DJ Solomon brings his ‘Pop Turntablism’ to Vail
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado “-DJ Solomon’s first gig was a middle school dance. Now, 20 years later, this San Francisco-based DJ specializes in what he calls “Pop Turntablism” ” an emerging genre known as mashup that fuses scratching, beat juggling, word play and live remixing with an eclectic mix of funk, soul, hip hop and rock tracks. Hear the result at Samana Lounge in Vail on Wednesday night when DJ Solomon performs a free show.
Vail Daily: How did you get started in the music business?
DJ Solomon: My parents actually met playing music ” they were playing in different groups. So I always say that I was destined to do music from the beginning. I started playing a lot of different instruments when I was young. Violin, cello, sax, piano … but nothing really stuck. When I was10 years old I played bass with a band, but I used to watch the DJs on MTV and think it was the coolest gig ever.
My first gigs as a DJ were 7th and 8th grade dances with a tape deck and CD player. I got on to some turntables when I was about 15 and started buying records and making mixtapes. I would just go up to people at house parties and ask them if they wanted a DJ. I was always really excited about it. When I got to college I realized I could make some money doing it ” more than I could playing bass in a band.
VD: Who are your musical influences?
DS: I’ve always been into anything funky and soulful like James Brown and Stevie Wonder. Almost all modern dance music has its roots in funk and soul. And a lot of tracks are directly sampled from a lot of those old artists. I’ve always had a place in my heart for rock, and I spent some time going to raves and listening to house music. Lucky for me, hip hop and house music merged together and club music started going in that direction. Now you have guys rapping basically over house music.
VD: Your mixes are sometimes described as “mashup.” What does that term mean?
DS: Well that term kind of came from guys making these pre-produced tracks. They are usually ironically brought together, like a rap song layered over “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” or something. It’s a little different than what I do so it’s a little bit (misleading). But DJs like AM and Z-Trip really changed the game in the club scene because people aren’t into one genre of music anymore. Now it’s like all these genres have bled together. Now you have the iTunes generation who will hear a song they like and go online and buy it.
VD: How has evolving technology changed the DJ game?
DS: It’s good and it’s bad. The DJ technology is doing amazing things but it has made it very accessible. Fourteen years ago you had to buy turntables and spend thousands of dollars and build a record collection over time. But now any Joe Schmoe with a laptop can E-bay a pre-loaded hard drive of music and you can’t tell who is actually live mixing and who is just pressing play on an iPod. Unfortunately, we end up competing with them. It’s changed so much now. But all of the talent will rise to the surface regardless, though.
VD: What makes a DJ talented?
DS: One of the marks of a good DJ is adaptability. You develop a skill set that helps you learn how to read a crowd. When you travel to a different city around the country or around the world, you have no idea what to expect ” you don’t know what they’ve been listening to or what’s on the radio. But you’re formulating your own set around what you think might work. We use tester songs to see what might go over well. But then you have these DJs who just push “on” and play this set and that’s all they can do. That makes it all the more frustrating for those who have spent years getting the industry where it is when you have these guys who don’t see the value in putting effort into their craft.
VD: What are the aspects of DJing that you focus on in a live setting?
DS: People who grew up watching scratch DJs, like me, their set relies on the technical aspects like beat juggling, scratching and live mixing. I came from a musical side of things so I appreciated that aspect more. But then you have some guys who have great programming and blending skills, the ability to blend songs together and bring the audience up and down. I like to think of it as a union of the two ” house and technique ” using the technical skills in a live dance setting.
VD: You’ve been the resident DJ for the Golden State Warriors for a while now. What are the ups and downs of that gig?
DS: I’m in my ninth full season with the Golden State Warriors. When it first started, it was a really huge deal to me. I really put a lot of emphasis to use it as a stepping stone. Unfortunately, our team doesn’t have the greatest prowess in the NBA these last few years. It’s not a Lakers-type dynasty. There was one record company rep ” I think it was Motown ” I told him I was the DJ for the Golden State Warriors (and) he said, “Is that a college team?” But sold-out games have 20,000 people there. They put me on camera a lot so it’s a good exercise in the performance aspect. And when they’re winning, it’s a great thing to be a part of.
Who: DJ Solomon
When: Wednesday, 10 p.m.
Where: Samana Lounge, Vail
More information: Call 970-476-3433