DJs Roya and Funkfinger on Four Years of Tongue Tied Dance Parties in Phoenix
Jay and Michele at Tongue Tied.
In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones.
Tongue Tied collaborators Michele Chinichian (a.k.a. DJ Roya) and Jay Wiggins (a.k.a. DJ Funkfinger) consider their work on the decks a labor of love as opposed to a profession. Sure, they like twirling knobs, but they like sharing music even more. Their goal is to create an environment that's fun, danceable, and inclusive of everyone.
Chinichian moved to Phoenix from California when she was in high school because her dad landed a job in the Valley. She remembers a strict Iranian upbringing, where music was always a major outlet for her.
Fast forward several years later, and that outlet has turned into years of passion and consistency.
All of Chinichian's work as a DJ and event promoter has been done here in Phoenix. In fact, DJing sort of fell into her lap. It was a push from friends and a couple serediptious nights at The Rogue Bar and the former Hot Pink that changed her life forever. What used to be countless hours of making mix tapes for friends and parties turned into running nightlife events. Chinichian and Wiggins both were involved with the now-defunct Obscura dance night and several other promoted nights prior to running Tongue Tied. But the latter has kept them busy for the past four years, namely on the first Saturday of every month.
And then there is Wiggins — or Funkfinger. He didn't choose his stage name, but it has lasted over the years. The Phoenix native studied in Chicago, and spent a brief stint in New York City before returning to the desert. Phoenix is also the birthplace of Jay's musical journey. He had a different path, though.
Back in the early to mid-2000s, Wiggins was inspired by the work of the now world-famous DJ Z-Trip. He was still local at that point, so Wiggins would spend hours of his free time at clubs around the Valley, checking out one of the most famous DJs ever to come out of Phoenix. He wanted to be able to create an environment like the ones he was participating in. So much so that he actually bought the now-discontinued Serato Rane 1 pretty much the day it was introduced to the world well over a decade ago. For him, it's all about getting people dancing.
On Saturday, May 6, Tongue Tied celebrates its four-year anniversary at Linger Longer Lounge. The tandem had some words to share via phone and e-mail with New Times about their lives as DJs and the event.
Tongue Tied DJ Setup
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" sound you are looking for?
Jay Wiggins: Simple, we play really fun music that makes you want to dance. We definitely play a lot of new indie stuff, but you’ll also hear New Wave, '80s, old school, hip-hop, today’s hits, and anything else that is fun to dance to.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
Wiggins: Is it cheating to call it our music library "gear"? Michele and I have been collecting music for decades, and we try and play a lot of it at Tongue Tied. That might sound pretentious or unapproachable, but we try and make it the opposite. We aim for totally approachable, with surprise, whimsy and sometimes teetering on cheese. No attitudes at Tongue Tied.
If the library isn’t "gear", my Rane Sixty-Two Z (‘Z’ stands for Z-Trip edition) rocks hard! Serato inside (I’ve been using for over 10 years), dual USB so another DJ can swap out without having to play a track on vinyl, beat-matched effects, etc. There are newer mixers out there, but this one still seems best suited to us.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Wiggins: The Bombshelter DJs — Z-Trip, Radar, sometimes Emile, etc. — were why I got interested in DJing. I would see them back in the mid-'90s as much as I could, and loved the way [they], particularly Z-Trip, would mix classic rock, metal, [and] grunge into his mostly hip-hop sets. Z-Trip is who inspired my desire to get people dancing, and he’s why I coughed up the little extra for the Z version of the Rane 62.
The black Technics 1250s I purchased right before Pioneer discontinued them are time tested superstars. I’m not a technical [or] scratch DJ, but [I] love the tank-like build and torque these things have. Prior to the new ones, I had a pair of beat to hell, 15 year old 1200s that were equally awesome.
The Sennheiser HD 25 headphones have probably extended my hearing out a few years because they block the outside sound so well. You don’t need to crank the [head]phone's volume to hear the cued track. When I started DJing at Shake! at The Rogue Bar, I had a some Sony ‘DJ’ headphones, and my ears would ring for days after. The HD 25s were worlds better.
The "Z" Limited Edition Rane 62
You guys make videos for your events. Thanks for sharing this one from the Zombie Ball with us. Can you talk about your process from ideas to music selection?
Michele Chinichian: We want our videos to serve as a glimpse inside one of our parties. We ask our filmmakers to showcase how eclectic and upbeat our crowd is. Aside from that, they have free rein.
Selecting a song for the video is always the most challenging part. Jay and I brainstorm tracks from our playlists until we find something that feels right to the both of us. It's typically a compromise. Ultimately, we want the track to compliment the footage and represent the music you might hear at Tongue Tied.
You both told me you're not super-technically savvy DJs. No sweat in my book. The parties are always kicking. What does DJing mean to you?
Wiggins: Being a monthly theme-based party allows us to make each event unique and special. Our job, as we see it, is to get as many asses on the floor as possible and keep them there while we skip around music and genres we both love. We throw everything we have into making each specific night as great as possible.
Chinichian: For me, DJing is about creating a sense of community while inspiring others to dance, let loose, and have fun, to help people find their joy on the dance floor. I find collaborating with others to create an event from scratch very satisfying, though selecting the music is definitely my favorite part as it has the biggest impact on creating a mood for the night.
Tongue Tied is celebrating four years strong this Saturday with a Neon Glow Dance Party at Linger Longer Lounge. How does it feel to keep this event going for this long and what plans, if any, are included in the vision moving forward?
Wiggins: We’ve both been throwing parties for over 10 years, and as long as we continue to get the amazing people who come out to our parties, we’ll probably be throwing parties for a long time more.