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Aaron Axelsen

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

As music director of the Bay Area’s very own Live 105, Aaron Axelsen has been responsible for bringing in some of the best up and coming acts to Popscene as well as being able to garner a mass following with his weekly electronic show Subsonic. By playing tracks not showcased by mainstream radio, he demonstrates his eclectic musical knowledge by taking risks with indie acts and showing lots of love to local Bay Area bands. Taking time to answers some questions with SF Station, Aaron shares his affable personality and excellent taste in music.

SF Station (SFS): How long have you been working at as music director at Live 105?

Aaron Axelsen (AA): I landed the Live 105 MD gig back in 1997, while previous experience included an internship, working in promotions and programming, 3 years of college radio, 5 years of record store service in the East Bay and stints at EMI Records and Slumberland Records. Also, I host and created our weekly electronic underground show Subsonic which is Saturday's 12-3am from 1996-2005 that is now back on the air as of two months ago as well as our Sunday night new music/indie rock/local band program Soundcheck, Sunday's 7-10pm, which debuted back in 1999.

SFS: What personally got you into DJing?

AA: Quite simply an unquenchable appetite and passion for music. I would blow my entire allowance on records back in the day and sit around my room for hours making crush tapes for cute new wave girls in Livermore. Ultimately, as it often does, this obsession for music would lead me down my current career path.

SFS: With so much music coming your way, who are some of your favorite artists, new or old, to share with listeners?

AA: It really depends if I'm spinning at one of my club nights -- Popscene or Leisure -- or on the radio, but here is a pretty accurate sample of what you might here in one of my sets: The Smiths, Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire, MGMT, Justice, Blur, New Order, Cut Copy, Pulp, Bowie, Crystal Castles, Calvin Harris, The Beatles, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Tiga, Metric, The Cure, Phoenix, Passion Pit, Miike Snow, White Lies, The Limousines, Matt & Kim, Morrissey, Rolling Stones, Fake Blood, M83, Joy Division, Grizzly Bear, The Clash, etc.

SFS: Who are some of your favorite artists you play for the weekly Subsonic sets?

AA: Subsonic is about embracing some of my favorite cutting edge new tracks and acts, like Bat For Lashes, Yuksek, Deadmau5, Bloody Beatroots, Felix Cartal, Empire of the Sun, Simian Mobile Disco, Designer Drugs, The Presets, Yelle, Soulwax, Villains and Gui Boratto, mixed in with the electronic staples from Chemical Brothers, etc.

SFS: So what inspired you to start Popscene, which has been a hugely successful 18+ party?

AA: I was working at a Bay Area anglophile hub -- Mod Lang Records of Berkeley -- and met a lot of great friends who also had an affinity for britpop and the UK indie music scene. We kept running into each other at local shows like My Bloody Valentine at Slim's, Oasis at Bottom of the Hill, Ride at the Catalyst, Blur at the Edge, and we finally got motivated to take this passion for this music and lifestyle and encapsulate all into a weekly club night, creating the simple formula: DJ dance party plus one emerging live act equals Popscene!

SFS: What have been some of your most memorable gigs?

AA: Some of my most memorable Popscene gigs were definitely MUSE, the second time they played back in 2004, Killers, Amy Winehouse who actually opened up for the Klaxons at Popscene back in April of '07, Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, M.I.A special late night, impromptu live set and Vampire Weekend. I had some great DJ gigs over the years opening up for bands, like Air at Bimbo's, Doves/Strokes at Bimbo's, Fat Boy Slim at the Justice League (now The Independent), Coldplay at The Fillmore, The Faint at Bottom of the Hill and an old Subsonic party we did called Electronica Hanukkah at the now defunct Maritime Hall spinning alongside DJ Shadow, Crystal Method and Sneaker Pimps, which was broadcast live on the air, too!

SFS: What makes you stay in San Francisco instead of more media-driven places like LA or NYC?

AA: I'm a Bay Area native, born and raised in the East Bay, and consider myself incredibly lucky to not only work in an industry that I'm profoundly passionate about music, DJing, and radio, but also, doing so here in San Francisco.

SFS: You have an awesome job. What are some words of advice you would give to aspiring DJ/music promoters?

AA: Its really an intrinsic characteristic one must have to become a DJ or promoter, I feel. A gut instinct, passion and an ability to parlay it all into a DJ or club environment. One must possess a vision, creativity, self-motivation and skillfully be able to create opportunities for themselves. Understanding your audience, being malleable enough to adjust to various situations and ultimately, creating a unique DJ style or club brand that is inimitably you.

Catch Popscene this Thursday with Rye Rye and keep your eye out for the latest and greatest at, and keep up with Aaron Saturday and Sunday nights on the radio or at