DJ E-Rock on Life as a Traveling Top 40 DJ and His Bay Area Influences
Citing influences from some of the Bay Area's best known DJs, like Qbert, Mix Master Mike, and Apollo, local DJ E-Rock's career began at the age of 12, when he learned to mix Poor Righteous Teachers' "Shakiyla" into Sway & King Tech's "Bum Rush the Sound" at a friend's house. While his peers were out playing video games and discovering late-night Cinemax, he spent the next couple of years at home mastering Technics SL-1200s. In 1995, at the age of 15, E-Rock became one of the youngest DJs ever to showcase on local hip-hop station KMEL with his Friday night mix show.
Photo by Xavier Collin
Today, he is the main resident at S.F.'s Infusion Lounge and has a weekly residency in the nation's club capital, Las Vegas. Not a stranger to the Vegas celebrity scene, E-Rock has DJ'd alongside artists like Akon, Nelly, and T-Pain. In his "off time," he also spins monthly at S.F. Giants games and just finished another tour for the third installment in his Big Room Sound series. We recently spoke with E-Rock about his Vegas residency, growing up around Bay Area greats, and what he always needs when going on tour. He plays at Infusion Lounge this Thursday, Sept. 20.
When you grew up and got into DJing, you had a lot of great mentors and grew up around people that still enjoyed an old school sense of DJing. Do you think the ascent to becoming a well-known DJ is the same today as it was for you when you were younger?
Back then we had to work a million times harder. From carrying crates to dubbing cassette tapes of your mixes, we had a checklist that went out the door when it came to building your name. Today with social networking, e-mail databases, file sharing, etc., it's made it a lot easier to reach the masses. But even though things may have enabled us to an easier method to our madness, I still have a checklist of things to do just to maintain my name, reputation, product, and brand. I appreciate being one of the very few mainstays in today's DJ world to have experienced that. I pride myself off of that -- I may be young, but I'm a product of the old school San Francisco nightlife scene.
How do you think growing up in the Bay influenced your DJing?
The Bay Area is a mecca for the art. Growing up in the same region as my mentors who happen to inspire the art and world of DJing is incredible. Seeing Qbert, Shortkut, and Apollo firsthand as a kid -- and even sharing the stage with them at a point in my career -- is humbling. Growing up around it, seeing it first hand and what went into their hustle, product, and vision is by far the most incredible thing a kid of 14 years of age could have asked for. Not to mention being on the radio since I was 16 and learning from greats such as Jazzy Jim, Rick Lee, Glenn Aure, Franzen, Dave Meyer, Mind Motion. At 16, you couldn't go wrong with learning from them. I still apply everything these guys have taught me as a kid to my practice today.
What's important to you when creating a radio show, which you do for 997 NOW during the weekdays?
Programming, knowing what to play and when to play it, is crucial. You have to keep them tuned in as long as possible.
Do you consider yourself a Top 40 DJ?
Yes, for the most part. I play everything and appreciate all types of music old and new.
Do you think the title of Top 40 DJ has become negative over the years, especially with the rise of EDM?
I don't see it being negative at all. The fact that I am able to play all formats if music has enabled me to open many doors around the country. I travel three days out of every week playing Top 40.
With your experience of having a residency in Vegas, how have you seen Vegas evolve into the mecca of clubs here in the U.S.?
Dance music culture in Las Vegas is huge. The mega-club experience goes well with EDM. On any given night you can normally see someone like Tiesto, Calvin Harris, or Laidback Luke. These guys pack stadiums around the world; they are megastars in the international circuit. Clubs couple these names with billions of dollars into production, and the experience is by far second to none. I myself have to pinch myself every Saturday to come back to Earth and say, "Did that really happen?"