From spinning at a 7th grade dance to numerous shows around town and now a deal with Swedish label Sound Of Habib, Dallas DJ and producer Left/Right's passion for electronic music has carried him far in the last decade.
"I also am serious about creating original music and steady, charting releases to back up my DJ sets," the DJ says. "This output has lead to bookings in London, San Fran, Austin, Orlando and Minnesota just this year."
But don't be fooled, Left/Right hasn't gotten to where he is now via passion alone. He has a bachelor's in music composition and theory from UNT, as well as a certificate in audio engineering. Plus, he teaches audio and mix/master music at his day job.
Unfortunately, due to having such a busy schedule, Left/Right wasn't able to get his exclusive DC9er mix into us on time (womp, womp). He has, however, offered up his Live at Fabric mix, which he performed at the international breakbeat awards in London. Have a listen, and make sure to check out his Q&A after the jump. Then, hopefully, one day soon we'll get that exclusive mix. Right, Left/Right?
How long have you been DJing for?
Just about 10 years now.
How did you get your start DJing?
Oh, I was one of the sea of kids that caught the rave bug in the late '90s and decided to become an international superstar. I have since concluded that I am not one, but have stuck with it purely for the street cred.
What was your first gig like?
Playing epic trance at the tender age of 16 to a gymnasium of confused and awkward 7th graders. The night was filled with braces, acne and requests for Ludacris and "real music." I thought it was a success despite not being asked to return the following year. As a side note, I never played another mobile DJ-type gig again.
Who/what are some of your biggest influences musical or otherwise?
I wouldn't be into electronic music without the sounds of Wendy Carlos' Switched-On Bach from my youth, or the output of Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. I actually carry a vinyl copy of Surrender to every gig I play. Also, old Motown, soul, and funk are a large base from where I draw my grooves, and then I integrate more current synthesis techniques and samples for the right punch on the dancefloor.
Locally, Jeremy Word is a shining example of a Dallas artist and promoter; he is a professional in everything he does and grants me clarity of vision when I am (often) stuck on a project. DJ Merritt is a blast to work with and continually surprises me with new and "edgy" music. Fast-growing legend Digital Pizza is also a talented friend I collaborate with, and he helps me keep things from getting too serious. Lastly, a shout to DJ Titan, whose insatiable enthusiasm for music both on the decks and off is really an inspiration.
How would you describe your personal style?
Like the cookie monster. I'm a ravenous, hairy madman for raucous new music and am willing to display this passion at high volumes. I'm also partial to rave whistles.
Which DJ's do you follow? Do you have a favorite?
These guys tend to do it for me regularly: Plump DJs, Elite Force, Bassbin Twins, Napt, Fake Blood, and, yes, believe it or not, newer Zombie Nation.
What's your favorite genre of music, both to play and to listen to?
People tend to know me as a breaks DJ, but depending on my audience, I also like to include a bit of raved-up electro, indie and rock-driven dance such as Miles Dyson, DIM and Yuksek. I definitely like to lean towards the bass-heavy and adrenaline side of things for live shows. When just listening, on the other hand, I prefer stranger, more relaxed music within indie rock and electronica like Clark, Phantogram, Apparat and Caribou. These tastes of mine are more reflected in my creative output with my band Chris Broke It (full-length still in progress!).
How do you decide what songs you're going to play?
First and foremost, by finding original music I like. Otherwise, I'm just spreading the same old stuff, and there's enough of that as it is. Then I have to factor in new trends and artists, the venue, the time of night, the crowd and their reactions. Which, of course, all adds up to me playing whatever the hell I feel is right at that moment.
How much preparation goes into putting a set together?
I could spend up to six hours finding music I like in a day, and then even more making edits to fit the dancefloor. A lot of dance music has filler, and there's no room for that in my sets. Often, dancefloors have such short attention spans that a one-minute breakdown is enough to clear a room. I like to get into the hook of a song, pop a sample or vocal on and get out. I also like to organizize my songs by key and mix them harmonically when possible.
What are your main objectives when it comes to playing music? (Are you looking to entertain the crowd, educate them, or something different altogether?)
My favorite sets of all time were by DJs that played all stunning new music I'd never heard before. This is the example I try to follow when I play but with bootlegs, teasers and samples to keep the crowd on their toes and on familiar ground simultaneously.
What can someone expect when they come to see/hear you play?
Some scraggly nerd on stage rocking the hell out to electronic dance music. They'll also get a heavy dose of my own music as well as my personal collection of edits and unreleased material.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I am still a steadfast CD user, although I prefer to scratch on vinyl occasionally. I'm also slowly prepping future work for performances in Ableton with live keyboards, electric bass and vocals. For production, I tend to use Cubase in conjunction with my trusty MS2000 and Nord Lead 2 for most sounds. My favorite method is throwing glowsticks at the computer till a hit pops out. That's only worked once though.
Requests. Love em or hate em?
Always welcomed, less often obliged. I really like to hear what people are interested in, and it informs the music I play next. It just doesn't always line up directly with the sound I am booked for and my performance as an artist.
If you could play a gig anywhere, with any other DJ/music act, whom would you play with and where would it be?
I am actually quite content to play any crowd that is excited about electronic music--big or small, headliner or no, young and old. But I certainly wouldn't turn down a gig with the Chemical Brothers at Burning Man, though.
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What sets you apart from other DJs in Dallas/Denton/Fort Worth?
Well, I have a bachelor's in music composition and theory from UNT, and a certificate in audio engineering. I now teach audio and mix/master music for a living, so DJing is just one of the many roles I play in the industry. I also am serious about creating original music and steady, charting releases to back up my DJ sets. This output has lead to bookings in London, San Fran, Austin, Orlando, and Minnesota just this year. I've been pleased to find my taste in music is unique both in Dallas and outside of it (due to being neurotically picky). Lastly, I've worked this year on pushing more overt energy out when I DJ. It is much easier for audiences to be excited about the music when I am visibly as well.
When/where will you be playing next?
My next gig lined up is with Matt Darey at the Lizard Lounge on August 13. I'm pretty sure I played some of his music to those 7th graders some 10 years ago, so this will be interesting.
What can Dallas expect to see from you in 2010?
I'm happy to announce my next single "Organizized" with fellow Dallas producer Digital Pizza comes out in August on Swedish label Sound Of Habib. I'm also wrapping up several remixes that will come out randomly here and there as well. Plus, the steady flux of DJ gigs... so lookout for Left/Right crashing a 7th grade dance near you!
Tracklist for Left/Right live at Fabric in London for Breakspoll 2010, the International Breakbeat Awards:
1. Highspeed Lullaby (Left/Right Remix) - Hypeartist [Dusted Breaks]
2. Law Of Life - Elite Force [CDR]
3. Operator (Left/Right Remix) - Jurassik [Sound Of Habib]
4. Minimal My Ass (Krafty Kuts Re-rub) - Miles Dyson [CDR]
5. Hyph Mngo (Jurassik Edit) - Joy Orbison [CDR]
6. Lake Como (Breaks Mix) - Refracture [Noobish Records]
7. Organizized - Left/Right, Digital Pizza [Forthcoming Sound Of Habib]
8. Gangbang - Left/Right, Digital Pizza [Sound Of Habib]
9. Twinkle feat MC $pyda (Pyramid's Stop Talking Remix) - Gella [Sub Slayers]
10. Electric Rock (Torqux Remix) - Chris Sundive [Ebony Red]
11. Curtain Caller - Karton [Forthcoming Sound Of Habib]
12. Rhythm Rocks The Blue - Elite Force [CDR]
13. Exit Enlightenment (L/R Edit) - EK [Dead Famous]
14. Love Is A Drug (Left/Right Remix) - The Kickdrums [Kickdrums Musik]
15. Visions (Karton Remix) - White Papoo, Double Negative [Trans:verse Records]