Michael Roos is not only a veteran of the DJ scene, but also the definition of a working DJ. Straddling that barrier between commercial DJ, working weddings and private parties, and club DJ, he makes a living and manages to push his craft by integrating the latest technology into his rig. With this week’s mix, Roos brings his unique live remix approach to a diverse tracklist that covers ground from classic house to deep funk to local heroes like Erykah Badu and Brett Johnson.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing? How long have you been DJing?
Michael Roos: I’m honestly not sure how I got started DJing, but I’ve been doing it for around 35 years. I’ve always been a musician and music nerd and I think it was just in my soul. I remember (and have heard stories of) my concerned mother rushing into my bedroom when I was a child because she heard strange noises through the house and I would be sitting inside my closet with my stereo and a microphone playing records and talking and rapping while the speakers were outside of the closet in my bedroom with an imaginary crowd. It was my first DJ/recording booth. Around 1982 I really got into hip-hop, breakdancing and scratching and I got my first turntables. Soon after, I was playing parties, weddings, school dances, teen clubs and roller skating rinks; any gig I could get.
How did you start doing it professionally?
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Over the years I surrounded myself with other club DJs, radio DJs and musicians any chance I got and I learned, practiced, made connections and took gigs. My parents’ emotional and financial support was a huge part of this. My musical tastes changed constantly which helped keep me versatile, working and helped improve my skills. I also didn’t have anyone telling me, “You can’t mix those two genres or records together,” so I really had nothing to hold me back from trying anything, I eventually went on to work in major market radio, clubs, bars, restaurants, international vacation resorts, concerts, and any possible scenario I could DJ or play in and make a living. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have always done what I love for work, DJing and playing music live.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This mix was made using Serato DJ, turntables with vinyl records for control, a Pioneer DDJ-SX2 controller/mixer, a Korg MS-2000 keyboard, a Roland Handsonic, a Boss MC-303 looper and all of the new Roland AIRA gear (TR-8, TB-3, VT-3, System-1, and MX-1). I perform instruments live when I DJ at times, so that’s why so many pieces of gear were used. I can’t really say there is a theme to it other than "funky." I literally grabbed songs on the fly out of a grab-bag of thousands of songs… mostly funk and house music, I just picked songs I like. Some old. Some new. None of it post-edited.
What is the process for making a mix of this kind?
I have a very hard time making a mix in the studio. I rarely plan or prepare music that I am going to play before a gig. I like to have a basic idea of the theme and guests, show up, look at and read my crowd and play on the fly. So to sit in my recording studio without someone to play for and plan a mix is very difficult. This one was made one evening in my smoky studio with a few glasses of whiskey, an imaginary crowd and a good mood. It’s got lots of vocals, leans a bit pop-ish and has a couple tracks by local artists as well.
How did you arrive at the DJ/hardware hybrid rig?
I’ve been playing classical piano and other instruments since age four, in 1974, and I was taken to concerts and exposed to music of all genres by my parents since birth. Since I was always a musician it just seemed natural to incorporate live instruments with DJing. I never even really thought about it. I would often throw on a record and play the drums or piano along with it just for fun alone or with my musician friends. And when scratching came along it just seemed like turntables were supposed to be a part of the band. Why wouldn’t they go together? I love being able to play records and then add percussion or keys to it and create new things. With the new Roland AIRA gear, I’ve been able to do everything I dreamed of with mixing, DJing and playing live.
What DJs have had a profound impact on you?
Wow. That’s a tough one. I’m influenced by so many DJs and musicians so I really can’t pinpoint a certain few. I can say there are two guys who really helped shape who I am and it’s a very strange story. When I got those first Technics 1200s and a mixer in the early '80s I met another kid who was a really good DJ and turntablist. His name was Mike. He taught me about hip-hop, samples, scratching, breaks and introduced me to another friend I only knew as "Wiz." Over a couple of years, we hung out and I learned a lot from them. We lost contact when I absorbed myself with the new wave, industrial and house scene in Houston in the late '80s and I never saw them again. My memory faded over the years and I mistakenly remembered Wiz and Mike to be one guy and the times I searched for "him" online I really came up with nothing.
But there was still more to the story?
Cut to 2014 and I was working in Austin for a DJ company/school and in walks a business associate who looked really familiar to me. After we spoke a bit, I realized it was Wiz and our connection came back to us both. I’ve since reconnected with DJ Big Wiz (who’s been the DJ for Pharcyde and Aesop Rock among other hip-hop artists as well as a Serato & Rane rep) and Mike (DJ Domo, who is currently the Geto Boys’ DJ). It’s an amazing feeling to reconnect with two people who taught me so much and are such good guys after all these years. We’ve DJed together a couple times and are hoping to work on some live performances at some point down the road, mixing all sorts of turntablism, DJing and improv live music performance.
Where do you like to dig for tracks? Any specific websites or stores?
I’m turned on to a lot of music by other DJs and friends. Nowadays you can find anything and everything you want to purchase online. You just have to look. I love the hunt. I really miss the days of having to dig in record stores though. I think it’s part of DJing that a lot of the younger generation of DJs don’t get. It educates you. Some of the mistaken purchases end up being the best acquisitions ever.
What is in your near future as a producer or DJ?
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As a DJ, my company is constantly growing and it can only get better as time goes on. I do a ton of weddings and private parties these days because 1) I can make a great living doing what I love; 2) I love the challenge and planning and making people happy on a special day; and 3) I despise the stereotypical wedding DJ or event DJ. I like to cater an event specifically to the client and their guests and make it special and "cool." It doesn’t have to be cheesy. You don’t have to have that guy screaming on a mic or playing the same songs everyone else is playing, whether it be at a private event or a club/bar. It can be unique and fun. Whether it be DJing or Production, as long as I wake up each day with a career I love, I’m alright.
1. Mark Ronson (Feat. Kevin Parker) - Daffodils
2. Disclosure (Feat. London Grammar) - Help Me Lose My Mind
3. Hot Toddy - Won’t Let Go
4. Crazy P - The Hit
5. Mayer Hawthorne - White Glass Woman (Aeroplane Remix)
6. Moon Boots - Love Strong
7. Modern Amusement - Cold As Ice (Louie Fresco Remix)
8. Hot Toddy - Flotation Tank
9. D’Angelo - Betray My Heart
10. Lovebirds - Out Into The Night
11. Kid Creole & The Coconuts (Reflex Revision)
12. Change - A Lover’s Holiday (Jim Burgess Remix)
13. Evelyn “Champagne” King - Love Come Down (Disco Purrfection Remix)
14. Mr. Pickle - In Your Soul
15. Miguel Migs (Feat. MeShell Ndegeocello) - Close Your eyes
16. Bas Amro - Soundkilla
17. Dorian (Feat. Dezi5) - Controversial Love
18. Finnebassen - If You Only Knew
19. Gabin & Stefano Di Battisti - Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap
20. Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart (Roos AIRA Live Improv Remix)
21. Green Velvet & Carl Craig - Rosalie
22. Brett Johnson (Feat. Mikey V.) - Falling
23. Erykah Badu - Back In The Day (DJ A1 Remix - Screwed Up by Roos)
24. Kool & The Gang - Summer Madness (Roy Ayers Remix)
25. Belle - Embrasse-Moi