By Ruth Jiang
Dj NRG is an open format DJ based in Boston who Happps is excited to showcase today in our May Artist Profile. Learn more about Dj NRG below!
1. How did you get started in DJing? Tell us a little about yourself!
I got my first pair of turntables as a Christmas present from my parents back when I was in high school. I had seen DJ Skribble on all the MTV spring break shows (back when MTV was actually music television) and thought, man that looks cool! I started out on the worst belt drive turntables ever and a handful of vinyl records to mess with. If you’re a DJ and you don’t know what a belt drive turntable is, then I’ve really dated myself!
From there I spent hours upon hours in my basement teaching myself how to beat match songs. I would come up with different combinations of tracks that sounded well together, mixing acapellas over instrumentals, etc. This is how we did it before there was mixed-in-key software! After burning through tons of DJ equipment (especially needles), I booked my first gig at my local high school. To be honest, I sucked real bad, but loved every minute of it!
2. How has your style changed over the years?
My style has evolved with the music over time. I started out doing mainly hip hop and some late 90s techno and breakbeats. Early on, it was more about the music and creativity. People didn’t really care if you messed up a little here and there. It was sort of expected. These days, perfection is the norm and if you train wreck, you will 150% get booed!
As a mainstream club DJ you need to find the balance of playing to the crowds and keeping management happy. The mash-ups era had to be one of my favorite periods as a DJ. It was great because tons of DJs were incredibly creative in the way they mixed, scratched, and moved through genres. Turntablism was incorporated into sets and the vibe was always fresh. I remember doing a lot of live bootlegs and flips with samples and acapellas which was really fun. When EDM took over, this type of art sort of fell off but I’m happy to see it coming back around now. I feel like I’ve done it all, from hip hop to hard edm to opening house tracks to open format. This type of resume has allowed me to play a variety of gigs. I could be playing uptempo dance tracks one night and then a full on hip hop night the next. I’m also lucky to have had the opportunity to play alongside a bunch of talented guys in Boston (Breeazy, Tao, Costa, JesseJess, OBie, Hectik, Dolo, RM, Chizzy, and the list goes on), who have inspired me to be better!
3. Where is your favorite place to throw a show and why?
Nothing can really compete with playing at Royale. It’s the biggest club in Boston and hands down the place you want to be if you’re looking for a big room feel. I do, however, also enjoy playing in smaller settings where it’s more intimate with the crowd. For example at Wonder Bar In Allston, I can play whatever the fuck I want and the crowd is still lit. Having this type freedom is a gift. I also really love my residency at Peabody’s in Virginia Beach. It’s a completely different crowd altogether and allows me to play stuff I normally wouldn’t at home.
4. Where is a place you want to DJ at but haven’t yet?
It would be an absolute honor to play at any major club in Vegas. People there just love to have fun, which is what I’m all about.
5. What are some challenges you’ve faced being a DJ?
I’ve faced many challenges in my many years in the game. The biggest has to be the transition from operating as a DJ to becoming more of a “promoter/business”. With new technology, the barriers to entry have been virtually removed, literally. There’s a lot of competition out there, so differentiating yourself and securing solid gigs is always a challenge for local DJs. These days you need to market yourself well and even start producing to remain relevant. Being able to say you play original tracks at gigs is yuuuge!
6. Have there been any weird/crazy/interesting stories that have happened while at one of your shows? Care to share?
Besides the usual crazy drunk people? Hmmm… there was this one girl I met at a gig about five years ago. She bought me a drink and complimented my music selection. Fast forward to now and we’re married! You never know when or where you will meet someone that could potentially change your life. For me it only made sense that it was at a DJ gig!
7. What music and/or which people have inspired you throughout your time as a DJ?
In my early years I would watch DJs like AM, Jazzy Jeff, and of course the legend Qbert. They were all innovators in their own unique ways and definitely had a significant impact on my career.
I’m sure other DJs can relate when I say “even when you’re not working, you’re still working”. Whenever I have a night off and am out in other clubs, I always find myself listening to the DJs. My mind is constantly listening to how they are mixing and what types of techniques they are incorporating. Some of the club DJs I always enjoy hearing live are Scene, Vice, and Spider.
8. What’s something listeners don’t know about your creative process when it comes to DJing (and/or producing)?
When DJing I’m always thinking 2,3,4 songs ahead. Constantly re-evaluating the crowd and what they’re feeling. At some point in the night I also try throw in a WTF track that can surprise people, in a good way!
As far as remixing and producing goes, I have a long list of projects to address. Ideas always come to me at the most random times. Usually it’s in the middle of the night, so I’ve started keeping notes on mash-ups and melodies I think might sound well together as they flow through my thought process.
9. Has there been any moment that you have been really proud of yourself for something you’ve accomplished as a DJ? What is it?
Thus far, I have to say my proudest moment has been earning, and I say “earning” a residency at Royale. In my hometown there’s no bigger honor (thank you Jamison, Dave, and Brig)! I was also extremely humbled to have some of my tracks played at EDC festivals, thanks to my good friend Breeazy (EDC NYC, EDC Vegas, EDC Mexico).
10. Any exciting news/updates you would care to share with readers?
Besides my current residencies with Flavor Media, 6one7 Productions, Boston Brothers Promotions, Green T Entertainment, Sky Entertainment, Royale, Wonder Bar, Storyville, West End Johnny’s, Waterclub, Envy, Whiskey Republic RI, and Peabody’a VB, I want to mention my newest venture outside of DJing. In addition to playing at some of the best clubs in Boston, I’ve started an online e-commerce business. Fydget Gadgets is a company that provides the coolest and highest quality fidget toys to kids and adults worldwide (www.fydgetgadgets.com). I’ve surrounded myself with some great partners, Frogsac Wholesale in Waltham, MA and Purple Table Reservations in Wayland, MA. I’m also proud to say that a portion of every sale gets donated to Autism Speaks and CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder)!