DJ Dossier

DK Strickler Talks Retro Hi-Fi, Mondegreen, Lawnchair Generals, Boris Dlugosch, and More

Name: David Kevin Strickler

AKA: DK Strickler

Current gigs: Retro Hi-Fi Sundays at SideBar, and private/public events on
Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays.

Genres spun: House and all it's varied sub-genres, space and indie disco, organic lounge and downtempo.

How did you get started as a DJ? Fell in love with EDM back in the day, especially house music, at places/nights like Freedom, Batucada, and The Lucky Dragon. I picked up my first set of turntables and started buying records soon after. I soon formed my company Desert House Productions and began taking any gig I could get my hands on.

What happened next? My first big breaks in the house scene came from guys like Pete Salaz, Joe DiPadova, Senbad, and DJ Soloman. At the same time I began to partner up with World Famous Rani "g" on many projects. I cut my chops running or being a part of a variety of different gigs and residencies from there.

What's your mantra? Give people something and be "on" the dance floor.

Sample mix:

What do you dig about house? House music incorporates all my favorite elements of ALL other kinds of music. In the same way, house is socially all-inclusive -- it brings a lot of different people together. Plus, as a drummer, I like my "up beats."

How do you think house music will continue to evolve? I think house is going to get more mainstream again, fairly soon. I really think peoples' ear and minds, in general, are opening up to it more and more.

Other clubs and events you've spun at: Solstice at Bar Smith, Red Monkey, The District, M-Bar at Montelucia, Cream Stereo Lounge, The W Scottsdale, Myst, and Pussycat Lounge.

Bygone club you miss the most: I would say Freedom. At the time everybody enjoyed everything there. I'm speaking musically, of course. There wasn't a lot of fractionalization in the scene back then. Freedom to me represented all of dance music and that "coming together" spirit that you didn't find at any other club.

Best experience as a DJ: Definitely playing Red Monkey the first time. It was right when I started to get into things in the scene. It was my first experience with such a great crowd. The energy from the start of the set to finish (and then the rest of the night, of course) was unbelievable. I closed with an old, rare house remix of Digital Underground's "Doowutchyalike." It killed!

And the worst? A couple times, mostly at Scottsdale joints, I've have had to play for a belligerently drunk, fucked up, short attention-span, completely unappreciative crowd, where it feels like you're the DJ punching bag all night.

What to you like about the Valley's DJ scene? Everybody gets along really well, these days. I see everyone from all different walks supporting every night that's out there.

What would you change if you could? DJs would get paid a lot more!

Who are your heroes or influences? Well, I wouldn't be doing what I do without Pete Salaz, Rani "g" and all those guys I mentioned earlier. Heroes are Kevin Yost, Dimitri, Ben Watt. Plus, I've learned so much from the many different guest DJs who have played my nights here, over the years -- Master Kev, Jojo Flores, Jay West (to name a few).

What advice would you give to prospective DJs? Buy the gear and start practicing. Go out and support others as much as you can. Be "on point."

What do you mean, "on point"? Work well with others, know your equipment, do you're best artistically, but also have a good sense of basic human etiquette.

What's the most challenging aspect of being a DJ? Organizing my music. I'm obsessive about it. Always changing how I view the tracks and their different elements.

Craziest shit you've seen at a gig: So I was doing this wedding gig once [and] rockin' AC/DC's "Shook Me All Night Long." One of the guys in the crowd dropped down to his knees for a mad air-guitar solo. He was really feelin' it. On his back just flailing around. All of the crowd was gathered around him cheering him on. However, the song ended and he was still on the ground, freaking out. I thought, "Man, that guy is REALLY into it!" Turns out he blew his knee out when he dropped down for the solo and was in excruciating pain the whole time! His friends were cheering him on the whole time.

Preferred poison while DJing? Fernet-Branca has become the signature drink of Retro Hi- Fi. On other gigs it's Amstel or Stoli.

Worst request you've ever gotten? [It was] Pitbull one night, while I was playing a dope deep house set that everyone was getting down to (including the requester).

What underground/unknown artists are you been pimping lately? Lawnchair Generals, Fred Everything, Shur-i-Kan, Jimpster, Lovebirds, Dennis Ferrer, and Inland Knights.

What sites do you use for music? Traxsource, Stompy, Beatport, and Hype Machine.

Do you shop locally for music? Sadly, it's all digital buys nowadays. I do pick up a few tracks often from Next Dimension Music (the label run by our own Joseph

Last album purchased: Lymbyc Systym's Field Studies. It's been a LONG time since I bought a whole album.

Track that's been stuck in your head lately: "Keep Pushin (Grant Nelson's
Elevated Mix)" by Boris Dlugosch.

What else have you been listening to lately? Joshua Heath, Dimitri from Paris, Ian Pooley, Alexander East, Cassius, and Hot Chip.

Where can you be found when you aren't DJing? Behind the drumset, with my indie rock bandmates of Mondegreen.

Favorite local acts: The Whisperlights, Mr. Meeble, and Green Lady Killers.

Any other side projects in the works? I'm working on recording and producing with my wife Dr. Drea. We're putting together some downtempo tracks right now. She plays piano, Fender Rhodes, & keyboards. I'm on percussion. We're teaming up with Evan Caverninha (formerly of SomBrasil, now in NYC) for bass parts and other rhythms and percussion patterns.

Any future gigs you'd like to promote? Ian Frost is Retro Hi-Fi's special guest DJ this Sunday. Also, catch DK Strickler and Dr. Drea with Shea Marshall (live sax) at Matador Coffee from 6 to 10 p.m. on November 18. I'm also DJing the First Friday edition of the "This is Africa" art exhibition by M. Izdepski at Optic Studios that benefits Sinde, Uganda. And don't miss Red Monkey on Thanksgiving. I'm the drummer for the House Music All-Star Band at this year's event.

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