Arguably, the four most popular complaints from bar and club patrons are that lines are too long to get in, drinks are too expensive, the other people at the bar aren’t cute enough, and the music isn’t making them wanna shake what their mommas gave them. The latter issue is probably the easiest to fix, and besides the complaint about other guests’ lack of hotness, probably one of the complaints that can turn guests off of one’s party the quickest.
In some situations, the power is given to the people and a venue leaves it to the masses to duke out the evening’s soundtrack on a jukebox, but any seasoned partier or savvy promoter recognizes the power of the DJ and importance of setting the right musical mood for the night.
The cult of the DJ has grown exponentially throughout the 20th century and continued to explode in the first decade of the 21st. DJs shaped the early nightlife scene with pop, funk and disco in the seventies, brought the masses hip-hop and house music in the eighties, and brought the kids out to raves and back again through the nineties. Today, music personalities like Mark Ronson and David Guetta have gained popularity by starting as DJs and growing into hugely successful producers who can receive more recognition for their hits than the vocalists performing on their chart-topping tracks, a definite change from former trends in music crediting.
On top of great fan response, musicians frequently acknowledge the DJ’s crucial role in their success via their music, inspiring artists like Pink to liken God to a DJ, and the Queen of Pop, who recognizes that “music makes the people come together” request that the DJ put a record on, so she can have a chance to dance with her baby.
The DJ is why Robbie Williams rocks, though he doesn’t want to, because the DJ’s making him feel so nice, and why Rihanna spends almost an entire song begging the DJ turn the music up that’s “pon de replay.”
Janet spends the whole first verse of “Throb” begging the DJ to start her engine, and even perpetually drunk party girl of the moment Ke$ha asks the DJ to “blow her speakers” up in “Tik Tok,” swearing he builds her up, breaks her down, makes her heart pound and has got her.
But who is this musical curator, who’s mostly obscured behind a booth like the man behind the curtain from the Wizard of Oz, and whose voice is rarely, if ever, heard by those on the dance floor?
We thought we’d get the music maestro’s perspective, to find a bit more about some of Los Angeles’ most talented and busy DJs, whose musical tastes we may feel like we know, but who we know so little else about.
For the first installment of this feature, we shot questions over to DJ Aaron Elvis, a relatively recent New York-to-LA transplant. Elvis made a name for himself DJ’ing in New York for major brands like Interview Magazine and Marc Jacobs, but seems to be spinning everywhere in West Hollywood lately. From Billy Francesca’s Wednesday night “House of Work” party, to Tom Whitman’s Thursday night event “Sanctuary,” and Cody Bayne and Luke Nero’s Saturday night dance party “Duke” at Fubar, each night Elvis artfully unleashes a distinctively unique set of beats for the different crowds.
We first took notice of this DJ at Whitman’s “Sanctuary” event when we realized he was spinning the fierce Ericka Toure Aviance runway track “My Pumps,” and knew there was a man in the booth well-versed in hits from the NYC nightlife scene that haven’t made as big of a splash on the West Coast. And thus, our curiosity was piqued. More, from Elvis below:
Where did your career first start as a DJ?
I started 10 years ago in NYC.
What other DJs were or still are your influences?
Everyone from Junior Vasquez to Merritt to John Fields.
How would you describe your style?
An eclectic, electric, pop, mash-up-y melange.
What sort of equipment do you use when DJ’ing?
I use Traktor Pro on my mac w/ a Numark Omni mixer.
How do you keep abreast of all the new music out there, or older music you may not know about yet?
I am a Google master - when I hear a song I like I look for it (and many versions of it) online. Plus there are a good 10-20 blogs I read every couple of days to get different and unique stuff.
What are your favorite venues to spin in and outside of LA?
In LA I've really enjoyed spinning Sanctuary at The Abbey because of the large number of people that get to dance there. I just started at Fubar and also love that, and it's the total opposite as far as crowd and music go which is what I'm used to in NYC - small, dark "dance dens". My faves in NYC were The Slide and Sugarland.
Do you find any major differences in DJ’ing in LA versus DJ’ing in New York?
I think I have a darker, more New York sound than others here, however in NYC I'd be considered on the lighter side. The music and mixes are much prettier (for lack of a better word) here.
What artists are you most excited about today?
Right now I'm loving Kelis and Estelle's new stuff and am really looking forward to other tracks they'll be dropping. And DJs from Mars and Chew Fu are my fave remixers right now.
What’s a DJ’ing pet peeve for you?
When people ask to play something and then get pissed when it doesn't come on immediately. It's called a request, not a demand. And you best have some money in your hand when you ask...just sayin'.
What’s your DJ’ing career highlight so far?
I love doing the Marc Jacobs Holiday Ball every year - it's an amazing party and an honor to be a part of. It got me a gig DJ'ing Donatella Versace's private New Years Eve party at her house one year.
Where can people find you?
I spin every Saturday night for Duke at Fubar, pretty much every Wednesday at House of Work at Ultra Suede, and once a month at Sanctuary Thursdays at The Abbey.
What’s next for you as a DJ?
I just got a manager and booking agent, so I'm hoping to bring my sound to other parts of the country really soon.