Excerpted from an interview
Rich Eldredge of the Atlanta Journal/Constitution
I have been spinning since 1984 beginning with the legendary Backstreet/Ft. Lauderdale. I was initially a doorman there but I could see the DJ booth from the lobby looking across the dance floor. I kept thinking that the DJ had the job that I wanted so I started hanging out with the DJs until they started showing me how to spin. One of those DJs was Bob Miro who was a major Billboard reporting DJ and remixer in the mid-80s. Eventually, I opened for Bob each Sunday, which was the big day at Backstreet.
I also worked briefly as a back-up DJ at a lesbian club in Ft. Lauderdale called Shangri-La. What I remember most about that club was that I don't think I ever had a clean mix there. There was no monitor (speaker) in the DJ booth and there was a significant time delay as the sound worked its way through the system and throughout the club. My mixes were always off beat.
I then became a resident DJ at Burkhart's/Atlanta for nearly eleven years. When I auditioned for what was to be the sole DJ position at Burkhart's and was not selected, I made the owner an offer he couldn't refuse - I would play for free on the off nights. In a couple of weeks, I had proven myself and started getting paid. A year later, I moved into the senior position and held it. We had a great understanding - I made him money and he kept writing me checks. Eleven years in the same club may not be a record for a DJ, but it is certainly uncommon. However, all things must end and eventually it was time to move on to other clubs and beyond Atlanta.
I strongly feel that when people walk in the door of a club or an event, they should feel like they have arrived at a party. The music should reflect this. My style is greatly influenced by my Backstreet/Ft. Lauderdale days. It was a very "festive" club. Nobody went there to pick anybody up or to meet their dealer because it was physically not conducive for either. Rather, people went there with friends as a group to party and drink and dance, and they went home as a group. The atmosphere was fun, the music was upbeat and you didn't feel like you were at a club. You felt like you were at a party. That is what I strive for with each set.
Playing at a club like Backstreet/Ft. Lauderdale was easy in that you can readily see results - people dance (hopefully). Playing in a stand-up bar like Burkhart's is a lot tougher. You have to look for the response - someone tapping toes or snapping fingers or lip-syncing to the lyrics. While I love to play for a big floor, I also relish the tremendous challenges of an intimate room.
I have a pretty basic rule of thumb to judge whether a song works for me. I just ask myself if someone would be willing to learn the lyrics and sing along in the car. If the answer is yes, you have a hit. It is certainly not profound, but it is remarkably accurate.
I do come from a musical background - years of piano and trombone lessons. The piano gave me a great appreciation for a strong melody and the trombone gave me an affection for a strong countermelody. Those elements are almost always prominent in my sets.
Dance music is such a strong format that a musical background enables you to easily understand the structure. If you understand the structure, then you can know what is going to happen before it happens.
Being a DJ (in a club or radio or whatever) requires a mind that can handle lots of trivia. What song goes with what, what is the intro to a song (for mixing), what is the break like, how do you mix out, etc. I honestly think that most DJs would be great at Jeopardy.
My most embarrassing DJ experience was my first solo at Backstreet/Ft. Lauderdale. The DJ left me alone early on a Monday night to run an errand after I assured him that I had everything under control. "Color My Love" by Fun Fun was on the turntable and I set up the next mix, or, more accurately, attempted to set up the next mix. Try as I might, I just couldn't seem to get the mix. I was running out of time before the end of the song and in a panic, I grabbed another copy of "Color My Love" and mixed back to the beginning. Repeating this exercise a few times insured that my anxiety was exceeded only by the DJ's when he returned 30 minutes later to find me still playing the same song.
You can't let yourself be afraid to take a chance. The last cut on my "Vida" CD is by Julio Iglesias. That may seem like a pretty off-the-wall choice to most other DJs but you can't be held hostage to fear of failure. The reality is that somewhere, at sometime, every DJ will do a bad mix or two, or play an inappropriate song. The difference between the pros and the wanna-be's is that the pros don't let the fear of a mistake prevent them from being creative.
The remixer I most admire is Hex Hector. He knows how to lift you up, bring you down, and bring you up again. That control is really what it is all about, and he is THE master of it.
The DJs that I most enjoy hearing are guys like Andy Almighty, Michael Fierman, Wayne G and Craig Spy. They each work to create a party. I went to the Sunday T-dance at Hotlanta two years ago. Michael Fierman was the DJ and he had a full floor, mostly guys in their 20's. He pulled out Viola Wills' "If You Could Read My Mind" from 1978. That song was recorded before some of these guys were born, but he made it work. He took a song that was ancient relative to the crowd and was able to make it connect. I gotta take my hat off to him - not only for succeeding, but also for having the balls to make the attempt.
My favorite dance music has to be from the period of 1982-1983. That is when I first came out, and the music from that era has incredibly happy memories. Songs like "Do You Wanna Funk" by Sylvester, "So Many Men, So Little Time" by Miquel Brown and "Take A Chance On Me" by Waterfront Home will always get me moving. As for my favorite dance music artist of all time, it has to be Sylvester. Period.
When I recorded FIERCE, my first mixed CD, and VIDA, I included one of my own edit/remixes as the closing song. I hope to get more involved in remixing and, someday, production. The projects that I am currently working on are a third CD of instrumental music, to be called INTERMISSION 3, for the Atlanta Pride Committee to play in Piedmont Park during 2004 Atlanta Pride, a CD of dance classics to be called FLAWLESS, and an autobiographical CD composed entirely of Spanish language dance music that is still untitled.
© Daisy Hill Productions.
Tim Wilkerson, Atlanta
Into The Groove
Up The Party
Joi Enriquez (2001)