DJ Morse Code on Quitting Teaching to Become a Pro DJ, and His New Project, Pools
While it is the hope of all novice schoolteachers that their hard work in the classroom will eventually land them a job as a Hollywood club DJ, few are able to pull off the transition. In 2006, at the crossroads of his two careers, San Francisco native Morse Code decided to become a DJ full-time and move to L.A. In 2008, he signed with Deckstar DJs, home of DJs like Jazzy Jeff and Steve Aoki; he also won Redbull's Thre3style Championships in L.A. last year. Here, he chats with us about why he left S.F., quitting his day job, and his new project, Pools. He'll be debuting Pools for the first time outside L.A. with (thee) Mike B tonight at 222 Hyde, and DJing as Morse Code with Vin Sol at The Parlor on Friday.
You were born and raised in San Francisco. Why the move to L.A.?
I wanted to be a small fish in a big pond. I love S.F., but I felt like it was time to face a bigger challenge. I was excited to get down here and jump right into the local scene. There's so much industry is based down here, which also was a big moving factor. Around the time I moved, I was also spending a lot of time down here and getting inspired by the scene.
What do you think is the biggest difference in nightlife in the two cities?
At the end of the day, there are just so many more people in L.A. As much as S.F. has to offer nightlife-wise, in L.A. you can get a lot more specialized with parties. For example, I throw a Wednesday weekly called Wildlife at the Short Stop that I feel would be quite a challenge to maintain in San Francisco strictly because in the end it just comes down to numbers. I think people would be really enthusiastic about it in S.F., but it would be challenging to keep cause it's not that big of a city, especially during weeknights. To fill my party week after week is something I don't think I could achieve in San Francisco. Just like in New York, L.A. has an ability to create these specialized club nights. People in S.F. have really good taste, but sometimes there's just not enough numbers to make things work on a consistent basis.
You're signed to Deckstar, whose artists work mostly in major markets like Vegas and New York. Has working in these major markets made success easier?
I think any aspiring DJ wants to work in major markets. Relocating to a major market is very challenging, but if you can make it work, it's such a better launch pad. Once you become associated with a major market, it's easier to sell yourself to another major market. To be able to work full-time and on a consistent basis is the goal of any aspiring DJ.
You include everything from hip-hop to house in your mixes and performances. Do you think being a versatile DJ is easier, as opposed for being known for just one style of music?
It definitely goes both ways. I've always wanted to get that message across to people over the years, that I can just walk into any situation and just kill it. I've always used my versatility as one of my main marketing tools. But sometimes people have a tougher time narrowing down what exactly it is that you do. For as many times as I've had it not work out, there's plenty of other times where people have sought me out cause I've been able to do many genres. I've always had faith it would work as a marketing tool -- and more importantly, it's just the way I am musically. In the end, it has worked out to be known as versatile.
You used to be an elementary school teacher. When did you decide to quit your day job?
The whole time I was teaching I was also working on building a name for myself as a DJ. The moment for me was summer 2005, because I was 25 and basically had [to make] the decision to come back as a teacher that fall. So that summer, with the money I had saved up, I told myself to take these next few months to really go for it and see what it happens. In the fall I recorded Fusion Batches, which ended up being my first nationally distributed mix on Turntable Lab.
That was my turning point. Instead of making something calculated to appeal to a certain demographic, I just sat down and made something I really wanted to make that reflected my years of collecting records. Once I got a good reaction from that, I was already recording more mixes and getting more club dates. I did well with the new gigs I had, and then everything just gained momentum. And that was enough to let me know I was doing the right things.