote their art, and how to use it to give back to their communities. Sorry if I sound like I’m plugging EHHS but…I guess I am!
Describe your style.
As I mentioned before, I spent the first 10+ years of my DJ life as what I would call a bedroom DJ. By that I mean I wasn’t rockin’ shows or battling or getting in at the clubs. I was chillin’ in my bedroom by myself and just spinning because I loved mixing records. I’d play the very occasional house party and I filled in one weekend at Jamaica Bay on the East side once but other than that, I was usually by myself. I learned to DJ from the mixtapes I’d listen to and I made my own tapes for the homies so I guess I’d say my style would be that of a Hip Hop mixtape DJ. I think you can hear that in the way I mix.
I’m still building my memories at this point so I guess mine would really be just the old standards that I seem to get often. I hear “are you going to play anything new” a lot. My favorite would really be a request that I saw someone else make to another DJ, actually. One afternoon at Mr. Head’s Bonus was up to bat and there were these two sorority type girls chillin’ on the patio having their drinks or whatever. One of them was insistent that he play some Skrillex or some Dubstep. If you’ve been to our night there, that’s not really how we get down and it wasn’t really appropriate for the vibe or crowd but she wouldn’t let up so Bonus throws on “10 Things You Don’t Say to a DJ” by Andre Harris. That song has to be like 10 minutes long and he played the whoooole thing. The girl just sat there and yapped about whatever it was she thought he should be playing until they both eventually got up and left. I was busting up the whole time though. It was hilarious.
Who are your influences?
My main influences would be DJ Evil Dee, Tony Touch, PF Cuttin’, Premier, Mister Cee, Revolution, and Spinbad. Again, I think you can really hear this in my mixes because these are the cats who taught me how to spin. More recently though I’m learning a whole lot from local DJs like (again) Bonus, Definition, Tagg, Touch, and this dude named Herm. Having spent so much time alone as a DJ, it has really been a blessing to be able to work with these guys and my horizons have expanded in a major way because of them.
Everybody mentioned above, to start. DJ Aladdin and his cuts on the Low Profile album are the reason I bought tables and decided to become a DJ. Scratch is also a favorite of mine. I just recently started checking out Kenny Dope mixes and I’m really feeling his style and content right now.
Favorite DJ sets you’ve witnessed in person. Describe them in detail.
Unfortunately I haven’t caught any big names yet. I’m kinda a homebody so I miss a lot of shows that come through. I saw DJentrification in Phoenix last Fall and his set was incredible. All vinyl, all kinds of obscure beats and breaks, and he’s so into it when he’s playing that, as a DJ, it was a lot of fun to watch. I guess another memorable one would be the DJ I saw at the MGM several years ago in Vegas. It was memorable because I had more than a few drinks in me and I kept telling my homie Travis “yo this DJ is sick!!” then a few minutes later I’d change my mind and scream out “hey this dude is wack as hell!” Back and forth all night. We still laugh about that one.
What are some of your signature mixes and/or blends?
I have some I suppose but I only have a few so I don’t want to put them on blast and wear them out before everyone has heard them, nahmean? “Oh he’s playin’ THAT old mix again.” I have a playlist of around 1,000 of my favorite Hip Hop tracks that I work in a lot. Call that my signature blend…all 1,000 mixed back to back.
Current favorite songs to play in the club?
Hmmmm not sure. Ask me next time you see me at the club?
Describe your best and worst moments you’ve had while DJing. What was your favorite set?
Worst moment was the first time I played out with Bonus and Definition. I had this set planned of Miami Bass music and I just fell apart. I felt like everyone was looking at me like “who the hell is THIS guy” and I just self-destructed. I actually apologized to them later for it. Best would probably be playing at La Cocina or sharing the stage with Immortal Technique and DJ GI Joe (another favorite I forgot to mention). It wasn’t really a stage but the back of a flat-bed truck and Tech and Joe weren’t even there for our set but I still felt honored to be a part of a show including them.
What do you listen to when you’re not DJing?
Mixes and mixtapes mostly. There’s nothing better than a dope mix, to me. I can’t even remember the last time I listened to the radio (other than NPR). I like most types of music so you can find anything from D.R.I to Charlie Parker to Lila Downs on my iPod.
How do you feel you’ve evolved? What would the past you say about the DJ you are now?
Oh man I feel like I’m in the middle of some real evolution right now. Taking that step from the isolation of my room out into the world and working with all of the locals I mentioned is really pushing me to different levels. I really feel almost like I’m starting all over again, in a lot of ways, except this time with some technical skills established. I think DJ ALIAS of the past would be proud of where I am and where I’m going because I’ve been able to maintain my connection to that bedroom DJ and expand on it on my own terms. I don’t play anything that I don’t love and I don’t think I’ll ever change, in that respect. Also for overcoming my nerves. I used to be so nervous when I played out that I couldn’t really function. Old ALIAS would be psyched that I’ve pretty much got that licked.
What do you always keep in your bag? What do you never leave the house without (when headed to a gig)?
It used to be that I had to take aspirin to every gig and pop a couple before I started. As I said, I used to get so nervous when I played out that I’d get this massive headache every time. I don’t carry those anymore so I guess just regular stuff. Maybe some info on ELEMENTary…did I mention ELEMENTary yet? ELEMENTary Hip Hop Skool!