October 31st, 2008 5:33 pm | by NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns, Columns

Hang the DJ: DJ JAK

JAK This week comes DJ JAK, a man who honestly has no affinity for Rihanna's "Umbrella." Deeming the track "evil," DJ JAK navigates his way from that admission (in relation to a ill-fated request) to talking about the DJ collective Subsensory Recordings which he oversees. We also hear about his time in Chile DJing alongside local DJ Nathan Detroit who mentioned the excursion in his Hang the DJ installment as well. Beatport exclusives, future digital releases and guitar playing parents all pop up as well, so dip your toe in to find out what lurks within this spinner's answers:

How did you decide on your DJ name?
Jack Coleman is my given name, so JAK came from that. Now that I have begun to release more original music, I've started using my full name more, but in the Northwest I think I will always be JAK.

As the Rapture say, "People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this." How often do you encounter this?
I don't buy it. If there are people, drinks, good music and a decent sound system, they will dance. You just have to work with them a little. You can't go on at 10 and start dropping the craziest tunes in your selection and expect an instant reaction. You have to get people in to the groove, and then work hard to keep their attention.

Ideal crowd?
I totally enjoy smaller clubs and house parties, but I have to say I really love playing for a big crowd, like a festival or warehouse party. The 1 am slot is great. People are ready to get crazy and the DJ has an opportunity to capture the moment.

How do you feel about requests?
If they are the kind of person who can guess what's in my crate, then they probably aren't going to make a request. If someone wants me to play something that they heard on the radio, I just laugh and keep playing.

Do you have a story about a particular request or requester?
I had a summer residency in Chile at a club called Pagano. It was a crazy place, one of the only major gay clubs in the region and definitely a hub of interesting people. This girl came up and requested "Umbrella" by Rihanna. When I told her I didn't have it she forced her way in to the DJ booth and she started trying to go through my tunes. She absolutely refused to believe that I didn't have a copy and would not leave me alone. My friend had to step in to help me get her away from the equipment.

What do you think of "Umbrella?"
I have to say that it is an evil song. I mean, you almost want to like it for a minute… at least when I first heard it I felt like that. Then it's all ella ella ella ella and it isn't long before I want to slit my wrists.

Do you DJ full time? What do you do outside of DJing?
I have a day job with a Marketing and Communications firm here in Portland.

Where can we find you?
We are putting on an all SubSensory DJ Showcase on Thursday December 4th at Holocene. You can also check my calendar on MySpace for more upcoming events.

How'd you get your current main gig?
Most of my gigs come from word of mouth or from people who have seen me play over the years. I don't have any weeklies or monthly residencies but I am staying busy with nights like Detour at Pala, Lower at the 2410, Pulp Friction at BC's, the SubSensory events at Holocene and even the occasional rave party.

How often do SubSensory events take place at Holocene?
The first was August 14th shortly after I got back to the states. The next is Dec 4th. I would like to do it three to four times a year. I think it is a pretty special night and I don't want to burn people out on it by making it a weekly or monthly gig.

Can you give us some background on SubSensory?
I developed the concept a few years back, I wanted to find a way to get some different people from around the Northwest in to the mix, and to create a place to release my own music, which has been a big focus for me.

You mention Subsensory as a way of releasing your music. As for the other DJs, is Subsensory a promotional tool or are you releasing their music too (now or in the future)?
A little bit of both really. LilRoj had a recent track on the label and he has a few more in the works. I am sure everyone will contribute at some point, it is just a matter of time. We are also releasing tracks from DJs Jakub and Roman Zawodny from Seattle, Joe Nemo from Southern Oregon, DJ Flipsta from Portland and Mikiphone from Chile.

What have you released so far in terms of your own music and through what methods—vinyl, digital and distribution wise?
We are distributing digitally. Our newest releases have been on eight week exclusive with Beatport so that is where people can find the latest tunes.

How do DJs come to be in the SubSensory fold?
We've all been drawn together by mutual musical tastes and interests, honestly. George Holland and I did a few tag team sets at rave parties back in the late '90s and when he started playing events again we got in touch and decided to work together. Nathan Detroit is another friend who I met through DJing. Nate joined SubSensory following a stint playing parties and clubs with me in Chile last summer. LilRoj is someone I met a few years back. We became friends right away, he proved to be a great DJ and budding producer. And Miss Vixen is someone who I met through Roj, she has a great personality and her music is really awesome too. I am honestly thrilled to be working with all of these artists.

How long have you been spinning?
Almost 13 years.

What drew you to DJing originally?
I've always been a music person. I played saxophone in school and later acoustic guitar, went to a lot of concerts and my parents both played guitar. I first became interested in electronic music attending rave parties in the mid '90s and when a friend offered me a cheap pair of turntables and a stack of old house records I knew I had to have them. After that I was hooked.

Did your parents play guitar in bands or just as a hobby?
As a hobby, although it was a pretty serious hobby for my father. He plays the blues and rock and roll and I can't remember a time when there wasn't a guitar around the house.

What are your thoughts on vinyl vs. CDs vs. laptops?
Vinyl rules. It sounds better and I think people on the dance floor react differently to vinyl; there is something engaging about it that is lost when a DJ is looking at their laptop or pushing buttons on the CDJ. But, these days you have to know how to do it all. I don't see myself going 100 percent digital anytime soon, but you will see me using a CDJ along with turntables so that I can play my own tracks and others that I can't get on vinyl.

What songs will we find ourselves dancing to with you?

Radio Slave- Bell Clap Dance Remixed by Slam- Rekids Records
Dj Jakub- Out Of Here- JAK remix- SubSensory Recordings
JAK- Relax- SubSensory Recordings
Cirez D- Ladget- Pig & Dan Rmx- Jericho
Anything by Dubfire, Lutzenkirchen, Adam Beyer, Technasia.

How would you describe yourself in five words or less, complete sentence or not:
Inquisitive, motivated, obsessive, opinionated, easily amused.

How do you describe the genre you play?
Techno and Tech-House. I play a lot of 126-132 bpm dance floor oriented stuff with strong basslines and beats, intricate rhythms, FX and abstract sounds.

Who are your other favorite Portland DJs?
Brian Zentz, George Holland, Lil Roj, 31Avas, Nathan Detroit and Vixen.

Subsensory Recordings

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