After a very long hiatus, Hang the DJ is back! To usher in the return of the weekly column, Jay Martin aka DJ HWY 7 has submitted himself to the usual battery of questions. A designer by day, Martin got his start DJing vinyl at Dunes and has continued to spin ever since at many a venue around town. Below we get a peek into his DJ name's southern connection and its reflection of his taste and identity, what keeps him behind the decks and why oh why the music might cut out during his set. Hint: think of a recent Jamie Foxx song featuring T-Pain
How did you decide on your DJ name? What's your real name?
HWY 7 (Highway 7) runs North and South through the hill country of North Mississippi (Holly Springs) through the Delta and in to southern Mississippi (Belzoni). It's along this stretch of highway that a lot of the artists that I play records of live or were from. It has a history steeped in blues and soul music. It's an incredible stretch of highway and very scenic—tons of kudzu, wildlife, great roadside markets to buy BBQ, catfish sandwiches and beer from...I love it. And I always look forward to driving it.
Are you from the South yourself?
Yes. I am originally from Virginia, but have ties to Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, spending time in each place frequently to this day. I often use Memphis and Oxford as a base and drive the highways in search of musicians and records.
As the Rapture say, "People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this" - how often do you encounter this?
I encounter this all the time. But no worries. I might just be there enjoying my drink and the music, too. If people want to dance, great. If not, no worries. I just like playing the music and that's that. It all just depends on the venue, the mood (despite the music), whatever.
Anyone really. As long as they are enjoying the music. Sure it's fun when folks are dancing, but even when they aren't, as long as they seem to be diggin' the music. That's all that matters.
How do you feel about requests?
I'm cool with requests - as long as people take in to consideration what they are hearing before they ask. If you are listening to what I'm playing, don't ask for Prince or Michael Jackson—I won't have it. Go to Tube for that—ha! Really, though, the genre(s) of music I play are pretty specific, so I'm fortunate that I don't end up in situations where someone asks me to play something silly. If someone asks for something, and I have it, I'll definitely play it.
Do you have a story about a particular request or requester?
Nope. Luckily, most of my requests have been cool. People that are around generally pick up on the vibe bein' put down. More than anything, it's just great when folks come up and ask what song has just been played or just say that they dig what they just heard.
'Bout the only thing "funny" that ever happens is when I drunkenly kick the power cord out and the music dies. Ha. That's my own drunken fault though—and seems to happen a lot. Ha!
Do you DJ full time? What do you do outside of DJing?
I wish. Not really, but it'd be interesting, I guess. During the day, I design and develop clothing for a variety of sports and lifestyle brands. I've been doing that a long time. The DJ thing is just for kicks (and free drinks, Ha)!
Where can we find you venue-wise?
Just about anywhere that'll have me, I guess. Really though, I've DJ'd a ton on places in Portland, but places like Valentine's, East End, Tonic seem to find me back there frequently, as of late. I've DJed at Dunes, Slabtown, Billy Ray's Dive, Aalto Lounge, Lola's Room, Matador, The White Eagle, The World Famous Kenton Club and Club 21. A buncha other places, too....
I dig DJing with bands—before, in between and after sets—so I'll get put on bills at Dante's, Berbati's Pan, wherever bands play like some aforementioned places, etc. I'm sure I'll never be invited back to Aalto Lounge though. Ha ha!
I like the spontaneity of not having a "regular" thing. I've done that (have a regular gig) - and most recently at Billy Ray's Dive and Valentine's - but I gave it up. My day-job sometimes keeps me from it, too. I travel a lot for work.
Does why you likely won't be back at the Aalto have to do with alcohol?
The why I don't spin at Aalto anymore has to do with alcohol and attitude, I'm sure. Mine and a patron's... It's kind of a long-ish story, but basically it was a pissing-match as to who was 'more right' and in the owner's eyes, 'the patron is always right.' So be it. Haven't missed it. Doesn't even need to be talked about.
How long have you been spinning?
Oh man. I dunno. How long has Dunes been open?! The "original" Dunes, when it was "really" underground. I started DJing there with Sean Croghan, just as a way to hang out and listen to records together. Mark and Honey were in to it, and it just stuck. Back then it was real quiet for the most part, and we just listened to old jazz records and hung out. It kinda grew from there. So whenever Dunes really opened. That long.
What drew you to DJing originally?
too many records, I guess—and just wanting to hang out with someone outside the house and play them. That's what I was talking about earlier with Dunes. Sean started DJing at Dunes, and I just started bringing my records down for him to check out. It grew from there. From jazz to blues and soul, to whatever...
What are your thoughts on vinyl versus CDs versus laptops?
No thoughts, but I am vinyl only. And preferably 45 to LP when at all possible. 45s are where it's at—on so many levels.
What songs will we find ourselves dancing to with you?
1. Abner Jay - Depression
(As Koko Joe & The Jobhunters) on LMI/MRI (Mississippi Records 38)
2. George Perkins - Groove Making (Golden Records)
3. R.L. Burnside - .44 Blues (Fat Possum records)
4. Bo Bo Jenkins - Shake 'Em On Down (Big Star Records)
5. Lucky Peterson - Good 'Ol Candy (Today Records)
...and the list goes on. I hate these kinda lists because five songs is too few! I have five other top five songs, too!
How would you describe yourself in five words or less - complete sentence or not:
"Pass me that bottle......"
How do you describe the genre(s) you play?
Mississippi Hill Country, Memphis R&B and Northern Soul (at least that's what the coupla' mix CDs I've made say...but really it spans blues, r&b, soul, etc. from all over the place)...and you'll also hear me playing rock inspired by r&b, north/west African guitar music that was inspired by their ancestors and American blues, jazz, vintage Portland punk, whatever, really.
Who are your other favorite Portland DJs?
- Beyonda (my soul sister Casey from Hernando, MS)
- Sean Croghan - who might be DJ Red Robot Walking one minute...and god knows what, the next.
- DJ Petey J. Cool (Patrick Foss from Pure Coutry Gold)
- DJ Yeti (my brother in arms, Mike McGonigal from Yeti Publishing)
You can next catch DJ HWY 7 at Slabtown on Sept. 12 (with Hillstomp, Pure Country Gold & Right On John) and likely at Rotture a couple days prior on Sept. 10 (with DJ Beyonda, Memphix/Daptone's Chad Jone$ Weekley and Tony Janda) as Hole In My Soul
DJ HWY 7Space
Photo by Danyel