In 1937, American radio commentator Walter Winchell coined the term "disc jockey." Fast forward seventy years and thousands of resident DJs are storming the radio waves, club scene and World Wide Web. DC’s landscape has erupted with a repertory of nationally known DJs and spin-masters. And the most recognized names in the profession have all played in the Golden Triangle, including Tiësto, Sharam, Craze, Paul Oakenfold and Paul Van Dyk, both of whom earned DJMag's top 100 DJ list No. 1 standing.
DCers line up around corners to catch a glimpse and soak in the sounds of resident DJs every night at clubs across the city. Ibiza, Park, Lotus Lounge, Josephine, Fur, Tattoo, MCXXIII, Ultrabar, Napolean, Space, L2, Chloe, Indebleu, Five, Play, Mate, Gazuza, Eyebar, Ozio, Avenue, Love, Lima and Fly bring the best on the East Coast and there are five All-Stars tearin’ up the turn tables across the District. I took the entire month of January scoping out the scene in every hot spot and hand picked this Fab Five for the readers of Not For Tourists, D.C. Welcome to the DJ booth, step up to the turn table and let me introduce you to the District’s best.
At the tender age of 16 when most teenagers are hijacked by hormone, cars and the complexities of Algebra II, Eric Jao, a.k.a DJ Enferno, was acing Pre-Cal and hustlin’ his parents for a loan to buy his first set of DJ equipment and records. “I paid them back by the time I started college in 1993.” Hailing from Northern Virginia, Enferno graduated from the University of Virginia. During his undergrad days Jao took home first place at a University of Maryland DJ battle after playing a trick-mixed for 15 minutes where at the conclusion he juggled a section of Rob Base’s “It Takes Two” while taking off his shirt. “This is before I knew what DMC was and what was really going on in the battle scene. This is when the movie Juice was my only exposure to the DJ battle world,” he amusingly recalls. “Though I won a DJ battle there, it was by no means a pivotal point in my career. A truly crucial point in my career would be when I won the US DMC Finals in 2003, then took 2nd place in the World. That was of course after having already been a DJ for 12 years,” he says.
Almost fifteen years later, he’s still pleasing the ladies across the District (in more ways than one) with weekly DJ sets at LIMA, Fly Lounge, and Ultrabar. Perfecting the art form of DJing and crushing the competition has kept him on top. Jao’s jet-setting career pole-vaulted him from continent to continent opening for the likes of Fat Joe, Christina Milian and Kool Keith. Racking up sponsorships from Rane, UDG (Ultimate DJ Gear), Korg, and M-Audio, Enferno spins notorious sounds in the most exclusive clubs. He’s signed with Moodswing360 out of New York, the talent agency that handles DJ Skribble, Crooklyn Clan, Dave Navarro, Tommy Lee, Spinbad, Pete Wentz, MIMS, Kid Capri, Slash, Travis McCoy and a roster of insanely talented artists. Jao’s also added to his weekly line-up residencies at Mur.Mur at Borgata (Atlantic City) and Enclave (Chicago). His new CD, "All of the Above," is now out in his e-shop at www.djenferno.com.
JF: I know that you almost always have a backup to your backup. What kind of equipment do you use?
Enferno: I use Serato on a red Macbook Pro. I always bring backup music and a backup hard drive to my gigs. At home I have a variety of keyboards and software synths on my Mac G5 desktop. I’ve also got 4 Technics turntables and a bunch of mixers and midi-controllers. I recently added the Korg Kaoss Pad 3 to my collection, which I’ll start integrating into my club sets.
JF: What do you think differentiates you from other DJ's?
Enferno: I’m well rounded. There are many things involved in being a DJ. During a performance, you have to pay close attention to music selection, your crowd’s reading ability, your technical skills. When you’re not at the club you have to be on top of marketing, sales, business relationships and your networking skills. A lot of DJs will be good at one or two of these things. You’ll have a DJ that has a killer music selection, but can’t mix it very well. Then you have guys that might be able to scratch like Q-Bert, but can’t figure out what songs to play for the crowd. Then you have guys that can do all of that, but don’t know how to market or sell themselves. As a well rounded DJ, I can do all these things well. Plus I’m the only DJ I know with a red Macbook Pro. That’s hot!
JF: Where can DCers go to hear your music production?
Enferno: www.liveremixproject.com. I’m not a producer, but I do work on some production. It’s mostly mashup/remixes for my club gigs, or remixes for my Live Remix Project. My Live Remix Project is more on the electronic/experimental/turntablist side of things.
DC’s number one networking DJ, Nicole Bock, a.k.a. DJ Neekola has stormed the philanthropic scene, in a manner of speaking. This feisty femme fatale reigns from Italy: Abruzzo and Sicily to be exact. Neekola is actually a nickname given to her in high school paying tribute to the old Ricola commercials.
Neekola attended Scratch Academy in NYC’s East Village were she learned the basics of DJing on vinyl. She’s since transitioned to Serato and CDs. Though she travels all over the world and has performed with the likes of Noel Sanger, Andrew Pal, Tony Humphries, Serge Devant, Kristina Sky, Jennifer Rene, Majai, Charles Feelgood, and DJ Monk, she still calls NYC, DC and Richmond, VA home and immerses herself in the city’s great causes. “My passion and love for music motivates me to also use it as a tool to help others,” says Neekola. “I sincerely believe that music can solve all of the world’s problems, no matter how small, or large the problem may be.”
Her second passion in life, next to music, is philanthropy. It has led her to promote and guest DJ for One.org, the National Wildlife Foundation, Rock the Vote, the Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce, Pacha Kucha, DC International Film Festival, Breast Cancer Foundation, and Capital Hill Computer Corner here in D.C.
“When I was little I heard my mother practice with her rock band until 2 a.m. each morning in my crib, watched her perform in clubs throughout NYC in my teens, and watched her continue to have motivation regarding her music even after her musical career had started to disintegrate in my adult life,” says Neekola. Born and bred for the music industry she’s had a mountain of friends, experience, and mentors in her life that have led her into the industry.
Catch Neekola almost every night of the week at Indeblu, Space, Park, Fur, and perhaps the set that plays the most in her memory, Ibiza. “I’ll remember the grand opening of Thursday’s at Ibiza for the rest of my life because a monitor fell on my foot that night right before I went on, but I went on anyway in large amounts of pain! I’m reminded of it every time I look at that knot on my foot,” she said. But no workers comp for the light footed.
JF: You are all over DC and really take the time to work with DC-based companies and support the city, are there any companies, sponsors and/or labels that you are associated with?
Neekola: Currently, my musical/promotional affiliations are Liton Agency, Nuvo Music, and True Vibe. I’ve also got a great team of support from VIP Exclusive, Nubeau PR, Soulstice DC, Beau Monde Fashion Group, Indah Makeup Artistry, Capital Image, Buzzlife, French Wine Society and D’Aire.
JF: If you could spin for anyone, who would this be and why?
Neekola: I’d like to spin for schools or any organization consisting of impressionable youth—to show that you can achieve so much, even in the most controversial industries, and live a healthy life, keep your good morals, have fun AND do good for others all at the same time. Then of course I’d love to spin for Ministry of Sound—its such a small little underappreciated disco in the rough spots of Elephant and Castle in London—but its worldly recognized as a leader in the dance music industry.
DJ Terry Smithwww.djterrysmith.com
Aux armes, citoyens! or is it Deutschland über alles! DJ Terry Smith jumped across the pond and made his way to the states with Fleetwood Mac blastin’ on his iPod. Though French, he grew up near Germany and speaks both languages.
A certified nature freak, his dog is his number one but he takes every opportunity to bike, ski, and dive. I first heard DJ Terry Smith rock it out during a party at Park. He literally illuminated the room with his quirky international beats and energy. “I buy and play the music I feel is hot. A lot of producers also send me their promos, but I only play them if I like them,” he says. He takes every opportunity to learn from fellow stars in the industry. Asking questions and believing in the art form enabled him to excel. And his accomplishments while in the states rival even the most veteran spin masters in the District. In 2007 he toured the U.S. hitting NYC, Miami, DC and Vegas and performed with the likes of Kenny Carpenter at Studio 54, Antoine Clamaran, and David Vendetta.
He’s sponsored by the French based Pool E Music, a company owned by Antoine Clamaran, a renowned DJ in the country. His first DJ competition back in the 90’s brought him to the scene and after he won he started to gain recognition in Europe. But after moving to the U.S. in 2007, it was hard to break into the American market. His friends in the States encouraged him to come to DC and try out his work here. He fell in love. You’ll often hear him proclaim from the DJ booth, “I love America!”
JF: If you could spin for anyone, who would this be and why?
Terry: I wish I could spin here on the Mall in DC for the American people, and at the same time an American DJ would spin on the Champs Elysées in Paris, with a direct broadcast on TV! That's a big dream, it would be very symbolic for the French-American friendship.
JF: You are back in France. What were some of your favorite places to unwind in D.C. and when will you be back?
Terry: I’ll be back to the States in June of 2008. And LIMA is my favorite place to unwind because Masoud was the first to give me the opportunity to spin in the US (thanks Masoud!), and I love the place because the equipment, sound & booth, are very good. The place is nice, the crowd's open minded. But I also love The Park, Lotus, Five, Indebleu... It's interesting because every place is different, and there are beautiful girls everywhere!
JF: What is your Favorite Global Venue to spin at?
Terry: Le Circus in Nancy (France) www.circus.fr . It’s a huge club and the greatest DJ’s spin there—Carl Cox, David Guetta, Erick Morillo, etc.
Perhaps the DJ with the most vicious Xbox 360 moves and the self
proclaimed Kickball King of DC is Chris Valentin a.k.a DJ Phlipz. This
self-taught DJ caught the fever by watching tons of music videos,
listening to the radio and trekking to clubs to watch other DJs play.
This Filipino fury was born and raised in Northern Virginia and drives
the crowds insane at Fly Lounge during their infamous Tuesday night
parties, Tattoo, Play, and Chloe.
It was these Northern Virginia roots and the influence from long car
rides with his parents that influenced him as a kid. “I think growing
up, being in my parents’ cars helped influence what music I listen to
now, whether it was the classic rock stations, top 40, or easy
listening.” Supporting artists and their work is key to DJing and their role in the
music business, and whether he is spinning Justin Timberlake, Justice
or Whitney Houston, DJ Phlipz still believes you have to have
creativity to survive in this business. “I think there are a lot of
‘push play’ type DJ’s in the industry. Guys who don’t have much
creativity but just play songs to play them because they are hot. There
is no creativity to their mixing. They aren’t putting the time and
practice in to become good, and I think it is watering down the
industry.” he says.
JF: Was it difficult to get into the DJing scene? Were you taken seriously?
Phlipz: For me, the scene is all about making money. Promoters and
Clubs want to make the most money. If you can bring people out, then
you have a DJ job regardless of how good you are. I first started out
by bringing tons of people to the clubs, and I’ll be honest I wasn’t a
good DJ… I was crashing mixes all over the place. It took a GM and a
Promoter to tell me that I had to work on my stuff to keep my jobs.
JF: How do you choose the venues you play?
Phlipz: I work with a couple promoters, including Walid/Anoush/Nate,
JetSet Mafia, and Absolute Addiction. They usually call me whenever
they need a DJ, but for the most part I have set nights I work on.
JF: If DJing never existed where would music be today? What would be missing?
Phlipz: I think Djing helps the music industry so much and it’s funny
that record companies try to sue DJs for playing their music. A lot of
people go to clubs, hear a song, then go buy the CD or song on itunes.
The industry feeds off DJ’s.
DJ Adam Abourayawww.abouraya.com
Still in love with the wax, DJ Adam Abouraya has gone from scratch master to producer. He’s a regular at Five, Spank and Indeblu. A jet-setting turntable king he’s performed with Deep Dish, Luke Fair, Satoshi Tomiie, Keoki, Quivver, Saeed, Palash, Low End Specialists and Eli Wilkie.
Whether you catch him lounging in his free time at Gazuza, grabbin’ a bite to eat with friends at Matchbox in Chinatown or on the dance floor at Five, Abouraya admits that DC was a tough city to break into. “My experiences in DC have been different then any other city. It’s been hard to get into the scene and into the right clubs. My accomplishments mean nothing in this city and are not taken seriously like they are elsewhere.” Yet this half-Egyptian/half-American is signed to both Balance Record Pool and Vancouver's Richmond Records Pool and he remixes for his label Noize! Recordings, founded in 2005 with partners George Horn & Ean Hundley.
Nevertheless, his DJ resume, productions and mixes have enabled him to gain access to the Golden Triangle. A staunch Daft Punk fan, his iPod is filled with mix sets from his friends, Mike Haddad and Dave Cortex, along with sets from noted DJ’s like Luke Fair & Desyn Masiello. He reiterates DJ’s immense role in the business as there are thousands of artists that no one would ever be exposed to without hearing it from a DJ first. “Club goers hear a song they like, ask the DJ what it is, and the next day that artist has a new fan and that person has ran home to go find that song.
JF: What is your favorite global venue to spin?
Abouraya: During the time I lived in Egypt one of the best places I DJed was a club called Pacha in Sharm el sheikh right on the Red Sea. An amazing venue with a crowd that loved the music, by far my favorite place I have played outside of DC. Within DC Club Five has been my favorite place to just let loose.
JF: Other than being a DJ what talent would you most like to possess?
Abouraya: I would love to be able to be an expert piano player, currently when I produce I can play chords and melodies, but would love to have the gift of being an amazing pianist.
JF: Which gig/tour will you remember forever?
Abouraya: One of the many gigs I will always remember is when I performed with Deep Dish in 2005 in Jacksonville, FL. We spent months preparing the club for the huge house act to finally take the stage in the small house-loving city of Jacksonville. We had all been looking forward to the show for years and they were the biggest house act to come to Jacksonville so it was a landmark event in the cities clubbing history. Playing that night was a great experience and I will never forget being a part of it.
JF: If you could spin for anyone, who would this be and why?
Abouraya: If I could spin for anyone I would have to say it’s a tie between the club Guvernment in Toronto and the terrace at Club Space in Miami. Both clubs are places that I have experienced the most amazing nights of music. The atmosphere with the amazing lights and the crowd that is there only for the music is like nothing else, with such a huge crowd it would be such an amazing experience. They are both places that I will one day DJ at and share my love of the music with all of their patrons.
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