Deejay Element speaks on his DJ career and artistic pursuits

deejay element

If you don’t have a 9 to 5 dead end career by now don’t let your puritanical baby boomer relatives or sycophant gen-xers know you’re eating avacado toast. Chasing passions outside the corporate structure is a balancing act between thrill and security, passion and obligation. In the end everything is work, the denominator is whether it’s enjoyable to you or not.

The American Dream of old was borne out of an era where the middle class achieved a moderate level of wealth post-war. The house and picket fence ideal emanated from the urban sprawl set forth by suburban development, automobiles ownership and strip malls. Mom had dinner ready by 5 for dad, who sought to achieve rank in the corporate workplace. I’m somewhat painting with a broad brush to achieve effect, but this isn’t far from the mark. Times were different then, anymore the preference is flexibility and spontantiey over rigidness and routine. Depending on who you talk to, this changing worldview could either draw a scoff or kudos.

Spurred on by the recent words of AM’s forefather and resident pizza junkie about chasing down a dream, I thought about others who pursue their passions. Recently I interviewed Albany, New York native and Brown Bag Allstar member Deejay Element to learn more about how he has carved out a career DJ’ing and what his future plans are for new music.

Is it easy supporting yourself as a professional DJ?
As of late it is a lot easier supporting myself as a DJ but for a long time it was almost impossible. There’s a lot of djs working for little to no money and it makes it really hard for djs like myself to make decent money. I just continued to stay at my price without lowering my rates and cheapening my brand. It was definitely a struggle!

What are the 3 most annoying things partygoers can ask of a DJ?
A lot of annoying questions come to mind but my top 3 are 1. “Can you play such and such songs like next please? I’m about to leave and wanna hear it.” 2. “Can you play some throwbacks like Soulja Boy or something”? I guess you can call him a throwback but that’s not what I consider a “throwback.” 3. “Can you play something good”? Like I haven’t played anything good since I’ve been here?

Do you like all the music you play at parties? How do you set aside your personal favorite songs or preferences in music, in order to make sure the majority of a crowd keeps dancing? Is that a skill that came easy to you or you had to develop? 
I don’t necessarily like everything I play but I definitely sit down and go through hours of music and make crates of current music that I like and don’t mind playing. I sneak in all types of music that I like, to make it interesting. I don’t know if it’s a skill or just knowing what works through experience over the years. Either way, I still enjoy rocking clubs and casinos, and watching the crowd react to stuff I play.

Have you entered any more DJ Battles/Contests since the McDonald’s challenge?
No more DJ battles for me. I’m not really a battle DJ. I enjoyed doing the McDonalds battle and became friends with DJ Clue and Spinderella but I focus most of my time these days on producing.

What can you tell us about your new record?
My new record is a little different compared to my last few albums. It’s more of an experimental thing. I feel like I’m getting better as a producer and my production is starting to sound more full and professional. It’s still the traditional boom bap feel but with a more current sound!

It seems like once every other year or so you drop a new project. Is there anything behind the pace at which you release music?
It’s just kind of the way it works out, I work on a lot of other people’s albums/collabs and use most of my beats for that. Like I said before, I’m getting better as a producer so I’m always switching the beats I wanna use and never satisfied with the beats I currently have for the album. I also wait for rappers to turn their verses in which sometimes could take a year or two lol.

Who are your favorite producers out doing it now? Are there any certain practices you think have helped you sharpen your production chops?
My favorite producers doing it now are Premo, Nottz, Kanye, Metro Boomin, Kaytranada, J57, Audible Doctor, illmind, 9th Wonder, DJ Khalil, Jonwayne, DJ Snake, and Diplo. There’s tons more but thats off the top of my head. I think the more and more I work on beats, the more tricks I learn. It helps a lot with the creative process. I have yet to hit my 10,000 hours but I’m slowly getting there.