Name: Michele Chinichian
AKA: DJ Roya
Current gigs: Obscura, held at Rips Bar every second Saturday of the month.
Genres spun: I play a blend of indie, New Wave, and Britpop at Obscura. I also enjoy spinning '80s pop, old school, electro, and the occasional Top 40 guilty pleasure.
How did you get started as a DJ? It was kind of a fluke as it was never something I sought out. My friend asked if I could help her with the music for a new night at Rogue Bar. My transitions between songs were heinous, but quickly realized I had a knack for reading a crowd and getting people to dance. I had the best time! I've always loved music, dancing, and hosting parties so it made sense that this would be something I would enjoy. The owners asked us to stay on as resident DJs and that was it -- I was hooked!
Explanation behind your DJ name: Roya is actually my middle name. I felt odd about having people call me anything other than my name. It's Persian for "fantasy." A close friend teases me relentlessly about this.
Best experience as a DJ: Getting to DJ with legend like Andy Rourke of The Smiths was an unforgettable experience. He signed everyone's records and took photos with all his fans -- he was such a nice guy.
And the worst? After a long day at work I guest DJ'd at a friend's event [and] no one showed up. When the two hosts and bartender went outside for a smoke, I was literally DJing to no one!
What's something about you that might surprise others? When people see my shameless dance moves on the dance floor they tend to be surprised to discover that more often than not, I am completely sober! I'm also a part-time college professor and have my own private practice. That also seems to surprise people.
Other clubs and events where you've performed: Hot Pink!, Crotch Rocket, Shake!, Retrospect, Kiss & Tell, Cherry Bomb, Wild Rumpus.
Which bygone club do you miss the most: I have so many fond memories seeing countless shows at Nita's Hideaway. I really miss that venue.
What's your opinion on the Valley's hipster dance scene? What would you change if you could? I've had fun at other dance parties, but one thing that I would like to see is a more consistent identity at these nights. I've attended advertised indie nights that wind up playing a several hour hip-hop set, then the next time I go it'll feel like an electro night or an '80s party. I like all those genres, but the revolving door of guest DJs makes it really difficult to plan what you're in the mood for or which friends to go with.
What's the story behind Obscura? It was created as a response to the existing hipster dance scene in the Valley. We wanted a night that combined the classic alternative music we loved in our youth, with our favorite indie songs of today versus faceless electro or remixes. We never marketed ourselves as a hipster night. We care more about music than being perceived as hip or cool. In the process, our fans embraced us as the "anti-hipster dance night" for down to earth music lovers. We've created an atmosphere that is unpretentious and eclectic in terms of subcultures and ages, which is how we like it. More than anything, it's about having fun!
How hard is it to come up with a theme every month? Coming up with the theme is easy: We build it around the hottest new music/movie releases or touring bands. Obtaining an exorbitant amount of prizes and giveaways to execute that theme is the hard part. Our promoter Robden Brethauer truly deserves all the credit for that. He hooks our crowd up.
What's been your favorite Obscura theme thus far? Our "Love is a Battlefield" dance-off for Pat Benatar tickets was by far my favorite. Our emcee did an incredible job of commanding the dance floor and the crowd really gave it all they had. It was amazing! It still makes me smile every time I think about it.
What's the best way to score prizes at Obscura? Arrive early! This will greatly increase your odds. Often, we have some swag leftover that goes unclaimed at the end of the night so the die-hard dancers that are still busting a move at closing time usually don't find themselves empty handed.
Biggest giveaway you've offered: Concert tickets to Depeche Mode, Sharon Jones, Sigur Ros, and Ray Davies (of the Kinks) come to mind.
Will you see Tron Legacy because its Tron or because of the soundtrack? I'm a big fan of Daft Punk, so that is definitely a draw.
Which do you prefer -- Daft Punk or Daft Punk'd (a.k.a. the local tribute band)? I'm going to have to go with the original.
What local bands are you a fan of? Everyone should check out my talented friends: Colorstore, Austin Head, Reuben's Accomplice, Source Victoria, and Treasure Mammal
What song(s) will always get your crowds going? Songs by Arcade, Fire, Gorillaz, Phoenix, La Roux, Pixies, MGMT, Yeasayer, Interpol and any New Wave classics (by iconic bands like Joy Division, The Cure, Depeche Mode, etc.) always work like a charm.
Worst request you've ever gotten: "Don't Cha" by the Pussycat Dolls.
What sites do your use for music: XMU is a great source to discover new indie music. Believe it or not, that genius feature on your iTunes is pretty spot-on with recommendations.
Your top five albums of 2010 (in no specific order): Beach House, Jonsi, Caribou, LCD Soundsystem, and The National.
Your top five bands of all time (in no specific order): Only five? Hmm...I really love Blonde Redhead, Bjork, Belle & Sebastian, Arcade Fire, and New Order. I also have a special place in my heart for old Duran Duran, my first favorite band as a child.
Which underground/unsigned artists have you been pimping in your sets lately? We make a point to support and bring exposure to the artists we love that are touring through Arizona, while also trying to be a great resource for our fans to discover new music. This month we're promoting Flesh the Racist Crayon (featuring Charlene Yi from Knocked Up) and the hot new UK band The Silent Film who both have shows in the Valley later this month. We also have giveaways for Freezepop.
What else have you been listening to lately? The National, Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles, Warpaint, and Best Coast.
Last album purchased: Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest.
Last song downloaded: Chromeo's "Hot Mess," which features Elly Jackson from La Roux. Good stuff.
Track currently stuck in your head: I can't get enough of "Sweet Disposition" by Temper Trap. I love to play this track at Obscura, but I so wish I could be out on the dance floor with everyone else instead of stuck behind the DJ booth.
Best concert you've ever attended: I've been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts so that's really tough to answer. Seeing The Postal Service at Solar Culture [in Tucson] was pretty special, as was PJ Harvey's performance at The Knitting Factory. Getting to see one of your favorite artists in a tiny venue is something I never take for granted!
When not DJing, where can you be found? You can usually catch me at the indie shows, which are primarily held at The Clubhouse or Rhythm Room. Bikini Lounge, Shadys, Lost Leaf, and Casey Moore's are a few of the other spots I enjoy.
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