Intrepid reporter Justin Juul hits the streets each week for our Meet Your Neighbors series, interviewing the Bay Area folks you’d like to know most.
Steve Hays, AKA DJ Purple, is a Karaoke DJ — or a KJ as they’re called — who throws dance parties throughout the Bay Area. Forget everything you thought you knew about the karaoke scene. There are no sad old men or drunk frat boys singing Dave Matthews songs at DJ Purple’s shows. Serious music-lovin’ hipsters flock nightly to places like Jacks in The Mission – across the street from where this interview (and drive by shooting!) took place — to sing their favorite heavy metal, rap, and eighties pop tunes while DJ Purple plays back up on the sax. This ain’t your daddy’s karaoke show!!!
SFBG: So what’s your deal?
DJ Purple: I’m Steve Hays, otherwise known as DJ Purple Hays. Did you get that name connection there?
SFBG: Actually I think I just realized it a minute ago. It’s the Jimi Hendrix thing, right?
DJ Purple: Yeah, it’s more of a Jimi Hendrix connection as opposed to drugs or whatever. I actually started using the name back when I was in my first band. I was a little sophomore kid and there was this band of seniors I knew. I used to hang out at their shows and one day I was like “Can I play?” They asked me what my name was and when I said Hays, they were like “Oh let’s call him Purple.” I had no idea what they were talking about at the time.
SFBG: So then you just used it as your DJ name too?
DJ Purple: Yeah, well when I started deejaying -I used to just be a regular DJ, by the way; not a KJ like I am now- I played around with a few names. But then I made a flyer one night and left a stack of them at the bar while I was performing. Some guy picked one up and yelled “DJ Purple, No Way!!!” I figured if the name could get that kind of response out of some random guy at a bar, then it must be good.
SFBG: How long have you been doing the karaoke thing?
DJ Purple: I got inspired by a show I saw in 2002 in Palo Alto. It was a karaoke dance party as opposed to just your standard karaoke show. So this KJ had somehow managed to sell out a 500-person venue with a karaoke show. People from all over the Bay Area came to see him. It was awesome.
SFBG: So what exactly is the difference between a normal karaoke show and what you do?
DJ Purple: Well, 99% of the karaoke shows out there are kind of boring. As a real DJ, my focus is on moving the crowd. I like to get people dancing. So one of the main differences is that I don’t have slow songs in my book. The slow songs always ruin things. Like, you’ll get some high-energy stuff for a minute but then someone will stand up and sing “Yesterday” by the Beatles and the whole place will yawn. There are always weird pauses between songs too. I’m a DJ so I keep things moving. Each song transitions into the next and I do my best to keep the energy up.