DJ Greg J got started getting that musical itch in the late 80s when he was just 8 years old. Surprisingly, not coming from a musical background, he somehow felt a magnetic pull toward all sorts of melodies. After purchasing his first cassette tape by Run DMC, he continued being simply a fan until a his first encounter with DJ Dan in 1994.
Watching DJ Dan cut up and manipulate music with his records, he had an epiphany and instantly decided that DJing is what he wanted to do with his life. Through hard work and pure skill, he is now part of the famous Crooklyn Clan and recently got flown out to Charlotte, N.C., to open for Busta Rhymes. Catch him locally on St. Patrick’s Day at his Hot Mess part at The Ambassador with White Mike and Audio 1.
SF Station (SFS): How did you hookup with Crooklyn Clan?
Greg J (GJ): I really lucked out and made this mix in 2007 called “The Mash Up” at apparently exactly the right time when mashups were hot. It was licensed and sold on iTunes and every major site and did really well. Too well, actually. I was sued by Sony, which is why it’s no longer for sale.
Anyway, Crooklyn Clan was really hot at the time too because of mashups. I decided right away that I was going to aim straight for the top. I had offers from a lot of other remix services, but Crooklyn Clan had an incredibly impressive roster at the time, DJ AM, DJ Vice, and a short lineup of heavyweights, not to mention the actual Crooklyn Clan. DJ Riz and Sizzahands had put out some of the most important staples of every party-rocking DJs arsenal. I was determined to be a part of that so I kept at Sizzahands — it took a couple of months of persistence — until he was convinced and I got on.
SFS: Since you play a wide array of songs, from 80s to indie to hard rap and mashups, how much time to do take to listen to music each day?
GJ: I don’t really know or keep track. I listen to all kinds of music every day all day. I listen to just about everything new on iTunes on Tuesdays, keep up with new releases on Beatport, and I probably spend even more time on record pools and going through promos. I’m very lucky to have DJing as a full-time job, because I’m sure I spend around 40 hours a week or more just listening to music.
SFS: You played huge venues as well as smaller places like Butter. What’s the primary difference in how you present your music to the crowd?
GJ: For the most part, DJ’ing as a profession for me is completely about giving the people what they want. I’m playing songs they want to hear. At dive bars it’s a little different though. I’m still trying to please the crowd, my job depends on it, but there’s more room and appreciation for me interjecting my own musical preferences and even playing a lot of songs no one is familiar with. I really enjoy being in the middle and having the opportunity to do all kinds of venues and parties.
SFS: Big or small, what’s something not to ask a DJ at a club?
GJ: “Can you break this hundred? Wanna come to my house and make out with me and my dog?” Seriously though, I don’t mind requests at all, or stupid questions. But I’m also always dead honest about whether or not something is appropriate to play.
SFS: You’ve also opened for some mainstream and Top 40s artists. Which was the most memorable and why?
GJ: Right now the most memorable for me was this past weekend in Charlotte, N.C. I opened for Busta Rhymes on Saturday and it was incredible. He was supposed to be there at 12:30, but didn’t show up until 1:45, and the crowd never let up for a second. They weren’t angry that he was late, and when he opened with the words “Yo, yo, yo, sorry I got stuck in traffic. Now the police is telling me that they closin at 2 a.m., but we ain’t doin that, F that. This party goin off until maybe 6 in the morninnnnn…” the entire party erupted with hands in the air.
However, when I’m older and less focused on what happened just last weekend, my most memorable DJ experience will be Planet Rock 1997 at the Homebase warehouse in Oakland. I opened for DJ Dan with my friend Joey Mazzola manning the scratch decks, and when Joey stepped off since there were four turntables Dan decided to step on the open pair and DJ with me. DJ’ing alongside my full-blown DJ crush almost made me pass out but I managed to remember to breathe and see it through to keep the memory until I get Alzheimer’s or die by shark attack.
SFS: You’re starting a party called Hot Mess with Audio One and White Mike called Hot Mess. What can we be expecting?
GJ: I’m excited about Hot Mess. Audio 1 and White Mike are both talented DJs with extensive tastes in music, plus they’re just good people and I like hanging out with them. Since I won’t be DJ’ing the whole time you can probably expect me to occasionally get wasted and dance like a fool. Musically, we’re hoping to lean more toward indie and electro, and give the San Francisco locals what they want, but in the end it’s a party and we’re just all about having and bringing fun times.
Greg J will be on the decks at The Ambassador on March 17th. This party is free.