DJ Akshen Wins Red Bull Thre3style Regionals

Say what you will about the power of positive thinking, but it has helped some some folks people succeed now and again. e. For proof, look no further than DJ Akshen, the Valley turntablist who won the Red Bull Thre3style regional qualifier this past weekend at Monarch Theatre.

Akshen bested five other locals -- including previous regional Thre3style winner M2, Power 98.3's DJ Javin, and Scottsdale club regular Jeff Metcalf - with his 15-minute set at the competition to earn his victory on Saturday, February 14. And believe us, he did earn it.

According to the 41-year-old turntablist, he exhaustively prepped and practiced daily in the weeks leading up to the DJ battle and changed his set at least a dozen times in the process. "[I'd] been prepping for this for a month and all the hard work paid off," Akshen says.

And, apparently, so did all the whole positive thinking we mentioned earlier. In the hours before the Thre3style at the Monarch, ABC 15 aired a short feature on Akshen and the competition, which gave a glimpse inside his Valley home and some of the "reminders" he's left for himself recently, including messages like "THIS IS MY TIME" and "YOU ARE THE RED BULL 3STYLE [sic] WORLD CHAMPION!"

While he hasn't earned such a title just yet, Akshen does have a definite shot at it, as his victory this past weekend at the qualifier nabbed him a berth at the Red Bull Thre3style national finals in early April.

As you can hear for yourself via the YouTube clip above, Akshen's 15-minute set was heavy on throwbacks, old school gems, and hip-hop classics (and even features a spoken intro from his daughter, Frances). Like any of the other participants in the worldwide Thre3style DJ battle (which is dubbed a "new school DJ battle" with an emphasis on party rocking), Akshen was required to mix three distinct genres and was evaluated by a trio of judges on such criteria as crowd reaction, as well as their creativity, mixing abilities, track selection, and stage presence.

Four Color Zack, the Seattle-based DJ that served as a judge at Phoenix's regional qualifier, gave all of the competitors involved plenty of kudos for their sets in a press release sent our by Red Bull following the battle. Ultimately, however, DJ Akshen had the edge.

"[It] was absolutely insane," Four Color Zack stated. "It was really what I expected from Phoenix, a lively crowd and DJs with a lot of skills, good diversity in selection and approach to their sets. In the end, DJ Akshen took a lot of musical risks with his track selection and won the crowd over with his confidence."

Akshen, a 30-year veteran of the DJ game, was also able to overcome a few technical issues during his set.

"In the beginning my [dicer controllers] were freaking out. They weren't working and when I called the tech guys to hold off announcing me and having me start so I could figure it out," Akshen says. "The host didn't know and counted down and then had to stall and wait till I was ready. That only took less than a minute, but it felt like forever because of the pressure to start and get the nerves out of the way."

Akshen also admits he forgot to properly configure some of his effects settings prior to his time on stage and "missed a lot of the cues." He managed to kept cool under the pressure, however.

"Because I've practiced the set so much I was able to work around it and get through it," he says "I was a little nervous when I first got to the venue, but as I got comfortable with my surroundings, started talking with all the DJs, staff, and then just laughing and joking I was feeling more comfortable and confident."

Here's hoping he can be just as confident at the Thre3style national finals in April. Akshen says he's already figuring out what he's going to do, right after he gets done fixing some of his equipment.

"My mixer broke two weeks ago," he says. "If I would have sent it out for repairs it would have taken four days [and] I couldn't afford to miss four days of practice time so for the last two weeks I managed to trigger those effects differently. It was tough but [it] worked. Now I'm going to get this mixer sent off to be repaired and when I get it back I'm going to get back to work."

And like before his set at the Thre3style regionals, he plans to bring in some DJ friends to offer some suggestions on how to tweak things.

"I have some ideas and a lot of material I didn't use for this battle that I may explore, but [I'm] also going to enlist the help of a lot more of the homies for this next round," Akshen says. "I'm super excited and can't wait to get started."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.