DJ Dossier

DJ Sterling Talks Gangplank, Stevie Wonder, Video DJs, Mixing on iPads, and More

Name: DJ Sterling

AKA: "Meat" (It was a college thing.)

Club nights: Monday at Tavern on Mill, Thursdays at Revolver, Saturdays at Hotel Theodore.

Preferred genres: I am a video DJ. Somehow I got deemed the video guy. I play a pretty open format.

How did you get started as a DJ: I started at 14, when my cousin had a lot of stereo equipment. It was summer and I just started messing with it, putting song on top of song. Then I think, "I got $20 and if I really want to do this, I need to buy my own stuff." So I went to a used record store and bought a bunch of Disney acapellas -- like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," a couple of house instrumentals on 12-inch. And I'd take the Disney songs and mix that to a house beat. It would be all doped out and tweaked and funky, but it taught me the basics of mixing.

Explanation behind your DJ name: I went through all these things. I wanted to be DJ Renegade, DJ 12-Gauge, or DJ Knucklepunch. Something like that. I told one of my buddies who owns a record label, "Dude, I need a cool name, a killer name." He looks at me and says, "What's you're real name?" And I said, "It's Sterling." He says, "That's the best name ever, so ride with that."

Why don't you go by VJ Sterling? I don't believe in that whole VJ thing.

Why do you prefer mixing videos? The reason I went to video was because I felt if I could rock video like I rock audio, that's the only way I would go at it. You can mix it, pull it back, loop it, tweak it, drop the bass out, drop the color out. It's sorta like scratching a record. Once I realized I could do all those kind of cool things, I'm was in. I didn't embrace it until then.

How else is being a Video DJ differ other jocks? It gives you more creativity, it definitely stimulates more for your audience. Anybody who is doing audio now, they're doing audio for themselves. If you're doing video, you're trying to entertain a crowd; it's another plateau altogether.

Do you ever get looked down on by other DJs for working exclusively in videos? I don't worry about other DJs, that's not my focal point. My focal point is myself or the next big event or party that I can do. I love big parties.

What kind of parties have you worked? I just did a King Tut party, it was ridiculous. I also did a corporate party and the theme was "The Future." And what's the most famous symbol for the future"? The flux capacitor. I had like 10,000 lines from [Back to the Future] in the mix.

Best experience as a DJ? The best experience is when you walk into a room and you know they don't want you there, they don't like you, and the negative emotion is higher than the energy. Being able to walk in and manipulate them and totally take somebody who's a hip-hop person and get them to dance to electro or get someone who's into electro and get them to dance to hip-hop -- like changing people's perception through the power of music and video -- is so powerful.

Where else have you performed at over the years? I've worked at Rain and The Palms in Las Vegas. I worked at the Morago Casino in California. I've worked San Diego. I've worked Encinitas, I've worked Atlanta, I worked Boston, I worked Chicago, Miami. I used to work at Palm Springs. Locally, I used to have a gig at Forbidden.

What are some other highlights of your career thus far? Let me just give you a couple of things: I was only one of a handful of video DJs that have played on an electronic billboard (like you see on the side of the highway). I also was one of the first handful to DJ on the iPad and I was one of the few video DJs working during the Super Bowl week in front of 10,000 people at the Tempe Town Lake. And imagine, I have no agent.

What's it like DJing on the iPad? It's different but it also makes you think in your head what's important and you have to build what's important and put that on the iPad. You're able to pick your tracks, add effects, move your finger, control your volume, and do everything you can do on a mixer, but it's with and iPad. I'm able to walk around the room and do effects and do all my DJ tricks. The iPad is just a door that will open the future, that's all it is.

Craziest shit you've seen at a club: It was in San Diego where a girl came in a trench coat and sunglasses and her hair up in a bonnet or whatever. And later on we found out she was only in her birthday suit.

Worst request you've ever gotten: It's when 600 to 800 people are dancing and the room is just going crazy, there's always one person who says, "Can you play something we can dance to?" Thhat's like a golden rule of DJing. I doesn't matter if you are a video DJ or not.

Where do you get your videos from? I'm lucky, I get stuff directly from the labels. I was also signed to a contract to a service, so all the video content came to me rather than me chase it down. They gave me about 30 to 40 years years worth of backlog. My luck is paramount. I'm that guy who is in the right place at the right time all the time.

Track currently stuck in your head: Marilyn Manson's "I Don't Like the Drugs, But the Drugs Like Me."

Where can you be found when not DJing: Hanging out at Gangplank, the incubator for techies. It's where I go to utilize all my creative energy. The technology mafia hangs out there. I always work on making my digital presence warmer, bigger, smoother, faster, all those things.

What's your day job? I edit video, all day and all night. I'm engaged to video.

What are the artists you've been featuring lately in your sets? Gaga, Jason Derülo...stuff like that. For me it's about twisting things up, like today my hot video was Frank Sinatra. I can take an old song and make it a dirty, trashy house remix and people go, "No, he didn't."

What else have you been listening to lately? I'm gonna go with Stevie Wonder, Creedence, Metallica, and Eddie Murphy.

Any future gigs you'd like to promote? Definitely gonna have a DVD release party at Revolver soon for sure. I've got a gig coming up with Kevin Dow promotions where I'll be working at Martini Ranch.

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