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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Nov 13, 2009
A true born-and-raised DJ of San Francisco, the up-and-coming DJ
CAMS has been at his craft since 2001. Taking influences from his time spent in New York and traveling around the world, he has managed to gain an understanding of the industry. Giving a glimpse of his life to SF Station, DJ CAMS answers a few questions.
SF Station (SFS): When did you get serious about the DJing?
DJ CAMS (DC): When I really got serious about DJ’ing was actually in the summer of 2005. I was back in SF after a long sailing trip to the Middle East and back, and I remember walking into Mezzanine one night when DJ AM was spinning. I had heard of AM before, but had never seen him play.
I’ll never forget that night. I stood in the back of the club with my mouth open the entire time watching him do what I had never seen done before, brilliantly scratching songs together into party-rocking madness — everyone from Lynyrd Skynyrd, to B.I.G. to Blondie, Nirvana, Run-DMC, etc. I didn’t know you could do that!
Although I had my roots in house music from New York that night, AM inspired me to think beyond house music to blend all different kinds of music together in my set. So the primary style I play now is inspired both from the big-room house DJs of NYC and the scratching, party-rocking, hip-hop style of guys like AM.
SFS: What do you attribute your quick rise to fame to?
C: Well, I definitely wouldn’t say I’m famous yet, but I’ve definitely paid my dues. When I first started DJ’ing professionally back in 2005, I would take every gig I could get — sweet sixteen parties, student center shows at SF State, house parties, etc. Gigs for very little to no money. One of my first residencies was at a bar in South Lake Tahoe, which I drove to back and forth from SF every week for like $100 per show. I was so happy to be DJ’ing, I didn’t care what I was getting paid.
The same is still true. You have to pay your bills yes, but for me I oftentimes can’t believe I get paid to do something I love so much.
SFS: Who are some of your favorite people to DJ with?
C: People who are super creative and keep me inspired, and who interact with the crowd well. My friend D-Sharp and I played at Vessel last month and the dude is talented! The Designer Deejays and I played together at 330 Ritch back in August, and I respect their 2x4 style and scratching skills. I also really respect E-Rock because he’s worked with everybody and played all over but he’s a really humble and good guy. He has been a great mentor for me.
SFS: Any crazy stories you would like to share with us?
C: One of my favorites is a few years back when I was playing a packed club, which shall go nameless, around the holidays and we were totally over capacity. It was probably around midnight, at the height of the party, when the fire marshal literally walked up to me, came inside the DJ booth, and told me to turn all the music off. I chuckled and thought he simply wanted me to turn the music down some. When I kept playing, he said firmly, “No, I meant turn it completely off.” I did as I was told, to which hundreds of people started booing at the top of their lungs. The best part was when the fire marshal made me get on the mic and tell everyone to leave the club. The boos got louder of course. Thankfully, once everyone was outside, they started letting people back in and the place got packed pretty quickly again. But seriously, there are few things more nerve-racking than killing the music at the height of the night in a packed club full of drunk party-goers!
SFS: What is something people misconstrue about DJs?
C: I think that a lot of people think that we have the easiest job in the world, like "really, how hard is it to play other people’s music?" The reality is that I spend hours each day finding new music, making original edits, trying new mixes, digging the crates, practicing, networking, promoting, etc. Anyone can be an awesome bedroom DJ. But the best guys work tirelessly to both land gigs and rock gigs at major venues and events.
SFS: What are some of the perks of your job?
C: I often can’t believe that I get paid to do something that I love so much. It’s rare that you find people who are as passionate about what they do for a living as I am. Music is my life, and besides my friends and family, there is nothing I love more in this world than rocking parties with two turntables. So the greatest perk for me is getting paid to do something that I would do for free.
SFS: Any upcoming releases or major gigs? Looking forward to Thanksgiving?
C: Through the rest of November and December I’ve got some awesome club dates lined up, all leading up to New Year’s at The Ambassador. As far as Thanksgiving, I have the sweatpants ready!
Check DJ CAMS out at http://www.dj-cams.com and http://www.myspace.com/djcamsmusic
by Christina Li on Nov 13, 2009