DC9er Mixtape, Vol. 14: DJG

This week, DC9er takes it's readers behind the booth with Jonathan Graham--or as he's perhaps better known, DJG.

Graham started his career as a DJ nearly a decade ago in Austin, then migrated north to kick-start the ever-popular "80's Dance Night" at Hailey's Club in Denton. Since then, DJG has played loads of shows around town, and currently has several artistic projects up his sleeve. But what should one expect when going out to listen to him spin? The unexpected, of course.

Seems this all-vinyl DJ is not one to stick to the rules: "Since my musical interests are broad, it is likely that you may not know what I'm going to play. It is very important for me to mix genres to keep it interesting and creative."

And what about his DC9er mix?

"This mix represents a cross section of some of the different styles I like to play," he says. "From slow-mo disco to retro dark-wave to deep techno and beyond."

Read our full interview with DJG and have a listen to DJG's exclusive DC9er mix after the jump. And, if you find yourself intrigued, you can catch him doing his thing, live, on the TechnoSports Intl Internet radio show on June 20.

How long have you been DJing for?
About 10 years.

How did you get your start DJing?
You could say I privately started DJing over 20 years ago on my older brother's equipment as he was out doing his DJ gigs. My first public gig came by the help of Tom Blackburn, aka DJ Tommyboy, at his residency in Austin about a decade ago. My real break began when I started "80's Dance Night " at Hailey's Club in 2004.

What was your first gig like?
Well, I was very nervous, but carefully mixed the dance styles I was into at the time: Electro-funk, Latin Freestyle, Italo-disco, hi-NRG.

Who/what are some of your biggest influences musical or otherwise?
As a DJ, you could say the original vanguard of New York DJs like David Mancuso and Larry Levan are my heroes. There were no boundaries to their selections--a quality I look for in DJs.

How would you describe your personal style?
It is very important for me to mix genres to show there is some kind of connection. I like to pitch the tempo down slow or play records that have a subtle emotive sensibility.
Which DJs do you follow? Do you have a favorite?
Francois Kevorkian and Ron Trent. They are both innovative yet honor the past, cover many styles tastefully and are very sensitive to sound itself. Kevorkian has been DJing for 35 years or so now. He came out of that original disco DJ culture but is still on top of the latest futuristic sounds. Ron's sets add a lot of jazzy percussion to a deep techno kind of thing--an electronic African trance of sorts.  Locally, I must say Tommyboy, DJ Gabriel, Ricky "R9" Simpson from Downlow Music and Dallas legend Luke Sardello are quality jocks I try not to miss.

What's your favorite genre of music, both to play and to listen to?
With genres, I am equally at home DJing an '80s Alternative thing as I am house and disco. My favorite music to play out falls where soul, jazz and electronic music meet defying genres. Sometimes I just use words like deep, rhythmic, afro, cosmic and moody to describe what I like to play. I find myself balancing dark and light, warm and cold, electronic and acoustic. On a different note, I enjoy playing the tracks from a recognized artist who went and did the "one-off track"--the soft rock guy who did an electronic instrumental or the jazz guy who did a dance floor track. I am always listening to many categories of music, but have always connected with slow, atmospheric music. Personal home listening favorites range from The Church, Gas, Erik Satie, Tangerine Dream, and Larry Heard.
How do you decide what songs you're going to play?
It depends on many factors as there are many things that go through my mind. I always say my job as a DJ consists of constantly making choices. I have cued up record after record before deciding which is the perfect one to go next. The moment is very important. When it comes down to it, my duty is to make choices about selection: which songs or tracks I select, and in what order. The beat mix is not always a priority, it is just icing. If people like the song, they will dance anyway. If I am playing a "song," then usually it is important for me to preserve the integrity of the structure and play the whole song from beginning to end. That is not always the case with an instrumental or a dance track.

How much preparation goes into putting a set together?
It all depends on the gig. I am very much about the moment and the impulse of playing live, but my initial approach is very theoretical. I follow this line of questioning: What are the expectations? Am I hired to do a certain thing? Is there a theme? What aesthetic am I working with? Am I playing with a band that I can assist with the style? It is important to find out about setting, attendees, sound system, and, believe it or not, lighting. Preparation can almost be as exciting as playing. When I am asked to make a mix or to do a gig, I function much like an artist that has been commissioned for a work. Maybe more like a psychologist working with sound and mood as the medium. DJing as praxis.

What are your main objectives when it comes to playing music? (Are you looking to entertain the crowd, educate them, or something different altogether?)
Yes, all of them and at the same time.  A personal priority I have when I play is to set a mood or create an atmosphere. I am very conscious of how records fit together, relate to each other and if the set can say something as a whole. I have had gigs where it was my responsibility to get people to dance or make people drink, which is fine if it is what you are hired to do. However, I equally enjoy playing at places where I am not the object of entertainment, like art galleries or at restaurants where my music exists as non-intrusive background ambiance. I say the main agenda for a DJ should be to enhance the environment/experience in the space they are playing.

What can someone expect when they come to see/hear you play?
Expect the unexpected. Since my musical interests are broad, it is likely that you may not know what I'm going to play. It is very important for me to mix genres to keep it interesting and creative.  

What kind of equipment do you use?
Two turntables and a mixer. Technics 1200s, to be specific. Sometimes I augment that with a simple DJ compact disc player. I am hoping to learn the ways of digital mixing this decade, but I am just so picky about the sound quality that I would probably spend too much time modifying and restoring the sound files in the audio conversion process!

Requests. Love em or hate em?
I take all requests into consideration as long as people are polite, provided I have what they ask for with me. It is essential to honor the patrons but still try to keep a holistic vision of what I have set out to do.  

If you could play a gig anywhere, with any other DJ/music act, whom would you play with and where would it be?
If I could go back in time, then I would play the legendary Paradise Garage club with Larry Levan, without a doubt. How about opening up for Can or Miles Davis in the '70s with King Tubby and DJ Beppe Loda on the beach of infinity?

What sets you apart from other DJs in Dallas/Denton/Fort Worth?
You really may not know what to expect from my set. Sometimes I don't beat mix a song, or I will drop a mid tempo track just as the night is peaking. In short, I am willing to take risks and do things that generally go against standard club DJ policy. I like to look at it as playing the "wrong record" at the "right time." A smooth jazz fusion track on a dance floor can work! Also, as I mentioned, I play all vinyl and in this age where those DJs are becoming fewer and fewer.

When/where will you be playing next?
You will find me doing a live mix on the TechnoSports Intl Internet radio show on June 20 (tune into http://stickam.com/technosports). This special set will be me trying to make connections between the innovative boundaries of jazz and techno. In August, I am putting together a show on Friday the 13th. It will be a gothic/darkwave-themed party with a variety of acts including the Bella Bombers Burlesque troop, DJs Shane English, Benjamin White and myself, and a band still to be determined.

What can Dallas expect to see from you in 2010?
I am looking to get back into composing music as I continue to work with like-minded DJs.

DC9er Mix track list:
Intro: Andreas Vollenweider - "The Stone" (1984) / John Hassell - "These Times..." (1981)
Lonnie Liston Smith -  "If you take care of me" (1984)
Claudja Barry - "Love for the sake of love" (1977)
Alphonse Mouzon - "The lady in red" (1982)
The Fixx - "Reach the beach" (1982)
King Asha/King Tubby - "Crank Angle part 2" (1986)
Harvey Bainbridge - "The Changing" (1983)
Simple Minds - "This Earth that you walk upon" (1981)
Sisters of Mercy - "The Phantom" (1983)
7027 - "The Pace" [Re-paced by Convextion] (2008)
Cabaret Voltaire - "Taxi Music Dub" (1981)
Nu Era - "Breaking in Space" (1995)
$tinkworx - "Mudpump" (2007)
High Skies - "Sumatra" [Atjazz mix] (2003)
Kirk Degiorgio - "A Way of Life" (2009)
D5 - "Intruders" (2009)
Outro: Andreas Vollenweider - "The Stone" (1984) / John Hassell - "These Times..." (1981)

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Catherine Downes
Contact: Catherine Downes