Cover story: DJs are the gurus of groove [Capital (Annapolis, MD)]
(Capital (Annapolis, MD) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) - Michael K the DJ: His website is www.djmichaelk.com. Phone: 410- 961-6799. Email: email@example.com. - DJ Folly: He is on Facebook as Rob Followell. Phone: 301-440- 3492. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. - DJ Goodman: His website is www.goodmusicproductions.com. Phone: 410-353-0568. Email: email@example.com. - DJ Draco: His website is www.DJDraco.com. - DJ Jimi Haha: His website is www.jimihaha.com. Phone: 410-212- 4242. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are the unsung heroes of the entertainment world. Disc jockeys, also known as deejays or DJs, are the gurus of groove who can work a crowd up into a torrid dance sweat or tame it down to a sedate shuffle.
Whether elevated on a spotlighted pulpit arched by neon lights, or stashed at a folding table near the kitchen door, the DJ controls the heart, soul and soles of his audience.
In this area, DJs can earn up to several hundred dollars during a four- or five-hour evening at a popular, busy nightspot - or double that at a wedding or important corporate event.
To learn more about how a DJ works and interacts with his audience, Entertainment spoke to five DJs who are well-known in this area for their personality, music selection, crowd-pleasing personalities and devoted following.
Michael K the DJ
Michael Kocher, 43, has been a popular disc jockey in the Annapolis area for more than 17 years.
"I got into this totally by accident," he said.
Kocher, an Arnold resident known professionally as DJ Michael K, served in the Army in the early 1990s. He was stationed at Fort George G. Meade. "My roommate and I both had killer stereo systems," Kocher recalled. "We combined our systems and I bought a mixer.
"Ours was the party room."
It wasn't long before Kocher started spinning discs at local bars while off duty.
After his Army service ended, Michael worked for Booz Allen and, in his spare time, he deejayed for Absolute Party Entertainment. In 2000, he set up his own company, Michael K Productions, Inc. (www.djmichaelk.com). He said his long-term clients for his DJ services include the CIA, NSA and Booz Allen.
His current day job is as a technical writer and Web designer for ProObject, a small engineering consulting firm serving the federal government.
Kocher's specialty is performing as the emcee and DJ at weddings and special events. He deejayed at Acme on Main Street in Annapolis on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until, he said, "My kids started arriving. I was working constantly and wanted to spend some time with my family."
Tuesdays from 9 p.m. until closing, Kocher deejays at Stan and Joe's Saloon on West Street.
Calling himself a "music nut," Kocher said, "I tailor the music to the event and I work at all types of events. I have to be a good reader of the crowd and what they want."
He's listed as the 2012 Capital Bridal Reader's Choice Best DJ Finalist, "Bride's Choice 2011" by WeddingWire.com, and The Knot Best of Weddings 2010 pick.
"There is more to being a DJ than knowing how to mix music," he said. "A bar DJ is different from a wedding DJ. A wedding DJ has to know a wider range of music - from the 1930s to right now, how to dress, how to announce guests and wedding party members properly, and how to conduct and emcee the event without being cheesy.
"The playlist you use in a bar might not be appropriate for a wedding - like gangsta rap."
Whether Kocher is spinning at a wedding or a bar, dealing with drunk and obnoxious patrons, remaining diplomatic is part of the job.
"Some DJs are cold and full of themselves," he said. "I try to be warm and approachable."
Asked the most unusual DJ assignment he has ever handled, Kocher does not hesitate: "I was hired to DJ a reception at Paul's on the South River, after a memorial service and burial. The deceased wanted people to celebrate his life and the manager of Paul's hired me."
Noting the crowd was subdued, Michael said, "I stayed away from obvious songs like Frank Sinatra's 'My Way'."
Rob Followell, 42, known as DJ Folly, is a long way from his birthplace. The Bowie resident and Bowie High '88 graduate was born in Okinawa, Japan, and later lived in Seoul near the Demilitarized Zone that divides South Korea and North Korea.
Though he owned a home improvement business for 10 years with a partner and spun platters on the side, Rob now deejays full time. He is at Heroes Pub on Riverview Avenue in Annapolis on Saturday evenings.
Occasionally, Followell wrangles the turntable on Wednesday evenings at Stan and Joe's Saloon. He often guest deejays at bars throughout the region. Plus, he's in demand for weddings and private corporate functions.
Every February, though, Followell is booked solid - in Brazil. He has a string of commitments during Carnival season in Rio. "I love it," he said. "It's warm there and they're partying nonstop while everyone here is cold."
He started deejaying in 1989 during his freshman year at Salisbury State University.
"There weren't any great radio stations out there," he said. "In this area, we're used to a plethora of music choices on the radio. A friend was doing turntables and vinyl, so I brought my CDs. We began doing house parties and then got hired by bars in town. We rocked the house before moving on to spots in Ocean City, like The Angler and Tiffany's Nightclub.
"I was supposed to stop this silly stuff and get a real job."
Over the years, he has accumulated a virtual library of more than 85,000 songs on his hard drive, plus he owns thousands of CDs and vinyl albums.
His recent DJ jobs included the fifth annual Strut & Sip for Autism fashion event at Osteria 177 in Annapolis.
"I bring an eclectic mix of music to my gigs," Followell said. "I don't play Top 40; I play things you can't hear on the radio. I like to see people dancing, enjoying themselves and having a good time.
"I like music, new and old, and like to see how it progresses and changes."
His personal favorites include electronic music, house, drum and bass, Latin music, hip-hop and reggae.
Jamie Goodman's day job used to be a night job. The Crofton resident was a doorman at Acme in Annapolis. Kocher, who was the Acme disc jockey at the time, tutored the young doorman in the craft of being a dynamic DJ. Goodman took what he learned and gigged at other bars and pubs in the area.
Eventually, he got a real day job in the human resources department of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, based in Lanham.
When Kocher's two children arrived in quick succession, he trained Goodman to take his place at Acme in 2003. Now, Goodman is the house DJ on Thursday and Friday nights.
He also handles weddings and special events.
"Weddings are more formal than a bar gig," Goodman said. "There, a DJ makes announcements, makes sure the timeline flows in a timely manner and ensures the event goes smoothly. I've never had a bridezilla, but all brides want the day to flow well."
"Michael showed me the basics," Goodman said. "How equipment works. How to look at and read a crowd. After that, I had to develop my own style. Mine is personable - I like to play what the audience wants to hear within tolerable limits." His preferences include "old school music like classic rock 'n' roll and hip-hop."
"You have to learn the craft," he advised. "Take the time. Talk to the people."
When someone asks for a country song in the middle of a strong rock set, Goodman tries to accommodate them. He works it in later on.
He has seen the DJ scene evolve in the past decade. "The technology has changed to an all MP3 format," he said. In bars, he operates with a laptop, a MIDI controller and mixer. He brings those items to a special event or wedding, too, plus lights and additional music.
"It's a job," he said. "It's a skill set. Some people think it's just button-pushing, but there is a thought process behind it, a rhythm and flow. Music is a journey and a DJ takes people on a musical journey."
Though he's the youngest of the five DJs profiled in this article, DJ Draco has been around in the real world longer than Harry Potter's antagonist, Slytherin student Draco Malfoy. The DJ's real name is Derrell Prevost. "Draco's a nickname I picked up in high school," he growled.
The Old Mill '02 graduate is the DJ at O'Brien's on Main Street in Annapolis on Friday and Saturday nights. A native of Severn, he lived in Annapolis for a half-dozen years before moving to Sparrow Point near Baltimore earlier this year. Almost immediately, he regretted that decision and is seeking to move closer to this area.
His DJ career began shortly after high school, but before his 2003 graduation from Lincoln Technical Institute with a degree in computer programming and website development. Draco first deejayed at Jillian's at Arundel Mills, followed by gigs at Baltimore's Power Plant and other Baltimore hot spots. He has deejayed at Acme, Armadillos and the former Sharky's. During the day, he works for UPS in Laurel.
"I'm just very entertaining," Draco said. "People come back for the music I play - Top 40 - what you hear on the radio. I can read a crowd well. I play one or two songs and tailor the night around the audience's reaction. I have great crowd interaction skills."
He uses two Technic turntables and a Technic headphone and still plays digital vinyl Rane mixes. "I have over 40,000 songs and music videos so I can play both songs and music videos in the bars," he said.
Another DJ taught him the basics of beat matching and blending music. Draco continues by practicing constantly. Plus, he has been a drummer for 20 years, which helps with his timing, rhythm and music appreciation. By paying a monthly subscriber fee, he belongs to three different record pools that supply music and music videos.
"I have a terabyte worth of data," he boasts.
For up-and-coming DJs, he advises, "Practice. Practice. Practice. Take every song and genre - and forget it. Because it's not about you, but the crowd you're playing for."
DJ Jimi Haha
"I'm not a DJ, I'm a 'Me-Jay'," Jimi Haha claims with a smile. "I play what I want to hear. DJs have turntables and record albums. They know every song forward and backward."
That's not what his business card says, though. It reads that he is an "artist, musician, dj, super model and fighter pilot." The first three are spot on; the last two items are only in his dreams.
Jimi Haha, 43, born James Davies, is the founder, frontman and guitarist for Jimmie's Chicken Shack, the nationally renowned alternative rock band now in its 20th year of performing. He also is a member of the band Jarflys, a local favorite the past decade.
Jimi can be found Me-Jaying at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge at 169 West St. in Annapolis most Wednesday and Friday nights, plus at parties and special events held there. Instead of turntables and vinyl, he uses iPods and a rig for iPod mixing and amplification for his gigs.
"I'm the anti-DJ," he boasts.
Wednesday nights are themed "Guilty Pleasures," as he'll play "silly things from every generation like Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection," "Disco Duck" or stuff people bring in on their own iPods.
Evenings with DJ Jimi usually crank up about 8:30 or 9 and wind down at 1:45 a.m. "Every night is different," he said. "It's music for people with ADD spanning four decades and 10,000 songs. I pick what I want to hear or what people request. I'll keep 'em happy if they want to dance."
His turn as a disc jockey began at Acme on Main Street. The bar does not have a license to feature live music, so Jimi did an open "iPod Night" there instead. He moved to Metropolitan 18 months ago. He dejayed at 169 West previously when the location was known as The Latin Quarter and, later, Jerry's Seafood.
Jimi got into music as an adolescent when a cousin received an electric red Fender Bronco for Christmas. "I thought that was the coolest thing," he recalls. "Now, I have 20 acoustic and electric guitars."
Wendi Winters is a writer based on the Broadneck Peninsula
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