Best known for his epic run hosting the '80s night at Hailey's Club in Denton, Jonathan Graham has been a staple DJing as DJG in North Texas for the past few decades. Due to an older brother that was involved with the DJ scene in his younger years, he was exposed to much at a young age and instilled with the purest digger spirit. His intricate knowledge of a multitude of genres drives him to integrate a variety of genre twists within one set and have it all make since. Graham is very much of the school of DJ as storyteller, so for this weeks Mixtape he's in his comfort zine weaving a tale as the musical journeyman.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing? How long have you been DJing?
Graham: My older brother used to go clubbing in Dallas and he eventually had a DJ residency at Metropolis/Xenon. This was when I was 11 and 12, so I was still too young to go out. When he left the house I used to go into his room where he kept his turntables and I mixed records all night. You could say I’ve been a bedroom DJ since about 1990, but I didn’t get into playing out publicly until 2000.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
It is unavoidable to ignore that a mix is a journey. And for me, this is complete with peaks and valleys (caves, castles and beaches, for that matter). I'm drawn to mood, atmosphere and sounds initially, then rhythm and tempo. Particularly, left-field tracks, some of which have a unique vintage sound, but a modern feel. (The CR-78 drum machine happens to be featured on many of these selections.) This was recorded in the home studio of TX-Connect a.k.a. Gavin Guthrie on two Technics 1200s. We recorded this direct to C60 cassette tape before putting it into Ableton.
So how was the "journey" composed then?
I wanted an emotive and steady first half with a more ecstatic and experimental second half. Consequently, the first part of this mix is comprised of some personal favorites. These are songs that I’ve wanted to put down in a mix, but I’ve been afraid to freeze them in time next to others. The last half is me “painting” with rhythms. I’ve done it for years with “pulse-less” ambient sounds, but lately I have been confidently experimenting with this approach.
You had an epic run doing the '80s night at Hailey’s in Denton. How did that come about?
I brazenly asserted myself! I had been playing parties in Denton for a little while when Hailey’s had just opened. This was probably early 2004. When I heard they wanted to have a retro dance night I told Glen Farris Squibb, who was working there at the time, that I was the best person for the job. I was very lucky and very thankful to be in the right place at the right time. Actually, my initial ambitions were to start a weekly night of Italo, Electro, Hi-nrg, et cetera, but that was not perceived as sensible at that time and place. I mixed them into the “'80s” thing and it worked. Denton didn’t have a large-scale dance thing going on and I seized an opportunity and will always be grateful that it worked out so successfully.
What DJs have had a profound impact on you?
I was obsessed with Larry Levan and David Macuso for quite a while. Also, Danielle Baldelli and Beppe Loda. (Loda is an absolute genius.) I tend to bang on about him, as his mixes were revelations for me. Here is a guy that not only plays many of the disparate genres that I love (jazz fusion, Afro-Latin stuff, cosmic disco, EBM, et cetera), but he actually BLENDS the tracks together with a dance floor sensibility. His influence is blatantly evident in the second half of this mix and every mix I’ve made for the last 10 years or so.
Anybody else besides them?
I return to guys like Hot Mix 5, “Silk” Hurley and “Hitman” Wilson for endless inspiration. Some old and new faves: Francois K, Laurent Garnier, Gilles Peterson, Metro Area, Bill Converse, Rick Simpson, JAZ, Joe’s Bakery and Jan Schulte.
You operate in a fairly wide variety of genres. Are there any that you lean to more than others?
That’s tough. I am the guy who likes to play the new age song in a “techno” set or the jazz track in a “house” set. Playing out for a dance-eager crowd, I love playing stuff from the disco/post-disco era.
Do you still buy vinyl? Where do you like to dig for tracks?
Half Price Books, Recycled Books and Deadwax, of course. Josey Records is an amazing store to dig around in for hours. Online I tend to frequent All Day Records from North Carolina, Pacific Beach Vinyl out of California and Rush Hour in the Netherlands. I am so in debt to Dustygroove.
What is your most memorable music moment of the past year?
Other than hearing Rick Simpson play, it was probably floating in the pool listening to Roedelius and finding out moments later that Moebius had passed.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
What are your future plans as a DJ?
I intend to play out more in a digital format. I have started doing my own edits of these odd records that I find and need to get more comfortable bringing my MAC out there. Upcoming gigs at Off the Record this Thursday, August 13 with Brian Knowles, then September 6 and October 3 at the Midnight Rambler.
1. Emerald Web- Air Smith II (1980)
2. Johannes Schmölling- Zeit (1986)
3. Pat Metheny Group-Chris (1985)
4. James Mason- Nightgruv (1984)
5. Sha-Lor– I’m in Love (1988)
6. Tangerine Dream– Mothers of Rain (1988)
7. Apiento & Co. – The Light Machine (2015)
8. Gino Fontaine – Konkondo (2015)
9. John Hassell- Map of Dusk (1985)
10. Wayne Horvitz- Diner at Eight (1987)
11. Jeff Mills- Gift of the Hills (1996)
12. Drummers Of The Societe Absolutment Guinin-Areye (2001)
13. Special EFX-Timeless Mood (1986)
14. Naná Vasconcelos- O Berimbau(1979)
15. Harald Grosskopf- Transcendental Overdrive (1980)
17. Mike Oldfield-Taurus 1(1980)
18. Mark Isham-Mr Moto’s Penguin (1983)
19. Explorer-No. 8 (1982)
20. Airto-Batucada (1976)/Kraftwerk-Metal on Metal(1977)
21. Solar Plexus-Seascape (1979)
22. Cluster- Helle Melange(1981)
23. SURVIVE-Scalar Wave (2012)