Dallas Observer Mixtape with Aidin Hafezamini: Brett Johnson, Mr. G and More

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Aidin Hafezamini worked for a year at Garland's Retroplex Records. Now he's settled into the job of audio engineer for Rockit Lab in Deep Ellum.
Skye Stovall
Aidin Hafezamini has played just about every role in DJ culture. First, he served time as a promoter, having co-founded the Dallas DJ promotion group Prime.

But Hafezamini left that stressful gig five years ago to pursue deejaying. He's also worked other day jobs. For a year, he was behind the counter at Garland's Retroplex Records. And now he's settled into the job of audio engineer for Rockit Lab in Deep Ellum.

As a DJ, Hafezamini's palate rides the line between house, techno and tech house, with deep track selections that are wise beyond his years in the game. This wisdom is on full display in the deep mixtape he's put together for us this week, which includes a pair of tunes from the infamous Mr. G.

Dallas Observer: What drew you into DJ culture? ­How did you get started?
Hafezamini: I show up to a dive bar in Deep Ellum one night shortly after turning 18, not going to name any names, but I was just along for the ride with some older friends not really knowing where or who we were going to see.

We show up and it’s packed — barely any room to move. I showed my ID to the door guy and I somehow slide in. Everyone was dancing, and the DJ on the tiny stage was jamming music I had never heard before. Long story short, that ended up being DJ Heather from Chicago.

A week or two later, I went out again with those friends, and we ended up at a closed-down club that rented the space out every now and again. That ended up being a party with Proton and The Timewriter.

At the time, around 2011, I was really the only one I knew around my age listening to these sounds, and I didn’t listen to EDM, so I was kinda left to find my own way with it. Things are very different now — in a good way; that knowledge has trickled down — but I'm still at least a few years younger than the majority of the local DJs playing this kind of music.

Anyway, that combined with getting a chance to give mixing this new music I was getting into a try hooked me. I’ve been playing my own and collaborative projects as well as helping other crews coordinate events ever since.

How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This mix was made about a year ago when I was really big on being able to warm up a floor properly, so it has a nice progression from deep and moody to more upbeat tracks, and actually I think this was around the time I had gotten one of those Audiophile USB’s, so there’s a few local label tracks in there as well.

Which genres are you generally drawn to as a DJ?
I play anything from dubby minimal to tech house to jackin and more traditional house, as well as techno, depending on the situation. It's hard to pigeonhole it, and I try not to. The sounds playing in this mix are my preferred realm. I will say, though, since I came back from Detroit this year, I’ve been playing a lot of tracky, drum machine and synthesizer-based tech house and techno. That may change in a few months to a stint of nothing but Robsoul-sounding house. I'm all over the place, but in a controlled way.

What impact has going to Detroit for Movement Festival had on you as a DJ?
Mainly it’s a good reminder of how much time, passion and work it takes to get on the level a lot of those artists are creating at. The sounds and energy you get from going definitely have you leaving with some fuel to create when you get back. Between the first year I went and this year's Movement, I had written more music than ever before, and that just showed me what it takes to develop your skills. I'm still not where I want to be musically, but
that’s part of the never-ending journey.

What were your favorite performances? Any surprises from artists you did not already know?
DJ DEEP, Rrose, Danny Daze at Ok Cool, Matthew Johnson Dixon closing the Beatport stage during a thunderstorm ... there are way too many to pick from.  But I'd have to say Rrose, Olin and DJ DEEP were my top three discoveries.

What got you into production?
I am a DJ first, so when I first started trying to make music it was coming from the wrong headspace of "I want to make music for releasing" and to send to all these labels I liked. I was naïve, and that made learning it even harder. I put it down for a couple of years.

Through my first residency at the Green Elephant I met Josh Kynd, who I am now very good friends with and consider one of my mentors. He offered to give me a rundown of Ableton and how he produces. That, combined with an Ableton class at Rockit Lab I took with Demarkus Lewis and Chris Lund, got me back on track and made writing a lot simpler for me. I began to enjoy the actual process. Now I do it more than I deejay.

What is your favorite piece of studio gear or software?
Ableton, by far. It’s the knees of the bees.

Is there a track that you always come back to as a DJ?
I generally try not to play the same tracks too often, but there is one that’s been getting a lot of speaker time lately and has been in the crate for a few years: "Manic (Maceo Plex Remix)" by Azari & III.

What gigs do you have coming up?
I'll be in San Antonio to play with Onionz and Josh in August — I believe the 15th. I just started doing Tuesdays at Wit's End on the roof with Josh as well. We're joining the System crew for the night. They have been doing [that] the last few months. Oh, speaking of production, there's a new track with a free download going up on my SoundCloud page. Give me a follow, if you are so inclined, to get it when it comes out.

Track List:
DJ W!LD – "Let's Do This (Original Mix)"
DJ W!LD – "Breakin (Original Mix)"
Mr. G – "Hip Flexer"
Wilian Kraupp – "To the Sun"
Djuma Soundsytems – "Your Deep Is Not Your Deep (Aki Bergen Mix)"
Death on the Balcony – "Distant Minds"
Neverdogs – "No Control"
WD2N – "Necessary Evil (Joeski's Loop the Bass Mix)"
&ME – "Blitz"
Brett Johnson & Mikey V – "Runaway (4am Dub)"
Chris Carrier – "Stories"
Phil Weeks – "Jack to the Groove"
Paride Saraceni – "Dissolute"
Escape – "Dusty Kid"
Mr G – "Let Down"