Ask Dr. Rock

Pub date May 29, 2007
WriterFred Miketa

ASK DR. ROCK Even local recluses know that everybody wants to be a DJ. From your cutty hesher bro who insists that his Uriah Heep tribute night is going to change the world to the fluorescent-T-shirt-laden electro-rave recumbents shredding away at their Sorato setups, the city is no stranger to DJ glamour. That said, it’s pretty fucking weird that very few DJs — and their nights — actually garner the glitz of people coming out to dance to their lauded record collections.

During the past few months I’ve shape-shifted from scene to scene, noting what it takes to keep people moving, howling, and grinding up against total strangers. Whether playing an obscure night of prog, psych, and metal at the Casanova (which has been oddly embraced by a swarm of Marina-fashioned, post-25-year-old women — more on this later) or the predictable Klaxons remixes at the late Frisco Disco, the DJs — and their enthusiasts — are there for a reason. So what does it take to be an employed DJ in SF?

1. No haters club If you want to play records, do it for people who want to hear some ripe jams. Bite the bullet, and befriend your promoter nemeses. No one wants to dance for someone who can’t stand the sights on the dance floor. When was the last time a resident at New Wave City was over playing New Order? That’s right.

2. I am somebody It’s a sad fact, but you must have some credentials to rock a party, man. Either know your fellow DJs, be in a band that people care about, or find the people who will give you a chance to make some night moves. Do you really think that Michael Mayer or DJ Kaos just played sick tracks and all of a sudden people started flying them everywhere?

3. Get some Get some new bangers. Fuck it. With the goddamn Internet in full effect, you know that you can find something better than Prince. And for Christ’s sake, do not play Queen, Michael Jackson, or Justin Timberlake remixes. Have enough balls to stand out. The dance floor will respond. I’ve never seen so many Seven Jean–adorned women in their mid-30s psyched on the Melvins — you just have to own it.

4. Know your place While it’s great that the digital revolution has eased its way into the club, allowing for thousands of possibilities outside the crate, it helps to know the birds and bees of DJing. That doesn’t mean it’s all about the mix. It means that if you’re trying to break into a residency at Shutter, you can’t just have a bunch of Sisters of Mercy ready for deployment. You have to have the right Sisters of Mercy and then some 45 Grave — and still be able to bring it into the Cure B-side that you know will make limbs fly all over the place.

5. The facts of life It’s really all about whom you know. Fortunately, this city is übersmall, so get out of the crib and make your way into the sea of party crushers.

Issues finding the beat? Problems in clubland? In a bad funk? Welcome to our new music advice column, Ask Dr. Rock. Write us at