Allen McDonald is a staple in the Dallas house and techno community, best known for his affiliation with the Soundslike crew and as one half of the DJ duo Dragonlazer. Dragonlazer was the first mixtape in this run of the Observer mixtape series almost a year ago. Allen is overdue for a run on his own since he is almost more active as a solo DJ. Allen dives into some deep and mysterious territory for this week's mix. With deep pads, percussion-heavy grooves, moody tones and a seductive pace, it's a perfect soundtrack for dancing in the wee hours of the morning. For this week's Q&A, Allen sheds some light on his early roots as a DJ and what drives his passion for club music.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing? How long have you been DJing?
Allen MD: Around '98ish I was into making mixtapes for my personal listening, mostly just '90s R&B and hip-hop. I didn’t understand the whole “alternative” music [thing]. Winamp was what I used to “mix” with, ran it into my stereo onto a tape cassette. Once I got my bonus money from joining the Air Force, bam, I bought me some Technics 1200 M3Ds, a Rane MP22z, a pair of Ortofons and those fancy Sony 700s. That was around 2001. I still have my Rane; I've been thinking of putting it on a mantelpiece. I've been at it for around 14 years. I don’t really see myself as a DJ — more of a mixer than anything.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
I used a Z1 and a X1 Mk. II. I don’t really mix songs at home that much, so a simple setup works for me. The mixes I usually create are mostly to listen to while doing another activity: cleaning your house, driving to work, cooking some food, falling asleep — you know, activities that have a certain rhythm or cadence to life.
What DJs have had a profound impact on you?
Steve Lawler and John Digweed for sure in my early years. Now mostly the family I mix with. You learn a lot more by playing with your family and friends.
What is your most memorable music moment of the past year as a DJ?
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Broken Bow. It’s a meeting of the minds, a cleansing of the soul. It’s a think tank with music being played for three days straight.
What is your most memorable music moment of the past year as an audience member?
Listening to Jay Tripwire. I have some of his records but never heard him play before. Pretty legit. Had me dancing a little.
Where do you like to dig for tracks? Any specific websites or stores?
My No. 1 place is your local Beatport.com.
Do you have a preference between DJing and production?
I enjoy them both. I've taken more of a backseat to mixing songs lately just due to working on production. Production takes time … to make it sound right.
What is in your near future as a DJ?
There’s a monthly I do with my Soundslike [family]… and Diamond Deep family at Wits End rooftop on July 24. There’s a Dragonlazer gig with John Baugh at the end of the month, which should be cool.
Are you involved on the production side of the fence?
I am on the production side of things. I’m a Native Instruments fan, so I run with their Komplete bundle with a Maschine. Everything gets rewired with Ableton. Hopefully sooner than later I’ll have enough product to make a little push. Luckily I’m able to work at my own speed.
How have you seen the Dallas DJ scene grow over the past decade?
Well, I've only been living here since 2007, and since then it has really changed. Back then it seemed really bitter, always people complaining. Sound systems were the last thing on a venue’s mind. Just seemed like more of, “Hey, let's do a weekly, monthly” just because. To me that’s how the culture felt: very meh. Now the equipment and sound is a priority and the audience has gravitated towards having quality sound. Tie that in with the talent of Dallas and you've marinated a culture that people are willing to be a part of.
Who are some of the "family" that you mix with?
John Baugh, Matt Newman, Myles Francis, Chad Humphrey, Brian Busch, Addison Staples, Derrick Chavez, Stephen Murray, ThinKing and our mascot Falfio. Plus all our family and friends who don’t technically play, but they put their soul into us all. Our bus is always welcoming.
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How active is Soundslike nowadays?
We’re active but not as active [as we used to be]. We do a monthly with Diamond Deep, and every now and then do private gatherings. We pushed a lot of international and stateside artists in the past years. But truthfully there’s some serious talent right here in Dallas that can do the same. A lot of the time you just have to look right under your nose.
1. Fink - Fall Into The Light [R’COUP’D]
2. Fink - Fall Into The Light (Deadbeat Remix) [R’COUP’D]
3. Saxtion - This Deep [Kanzen Records]
4. Floating Points, Maalem Mahmoud Guinia - Mimoun Marhaba [Border Community]
5. Satori - The Greatest Against The World [Underyourskin Records]
6. Tiefschwarz ft Emily Karpel - Any Moment (Watergate Records)
7. Gorje Hewek, Izhevski - Calinerie [All Day I Dream]
8. Jose Padilla - Blitz Magic [Internation Feel Recordings]
9. Sandrino, Frankey - Acamar [Innervisions]
10. Alex Niggemann - Asterism (Locked Groove Remix) [Aeon]
11. Dawn of Midi - Ymir [Erased Tapes]