January 13, 2016
I love good music. (Good being subjective, of course.) Music, unlike anything else, enhances any and every situation – a grocery trip (try it!), dinner party, casual night at home, you name it. Now, as much as I love music, I don’t know it. I can tell you what I like – and don’t – but not who sings what or the name of a song for the life of me. That’s why I have so much appreciation for those who do. Not just music lovers who can name tracks, but those who can throw them down. Yes, I’m talking about DJs.
It’s not an easy feat: cultivating tracks to fit the mood, anticipating ups and downs of the crowd, tossing in some bangers at the right time — it takes hours. It’s a true art form, and one that should be celebrated.
So, my dear Peepshow readers, clear your calendars and grab your dancing shoes, because tonight, it’s time to get down.
Our very own Pony, Mr. Alex Gaterud, aka DJ Deadly Blaze, will be hitting the decks at 10 p.m. tonight at Clubhouse Jäger (free admission!!). Lucky for all you current and soon-to-be fans, Alex took some time to answer a few questions about tonight’s gig and music in general.
I only DJ once a month, so I have plenty of time to plan what’s going to go into a set. Honestly, I’ve picked up a lot of music just by keeping my ears open. People always say that a good writer is first and foremost a good reader, and that’s very similar for DJs – you have to be a good listener and consumer of music. I’m always listening – to whatever’s on the office Pandora, or what’s playing in a gas station, or songs in the background of commercials. Shazam is a great tool for capturing little notes – I’ll be out to dinner and hear something that sounds just perfect and save it to a note on my phone.
My DJ partner and I have been best friends since we were in middle school, and we keep a collaborative Spotify playlist where we toss things that we’re hearing and excited to play. The very first time we DJed, we planned things out song-by-song, but that went out the window the second our set started. It’s way more fun and organic to just wing it – especially since you can’t plan for what crowd you’ll have. Since then, we’ve gotten much more loose with it – we have a rough plan, and each of us will have total earworms we want to play, and we negotiate it once we start our set and see how it’s feeling. We switch things around and try to keep things a little disorienting.
Walk me through what happens the 30 – 60 minutes before you take the stage. Do you have a particular song that you use to pump yourself up?
Usually I’ll just throw our 500-song playlist on shuffle in the car on the way over, and invariably some Natalie Imbruglia or Seal song comes on, which is not a bad thing. Chances are good that I’ll play that song later in the night, too. Then it’s getting our gear and staging set up and playing some mood music or music videos before kicking it off at 10.
Tell me about DJ Deadly Blaze. Do you have a difference persona and wardrobe for him?
DJ Deadly Blaze has been known to yell at the crowd and is kind of rude sometimes. But he’s also willing to accommodate requests and will change things around to fit the mood of the night. We’re really into costume jewelry and we use the DJ night as an opportunity to showcase our latest thrift store finds. Here’s a photo:
The funny thing is, I don’t actually dance. I’m petrified at the thought of being on the dance floor, but being in the DJ booth is wonderful. There’s a real shiver that goes through you when people are dancing to music you’re curating.
What’s your signature, if anything?
I’ve been to many shows and dance nights and DJ gigs that are the same every week or month. Same songs, same setup, same vibe. We try to confound expectations and change our look every time we play. Even the name, “Suspicious Package,” is our attempt at confusing people – which means you have their attention. We have some form of costumes, we have lasers, we try to have props, we fill Club Jäger with fog, we have bizarre and unsettling projections – anything that causes a patron to stop and say, “Huh?”
We don’t have a built-in audience other than our friends. We don’t have dreams of stardom about it, but we’re trying to get attention for this thing with any tool we have. With the projections, for instance, I’ve seen people grab their coats to leave when we start playing and stop when they see weird 3D crap on the screen. Then they stand around watching for a few minutes, then they put their coats down, then they order another drink, and maybe a few even get up to dance after a while. Your average bar patron isn’t there to listen to a DJ, but if you can grab them with some kind of bizarre multimedia flash, even for a few minutes, they might come around to you. And it’s obviously good business for the bar when they stay, too.
My measure of success thus far has been: Is there at least one “civilian” (someone who doesn’t know either of us) who stuck around, or told us they loved the music, or raved to the bartender about a song choice, or even just sat watching the proceedings? So far, we’ve had a good number of people like that at every night, so I think we’re doing well.
Will you be wearing a David Bowie style wig for tonight’s performance, in remembrance?
I wore a wig while DJing once, and it was just distracting and hot, so I got rid of it. There will probably be more than one Bowie song played, though.
Okay, take this scenario. Imagine, the crowd is lackluster, it’s your time to go on, and the dance floor is empty. What are your top three tracks to get the party started?
Empty dance floor? This has never happened to me in my life.
Just kidding. When that happens, classic ‘80s R&B is usually the best. Prince, Sheila E, The Gap Band, Zapp & Roger, “Let It Whip” … anything with a really solid backbeat.
And, it’s worth saying, sometimes an empty dance floor is a chance to play something experimental that you’ve been saving. You can use a blank floor as a chance to completely change gears and move into new genres and feels.
In the soundtrack of your life, what song is playing?
Right now, sadly, the new Bowie record. The Tame Impala record from early 2015 has not left my heavy rotation. There’s a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen in my top-played songs of last year, too.
Who should come see you tonight?
People who want to dance, people who want to hear a song they’ve never heard before and people who love a spectacle. Club Jäger is also one of the best bars in the city, so anyone who wants a good, cheap drink and a killer plate of nachos.
Suspicious Package is a dance night hosted by DJ Fatal Wreck and DJ Deadly Blaze the second Thursday of every month at Clubhouse Jäger. It’s free and starts at 10 p.m.