There’s a popular term in the DJ community called “cauliflower ear.” It’s when you wear big headphones – a.k.a. cans – so frequently that the cartilage in the upper part of your ear begins to knot.
I have a very specific habit of twisting the cartilage between my fingers in private, the way someone might dig into their nose at a red light or scratch at their privates beneath the dinner table.
My gnarled right ear is a souvenir from a past life. It’s a scar, a tattoo, a piercing that never fully healed over. It’s a reminder of the way things were when I was fully immersed into a particular scene, dunked fully into the exquisite cultural tank of all-things music.
Another popular phrase is “tossing donuts.” That’s when you play hit after hit in order to keep the people moving on the dance floor. Standard donuts include: anything by Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake.
Despite having fun DJ’ing around in LA and NYC, my real passion had always been radio. I’ve worked for 9 radio stations in total: two in college, four in community radio, and three that aired online. I produced and hosted a podcast and online music video series. I interviewed artists, managed a band, and wrote music reviews, most of which are still on this site.
My journey began in Cleveland in the late 90’s, where I learned how to mix drum and bass records in my friend’s garage on a pair of Technics 1200’s. I was so bad that his cousin, who had been hanging out in the garage with us, left the house to “buy a pack of smokes” and never returned.
While I worked on getting better, various stations in Ohio gave me opportunities to work quietly behind the scenes. I filled various low-key roles on the production and marketing sides, and began hosting a show focused exclusively on R.P.M. (revolutions per minute, a.k.a. electronic music) that aired in the wee hours of the morning.
This was before E.D.M. was a thing, and before genres like Detroit techno, Chicago house, French touch, and U.K. big beat were just starting to break onto the scene.
A term called “electronica” had emerged, and it was also around this time that festivals like D.E.M.F., W.M.C. and Ultra were popping up and attended by only the most hard core of underground electronic music fans.
It was a few years later that I learned another phrase, this one specific to radio.
“The art of the segue” is to master the transition between songs. It’s a DJ skill necessary to keep a mix careening smoothly forth. When mastered, the segue creates a flawless stitch so imperceptible that only a trained ear can catch it.
(Moving from one genre to the next is typical in radio. In a long-form club mix the genre stays the same, therefore mastering the art of the segue is most critical for continuity’s sake.)
In 2014, my own mix skipped to a halt. When I moved back to the east coast I continued to record my weekly show and DJ’ed down the street at the Brooklyn Bowl. A few months after that, I moved to the Bay area for a job at a music-centered app company. I thought that a return to the music life would naturally follow, but by then my needs had changed a bit.
I was focused on making new friends and building a fresh start for myself. I started reading and writing fiction, and was so inspired by my new surroundings that the headphones were hung up for good.
While I’m not a DJ anymore, I still love music. I make playlists and collect classic vinyl. I still go to shows every once in awhile.
Weaving myself within the rich tapestry of any music scene has been my thing since I was a teenager. Since I’ve abandoned it, I sometimes feel heedless and irresponsible as though I’m stubbornly refusing myself a hot meal.
On other days I feel relaxed and joyful, having given myself the space to move away from that world in order to visit new ones.
What I know for certain is that the music will always be there. It will always welcome me home.
When life gets rocky, I know that I can always find a sublime slice of peace beneath my weathered headphones.
With the lights down low, I’ll inhale that crisp metallic studio smell and with two fingers, push the channels up as the red light flashes “on air.”
I’ll preview the next track with one eye attuned to the frequencies, and practice a seamless segue of my own.
Post syndicated from: Based On A True Story