As a whole, DJs have a tendency to be rather boisterous, rowdy and blowhardy lot, particularly when it comes to self-promotion. Not so with local DJ Rob Kwik. Truth be told, he's a fairly laidback and chill cat who rather Zen and tends to let his music do the talking for him.
So it only seems natural that the 30-year-old selector's tracks are firmly in the subdued vein and are hewn from such genres as glitch-hop, downtempo, and broken beats (his favorite EDM style). Kwik's mixes are anything but, rocking a subtle and slow burn that builds to a powerful climax and, in his opinion, create "eargasms" for the listener. That includes his upcoming "ElevAtion MiX," which drops next month and his guest DJ appearance at next week's LayLow session at Bar Smith.
Kwik described his mixing philosophy for us during our recent chat with him, as well as his feelings why club gigs are better than raves and desert parties, and other topics.
Name: Robert James
AKA: Rob Kwik
Genres: Breakbeat, drum 'n' bass, dubstep, glitch-hop, drumstep
What do you dig about the genres you spin? I love broken beats. They make me move and want to dance. I play music that is hype and makes you wanna get up and get down to the vibration and bass. Bass and drums are essential to any beat. Broken beats keep it interesting.
How did you get into the DJ game? I was involved in hip-hop since 1993, starting with graffiti, breakdancing and then onto the turntables. I have always had a love for music. Bought my first Technics in 1996. I started spinning in 1997. I started in the scene out in Texas, moved to Arizona in 1998. First DJs I met was Nappe and DJ L3GO. They inspired me to get better at mixing and scratching. My first gig in Arizona was in 1999. I'm self-taught. I was always fascinated by the old school DJs cutting and scratching [and] I wanted to DJ and scratch also.
How hard was it teaching yourself? It took a lot of practice and patience. I would practice everyday for at least four hours. It took me about three months to get my first mix. I just figured out how the decks work and had to adjust my ear to pick up the mixing. One day it just clicked and I mixed my first two records. What an amazing feeling. I would also analyze other DJs to see how they mixed records. It's all about the transitions, make it smooth and its all good.
Are you a part of any DJ crews? Dirt Assasinz Collective and Artistic Ninjas. Most of the members are in music production these days and don't play out too often.
What's the Dirt Assasinz Collective? [It's] a group of brokenbeat artists. A few active members are Macrodot, Adam John, Brook B, DJ Yello, Shomeister, NeightriX and myself. Another active DA member is Joe Pea. He is putting it down in California. We spin at public and private events. Some past events include EDC, Together as One, Acid Reign, Monster Massive and Nocturnal Wonderland.
Do you have a mantra as a DJ? Keep it real and stay true to yourself.
What's the coolest thing you've witnessed during your career? Thousands of people getting down to a track. Such an amazing vibe when everyone is going ape shit over a track and bouncing. A sea of people in harmony, riding the vibration.
And what's the craziest? Well, I've seen couples getting aroused from certain types of music and they just go for it with people around. Not a care in the world.
What's your dream gig? Being able to perform at a big festival like Lighting in the Bottle in SoCal or the Ultra Music Festival in Miami with tens of thousands of people jamming out to your set. Amazing.
Which do you prefer: Club gigs, raves, or desert parties? These days, club gigs. Raves and desert parties were lots of fun. That's where Dirt Assasinz started to grow. However, the club events are where its at now a days. It's hard to find property to throw outdoor events. We have been recently playing out in San Diego lately. The scene is awesome.
What's your next mix going to be like? "RaWb KwiX ElevAtion MiX" is [going to be] a blend of breakbeats, dubstep, drumstep and glitch. It was a challenge mixing different genres together because of the drastic BPM changes from drumstep at 85 BPM to breakbeats at 130 BPM. I managed to make it work. It took a lot of pitch adjustment to blend the tracks just right.
How much work do you put into your mixes? I want my mixes to be almost flawless, so there are so many that I do not release to the public because of a minute error that my technical ear hears. Your mix represents you as a DJ or artist, so you want 'em to sound as good as possible. It's been a minute since I have released a new mix. I've been a bit disconnected from music for a while. Getting in tune once again. A rocking mix that people listen to over and over again.
What's the key to a great mix? Awesome track list, smooth transitions and taking people on a musical journey is key. The ride, the eargasms.
Is your new mix going to induce "eargasms" in those who listen to it? Absolutely.
What's your favorite track of the moment? "Kloud Kings" by Random Rab. I've listened to it a bazillion times. It's amazing.
What other artists are working their way into your mixes lately? Bassnectar, Macrodot, Finger Lickin, Stanton Warriors, Scratch D of Dynamix II, Deekline, Adam John, Kriya featuring Miss Becca, Chase and Status.
What sort of advice do you have for newbie DJs? Practice, practice, practice. Always remember someone will enjoy the music you play. Stay True to yourself. Always. Rock it like hundreds are listening.
Rob Kwik is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, November 28, during LayLow at Bar Smith. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is free before 10.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.