Welcome to another edition of “Headliners with……” an ongoing (I know,it HAS been a while since I posted one of these!!) interactive interviews series with the various superstars you may know or perhaps will come to discover.
DJ Chris Allen is a true multi-talent….cutting edge DJ who spins at College Station,Texas at HALO two nights a week,a music artist who has released 7 DIY albums under the moniker Stiletto,Texas and also writes two columns for Texas based gay biweekly zine called “Shout”. One column is a review column and the other is a interview column where Chris has chatted to many a famous (or soon to be famous) artist. Like I said,a true multi-talent!
One thing about Chris I do admire is his determination to swim his own way. As I know he lives where Texas A&M is,I wished him good luck when the Aggies play Texas…when he wrote back and said “Uh,Michael….I’m a UT man”. I should have known….*LOL*
After reading this interview,I encourage you to pick up one of his albums…the man can flow!
And now…….”Headliners with…..DJ Chris Allen!
1. How did you come about being a DJ?
Good lord mate, where do I begin? After a year or so of street promoting I started out as a light tech at several very popular clubs in Houston back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Xcess, Heaven, and Amnesia to name a few. I moved to Austin to program lights at this one joint and found myself in a dj position when one of the club’s jocks suddenly quit. Like my mentor, the late Scooter Bearden. I started off spinning happy hours – an excellent opportunity to perfect my craft, and the rest is, well, history in the making. The story for me is far from over. I have no plans on slowing down. I am a career dj. What was so foreign to me in the beginning I can not see my life without.
2. What is the biggest change you have seen in the clubs since you first started?
A lot less drugs. I mean A LOT. And these days, a lot of different drugs. The club scene sorta seemed to go stale when big brother declared X enemy number one in the mid to late 90’s. And X really was a good thing. Honestly. Especially for night clubs and dance music. It allowed ordinary people to tear down those barrier walls and let themselves go. Let themselves experience and taste things they might not otherwise. Same thing for many djs. When I was spinning on X back in the day, what I would normally call risks became just another part of the groove. And somehow, it all always fell magically into place. The shit you get on streets these days that they say is X is nothing like it once was. Even in the mid 90’s. That shit was all cut with heroine and these days it’s all meth and acid. Huh? WTF? I feel lucky that I got to taste it when it was actually still legal and pharmaceutically produced. When it was about the love and the untiy and the high, not just the high alone. But what that high created. It’s really a shame that the government declared war on X. Their war only paved the way to much harder and more addictive and more destructive substances becoming popular. Hence our country’s meth problem. Personally, over time, I have realized that drugs are like so many other thing in life. A tool. A tool to help you get from point A to point B and maybe learn something along the way. Moderation being the key. The only key. Besides the never ending and always changing evolution of electronic dance music into what came out last Monday and Tuesday?
3. What is the main difference between being a good DJ and a great DJ?
A great dj will not only play those tracks you wanna hear and dance to but will also take you on a journey that is unique to their particular style of programming. A great dj can not only read a crowd, but lead a crowd as well. A great dj can create what many would describe as a spiritual experience. I remember this one night at Twilo in NYC a few years before 9-11 when Danny Tenaglia was spinning a New Year’s Eve party. It was not only amzing, but for me – a dj – it was inspiring and literally changed my entire outlook on what it was I was do for my coins. Sure, the crowd pleasers were there, but Danny threw in something more. His understanding of the groove took it to another level. I danced for almost 8 hours straight that night. At first I thought it was just the club, because Twilo was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was the first time I was in a hall where the sound moved beyond my ears and affected my whole body. So you didn’t just hear the beats and riffs and vocals, you felt them in every ounce of your being. But after my buddy Scott Perciful brought Danny to Austin for the first time, I realized that it wasn’t just the club, but the man controlling the club as well. The show in Austin was just as powerfully moving with less than one forth the sound.
4. Explain what “electro circuit” is?
A climatic blend of electro house, progressive house, and circuit anthems with a touch of trance.
5. How do you decide what goes on your playlist?
I start that process by following the local, regional, state, and national charts. And also by checking out various websites like Perfect Beat, iTunes, and Beatport to what is new and hot. But, just cause a track is huge in one city doesn’t mean it will be in everywhere else. It’s really up to the crowd in the end, the reason I am here. The people who pay my bills ya know.
6. Tell us about your very first solo DJ gig, what and how did you prepare for that?
The same way I prep for every gig. I get plenty of rest, eat healthy, and approach it with a clear head. A few hours running at the gym the afternoon of helps too.That and an ice cold Red Bull of course!
7. What club in your town is the best for dance music?
Well, I am currently living in a small Texas town called Bryan. It is a great central location for me and honestly the rent is so way cheap. I am no more than 3 hours away from anywhere in Texas I might be playing be it Austin, Houston, Dallas, or even San Antonio. And importantly to me, I am close to my family. Bryan is right next to College Station, the home of Texas A & M University. There are 2 clubs that are famous for getting your groove on there. The str8 crowd goes to Gatsby’s in Northgate. Pretty much a white hip hop club. The gays and open minded folks go to Halo, where I play 2 nights a week. We have been awarded best dance club for the last 3 years in row by City Search and AOL City Guide. Best damn club in the Brazos valley bitches! For a small town joint, Halo get’s pretty damn crazy, often bringing in over 300 partiers a night when I play.
8. What would you tell someone who wanted to become a club DJ? What tips and wisdom would you share?
First of all, I have always told all of my students what my teacher Scooter told me in the very beginning; practice, practice, practice! And if you find yourself with some free time, practice some more. Yes, perfect flawless transitions can come naturally, but usually not. The other big piece of advice I have is, learn your phrasing and know the music you are playing. If you understand the fundamentals of phrasing and how dance music fits together then you are less likely over time to produce those mixes we all like to call “train wrecks.” What seems a like a challenge will eventually become second nature, over time of course. Secondly, follow the charts. That is how you can learn to program. There are several levels to this task. International. National. Regional. And duh, local. And last, learn from those around you. Go check out those djs that know how to rock a packed club. Listen, pay attention, but never approach. If a dj thinks you are moving in on his territory he may have you kicked out and barred. If you are cool like that. then do that voodoo that you do so well and schmooze your way into the circles. Ya never know til you try.
9. How important is it to promote yourself…after all, once you get a huge night, you don’t to worry about promotion, right?
Ha ha! That’s funny man. Good one. In a perfect world maybe. No, but really, I have learned over time that you have to do your own promoting in addition to what the venue has going on. Flyers, bar rag adds, business cards, handing out mix cds, and utilizing all the obvious online tools really do help. And you have to remain determined and consistent throughout the task. My job is to entertain the people that the club brings in, not get them there. That is the responsibility of the club owner or the event promoter. One hopes that my name on the bill will carry a great deal of weight and add to their concept. But it’s also my job to make sure my name gets out there and they know who I am and what I am about. What’s that saying? If you want the job done right then do it yourself?
10. How has the nwtworking space MySpace helped your career?
Wow. Over the last 3 years, MySpace has aided my career so tremendously. But like with anything else in life, outflow equals inflow. If you put the time and energy in you will get results. Despite the often incredibly shallow nature of today’s world, I still believe in that old skool principle that hard work really does pay off in the end. Instant success is over rated. Longevity is what one should shoot for. It is really about how dedicated you are to your dreams and goals. MySpace has not only helped expose my style to the global populace but given me a place to share my dreams and goals with the world.
And I have to add, I just launched my new website, www.djchrisallen.com. Props out to my site’s designer Andy. I could not have done it without him. His attention to detail is immaculate. I think everybody will really enjoy the site. In the next few months we will ba adding cool stuff like downloadable Chris Allen ring tones and wallpapers and more. Exciting times ahead, as always. Thanx so much for checking me out and wanting to know more. Knowledge is king! Remember, life may not always be the aprty you had hoped for, but while you’re here you might as well dance. Peace.
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Review by Michael Sullivan