For almost a decade and a half, Chris Rodriguez — better known as C Rod — has been a staple in the local music scene as a musician, producer and DJ. C Rod is most often aligned with Dallas house music, but his depth of knowledge casts a wider net into the soul, jazz and disco roots that inform a modern form of soulful dance music. He spent 13 years as a trained musician before he ever hit the decks. For this week’s Mixtape Q&A, C Rod gives insight to his journey from musician to DJ and some of the local vets that helped him along the way.
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C Rod: A close friend of mine, Adam Pickrell, was the one who introduced me to DJing. He took me to my first dance music events in 1999 and though I did not get what was going on with the music I knew there was something to it. Fast forward a couple of years and I was coming home to Dallas from Berklee College of Music in Boston. At that time Adam and I became roommates. That’s where I was able to get my first DJ lesson of “This makes it go faster and this makes it go slower. Now find the first beat of the track, line it up with the phrasing of the other track, and go!!” That first DJ lesson was back in 2001 and from that moment on I was hooked. 14 years later and I am still hooked.
How was this mix made?
I made this mix using Serato DJ and its record function. Though I still love the old school roots of vinyl DJing, I have really embraced computer-based DJ programs. The modern functions of a DJ program, such as Hot Cues, Loops and Instant Doubles, are used often in the making of this mix as well as in my live sets.
Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
It's heavily based on recent gigs. I have found myself DJing at Standard Pour in Uptown a few times a month and really enjoy their musical direction of mixing soul, funk and indie dance music. Those are different sounds but they have similar elements and vibe, in my opinion. The tempo range and rhythms of the beats also allow for a fairly smooth transition.
What DJs have had a profound impact on you?
The DFW DJs have had the most impact on the way I approach DJing. To name a few: DJs Sal Gato, Joe Castillo and Adam Pickrell. I was very influenced by them during my formative DJ years. They taught me a lot about music selection, programming and where the music and culture came from. In the years following, the ESP (Eclectic Souls Project) crew was a major part of my development — not only as a DJ but also in helping me to grow a connection with and love for the dance music scene here.
How long have you been playing music?
I have been playing music for just shy of 27 years now. I started at age 10, learning the clarinet first and then the saxophone. Once I tried playing an instrument I knew that I would be a musician for the rest of my life. At first it is a hobby that eventually becomes an obsession.
Once you get past all of that then music simply becomes a lifestyle.
What is your most memorable music moment of the past year?
There have been a couple of good moments during the past year. The one that does stick out the most would be a DJ battle with one of my production partners, Dustin Van Kleeck, aka. DVK. It was a night that he had put together for pairs of DJs to battle each other with two DJ rigs set simultaneously to one master mixer. It challenged all the DJs that night to use their DJ Tools, a cappella tracks and be a cog in the greater track. I felt DVK and I really had a moment where the parts and pieces clicked together. The energy from what we were putting together was fantastic.
Do you still buy vinyl?
As much as I still have respect and an affinity for the feel and art of vinyl records, I do not regularly buy them.
Where do you like to dig for tracks? Any specific websites or stores?
Since I am not buying vinyl regularly I do lean on the websites for acquiring music. I am mostly shopping at iTunes. They do have a good amount of what I am looking for but certainly not everything. Some of the other sites I will go to for music are Traxsource, Juno and Beatport ... Regardless of the site I am shopping at I strongly believe in and encourage everyone to buy your music as much as possible. I believe in this especially if you are a DJ. More often than not the sound quality of the music is going to be better and the artists should be supporting the artists.
What other genres or artists do you like to listen to outside of dance or club-related music?
I have always been a big fan of jazz music. Jazz is what got me deep into music during my early years as a musician, so that is always a sound I enjoy listening to. Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and Eric Dolphy are amongst my favorites. I also dig some of the indie pop and rock artists out there like Broken Bells, St. Vincent, Toro y Moi and Django Django. The indie sounds out there are becoming more and more a part of my sound both as a DJ and Producer.
Do your have a preference between DJing and production?
I truly enjoy them both. They are an equal part of me now as much as playing saxophone is. Though if I had to choose between DJing versus production, and could only do one from now until the end of time, I would without any doubt choose production. I have been writing music longer than I have been DJing and would still need to have that outlet for creating original music. I do feel very fortunate that I do have the ability and outlet to do both in my life.
What is in your near future as a producer or DJ?
In the near future I will be getting back in the studio with DVK to continue our work as a music producing collaboration. We have a few EPs that released late last year and early this year. The EPs and singles we have released and previewed to listeners have been well received. We want to keep progressing with that success and build up a catalog that can carry us into the distant future.
The Edge (Remastered) – David McCallum
The Ember Song (Original Mix) – Sidney Barnes
Polishing Peanuts (feat. Cyph4) – Deluxe
Slow Train – Trail of Down
Night Keys – Satin Jackets
You Got the Love (A Cappella) - Candi Staton
The Stroll Pt. 1 (Bonus Track) – Binky Griptite & The Mellowmatics
Play It Back (Original Extended Mix) – Soul Sugar
Beating Hearts (French Horn Rebellion Remix) – Savoir Adore
The Reeling – Passion Pit
The Reeling (Groove Police Club Mix) – Passion Pit
Midnight Walk – Kartell
Tongues (feat. Kopps) – Joywave
Laventille Road March – Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band
Get Ready – Lady
Madder Red (the Golden Filter Remix) – Yeasayer
Let’s Reggae All Night - CSS
I Can Cook (Miami Horror Remix)(Bonus Tracks) – Grafton Primary
Rock Steady (Alternate Mix) – Aretha Franklin
Bodies – Savoir Adore
Multiply – Jamie Lidell
Just Can’t Win (Radio Edit) – Lee Fields & The Expressions
Be Impressive – The Griswolds
4Ever No More – Jesse Boykins III
Come Down! – RED ASTAIRE
Ghostwalk – The Budos Band
Call it What You Want – EPHEMERALS