For over the past 10 years, dance music DJs have followed a similar career path. They start out as bedroom producers – maybe doing some DJing locally – and release music online through Soundcloud or YouTube. Getting endorsed and mentored by a more prominent producer pulls them up from obscurity, and from here, they get introduced to the mainstream EDM audience through a few collaborations.
Then, with enough cred and intrigue built up, they put out their own solo debut track, released through a major DJ’s own label or, if they’re lucky, via a heavyweight with influence, like Spinnin’.
It’s rare to see someone start their career and find success strictly as a DJ. It’s practically old school at this point, and harks back to electronic music’s first couple of decades, be it Chicago house and Detroit techno or, in more recent memory, seeing Tiesto DJ at the 2004 Olympics.
Still, it’s not impossible, and DJ Politik, from Los Angeles, shows it. After a career touring as a club DJ on the national circuit, he branched out into producing recently with track “Wolf,” featuring vocals from DeathbyRomy.
Showing you don’t have to be a producer first to hit it big, DJ Politik has held residencies in Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, and Atlantic City, he’s performed at Coachella’s Neon Carnival, and he’s shared the stage with DJs like Skrillex, Diplo, and Swedish House Mafia, along with performers like Drake, Travis Scott, and Bruno Mars.
As the influence behind his decision to DJ, DJ Politik snuck into Hollywood nightclubs to watch DJ AM, Mark Ronson, and Z-Trip while still a high schooler, and the energy from Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Tuesdays played a role in the types of records he sought to spin. As the next chapter in his career, he’s translating his own genre-blending sounds from the decks to the studio.
You’ve decided to make a move as a producer. What led you to this decision?
I think it’s really more of a natural progression than a decision. Given that I’m not classically trained in any instruments, it’s been a challenging and fulfilling journey applying my knowledge and experience behind the decks into music production. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure that I was ready and possessed the skills required to produce the type of records that live up to the quality I put into my DJ sets.
What has been your approach to producing so far? How does this vary from how you approach DJing?
Staying open-minded and drawing inspiration from a multitude of genres. Unlike most well-known EDM producer/DJs, my deejaying style and background stems from the “mash-up era” – DJ AM, Mark Ronson, Z-Trip, and Spinbad were some of my biggest inspirations.
So, focusing on a specific genre or sound has been virtually impossible for me. As I sharpen and develop my skills as a producer, I think my broad perspective will continue to guide me and be an invaluable asset in the studio.
What type of sound have you envisioned for yourself as a producer?
A timeless and sonically rich sound that cannot be classified by one genre alone.
How did “Wolf” come together? How did you end up working with vocalist DeathByRomy?
“Wolf” came together in an unexpected way that proved to be a valuable lesson in patience and timing. The original instrumental had a completely different song and vocal written to it, which I played for Romy months later after reaching out to her on Instagram. That original demo ended up inspiring Romy to write “Wolf” during a studio session we had in late 2019. The song ended up coming out almost a year later after dozens of revisions and mixing sessions.
How did you get started as a DJ?
I became fascinated with deejaying after hearing scratch samples in my favorite hip-hop songs as a kid. By my early teens, I had a set of turntables with a handful of records that I’d play at middle school dances in between practicing in my bedroom.
As deejaying went digital, I would scour the internet and trade music with other established DJs. Then around high school, I started filling in and opening at local nightclubs for some of my older DJ friends.
Among DJing equipment, what do you prefer to use?
In a controlled environment or at home, I still love using turntables (Technics 1200) with a 2-channel battle-style mixer (Pioneer S9). At nightclubs, I prefer CDJ-2000s with a Pioneer 900 4-channel mixer.
What’s your perspective in the vinyl versus controller debate?
I think at the end of the day it boils down to whatever you feel comfortable on and what compliments the style of which you wish to present or mix your music.
If you are playing almost all of your own music, there is no shame in using controllers, as they are just a conduit for performing your music, like a microphone is to a singer.
The culture of vinyl and the tactility of it will never be replaced, and you can clearly see that with the steady rise of vinyl sales.
It’s actually now the leading physical format in music sales. I’ve found myself collecting more and more vinyl now than ever before. It’s all about what inspires you and pushes you to be more creative.
For creating sets as a DJ, what’s your process for listening to and selecting music?
I’ve spent many years organizing and curating my crates that keep me prepared for all different types of sets and moods.
I think one of the most important and understated parts of being a successful DJ is library organization. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of hours and continue to always keep my crates fresh and organized.
Of the clubs and events at which you’ve DJed, which has been your favorite to date?
The Neon Carnival at Coachella has always been a treat every year. It’s been amazing to watch it grow into what it is today.
As a producer and DJ, where would you like to see your career go?
Being able to consistently release quality music, produce, and write for artists I believe in, and most importantly, earn respect from the artists and peers I look up to.