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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Feb 11, 2009
There is much to buzz about the Bay Area powerhouse known as DJ E-Rock. Humble and true to his craft, he has slowly built up an empire including his weekly show on Wild 94.9, upcoming shoe collaboration with Adidas, and most importantly, mixes guaranteed to generate a poppiní party. Playing everywhere from Vegas to Miami, this born and raised this DJ represents the best in old and new hip-hop beats. Speaking with SF Station, E-Rock graciously explains his ascent along with a few wise words to the younger generations.
SF Station (SFS): How did you get into DJing?
E-Rock (E): It's funny because when I was younger I was really into baseball and basketball cards and video games. At the age of 11 I used to go over other neighborhood kids houses and either trade cards or play Nintendo. There happened to be one kid who had an older brother who DJ'ed. His name was Peter and his brother was named Charlie, both with the last name Sumalong. One day I went over to Peterís house to play Nintendo and noticed that there was loud music in the room next door. I peeped in and sure enough it was his older brother Charlie playing with two record players. I had asked him, "Exactly what are you doing?" he told me he was "mixing records together."
Then he explained to me what it was about, told me about all the cool parties he did, and of course showed me his record collection. From there on I was just in awe, I asked him to teach me and sure enough he taught me the basics; it took me a while but I got it at the age of 12. The first two records I mixed were Poor Righteous Teachers "Shakiyla and Sway" and King Tech's Bum "Rush The Sound", I'll never forget it.... From there on, I kept on coming over for months practicing and sure enough my dad bought me my own set of tables in efforts to make me stay home and do good in school... I stayed home a lot, but never went to school. (Laughs) I was just hooked. Back when kids were stuck on Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Turbografx 16, I was stuck on 2 Technics SL 1200s and a crazy really simple numark mixer.
All the practicing lead to me making tapes for friends, which lead to doing house parties which then lead to me doing school functions which lead to me meet other DJs. A few years into it, I met Rick Lee of SBC in his pre-KMEL years. I found a flier that had an info line on it, it was his voice mail. I called it and the greeting said that if I wanted a demo to leave my address after the beep, sure enough I did and got the illest demo I had ever heard at the time. I kept on calling and calling and calling and asking for more demos... Word then spread amongst my friends which lead to me hooking them up with gigs up all around the bay area. From there on it was history, that was the birth of my DJ career.
SFS: How did it feel to be the youngest DJ to showcase on KMEL?
E: It felt great! I mean before me there was Franzen. He came onto the scene at a young age also before my time. When I landed my spot in 1996 on KMEL, it was amazing. I was a sophomore in high school, on the radio every Friday Night... I mean even today that's unheard of. To be 15 and promoting to your friends at school the whole week that you'll be on the radio on Friday night was the dream for me. I grew up listening to the radio and mixers like Michael Erickson, Glenn Aure, Dave Meyer, Alex Mejia, Billy Vidal, Franzen, Theo Mizohara.... I was a radio geek at such a young age, I knew everything the DJs played and knew everything about them. They were my Jose Cansecos, my Will Clarks, My Hulk Hogans to be honest.
SFS: Tell us about your radio show.
E: Club 949 is a show that airs every Friday Night @ Midnight on WILD 94.9... In recent years I've gotten to experience some really cool things like being on MTV numerous times, being featured in countless magazines and meeting a ton of other DJs who had the same aspirations as me: being a powerhouse in my market. So what I did with Club 949 was take the powerhouses of every market around the country, and even around the world, and showcase them on the airwaves. I wanted to open a door to the Bay Area for them to see what goes in New York, what goes on in Las Vegas, what goes on in Miami... The first hour is usually myself or a local; mainly it's my resident Hella Miles aka Johnny Thunder and the second hour is usually a DJ from somewhere abroad.
The show has been so successful since its birth because it was one of the first shows to be different - we weren't playing the same playlisted stuff you hear all day, we were all about playing for a vibe, to capture the energy of something bigger than what you would normally expect to hear on the radio. Not to mention a lot of these powerhouses are some of the biggest celebrities in the DJ game today... You can always count on tuning in and hearing someone like Kevin Scott, DJ Vice, DJ Stonerokk, Graham Funke ... and its great because we're that breath of fresh air, we're raw, we're different.
SFS: What is important to you about a venue, since you've played so many?
E: I would say the DJ booth has to be up to par. And what really makes a club is the lighting. Thereís nothing like being in a club that is so far from reality itís insane... But itís also the worst when youíre in a club and you feel the musicís cool but the lights just make you feel like youíre in a jail cell or stuck in subway train. Thatís just me; your DJ can always turn the crowd out but the lighting just helps more than anything. Sometimes a nightclubs lights can make a song that much more entertaining. In Vegas they have people hired to control just the lights throughout the whole entire night and seriously they are just as important as the DJ.
SFS: What keeps you in the Bay?
E: This is home; I never wanted to leave to be who I am today. I had the determination to do all this at home and for home. I love everything about this place, I was born and raised here and I'm proud to be from here. It was harder to do what I've done being from an area that didnít have as much luster as LA or Miami but I think if you really believe in something you can do it and thatís something I've always lived by for years. But it was also a challenge, a great one who made me who I am today professionally and personally.
SFS: How do you manage to keep your sounds innovative and fresh, since there are so many people that can just call themselves "DJs"?
E: Being relevant, staying on top of music, trends, things people love, places people love to go to, how people want to party and the way people want to feel. I mean in this day in age almost anyone can spend 2k and be a DJ with a full library of mp3s. To be honest the fact that I was fortunate enough to experience what was last of the old school completely made me more cutting edge. I mean back then it wasn't easy; we had to find new ways to play records to be cooler than the next, we had to find ways to make certain records happen in the mix that you would never expect... With the invention of Serato itís almost easy for anyone to play mp3s but if you donít have that mentality of being innovative with your records, youíll sound bland like everyone else. It's like improvising with your wardrobe; some shirts you can do crazy things to that make or break your outfit, itís the same with DJing!
SFS: What are some wise-words of yours to pass along to the younger DJ generation?
E: Know your roots; know what your mentors had to go through for you to be able to do what you do today. Nothing beats history, and knowing your history makes a better future.
SFS: Anything you're working on now?
E: Currently I'm actually in the works of doing something not many DJs have done in general which is dropping a shoe with Adidas. Right now weíre in the stages of deciding what retail month to release this shoe. I am by far so excited to be the first DJ on the West Coast to do something so completely out of the ordinary. But the shoe is a reflection of what I do, itís a design of a shoe they already have in their line but remixed, kinda the same thing we do with records. Other than that, still traveling... touring is a must, and keeping up with life in general.
SFS: What do you attribute your successes to?
E: Just never wanting to throw the towel in, being obsessed with the love of what I do. Even in the darkest moments of my career, I never gave up, came close but never wanted to ever let myself down or the people who believed in me.
SFS: Any mottos you live by yourself?
E: It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice. And people who know what they want, never look back.
Come check him out at Fluid Thursdays every 2nd and 4th Thursday, or listen to his show every Friday night at midnight on WILD 94.9.
For more party and beats, check out: http://www.myspace.com/djerock and download DJ E-Rocks demo : http://www.mediafire.com/?xklcx3yxkhd
by Christina Li on Feb 11, 2009