My 25th Anniversary of DJ’ing
Today marks my 25th Anniversary of being a professional DJ! May 7th, 1988 is the date I got my first set of Technics 1200 turntables, a move that launched a career that I’m still active in. From humble beginnings of spinning backyard high school parties & weddings to doing college frat parties to eventually touring the world DJ’ing in the best nightclubs, doing music for a major motion picture (Iron Man 2) and making records that spanned the globe, it has been quite a journey! I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love everyday and still have people enjoy it.
Below is a picture of the original Technics receipt from 1988 with my mom’s handwriting on it. (I purposely blurred out some of the sensitive info) My parents thought DJ’ing was something I would do in high school & college for extra money before going to law school and following in my dad’s footsteps. Indeed it almost happened that way, but in the end I chose to be happy, do what I love and make a career out of it. It’s a decision that I have never regretted.
I wasn’t able to find any pictures of my early days of DJ’ing (1988-1991) when the gigs were few & far between, I was really young and most of my time was spent practicing, building my record collection and trying to graduate from high school.
In the early 90s, I became obsessed with rave music and started practicing every day to get good at the craft. I had a setup in my room and spent countless hours learning to BPM my records (by counting beats manually), beat matching (without staring at wave forms) and figuring out what records sounded good together. In those days, there were very few things to help you learn the craft, you had to REALLY want to be a DJ and love music. There was no internet, no serato, no mp3s, no how-to books & no DJ “schools”… you had to go out to record stores, FIND music you liked or wanted, pay full price for it (up to $10.99 PER record), build your vinyl collection and learn how to use it properly. It wasn’t for everybody back then but it helped me forge a determination to get good at it because it was so challenging. Here is a shot of me practicing in my room in Summer of 1993 (notice the Cypress Hill “Insane In The Brain” record in the background, I had just gotten the promo 12″ of it prior to this picture).
Some of my early gigs were weddings… I hated them but they made good money for new records and helped me pay my parents back for their investment in my DJ career. Here is a shot of me at a wedding (also from 1993). Notice I have the same head cocked to the right pose as in the pic above… I STILL do that 20 years later!
My first consistent club residency started in February of 1996. I did clubs prior to that in 1992 & 1993 at the Red Onion chain of club / restaurants but they were fill-in for the regulars type gigs. From 1993-1996, I was mainly doing frat parties & mobile events while I was in college earning my degree. I have some video from those gigs (which I will probably rip & post up here at some point) but no pictures.
So in February of 1996, I was hired to work at Off Campus Pub in Fullerton, CA. Off Campus was THE SPOT to go party at if you were a student at Cal State Fullerton. It was voted as one of Playboy’s top 50 college bars in 1997 and I remained their head resident DJ for 11 years! I did Thursday nights which was their college night with cheap drink specials, I helped build that night into a massive success that had a line of hundreds of college kids every week trying to get in. Thursday nights at Off Campus remained that way for a decade!
My experience at Off Campus is what I share with up & coming DJs who ask me how they can go to the next step in their DJ career. To me, the formula is pretty simple: build something successful in your own city, to the point that people want to be there EVERY week to see you play. If you can do that, then you are ready to move onto travel DJ’ing and spreading your talents to the masses. Too many young DJ’s these days want to skip the steps and immediately headline all over the globe. I got news for you, it doesn’t work that way… it takes time, practice, connections and experience to do it right & be successful long term.
Here is a pic from my very first night spinning at Off Campus Pub, the date was February 22nd, 1996. As you can tell, I was quite happy to land the job. (Also take note of the Hammer “Pumps & A Bump” 12 inch in the background… the B-Side on that vinyl was “It’s All Good” and that was THE track at Off Campus in the 90s, a non-commercial hit that ALWAYS worked!):
Hopefully this recap will be insightful to those that have always wondered or asked me about my early years DJ’ing… I certainly wasn’t an overnight or instant success. It took me many years practicing my craft & gaining experience to land my first Hollywood gig, my first out of town gigs and so on. I don’t say this to be discouraging in any way but to put into perspective that sometimes things take time but if you really love music & DJ’ing, stick with it and find your path to success and, more importantly, happiness!