January 22nd, 2009 | by NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL Music | Posted In: Columns

Hang the DJ: Doctor Adam

     
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dr The doctor is in. No, not Dougie Howser or George Clooney circa his starring role on ER, but Doctor Adam. Could this be our first DJ inquisition with a bonafide doctor? While previously we've featured Lady Adie who was pursuing that route of education, Doctor Adam is indeed our first to have earned his Ph.D. Originally hailing from Michigan's upper peninsula, Doctor Adam—originally known as Adam Arola—grew up in the town of Dollar Bay "with a population of 400 people" before jumping ship to Southwest Michigan and then to Oregon. With that remote upbringing in mind, Arola says, "Don't even ask how I got into rap or hardcore punk. It had something to do with Yo! MTV Raps and my sister listening to Fugazi."

After relocating to the Ann Arbor area, Arola struck up ties to Ghostly International, which brings to mind local troubador Benoît Pioulard who, prior to a move to Portland, interned at the seminal label. Wanna find out about Arola's chumminess with the label? Or about how this latest member of the DJ troupe Deep Warriorz figures a spoonful of money helps a request go down/get spun? Check it below:

How did you decide on your DJ name? What's your real name?
When I first started DJing, I went by Sequence—a name which I got off of an ATM receipt. It seemed appropriate. That was my name for my first five years, the bulk of which was spent in Ann Arbor/Detroit. After a few years of DJing in Eugene (I moved there for Graduate School in 2002), I simply started using my real name and performed as DJ Adam. That was a decision largely based upon my beef with DJs who gave themselves DJ names when all they did was turn records on and off. I used to be a battle DJ, and when I was still part of that scene I felt that I warranted a title for performance. I have exceptionally high standards for both myself as a DJ and also for other DJs. If you want a title, you better be able to show and prove. The name change was largely a protest move directed at kids who fronted as DJs but couldn't mix, couldn't scratch, couldn't do anything other than be a human jukebox. Basically, I was saying, I don't have a DJ name and I'll play you under the table. But after getting my Ph.D. in the winter of 2008, the employees at the club I played at started jokingly referring to me as Doctor Adam, going so far as to put it on fliers. After awhile, it just stuck, especially after moving to Portland this summer when having a name that I could use to distinguish myself from others become necessary for professional reasons. So now I'm Doctor Adam.

As the Rapture say, "People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this." How often do you encounter this?
Given the nature of the gigs I've been playing since I first started (hip-hop shows, house parties, the biggest club in Eugene, and now clubs/bars in Portland that people go to specifically to dance) I haven't encountered the “people don't dance no more” mentality with all that much frequency. Moreover, I think of my job as a DJ to get people to dance, and I think one of my greatest assets as a DJ is the ability to read a crowd. Accordingly, if I have a crowd that is standing around, I'll find a way to make them dance or give myself an aneurysm trying.

I'd also like to note the irony of this lyric: The Rapture are, of course, largely responsible for getting indie rock kids to dance again, perhaps for the first time.

Ideal crowd?
Being an obsessive music nerd, I like to play to kids who know what they're listening to, but also want to dance. I have a reputation for being that DJ that sings along with every song I put on, especially with rap. Ideally, everyone would be singing along with me while dancing their asses off. I also prefer to play to a crowd that is discriminating about the quality of the DJ. My DJ upbringing in Ann Arbor/Detroit had me playing largely to crowds that would boo if you botched a mix—and as intimidating as that can be, I prefer to play to such crowds as they are not only critical when you perform poorly, but also much more enthusiastic when you kill it. In brief: I want to play to a crowd that recognizes that good DJs aren't just jukeboxes and that is ready to get loose.

How do you feel about requests?
Pip Skid said: “You wanna request a song/you write that on money.” I used to put a sign up with that lyric on it. I'll hear anyone out who has a request, but I'll only play request if they fit the set I'm crafting. And money really doesn't hurt. The only requests I get salty about are kids who are extremely demanding, but are asking me to play a song that doesn't even remotely fit into my set.

Do you have a story about a particular request or requester?
Many. The shortest one: When DJing in Eugene, there was a bachelorette party at the club, all of them kept requesting peak hour tracks at 10 o'clock and I kept rebuffing them. I did eventually end up playing some of their requests, as while [during] the mix I got hit in the face with a blow up doll that they had thrown into my booth. [It] had a sheet of paper with all their requests in its mouth along with a fifty-dollar bill. I respond well to class.

Do you DJ full time? / What do you do outside of DJing?
DJing is my full time job. On the side I'm a philosophy professor. Or maybe it's the other way around. I teach the history of philosophy, contemporary continental philosophy, indigenous philosophy, and philosophy of art at a local University. Watch out for my first book that is to be published sometime next year. I also write for a couple of blogs: locally, Fuckbadmusic, and nationally So Many Shrimp.

Where can we find you venue wise?
Most of my gigs are at Tube and Crown Room, but I also play Branx, Rotture and Holocene with some frequency.

Do you have a current main gig?
I have two residences at present. The first is Chedda at Crown Room. I play every first Tuesday of the month and push the electro hard. The second is Deep Warriorz Night (which is myself and Hoop Dreams, we've been playing together for about five years) at Tube. That is every third Friday and we just try to throw killer parties at which nothing is off limits. If we don't make you go, “oh my god, I can't believe their playing this,” at least a couple of times during the night, we've failed.

How did you become part of Deep Warriorz? Why has the name switched hands between so many DJs?
I became part of Deep Warriorz when I moved to Portland due to my long time DJ-partnership with Hoop Dreams. We played at the same club in Eugene for many years (I was the Friday night resident, he played Saturdays) and when I moved to Portland he helped me get my foot in the door in the scene. Lamborghini (former member) had recently moved out of town, Hoops and I had been talking about creating a duo identity, and so we just took over the moniker. Given the nature of our performances and the nature of what Deep Warriorz is supposed to be about, it made perfect sense. Now we have an opportunity to show people the power of our DJ hivemind.

How long have you been spinning?
I'm about a decade deep at this point.

What drew you to DJing originally?
I started DJing because I was obsessed with rap music and wanted to participate in the scene. I've been playing in bands (mostly hardcore punk) since I was 13, so the musicality of turntablism drew me in. I also had a lot of friends who were DJs, though most of them played techno. They facilitated my entry into the world of playing records. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my fellow members of Detroit/Ann Arbor's Unfadeable Crew and the DJ family from the early years of Ghostly International.

When you mention "the DJ family from the early years of Ghostly International," were they just a part of Ghostly International's early years or did you work alongside the label?
I went to college with, DJed with, and worked with much of the original Ghostly roster (namely Sam Valenti, Rob Theakston, Will Calcutt, Matt Dear, Tadd Mullinix, and Midwest Product). I was never an employee but I did a lot of of street team work for them in their early days—putting posters around town, sticker tagging, etc. All of these guys were extremely supportive of my DJing: putting me on parties, providing me with test presses of new releases, and cutting me crazy deals in my early record purchasing years (Tadd worked at Encore Records in Ann Arbor). The amazing talent that was swirling around Ann Arbor during the late '90s/early '00s was always connected to Ghostly in some way. The roster's willingness to think beyond the confines of a genre, while focusing on cultivating a unified aesthetic and exhibiting a constant concern for quality were extremely inspirational to me.

What are your thoughts on vinyl versus CDs versus laptops?
I was a vinyl diehard for years. I hated hard on digital DJs. Now I use Serato and eat my words on the daily. I still have a massive record collection and continue to buy vinyl, but for the kind of music I play and the kinds of crowds I play to, using Serato has made my life so much easier—especially since I don't own a car. It has also enabled me to increase the performance aspect of my DJing given the ease with which I can create loops and basically create mash-ups live. I have respect for people who play vinyl, but looking back, I find the hatred of people who don't play vinyl to be unreasonable and small-minded. That being said, I still have hesitancy about DJs that use programs that beat match for them. I haven't gotten over that yet. Maybe I will eventually.

What songs will we find ourselves dancing to with you?
Not in order:

Right now:
Kid Sister – Pro Nails (Rusko Remix)
Junkie XL – Booming Right At You
Estelle x Rob Base+DJ EZ-Rock – It Takes American Boys (Doctor Adam Fix)
Matthew Dear – Free To Ask
Young Jeezy – Circulate

All Time:
Volume 10 – Pistol Grip Pump
Maurizio – M5
Notorious B.I.G. - Hypnotize
Fedde Le Grand – Put Your Hands Up For Detroit
Dead Prez – Hip Hop

How would you describe yourself in five words or less - complete sentence or not:
Obsessive, unabashed nerd. With swagger.

How do you describe the genre you play?
I don't play a genre. I put lots of genres in a blender. I play lots of rap, glitch, dubstep, minimal techno, electro, reggaeton, eighties and nineties. You can expect some combination of all of those genres whenever I play, especially when I'm playing my own edits which are, I think, the best example of my tastes.

Who are your other favorite Portland DJs?
Hoop Dreams, Bryan Zentz (one of the best techno DJs in the world), Nathan Detroit, Tyler Tastemaker, DJ Zimmie (before he moved back to Pittsburgh), Rude Dudes (DJ Rad & Solomon, DJ), M. Quiet, Freaky Outy, H.R. Paperstacks, Cory O, Eric Pipedream, Dundiggy, Matt & Kellan, and Lady Adie. That's my Jean Claude van Fam.

Coincidentally enough, Doctor Adam's next gig is on the 24th of January alongside Lady Adie at the Crown Room.

Links:
Doctor AdamSpace
FuckBadMusic
So Many Shrimp

Photo care of Alex Lamm
 
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