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Last Night A DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Jan 27, 2009
A San Francisco staple since 1991, DJ Taj embodies the melting pot of true electronic dance music. Incorporating everything from dub-step to house into his mixes, this multi-faceted DJ shows his talent and universal acceptance towards music of all sorts. With a long-running residency at 1015 Folsom coupled with international residencies in places such as Vietnam and Greece, itís no wonder how well-cultured and diverse his melodies are. Swinging by the SF station office on a sunny San Francisco day, DJ Taj shares his journey, thoughts, and most importantly, a true love for the electronic scene.
SF Station (SFS): How did you get into the DJ scene?
DJ Taj (T): Iíve been clubbing since 1988, while underage and getting into clubs in San Francisco. So pretty much from 88-89 I became fully engulfed in EDM music, from going to places like The Palladium to 177 Townsend. There were lots of underground spots amongst raves back in the day. I would even go to gay scenes to hear the music. At that time in that era, it was open to everybody. No preconditions or prejudgments. The EM clubbing scene was new; people were feeling the high on all aspects. So after following DJs in these events, while on a trip to Greece in August of 1991, and listening to mix tapes, I had decided on this trip that I loved this music so much that I could do this. In Greece, in Mykonos, I bought my first thirteen old school techno records, and said when I get home Iím buying turntables and just started to do it since that September. From there it was: practice makes perfect.
SFS: So, basically, everyone tells me you are a "San Francisco Staple"Ö
T: It has taken a long time to get that reputation!
SFS: What would you attribute your success to?
T: First, I attribute it to people. Without people, music is nothing. Definitely the people come first. Secondly, and most importantly, is DIY. Do it yourself. I've always lived by that philosophy, because no one can do it for you. Yes there has been help, but in that help, Iíve been the one coming up with the concepts, I enjoy being the leader or the co-leader. Ultimately my success has been DIY.
SFS: Since have youíve been here for so long, what are some changes you have seen?
T: Well definitely technology. Clubbing itself, lighting, sound, mixers, cd players, turntables and, of course, the ultimate of producing. Technology has been the forefront in change of what club and dance music is. Technology is the biggest change
SFS: Would you say that is a good thing or bad thing?
T: Itís a good thing and a bad thing. Itís a good thing in the sense that the music has evolved into something outstanding and reaches the masses; and a bad thing for producers because mp3 downloads are now killing the artists. Technology is good and evil at the same time. With me saying that, thereís nothing we can do about that.
But continuing with the evolution, in regards to people, I have definitely seen a more niche feel with dance music. Dance really hit San Francisco in 90-91; really hit hard in the raves, even with European DJs coming into play. That would be the biggest change. Because of technology, the music now has become mainstream yet niched. Drum and bass heads basically like drum and bass. Trance heads are generally more open. But ultimately what Iíve seen is a great split in what people are going towards compared to back in the day, when it was "come all, be all".
It was just all about the music and the community, and the fact that we are all representing the same concept and ideals. I think that has been lost in the club world, to have the same mentality that we are all struggling, not in the negative way, but towards the same goal of sharing EDM music, the clubbing experience. That would be the biggest yet most negative change. But Iíve seen positive changes, with more clubs, people, music, basically more choices which is definitely great for all our EDM scenes, but the niche genre generally tears the scene apart, singular versus communal.
SFS: Do you see it going negatively in the future, or picking up again?
T: I think that will all depend on promoters, and if we can combine efforts to help people understand that you can have house along with trance night, trance along with breaks night. They are all electronic dance music, there is no difference. There may be a difference in crowds, but youíll find most crowds can appreciate a different sound. I donít see it going negative more than whatís already been done, but I can definitely see it splitting more, if promoters continue to believe that their music is more important rather than combining everything together. Thatís always been my goal; to combine many genres tastefully together as possible. Iíve never been a DJ in the sense that Iím only going to play one style; diversity is key to success in all of this.
SFS: I was listening to your MP3s and I could hear that you were very eclectic and versatile.
T: Yes, eclectic, versatile, and diverse, because I do what I love and love what I do, and dance music is it. As long as Iím hearing a track, no matter what it is, breaks, house trance, etc, there needs to be something I relate to. But I have to feel it. It doesnít matter what style the music is, I have to feel it in my heart, and after some years of doing this and listening to thousands of tracks I can pretty much know if I am going to tune into the track or not.
SFS: So since you play so many different types, is there any particular favorite?
T: There is no favorite for me -- Iíve been asked before, and there is no favorite. As long as the production is good, no matter what the sound might be, and there was some emotion behind it by the producers, I will feel that emotion. If I can feel that, Iím sold.
SFS: You can play wherever you want and you have played many places internationally. What keeps you here?
T: I choose to stay here because I was born here and I find San Francisco to be one the best places culturally, musically, politically, in the world, to live. The weather is beautiful. The only reason why I havenít been traveling as much as I used to is because 1015 Folsom on Saturday nights takes so much of my time. If I did not DJ every Saturday night and was not the main booker or promoter, I would be traveling more. I am definitely a traveler. I love to see the world, but I will always come home. I love different cultures, languages, love foreign foods and cultures, and all those aspects Iím sure all of us enjoy. But the only reason why I have not hit the road as I did before, is because my life has been engulfed by 1015.
SFS: As an artist, what are some words you live by?
T: Do it yourself. Love what you do, and do what you love. Donít let anyone get in your way. Those would be my three mottos.
Find DJ Taj at 1015 Folsom every Saturday and listen to some danceable diverse beats at www.djtaj.com.
by Christina Li on Jan 27, 2009