DJ Dossier

DJ Organic on His Love of Soft Rock and How He Used to Buy Old Ladies' Record Collections

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Do you still raid the record stashes of old ladies around town? I still love digging. I'm a thrifter, I spend a lot of time in thrift stores. Any time I can go dig for records, I do it. I love records.

But do you hit up old ladies for vinyl? To be honest, I do. I absolutely do. I try to stay out of record stores. The thing about record stores is that they're dying, unfortunately, but the guys that run the stores around town are doing the same thing that I'm doing. They're answering ads on Craigslist, going to thrift stores, finding stuff for a quarter and beefing the price up 20 percent, 30 percent.

They're dying, huh? We're a few hundred feet from a thriving record store [Double Nickels]. Well, a place like that has a staying power because of their reputation. The Eastside [Records] guys have been around forever. They can do that because the rent is cheap, but as far as the big box stores, they're gone. And the only way you can really support a record store these days is to do it like that -- have clothing, have comics, and have other options involved. Because, let's be honest, it's hard to have a record store.

What's your take on the recent resurgence of vinyl then? It's a love/hate relationship. I think it's great, but its also made a lot people out there do the same sort of thing I'm doing: looking for records.

And if everyone is looking for records, no one finds those gems? No one finds the gem or someone else grabs it first. It's not in abundance like it used to be.

Everybody sees that scene from Scratch where DJ Shadow is digging through crates and gets inspired? Yeah, absolutely. And now they're all looking for it. I think it's great, though. I love that vinyl is still around and it's important that that physical piece of music stays around, it's just that spending all my time in record stores is not a priority like it used to be. But any time I get to a thrift store of a ma-and-pa store or a yard sale where I can buy a big box of records for $20 off an old lady, I'm all about that kind of stuff.

What's the explanation behind your DJ name? Jesus . . . when I started playing records, I didn't come up amongst a lot of peers that were doing the same thing, so I though "Organic" was a cool name. It's something without any additives or any sort of outside influence. It's like I basically taught myself everything while living out in the woods...well, not in the woods but I grew up in a small town.

So you were raised by wolves or hippies or even hippie-wolves? No, no, no. I moved around a lot as a kid. My mom always lived in small towns. And when I first got real serious about DJing, I was living in and out of the city, and to get out of trouble, I went to live with my mom. She works with horses and always lived in small towns and did a lot of Outward Bound programs. Because I couldn't save any money living in the city, I worked 15-hour days to save up money, buy some equipment, and go back to the city and be a real DJ.

Can DJs get stuck in a single genre, and thus, a rut? I can't really speak for anyone else. I talked to a buddy of mine a couple Blunt Club's ago about that and he was asking about that. Does it put him in a weird place to do a lot of different types of music when people think that you specialize in one genre? I didn't really think about it until he brought that up. I've always thought of it as an asset, like if I do a lot of stuff, I can cater to a lot of different people, which is why I did an all-45s surf rock night or do hip-hop at Blunt Club, the Mellow Heat thing, or spin soul and funk on vinyl.

DJs can walk around with the biggest head, and one of the things I'm most proud of that I can say with certainty that I kick ass at is that I've extremely versatile and it doesn't sound contrived, it doesn't sound fake. Like I truly like the music that I play and like to think I know a lot about it. I won't just say, "Oh EDM is a cool thing, I'll specialize in that," because I don't know shit about it.

Do DJs and huge egos go hand-in-hand? I used to think so. I like to think I've come this far by maintaining a pretty steady ego. I think there's a difference between ego on confidence. When I first started getting around other DJs and watching them, there was a lot of ego and a lot of showmanship and a lot of that big-headed attitude. And I thought I could never succeed because I never could be like that, but I've realized in the last couple years that there's a big difference between ego and confidence. I think I've got a strong sense of confidence moreso than ego. Like, I don't want to go out and kick everybody's ass and be that guy. I feel like I'm good at what I do and it was a matter of turning that switch on as opposed to being like, "Oh, I'm bad!"

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