Ever had that strange experience where you were browsing through the CD collection or iTunes library of someone you liked and found a cache of music that threw the image you had held of them for a major loop? That “what the hell is all this ABBA Teens/Clay Aiken/Milli Vanilli/Las Ketchup/Neil Diamond/Venga Boys/Rick Astley/other unexpected music artist doing in here” moment?
Since one’s music collection can often provide an intimate peek into the personality of an individual, shouldn’t we have a fairly well-developed idea of what type of people our favorite DJs are? But rarely are we actually able to get in front of these talented music mixers, since they usually don't man the mic and even less frequently are actually able to mingle with the crowds they spin for.
Usually we can only glean a few meager details about a DJ from hearing him play in a bar or club, and are able to cling to even fewer when we find a versatile DJ spinning at a range of different parties and venues. Is hip-hop his specialty and thus an indicator of his musical roots? Does he spin darker dance music, suggesting an equally dark mood or state of mind? Do all the dance floor diva vocals in the tracks he’s playing mean he likes men or that he just has really good taste in house music?
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 actually know so little about, we’ve introduced this DJ feature, to find out a bit more about our faves. We continue our second installment with questions for DJ Paul V., who has spun through music trends and in Los Angeles dance clubs for over 20 years. More, from Paul V., below:
Where/when did your career first start as a DJ?
My DJ career started in Boston (my hometown) in 1981. You could say the seeds of my DJ style were planted at an amazing club called Man Ray in 1985, then at SPIT/AXIS in 1987, until I moved to LA in 1988.
What other DJs were or still are your influences?
I don’t really have any influences, per se. But old-school legends like NY’s Larry Levan and LA’s Billy Limbo (both RIP) were kindred spirits who understood that a good DJ needs to take every crowd on a journey, and always take chances with the music.
How would you describe your style?
Eclectic with a capital E. But usually on the alternative/indie/electro tip, and of course, lots of mashups in the mix. And I like to drop stuff from many eras and genres. I feel like if the music keeps me excited, it will excite my crowd, too.
You’re known in LA particularly well for your skill at mashups. When did you start experimenting with mashups?
I played them in the very beginning around 2001, and began to make my own around 2005, right after I started the “Mashup Of The Day” and “The Smash Mix” on Indie 103.1 FM here in LA (RIP).
What are a few that you’ve done recently that you’re particularly pleased or surprised by?
I’ve been lax in making new mashups because of a crazy schedule, but my last one was very well received. It’s Amanda Blank’s “Might Like You Better” vs. Deadmau5’s “Ghosts ‘N Stuff” (with some other dirty, rude bits thrown in). You can download it here.
When did you start spinning with the Bootie parties?
The original Bootie club party began in SF in 2003, and in June 2005, Bootie creators Adrian & Mysterious D partnered up with me to launch Bootie here. So, it’s been from day one in LA, and it took off from the very beginning. We’re really excited about our 5th Anniversary this Saturday!
What sort of equipment do you use when DJ’ing?
I’m kind of old-school and purposely refuse to DJ on a laptop. Mainly, ‘cuz I don’t own a laptop! Kidding aside, I’m an all-CD DJ, so either Sony or Pioneer pro CDJs are the ticket.
How do you keep abreast of all the new music out there, or older music you may not know about yet?
I am a rabid music blog follower and I get 90% of what I’m spinning off the Internet, and by scouring The Hype Machine, which lists hundreds of music blogs and the new music getting posted. And a good place for the best mashups to download is the Bootie Blog. I still buy plenty of CDs, but I need new music on the spot, that I can burn to CD myself.
What sort of preparation goes into getting ready for a gig? Is it a couple of hours of queuing up music you plan to spin before the party? Or do you bring the grand collection with you and decide what to spin on the spot?
Depending on what gigs I have going on, I load up any new stuff I’ve downloaded so I can listen with DJ ears, then BPM everything (ie, the tempo), and pluck out the best of the best to burn to CD. I really don’t plan or prep my DJ sets, because I become a slave to how the crowd is responding, so see where my DJ sets will take me. I usually pack about 100 CDs along with my 500-CD book, so I have plenty to choose from.
What are your favorite venues to spin in in LA?
A lot of my club gigs are at The Echoplex, because I generally only DJ on the east side of LA (Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz). I love the sound and tech in there, as well as the staff.
What artists are you most excited about today?
My favorite artists in no particular order: The Gossip, Friendly Fires, La Roux, M.I.A., Robyn, Kelis, Passion Pit, Goldfrapp, LCD Soundsystem, Sia, Muse, David Guetta - and anyone who writes off Lady Gaga as talentless or simply ripping off other people is dumber than a box of rocks. She is the real deal, people!
What’s a DJ’ing pet peeve for you?
Patrons that think DJs are nothing but glorified iPods, and that we can just drop their request within 5 minutes. I usually come back with this quip: Can you orgasm before foreplay?
Some of your gigs involve you spinning for a mixed audience, male/female, gay/straight – do you find anything particularly unique or challenging spinning for this diverse of a crowd vs. a predominantly gay one, or do you find you don’t need to do anything different to entertain the mixed crowd in attendance because of their shared, unifying desire to dance?
Here’s the deal: Gay-only or straight-only clubs are a total bore to me. While I prefer spinning clubs that are predominantly gay, I’m always welcoming to anybody who gets my music and can add to the good vibe of any particular club night I’m doing. And I think in 2010, that shared unifying desire to dance is definitely the norm.
What are your DJ’ing career highlights so far and best spinning experiences? Any parties that you used to spin at that you particularly miss?
I’ve been spinning a lot of gigs for Goldenvoice concerts lately. And while I’m just background music for the crowd, it feels great adding another layer of energy to the night. Highlights for those shows would be The Gossip, Little Boots, Miike Snow, Hot Chip, Jane’s Addiction, and Crystal Castles. But for sheer insanity and crowd-crowd awesomeness, hands down it’s Bootie LA. As far as missing something, that would be my club Dragstrip 66, which ran for 17 years here in Silver Lake/Echo Park.
Where can people find you?
You can find me (and DJ Matt Cornwall) every Sunday afternoon for Swagger at Rockwell, every 1st and 3rd Saturday for Bootie LA at The Echoplex, and a one-off event called SPUNK which is an alternative gay pride dance event at The Echoplex on Saturday June 12th. People on Facebook can search for and link to me at DJ PAUL V. PRESENTS.