November 14th, 2008 | by NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns, Columns

Hang the DJ: DJ Gray

     
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gray This week's edition of Hang the DJ calls to mind those famous lyrics from Disney's animated flick Pocahontas: "The things you never knew you never knew." I for one didn't know Benny Benassi had continued to release music after his erotic club banger "Satisfaction" in 2002—that is, until DJ Gray included the Italian artist's more recent track "I'm Not Drunk" as a part of his playlist answer. The former Detroit resident goes on to reveal many more tidbits that fall into the same category, though more in relation to his DJ self than international song catalogs. The electronica loving local blog FuckBadMusic? He built it. Follow along for more interesting info, including a song request story that sets a new standard for annoying (and unique) delivery. Think a megaphone.

How did you decide on your DJ name? What's your real name?
My DJ name is the same as my real name: Gray with an "A." I grew up in the Detroit region (thus my love for techno and ghettotech Detroit style). It's really cold in Michigan, and subsequently, I always had the sniffles. So I called myself DJ Sniffles. But when I moved at Portland, everyone thought it was a reference to cocaine (which is a drug I definitely can't support because of its environmental and social justice side effects), so I went to using my real name. I feel that using my real name works well for the type of sets that I do, since they might be all over the place, indicative of the wide variety of music I like.

As the Rapture say, "People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this." How often do you encounter this?
The reason why I got into DJing was to be a better catalyst for dance parties. I'm not interested in playing background music or just for myself. So if people aren't dancing during one of my gigs, I'm going to figure out how to do get them to do that. Most of the time, I do that simply by playing a wide variety of music in really short clips—mashup style—and observing closely for when people's heads might be bopping or their feet tapping. Once I lock in to the general vibe for the evening, that's the direction I go in. If you claim to be a prime dance time DJ and you don't get the dance floor moving, you're not trying hard enough or you don't have a big enough music collection.

Ideal crowd?
Three quarters women. They are hands down more interested and able to dance than men, who often feel too shy or awkward to get on the dance floor. And a dance floor full of women will always get some more men on it. I want the crowd to be intentionally there to dance. I want them to be happy about it. I want them to be excited. I want them to connect to the music and the rhythms of their body.

How do you feel about requests?
It all depends on how the evening is going and what the approach is. If the dance floor is packed and I am obviously doing something right, I'm going to ignore requests. If the dance floor is sparse, I'm going to take requests in the form of constructive criticism. The reason why I DJ is to make people happy and dance. It's not about me. It's not about the music that I like. But I do get veto power, I will never play funk or "psy-trance." However if you are drunk and try to climb into my DJ booth waving your beer over my gear, I'm going to push you away really quick. If I do play a request, it's nice when the requester acknowledges that I did that and that they appreciate the gesture.

Do you have a story about a particular request or requester?
I was playing in a basement at a house party. I was doing a lot of dirty hip-hop, and it was really packed, sweaty, and hot. This one drunk girl kept trying to get my attention while I have my headphones. I am obviously busy. She wants to hear Prince or something like that. 10 minutes later, she comes back with a megaphone and repeats herself, over and over again in my face. At this point I do an abrupt stop with the record, I just turn the record player off, I get on the microphone, and tell the entire crowd that she is not letting me do my job. She gets around seven beer cans thrown at her.

Do you DJ full time? What do you do outside of DJing?
I DJ out about about one to two times a month, pretty much at the rate that gigs come to me. I try to keep this fun and not view it as a "job" or as any stable source of income [as] that's when I've seen egos develop. To pay the bills I'm a graphic designer and build websites.

Where can we find you?
I do a monthly electro dance night at Branx with some friends; we call it DigitaLove. Our goal is to bring in headliners that are up and coming, and which don't get enough love here in Portland. I also do various fundraiser events, house parties, and other club nights.

I've [also] picked up a residency at Pine Street Lounge on Friday nights. Last week was our first night, but it was totally packed. Lots of fun, I even got to throw in some ghettotech.

How'd you get your current main gig?
My friend Sasha, DJ Countzero asked me to build him [the] website FuckBadMusic, which grew into a monthly at Branx.

How long have you been spinning?
A little over five years now.

What drew you to DJing originally?
I thought that there was a lack of quality DJs playing the music that I wanted to hear. I originally started off doing hip-hop in North Portland punk houses and bit by bit have been able to secure myself more in the electronic scene, which is where I prefer to be.

What are your thoughts on vinyl vs CDs vs laptops?
I feel that whatever people are comfortable with is what they should use. I don't think vinyl sounds "warmer" or "richer" or whatever adjective folks want to throw around. Vinyl is harder to do well, but that doesn't make it better. I've personally gotten more and more digitally inclined over the years, I love my current Vestax VCI-100 MIDI controller and Traktor on a laptop setup. Not only is it portable enough that I can show up to a gig on my bike, the technology helps me to make faster syncs of songs, thus granting me a lot more time to do on-the-spot remixing, cutting, effects, and tricks. I can also pay more attention to the dance floor. Of course, a lot of people don't find pressing buttons or twisting knobs/sliders very visually interesting, they want to see someone's hand manually manipulate a spinning vinyl platter. I don't really care much what I look like as a performer. I don't want people looking at me when I'm DJing, I want them to be dancing.

What songs will we find ourselves dancing to with you?
"Move for Me (Santiago & Bushid Remix)" - Kaskade Feat. Deadmau5
"Red Hot Booty (Kue, Dan, and Glaude Mashup)" - Sinden
"I Kissed A Girl (Mr Gaspar Remix)" - Katy Perry
"I'm Not drunk (Bloody Beetroots remix)" - Benny Benassi
"Stuck on Repeat (Fake Blood remix)" - Little Boots
"Bubblegum (Hatchmatik Birdflue in June Remix)" - Thunderheist

How would you describe yourself in five words or less—complete sentence or not:
I'm a nice guy

How do you describe the genre you play?
Dirty electro, electrosleaze, crunk, fidget house, ghettotech, booty bass, mashups, '80s remixes, epic electro house.

Who are your other favorite Portland DJs?
Ravi, Soloman, Deafchild, JimmyJamma, Countzero, Pipedreams, SauceyPossum.

DJ Gray spins at Pine Street Lounge tonight (and every Friday for that matter.)

Links:
DJ Gray official site
DJ GraySpace
FidgetaLove Oct. 08 - Latest DJ Gray Mix
Fuck Bad Music

Photo care of Myspace
 
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