Unexpected Influences: Denton's DJ Yeahdef On How He Became A Fan of Jazz Fusion

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Welcome to a Unexpected Influences, where we talk to musicians about the music no one expects them to like.

Long-hailed as one of the region's Meccas for live music, Denton is a fine place to become well-known.

And popularity is just what DJ Yeahdef, née Joey Lietchy, has achieved in the little d. He's even earned props in the region's biggest city, Dallas, in the form of a 2009 Dallas Observer Music Award for Best DJ.

While heavily into hip-hop, Yeahdef here proves to us that his musical upbringing strays more toward jazz fusion, which certainly hints at the cerebral nature of this fellow. Don't be surprised to hear that the man whose finger may be most firmly on the pulse of hip-hop in Denton has a history that includes StarCraft and a stunning lack of DJs to emulate.

Read on to find out what Yeahdef listens to on his own time, and learn how many shows that this hard-working musician toiled through in a wildly busy 2010 (yes, he counted). Oh, and download a playlist of his most-esteemed influences, too.

What are some unexpected influences that your listeners may be surprised to know about?
I followed this awesome genre arc from '70s prog-rock into '80s jazz fusion from a couple friendships. My old school-chum Nathan (of Seryn) introduced me to Gentle Giant a decade ago. Their music is so dense, you can discover new things in it with each playback. From there, I got pulled toward stuff like Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra by way of my friend Allen, and I really spent a lot of time listening to that fusion sound. From there, I found my "comfort music" in cooler jazz like Weather Report and Naniwa Express. That is the sort of music I just chill to -- but I rarely get to play any of it out when I DJ. That music is something that feels really private to me -- I want stacks of that stuff in the fallout shelter, y'know? It's meant for either cooling out or scrutiny, not really for partying.

Who do you look to for inspiration when you play in public?
I wish that when I started DJing there was YouTube. I would be transfixed by the limitless amount of videos of talented guys like Jazzy Jeff to teach me how to rock a crowd. As a result of not knowing a single DJ when I started out, I think I really developed a style which is truly my own. I spent countless hours just scratching the few battle breaks records I owned -- I guess the Dirtstyle breaks pressings really made more of an impact on me than any specific performer or DJ. I feel myself slowly coming out of the weird style that I oyster-shelled myself into by shutting off the outside world and just bedroom/house party DJing for years, but some things I don't think will ever get shaken off.

What's are some ringtones from the Yeahdef cellular Hall of Fame?
For years, I had the intro synthesizer flute from the song "Pantagruel's Nativity" by Gentle Giant as my ringtone. I also had the Final Fantasy "win-the-battle" fanfare for a while.

The first record that you bought for yourself?
Weezer's Blue Album or NOFX's Punk in Drublic. I think my older brother may still have some reasonable debate points over who actually purchased the Blue Album, and it was a subject of contention between us for a few years. Either way, we had it on repeat for the couple of years we were both addicted to the original StarCraft, and, to this day, I can't hear a song from the Blue Album without also hearing the sound of SCVs mining minerals in the background.

What are your musical guilty pleasures?
My girlfriend loves this band Circa Survive, which I never really got into, but I took her to the Halloween show in Dallas this year (which also had Dredg on the bill ... awesome!) and they really made an impression on me. I loved the first Mars Volta album and Circa Survive felt like a sort of continuation from there, but with more structured pop melodies. Fun music. I also really like the sound coming from this band Say Hi out of Seattle. They came through to Dan's Silverleaf last year but I missed it due to a gig. Wish I could have gone. What is that quote about wasted time you enjoy isn't wasted?

What do you have in store musically for the next few months?
A few remixes I need to get finished with LehtMoJoe and Whoa!Coder. Damn, I'm so late on getting those done!

Any big plans for 2011?
I kind of challenge myself to play more shows than I did the previous year. So that means, for 2011, I'll need to get 177 gigs. More live hip-hop in Denton, too. More thoughtfully written articles and reviews on my website. I'm talking with a few people about starting up a booking company. I could be in a completely different place regarding my business direction, but I'm sure I'll still be DJing regularly. I need that.

How about a mini playlist for your listeners so they can get a taste of your unexpected influences?
Fermata - "Dolu Vahom"
Gentle Giant - "Black Cat"
Weather Report - "Night Passage"
Naniwa Express - "Emergency"
Mahavishnu Orchestra - "One Word"
Return To Forever - "Majestic Dance"
Jeff Beck - "Come Dancing"

Download Yeahdef's Unexpected Influences mix right here.

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