DJ Dossier: Rob Wegner
In 2001, Wegner launched a class dedicated to the ins and outs of the DJ biz over at Scottsdale Community College, the first of its kind in the Valley (which got some ink in the pages of the Wall Street Journal). It's since expanded to three separate courses that cover such turntablism skill sets as scratching, mixing, and song selection. (There's even an actual associates degree in the works).
Each an every semester, Wegner spends 16 weeks laying down the science to a fresh crop of wanna-be wax workers, passing on the knowledge he acquired from working the local club circuit since the days of the old Zazoo.
Spots are still available for the fall semester (click here for more info), but check out some of Wegner's answers to our questions to get an inking of what subjects will be covered.
Name: DJ Rob Wegner
Club night(s): I was a resident DJ at Barcelona for seven years until it closed at the end of June.I will supposedly return when it reopens as something else in November 2009.
Preferred genre(s): I like progressive house, disco-house, electro-house, disco, some rock, old school hip hop, mashups, and some Latin/tribal house.I played progressive house when I mixed for Sirius Satellite radio's "Remix" channel from May 2003 to May 2005.
How did you get started as a DJ: When I was young, I was a rather good drummer. I was in school and rock bands and really wanted to become the next Neil Peart. In 1982, when I was 18, a high-profile club in Charlotte, NC -- that was experiencing declining sales (perhaps because disco was dying?) -- called me to find out if I wanted a job drumming on top of their DJ's. They felt a live drummer would give them a "live band feel" and could potentially improve sales. My hands would bleed after drumming 5 hours a night.I asked the DJ's to teach me and they did, but they also told me that I was expected to teach DJ's when I got older. I never imagined that in the future I would be doing just that at a college.
Best experience as a DJ: Performing with Too $hort at Barcelona. He is the pioneer of West-Coast hip hop and I was on stage playing his music and scratching records, while Zowie Bowie's band was backing us up. I think what made the night more special was the fact that Paula Abdul was in the audience celebrating her birthday and about an hour before I went on with Too $hort, she got on stage and kissed Zowie Bowie and Marley Taylor on the mouth.
And the worst: The night that I left Axis-Radius in 2000. It's too painful to talk about. I'm glad that I was able to work things out with them afterwards and was invited back several times. But I suppose things happen for a reason because after I left Axis-Radius, I started Disc Jockey 101.com, which led to the DJ classes at Scottsdale Community College.
What's taught in your course? [It's] very introductory. This doesn't mean that experienced DJs won't learn a lot -- because I'm still learning new things and I've been doing it for 27 years. I teach a history of the live-performance DJ, beat mixing, programming a night, legal issues, where to get the music, networking, and more.
Which type of people make the best DJs? Someone that loves dance music, whether it's hip hop, drum 'n' bass, electro-house, or whatever. You have to be a socially oriented/people person, because you're often the person responsible for showing a crowd a good time. You can't be a hater. You need to be resourceful -- that is, the kind of person that can track down a rare remix on the other side of the planet because it fits the mood you're trying to create at a certain time on a Saturday night.
Does it help to be a musicologist/vinyl junkie? It doesn't hurt. I suppose part of the job is being a music collector -- because it's your arsenal of music that will become your "sound." The larger your arsenal (to "dig in the crates"), the better your ability to make "on-the-fly" adjustments that can make-or-break a night.
How many people drop out? Out of a typical starting class of 18, there's usually 13 or so that get a grade for finishing the class. I am not a fan of attrition -- I encourage students to stick-it-out. But I also believe that some people that signed up for the class had no idea how much work goes into being a DJ.
What's necessary to make it as a DJ? Since the late-90's, marketing and networking has become almost as important as the ability to beat mix. I think if you're into marketing -- or have a friend that's into it that will help you -- you have a better chance of success. Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are becoming a huge part of DJ marketing and networking. I also think that money is a big factor in success. I actually make references to the DJ's relationship to money throughout the semester.
Does it require a lot of practice? Yes, we don't have time for personal practice in class. But I do show them what they should be doing when they're practicing at home. If you're a scratch DJ, you will need to spend a lot of time practicing. DJ Radar told me that he practices 8 hours a day.
What's the best part of teaching a DJ class? I think it keeps me on top of my profession. You can't teach it, if you don't know it!I also love to see a student's face light up when I tell them something cool.
And the worst? Well, I'm not doing it for the money because the money for one class is about one-fourth of what I get for a night [of] spinning.
Track that's been stuck in your head lately: Pink Floyd's "Great Gig in the Sky." It's not something that I would play at a club, but it's great listening music when you're chillin.
Where do you get your music? Beatport.com, Junodownload.com, Crooklynclan.net, Yourremix.com, Fulltiltremix.com, promo only, and even iTunes.
How many records are in your collection? It's too large to count! Thousands! I have so many vinyl records that I would imagine it's probably one of the largest record libraries in the state.I have several very valuable/rare records. If record collecting ever became as lucrative as baseball card collecting, I'm probably sitting on a fortune.
Last album purchased? I've bought singles for so long that I can't remember the last time that I bought an "album." Probably Bad Boy Bill's Behind the Decks.
What do you like about Valley clubs? We probably have some of the best venues in the world here in the Valley. Even legendary jazz musician George Benson would come to Barcelona and tell our management "I've been all over the world and I've rarely seen anything this nice."
And what do you hate? When I talk to DJ's that perform in other cities, they often say that the Phoenix-area clubbers are rather shallow in their knowledge of music. It's like they don't dance to a song until the radio station plays it a million times. I'm also tired of people calling just about any type of electronic music "techno." Also, I think the hot summers have a huge impact on our scene because college students and tourists tend to avoid our area in the summer. As a result, sales decline in the clubs and DJ's start to get replaced. The hot summers tend to kill any respectable clubbing momentum -- and that leads to turmoil.
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