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DJ Ayres - Putting On Ayres

Author: Darryn King
Friday, 12 October 2007
It’s a pretty big deal when the Village Voice and the New York Times say that you put on the best party in New York City. Baltimore club and bootleg producer DJ Ayres is a pretty big deal himself. 3D’s Darryn King reports.

You grandfather was a classical music composer and conductor and your uncle is a rock musician and producer, so you definitely have music in your veins - but what sort of music did you grow up listening to-
I grew up in Mississippi and my dad played mostly Blues records when I was a young child. Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf more than anyone else. He felt like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin ripped off the Blues artists and we didn't listen to Rock and Roll really at all. We didn't even have Beatles records in the house. But my mom bought pop stuff like Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Thriller. Those were big at our house.
I started listening to rap in fourth grade, stuff like Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Fat Boys, 2 Live Crew, all those classic tapes. In high school I got into punk and dance stuff to but I still listened to more rap than anything else.

In the early days you had a lot of different day jobs - can you talk us through them- And when did you finally throw it all in and rely on your records for your income-
When I moved to New York City I wasn't making enough DJing to live, and I really didn't consider it a career until later, so I was working temporary office jobs at first: on Wall Street, in law firms, a pharmaceutical company, in publishing… I was taking anything I could get, and the same was true for my DJing: I was playing in restaurants, lounges, house parties, weddings, whatever came along.
Then I had a good job working for a startup music web portal as the editor, and that lasted almost two years until all the startup money dried up and we were all laid off. But I had been DJing in the city for three years at that point and I was making enough money to not need a day job anymore.
In a way, your big break came with The Rub - this monthly night started out as your own birthday party, right- Did it get big real quickly-
Yes the first one was my birthday, and there were about 300 people there, so they offered me a weekly as resident DJ, booking guests and promoting, but I decided to do a monthly instead because I figured it would have more longevity. Our five-year anniversary was in July.
It was pretty big from the start but it didn't start having crazy long lines outside until after the first year when we got named best party in NYC in a few of the local papers here and started getting national and international press.

You’ve also released more than 30 mix CDs in the past four years - you must have a pretty muscular work ethic. How do you manage to get so much stuff done-

I love making mix CDs and I would be doing it anyway, even if it was only to give to friends. It's part of the way I search out music. I'll decide to do a CD of classic electro for example, and I'll start with the electro I have in my collection, then dig for more until I feel like I've found all the important stuff, then put together the CD and record it. And a lot of the things I learn or tricks I come up with when I'm making my CDs find their way into my live DJ sets. And a lot of production ideas start as mixtape ideas and then I flesh them out more and put them on records. For example I'll take a house record and mix a hip-hop acapella over it, and it will sound so good that I'll end up turning it into a polished studio remix and put it out.

You played a lot of ‘bottle service’ clubs and lounges in Manhattan before getting bored with it… We’re not familiar with ‘bottle service’ in Australia so could you tell us about it-
Bottle service is when you reserve a table in a club and buy whole bottles of liquor at wildly inflated prices, for example $250 for a bottle of vodka or $500 for a bottle of champagne. In and of itself this isn't a terrible idea, because the mark-up isn't so different from paying $8 per shot or whatever it is at fancy clubs. But the club owners are greedy and it becomes all about selling bottles and making it mandatory to buy a bottle if you want to sit down, even to the point of not letting people in the club if they don't commit to buying a bottle.
The DJs make good money, not nearly what they should though because the clubs are making a fortune. The emphasis isn't on dancing or even listening to good music.
So the DJs have to play Top 40 music for crowds who are there to show off how much money they make, in being seen at the hottest spot. The dress code for these spots is also awful, they won't let in anyone with sneakers, baseball hats, shorts, whatever, and it's designed to keep out minorities for the most part. So it's pretty easy to make a good living as a DJ doing that but if you have any conscience at all, it makes you hate yourself and your crowd pretty quickly. I still do one here or there when the money is really really good but it has to be at places that don't have racist door policies - that's the one thing I'm firm on.

WHO: DJ Ayres
WHAT: Plays Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Saturday 20 October