Interview: DJ Spinja

Part of the new generation of up and coming DJs, Spinja has been performing live for just under four years now, with his first show at the legendary final Goodfellaz event in 2008, “Race Against Time.” Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, he brings a palpable joy and enthusiasm to each of his sets. He’s assembled a diverse collection of electro, moombahton, and old-school Euro with which to smash the dancefloor, and continues to build a following for his unique take on this mix of classics and modern dance music.

I caught up with Spinja and managed to get him to tell me a bit about himself and his plans:

 Tell me about yourself and your background:

I was born and raised here in Kingston, Ontario.. Went to college for computer engineering in, yep, you guessed it, Kingston, Ontario.  After that, I landed a job as a technical support specialist for a software company based out of — wait for it — Kingston, Ontario!  However, after a little over a year in my “career”, I realized that being a “people person” meant that I needed to do something else with my life.  Luckily, I was able to get a job at a local casino, and I’ve been there happily for over two years now – I absolutely LOVE IT.  I went from being in a cubicle for 8 hours a day to standing around and playing cards with people for the same amount of time, and essentially the same amount of money! I’ve always been that social butterfly, people person, centre of attention, or whatever you want to call it.  My biggest joy in life comes from making other people smile, laugh, and enjoy their lives. :)

With which companies or organizations (if any) are you affiliated?

I help a lot with a local promotion company in Kingston, UMPZ Entertainment.  They help bring some amazing shows and parties to Kingston.  (Two or three years ago, if someone had said there’d be amazing electronic shows and parties in Kingston, I’d laugh in their face.)  From a performance standpoint, I don’t have any actual affiliations.  However, there’s been a bit of a running gag where my affiliation is “Awesome!”.  One of the companies that booked me realized I didn’t have any sort of affiliation, so they just put “Awesome!” down for mine, and it sorta just stuck from there.

 Tell me about the music you’re into:

Well right now, I’m reeeeaaaalllly into the electro house area.  More of the in your face banging “complextro” (oh, how I hate that term) stuff.  Also been on a bit of a moombahton kick as of late!  And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention OLD SCHOOL 90S EURO!  IT’S THE BEST.  *ahem*  Having said that, I still, uh, rinse out (?) to some Drum’N’Bass, or blow my whistle to some Happy Hardcore.  I love music that makes me feel … anything. :D

How did you get into this music?

Well, my love for EDM stemmed from 90s Euro.  It was, in fact, my introduction to the scene.  Growing up on those old X-Tendamix Dance Mix cassette tapes, I just loved it all.  I had no idea how deep the “dance music” rabbit hole actually went.  Fast forward years later, I started dating a girl who was a raver, and she took me to my first party, and well, that pretty much sealed the deal for me.  As I became more and more involved with the scene, I started to absorb more and more of it, and eventually found myself gravitating towards the electro house sound.

Where can you usually be found performing?

As of now, I don’t have any residency in Kingston.  That is something I’m currently exploring.. Fingers crossed by this time next year, I’ll have something set up there! Til then,, I can be found playing parties in the GTA, at various venues

What are your musical influences?

Since I’m not a producer, I can’t really speak on that end of things, so I’m going to look at this from a purely DJ standpoint.  One of my influences would have to be Amanda, aka Lucy Ford.  She took me under her wing, and was the one that actually taught me the basics of how to DJ.  We would stay up all night in her apartment spinning Drum’N’Bass, waiting until Burger King opened for breakfast, then go grab some eats.  I would have to say my biggest influence and inspiration as a DJ would be Marty McFly.  He was at one of the first parties I attended, and man oh man was he having a blast!  Not only was the music banging, but I could tell that without a shadow of a doubt “Hey!  That guy is having so much fun up there!”  To me, that feeling is infectious, and any DJ that is up there, and is visibly having a great time…. To me, in my early partying days, that was what helped steer me towards DJing and performing!

What motivates you to perform?

The crowd.  Simple as that.  I’m blessed that I’m given 60+ minutes in front of a group of people to play music for them.  I sure as hell don’t want to let them down.  I want every single person who is at one of my sets to enjoy themselves.  Whether they end up soaking wet, drenched in sweat after dancing their asses off for the whole set, or even if they appreciate one of the mixes I do, I just want to make sure there’s something for everyone who checks me out to play.  It’s the least I do for them.  They’re giving their time at an often busy, multi-room party.. They’re giving their time and attention to me, so I want to reel them in, and take them on a ride!

How do you see yourself as an artist?

I’m not going to sit here and try to blow smoke up anyone’s butt.  I’m not a highly technical DJ.  I’m not going to impress anyone with my 3+ deck mixing, or my scratching, or live production, or sampling, or anything along those lines.  What I bring to the table as an artist is fun.  You’re going to hear a well thought out, well planned set of fun music.  You’re going to see a DJ that very much wants to be there and very much wants to rock the **** out for you! :D  From start to finish, my sets are going to be fun.  At the end of the day, that’s what matters.  HAVING FUN! :D

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself continuing to DJ and melt people’s faces!  A lot of DJs progress into the production side of things, but my music theory is, um, lacking.. Not to mention, I have FAR FAR too much fun in a live DJ environment where I get to personally interact with people and make them go nuts!  (Which, in turn, makes ME go nuts! :D )  So yeah, I just see myself doing the same stuff as I’m doing now, but on a grander scale. :)

What gear do you use you at home to practice?

Oh boy, this is going to be embarrassing.  I still have my first set of turntables, a pair of Stanton STR8-80s… They still do me just fine.  For CDs, I’ve got 2xCDJ-800 MKII.  Mixer wise, nothing fancy, an ECLER NUO2.

What story do you try to tell with your music?

Well, the stories I try to tell greatly depend on when I’m playing, where I’m playing, who I’m playing for, etc.. But generally it’s very similar to how an author might tell one of his or her stories.  I start off with an introduction, something that will hopefully capture their attention, and make them want to stick around for the rest of the journey.  After that, I build up the music in intensity as the set continues!  Rather than a constant IN YOUR FACE barrage though, I try to ease the listeners back down as the set/mix comes to a close.  Having said that, I have no objection to dropping one last face-melter to close my set. After all, it’s good for me if they want to check out the sequel, right? ;)

Do you have any heroes?

I would easily say the biggest hero, and biggest influence in my life is my late, great grandfather, Duncan Roy.  He accomplished so much and lived such an amazing life.  He introduced me to so many things, including his amazing sense of humor.  Even though he was always smiles, and big laughs, and jokes, he taught me to always go for what you believe in.  <3

What’s your favourite on-stage memory?

This one is easy.  At the end of my first set, as I was playing some old Gigi D’Agostino, my good friends started to trickle into the room, and sang along as my set closed.  Keep in mind, there was a lot of other, far far better DJs than myself playing at the time.. But for my good friends, my DJ friends, to come and share that moment with me.. So much love for all of them.  One of them came up to me as the song faded out, and told me “You did it.” :)

How have you evolved over the years, as an artist? What, if any, were the catalysts of that evolution?

I’ve learned to stop panicking and stop being scared for my sets.  I would always worry too much about the equipment, the sound, every single nuance of my set, and it would show on-stage as a timid, scared DJ who was in way over his head.  What spawned this was me not noticing people on the dance floor while I was playing.  I would have to ask my friends that came with me if they had fun, and they would respond with “Yeah, didn’t you see us dancing out there?!”  … That turned on the switch in my head.  I had to stop burying my face in the equipment and the worries.  I know what I’m doing, just go up there and have a f**king blast doing it!

What other interests outside of music do you have?

I love video games.  I’m mainly a PC gamer, but I’ve got a 360 here where I co-op some games with my girlfriend, Jess. :)  Also, I quite enjoy dancing.  People tell me I’m good at it, but I say anyone that’s got the guts to get on the dancefloor and move around is a good dancer.  Dancing is about having fun, and feeling good.  If you’re doing both of those things, you’re a good dancer in my book.   In addition, despite my appearance, I’m quite a big sports fan.  I don’t play so much any more, but I get behind my favorite teams for SURE!

Of what achievements are you particularly proud?

Being selected to play my first party, as it was a “Hey, noob DJs, send us your mixes, and we’ll see if we want you to play our new talent room!” selection.  Getting chosen for that meant that someone, somewhere got what I was doing, and approved of it enough to let me play at their party!  In addition to that, any time a random party goer comes up to me after my set and thanks me.. Those moments are what I live for as a performer.  Knowing that I moved that person enough that they went out of their way to personally thank me.. It moves me, when I hear that stuff.  It really does. <3

Obligatory question: favourite song?

This isn’t anything new, recent, or even up my electro house alley… But Playahitty’s 1, 2, 3, Train With Me.  It will forever put a smile on my face. :)

What makes a song stand out for you?

There’s a couple of tests.  One, am I finding myself singing along, or playing the song again so I can get all the lyrics right for when I sing along?  Two, am I, at some point, making “the bass face” ?  If the answer is yes to either of those, then chances are, I’m clicking “Add to Cart”.

Something most people don’t know about you:

I have a self-diagnosed mild case of agoraphobia.  I don’t know why, but I do not do well in clear open spaces.

On whom have you depended for support?

Everyone I’ve met has been extremely supportive of me with my DJing.  Especially the well established DJs that I’ve met throughout my years of partying.  Despite what people on “the outside” might think, it really is a strong, tight community.  Any time I’ve reached out for advice or suggestions, I’ve gotten nothing but great, honest, positive feedback.

Where can people find your music?

http://www.facebook.com/djspinja

Photo by Craig Symonds of LoudNights.net