In Pound For The Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
Alex Votichenko, a.k.a. Djentrification, never planned on “making it” as a DJ, or even being a name in the downtown Phoenix scene.
When he started making his own mix cassette tapes, they were a way for him to end his nights out, listening to music he wanted to hear. He wasn't even thinking about DJing live.
But these days, he's found himself a DJ by profession, with a variety of recurring events that feature him, spinning deep cuts and taking listeners and dancers on a journey through the continents.
Votichenko was born in Phoenix, and he has lived in the Valley most of his life — save for a brief stint in Seattle. He has a rich history in Arizona, where he's been actively involved in the community since the late 1990s, continuing to only spin vinyl since his inception.
He got his start DJing in the underground hip-hop scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s. People were painting graffiti art, freestyling, dancing, drawing, and the budding DJ would be hanging out where decks were constantly set up and open for people to throw down.
Votichenko quickly became a staple at neighborhood and alley pop-up parties, as his unorthodox approach to the decks got people's attention.
Fast forward several years, and Djentrification has been running the weekly 602'sDays at Bikini Lounge every Tuesday since around 2009, when he picked up the torch of the already established night. He also has been hosting The Palace at FilmBar on the last Saturday of every month since 2012. Aside from these residencies, he stays extremely active and can be spotted at various clubs and events in the downtown area.
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DJentrification is bringing his world music vibe this Saturday, January 6, to Valley Bar. With his busy DJ schedule, New Times talked with Votichenko via phone and email about his gear, love for the weird, and long history in the Phoenix scene.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
DJentrification: I don't know about any "secret weapons," but I will say early on in my teens, I became fascinated with recording sound collages and location recordings using multiple tape recorders, found percussion, hand-cut cassette tape loops, and covering the erase heads on tape recorders to make layered recordings.
I got even more excited for the potential of playing with sounds after being exposed to the Temple of Psychik Youth, Hafler Trio, and Gysin-Burroughs-style cut-up tape experiments. This is definitely an influence, even if I'm not thinking about it, on how I do what I do. Sounds are alive to me, and I believe a lot in spirits and forces that can operate through us and the sound worlds.
For me, it makes sense to consider sounds and rhythms as potential tools, to hurt or help, to create or destroy. I believe music and sound can even liberate us or help us heal, or even be used to control us or exploit us. I especially imagine music as being this incredible spirit that maybe enjoys seeing us connect and potentially lose, or re-find, ourselves. Not to mention giving us a means to express our humanity and heart.
Everything I do as a DJ is basic hip-hop DJ methodology as layed down by the originators. Digging for breaks and rhythms, mixing and scratching records, storytelling too. Blends, party rocking, and experimentation, finding the beats that make me want to freak the fuck out and being super-excited to get to share them with Phoenix heads at parties, it's the exact same foundation, but in the present time of 2018.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
Favorite piece of gear? Damn, they all go together! My mixer is pointless without my tables, and my tables are literally pointless without needles, and my needles are useless without being able to dig their freakish little teeth into a newly arrived weird, fun record. And what point is it to have a record without a setup? I mean, a record is only so fun to look at for so long if you can't play it, so I have to go with my ears as my favorite piece of gear! I depend on them 100 percent.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Yes! My DJ partner Smite turned me on to this weird, rad as fuck thing a couple years back. They say it's outdated, but it's perfect. This effects box — like an echo box or delay pedal for guitar — but this box is for the turntable: Pioneer EFX-500. Yo, it's nuts, it's so limited, but so fun and useful. It's not really made for it, but you can crank the delay to 100 percent and use it as this raw primitive on the spot sampler in real time as a record is playing! You have to hit it the right way, at exactly the right moment, and you can loop one bar of a break or rhythm or any sound off a record.
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You can totally do it wrong, too, where it sounds off. I'm flailing hard here too in trying to convey the potentials, but I use it a lot. Smite can do shit with it that's insane, way out. I wish the people that made it could see how far he's pushed it; they would be amazed. Great tool, you just have to play with it a bit and it shows itself.
Just listened your to mix “Ozmium (Mix for the Red Moon)” from your SoundCloud account. Love the wolf howls, upbeat vibe, fun quirks, and all the worldly influences. How did you go about piecing all that together to get the final product?
"Ozmium" is very simple, just a mix I worked on for a party, but couldn't rock it as the cops showed and broke up the function. I used two turntables, Rane 56 Mixer, as well as a moment or two utilizing the Pioneer 500 in that mix. It's a live, one-take recording onto GarageBand.
[It's] different blends from that little time window from parties and stuff, one record borrowed from my homie Ekoe, some Turkish disco stuff, some Wolf Muller, Carmello Torres, and others.
You have a show coming up on Saturday, January 6, at Valley Bar. Any words you wish to share with fans about your upcoming performance?
I've got three shows this weekend and I'll be working on different sounds for each show. Friday night at Lost Leaf with my guests Smite and ElnuevoSound; Saturday night alongside and following Jerusafunk at Valley Bar; and Sunday for the Amplified happening at the Phoenix Art Museum with PAO, Byron Fenix, and others.