Aaron Hensley got his start in the mid-'90s rave culture, and two decades later, he still has a special connection to the dance floor. Hensley's deep roots in house music have informed his deejaying, which is always evolving.
He recently branched into deep house and started learning to produce. For this week's mixtape, Hensley turned in a solid hour of funky tech house with plenty of bounce. You can see Hensley perform with the Basshead Society at Not Another Halloween Party 2 from Nov. 3-5 at Tanglewood Forest.
How did you get started deejaying? How long have you been at it?
I bought my first turntable from DJ Merritt in ’98 after being exposed to dance music on a radio show called "Edgeclub" on Saturday nights during the mid '90s. I was able to buy a mixer soon after from JT Donaldson at Spinmasters. I had to wait until I could afford the other turntable before I could complete the setup, which wasn’t until about 1999.
In the meantime, I would DJ with one turntable and one CD Walkman. Soon after my setup was complete, I met a few friends that had the same love for the music, and we would practice for hours and set up at any house party that would have us.
In the early 2000s, I entered a DJ contest at the Home Bar to be a part of a newly formed production crew called Big Pimp Productions. Although I don’t even know who won that competition, we went on through countless shows together. Through those events, I was able to be exposed enough to start getting bookings elsewhere. I was really inspired to DJ after witnessing the connection the DJ had to the dance floor.
What is your relationship with house music?
House music has always been a staple in Dallas as far as dance music is concerned. A lot of the underground shows in Dallas during the mid-'90s featured an almost exclusive house DJ/artist lineup. I think a lot of the PLUR (peace, love, unity and respect) adopted by the rave scene was being practiced since day one in the house scene. As far as a genre, house can be funky and banging, down to soulful and deep. To me, it is a reincarnation of disco. Although I don’t play as much house music as I did during my banging house days, you can still hear the influence in the music I produce and the tech house I play.
How was this mix made and is there a theme?
I made this mix using two Pioneer CDJ900NXS, a Pioneer DJM900NXS mixer and my laptop running Traktor. As far as a theme or guide, I wanted to make a mix that showcases my current taste in dance music. As long as someone loves it, I have done my job. The objective is to make you dance and escape the daily grind of your life for a moment.
What other music are you into, outside of dance music?
Although dance music consumes most of my life, I grew up listening to gangster rap/hip-hop and heavy metal, so if it’s not dance music, it’s one of those. I confess lately I have been consuming a bit of Asian rap like Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, Rich Chigga and, my favorite, Yaeji.
Where do you like to dig for music?
I consume most of my music these days from Beatport and sometimes Traxsource or Soundcloud. I have spent years curating my favorite producers and labels in the My Beatport section of Beatport. It takes a lot of time sifting through thousands of tunes to find my favorites, but it's absolutely worth it.
Do you ever play vinyl?
I haven’t played vinyl in probably 10 years, but it’s what I cut my teeth on mixing back in the day. I miss playing tunes not every one could get unless you were at the record store during new shipment day, which I did religiously for years. I'm gonna be an old man before I get rid of my collection, though, as I paid a pretty penny back in the day for my records. I just can’t justify giving up something I paid $10 to $15 for for pennies on the dollar. I might just end up being buried with them.
How did you get started producing?
I have played around with producing beats and loops for years before I was in the position to take it more seriously with the help of a tutor. I tried a couple introductory Ableton/production courses through Berklee and Dub Academy, but they didn't really teach me how to get to a finished product, only the basics for beginners.
For the last two years, I have been working weekly with Chris Lund of Left/Right to help me to develop my skills as a producer. He has been crucial in helping me go from an idea or loop built with multiple elements (drums, bass, synths, leads, chords, etc.) to a fully fleshed-out track. He does my mixing as the track develops and masters it when we are finished. He is great for instant feedback and bouncing ideas as well.
My goal when I started with Chris was to produce 10 tracks and get at least one signed to a label. Since then, I have produced about 20 tracks and signed six with three different labels, as well as several collaborations and a few remixes. It is beyond anything I ever dreamed possible, and I am thankful for all his help.
What do you produce in?
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Tell us about your releases and which labels they're on.
My first release was a tune titled “Island Dreams” on Italian label BeLove Records. A three-track EP soon followed with tunes “My Ride Home,” “You & I” and “Acid Run” on a label out of Miami called Bedroom Musik.
Do you have any music coming down the pipe?
Music is always coming down the pipe. Whether they are released officially, I’m not sure. I do know my collaboration with my friend Ardie Jasso will be released on Ammo Recordings out of California in November, which is special as this is his first release, and he was in the same position production-wise as I was back when I was stuck in a loop.
I don’t think I could have gotten us this far without all that I have learned the past two years. I will also see another release on BeLove closer to Christmas with label mate De La Muerte. I am currently in the studio working on one original house tune, one remix for a competition and several other collaborations.
Aaron Hensley – "Push"
Daniel Fernandes – "Night Drive"
Harry Romero – "Indy Loop"
Lex Luca – "Up in your face"
SION – "Good Girl One"
Kaskade, Lokii, Mr. Tape – "Show of Hands"
Roland Clark, Steven Mestre, Alexander Technique – "The Last Dj on Earth" (Marcos Lys Remix)
Antoine Delveg – "Disciples"
Simon Doty – "Parasite"
Jose Nunez, Mr. V – "Redlights"
Reset Robot – "Creature of Time"
Mike Vale, Dqwon – "Rhythm Ride"
Paul Anthonee, George Plakidis – "Blind"