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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Oct 14, 2009
Seeking inspiration from artists such as Jazzy Jeff and the late great DJ AM, DJs Just and D Lo. -- better known as the duo Designers Deejays -- have quickly become a Bay Area force to be reckoned with. Besides bringing back the art of 2x4 turntablism, they also have secured residencies at some of the classiest clubs in San Francisco. Taking time to chat with SF Station over lunch, these two reflect on their experiences and love of music
SF Station (SFS): So how did you guys meet?
D Lo. (DL): We met through our friend mutual friend Marcus in high school.
SFS: Did you guys start out DJing together?
DL: We started out as friends, we both kind of had big egos at 16 thought we were too cool for each other!
SFS: Nice. So when did you guys start DJing together?
Just (J): We always stayed in touch and had mutual friends. During a break, I saw what he was doing. He probably started six months before me, and I always had a passion for music. I saw what he was doing, went to Vegas, came back, and went to Guitar Center to get turntables!
DL: I actually gave him a speech before he went out and bought them and said, "Yo, if you’re gonna buy them, they’re a lot of money, so you better be into it." This was pretty much right after school.
J: Yeah right after high school.
DL: That’s when we became friends.
SFS: What gave your name the Designer Deejays?
DL: I coined it even before I started DJing! I didn’t
even know I was gonna DJ yet, but I was like I want to be the Designer DeeJays but I have to have someone else, I can’t be on my own. We wanted to provide a different look, and I knew someone else had to be a part of that. We wanted to brand ourselves different, and being a duo, it was something that was kind of fresh.
SFS: Like couture designers?
J: Right, right...
DL: Yes, I suppose the upper echelon!
J: However, we don’t necessarily wear like Gucci or
Prada, more like designer music.
SFS: So what’s this "designer music"? And tell us more about the 2x4 turntablism!
DL: It’s basically our brand. One thing to go into is that we play original 12" tracks, so we mash-up something that gets thrown around a lot, but we’re not really mash up DJs. We mash up the genres together, and we do live things, but the tracks we play are original tracks made by the producer.
J: It’s a really open format, lots of turntables, scratches. With our 2x4 set, we really take advantage of having four turntables, two mixers, and two people. With a lot of people they have this "oh it’s his turn, oh now it’s your turn stuff," and it’s become a look a lot of people take advantage of.
DL: It’s a very cohesive thing with us. We don’t want to claim that we are inventors of it, but we brought it back from the grave. It derived from our DMC wannabe desire. That’s where it came from. If it was 1990, we would want to be on the DMC circuit. I don’t think we would be doing nightclubs if it was 1990.
J: Another cool thing is that we don’t stick to one genre. For example, at Sloane, I started out with some funk, disco, jazz, and then added a top 40s hit, then some electro. Back and forth. We don’t stick to one format which kind of separates ourselves from another. If we do a mash-up of a song, we’ll be doing it live, like an a cappella.
SFS: You guys have basically come up pretty quickly in the SF scene, what do you attribute that success for?
J: A lot of practice and meeting the right people.
DL: We realize the importance of networking.
SFS: What are some of your favorite places to DJ?
DL: I would say our residencies: Slide, Infusion, Vessel, Sloane, and Roe.
SFS: Do you guys have any memorable gigs and people
you’ve worked with that you want to share with us?
DL: Definitely our last party of the month at Slide with Nate Mezmer. It has to do a lot with us coming up; we did a lot with that party, and it did a lot with us to gain notoriety. Also DJ AM, obviously; we shared the stage with him at 330 Ritch. He played a big part of our influences.
J: The Day After Christmas Party at Slide; we did our first 2x4 set and it worked out really great. And after that, our friend Nate Mezmer was like, "Let’s do this every month." I feel like ever since that, we brought 2x4 back from the grave in San Francisco. We’ve worked with some pretty big names, and that Mezzanine party was pretty fun.
SFS: Who are some of your influences?
Both: DJ AM, Jazzy Jeff, DJ Z-Trip, DJ Spider, DJ Morse Code, those are the main ones. There’s a lot.
SFS: How do you keep the dynamic and not kill each other?
J: Oh, we kill each other sometimes, obviously that comes with the territory. We work with each other all the time, but we know each how each other are so we can keep out of each other’s day.
DL: We share the same vision and we did from the start, so we just kind of go about our day and make sure we do what we gotta do and fulfill that.
SFS: Who are some of your favorite people to work with?
DL: Well we don’t work with too many people just mostly ourselves.
J: But there’s E-Rock, Hella Miles, Slick D…lots!
SFS: How do you guys usually get the crowd hyped?
J: Someone just asked me the other day "What’s your go-to song", but it always depends on the crowd. I could play one go-to song for one crowd, and I could play it for another crowd they’ll look at me and start shaking their heads at me, like, "What are you doing?"
SFS: What keeps you guys in San Francisco and not LA or New York?
DL: We took off primarily this year and right now we’re
at that point to make it a goal by 2010 to start to branch out. Nothing’s really holding us back, and we’re just trying to meet the right people.
SFS: What are some of your favorite things about the SF club scene?
J: I really like the culture in San Francisco and it’s really diverse; you never know what you’re gonna get and you have to be prepared for anything.
DL: It’s not that big of a market, but it’s a really personable market and a lot of people know each other.
Catch the Designer Deejays this Friday at Roe and watch them open up for LMFAO this Halloween at The Regency Center! Follow them at http://twitter.com/Designerdeejays
by Christina Li on Oct 14, 2009