Who do you think I think I am?
At one point we were given a name by someone else and that name had little to do with anything that was to become of the new being. Most times, we keep the name and deal with it. Sometimes we legally change it when we decide that is best for us. Sometimes the change happens naturally.
I call all my friends by their DJ names. I gave myself the DJ name of “SOL” in the early 2000’s. Within a couple of years I created “13pieces”. I enjoyed the name and felt that it should be a new identity. I would like for everyone to call me 13pieces. And that happens sometimes. Those who hire me only know me as 13pieces and Justin makes less sense. Slowly I discovered the power of identity and name. I felt i was understood more when I was talked to as 13pieces. There was always a desire to explain more of myself when introduced as Justin. When someone asks who or what is 13pieces, I suggest listening to the discography. And when I say discography I don’t mean that I have been doing this professionally for years, but that I have been doing this intentionally for years. Hundreds of mixes are available online.
When I made the mixes as 13pieces I was making mixes only with vinyl. I feel they are unique because they are produced with time, distance, and human interaction. The weight of the records determined what you would play. Sometimes you couldn’t carry as many as you wanted. The music will range from dollar bin boxes to records that are considered priceless by some. The older mixes used the bare minimum to accomplish something unheard and necessary (to me).
The example above is “every day carry,” a vinyl mix I made as an audio representative. I start with Amon Tobin because one night, walking in the rain with this song in my headphones, the symphony in my ears matched the one my eyes beheld and we all walked in synchronicity. Imagine water falling hard onto the black street and seeing the rushing gutters overflow. This entry gives the nod to jazz and a look into the future. It is followed by a weave of hip hop and drum&bass, chosen for their creative use of language, turntablism, and bassweight. These songs express the way in which I walk; artfully and with a strong goon hand.
As I ventured into creating sets that were digital, I asked more of myself since I was using a format that I felt was easier to control than vinyl. Whenever I see someone playing digital tunes I feel that they should either be extremely demanding or creative with the mixing. The next mix is a 13pieces mix that asked a little more of me. It is live mixing, live acting, and live broadcasting. I used one mic to play two people. In this true storytelling mix, I take Justin to listen to 13pieces play at a beach party. I introduce Justin to “E”and techno. Listeners were included as characters in the story.
Despite making peace with digital, I felt that a name change was necessary to protect 13pieces. I wanted to distinguish his art from the other despite it being the same person. I created DJ Chopper for that reason. More about DJ Chopper will come later.
I am 13pieces, but I can only split myself up so many times before it really gets weird. I love creating names for myself and I enjoy creating new days for these people.This is the power of identity. When you know, you can feel it. I grew up within a tribe, but I met my people when I met a few of my selves first.
When does one become a master? If you have no teachers, who gives you the passing grade?
When I started mixing in 1991, I had neither teachers or rules.I mixed compact discs,tapes, and records together; all genres. I did not have exposure to the vast world of electronic music enjoyed by many on our coasts, yet I explored and recorded whatever I thought was interesting and dance worthy. I lived on a Pueblo in New Mexico. Our streets had no names, but I still knew what was hard enough for the street. The metropolitan meccas were distant. The internet was not available like it is now. There were no other DJs who lived within 50 miles when I began. I taught myself, found teachers along the way, and have never stopped learning.
It has now been over two decades since I began creating music sets for myself and others. I have adopted a particular style that is extremely adaptable and I have adopted the digital into my professional world. There are always questions now about where to take this if there is a reason to take it anywhere.
I try not to overlook what is in front of me. I enjoy playing at the events in the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico because despite the size, we have a wealth of knowledge and demand for better. Naturally, we go through fluctuations and cycles depending on who’s here and what we care about. Keeping it fresh in the desert is a challenge.
In 2015 a friend asked if I would be interested in teaching her son to DJ. At the same time, a co-worker suggested that I meet up with her girlfriend who was interested in DJing.
I began the lessons the way I first started. Full immersion and experimentation. I let them go through the record stacks and choose based on sight and sound. I taught them how to connect the gear and how to troubleshoot when the gear is not working. We began with mixing vinyl on a 3-channel Rane, and ended mixing with Serato and cdjs on a 6-channel Allen & Heath mixer.
I wanted to show them that the façade of DJ is meaningless without the passion that goes behind it. Teaching people to DJ is a tricky thing because depending on what they want to learn, DJing can be as simple as pressing buttons and moving a crossfader; or as complex as building a lifestyle and persona supporting the DJ. I continued to enforce the idea that using your tools efficiently and creatively will bring the results that you desire.
After a year of teaching and mentoring, the students went off to do their own thing. Z bought sound and DJ equipment and moved out of state. I recorded a live broadcast with her before she left!
The title refers to me as a master. This is both a joke and not a joke. A title is meaningless. I see a title’s benefit and usefulness though. I strive to identify with the Master, 13pieces; the master of self, displaying dedication and control, seen and recognized by a wide audience as being worthy of teaching.
I am available for private lessons in 2016! firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you living the trophy life?
Read the post,play the mix, and answer your question.
I was walking on Guadalupe, passing Paseo De Peralta, and saw the gorilla with the taxi cab door in his hand. That is a great example of living the trophy life, I thought; grabbing your gold, big time, and striking a pose.
This mix contains Juke/footwork and a bit of drum and bass. I picked up most of the tracks on one website, a record distributor in the UK. A few tracks I found on SoundCloud. Deep website digging plus quick programming and we have 30 minutes of, what I would consider, current styles and storytelling mixing.
When I speak of Storytelling in mixing, I am referring to when a DJ selects tracks with lyrics or vocals that can reflect a theme throughout the mix. This mix, for instance speaks of working hard and feeling boastful about oneself. And we can look at that as something beneficial. Sometimes we need a little boost and we are the only ones to provide that for ourselves. This is a battle song, like when the break dancers would line up and show their best moves. This is a lineup of tracks that I chose for their potency.
Are you living the trophy life? Are you grabbing what you consider gold and making something of it that you enjoy? Are you displaying it for others to enjoy as well?
I encourage you to listen and share with friends.
Released from the vault!
To find her, you must lose her.
Join Jon Ray and BK Nights on MIXLR.COM. Wax to Bytes is the philosophy. Sundays from 4pm to 6pm MST.
Follow Sum.Days on Instagram