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Man ofthe House : Dana Hills High senior Nick Baytala isn't just a deejay. He's a master of his music, a provider for clubs from L.A. to Chicago to Amsterdam to Paris

March 03, 1995|ROSE APODACA JONES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nick Baytala is a deejay. He is what he plays.

No, really. Like the head banger who recites lines from a Led Zeppelin classic as if it were Shakespeare or the rap fan who finds validity by emulating a poetic gangster (or even the journalist who borrows from David Bowie), Nick thrives on his music--deep and acid house--with similar gusto.

For the Dana Hills High School senior, house music is life.

"It's something I always had in me," says Nick, who turned 18 last week. To celebrate, he flew to San Francisco to spin at a few "parties"--ranging from intimate events to the warehouse blowouts once known as raves. He also delivered house sounds to a parking lot gathering at one of the Grateful Dead's Oakland shows.

Last weekend was another entry in an impressive resume that includes events in Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam and Paris, where Nick has flexed his turntable talents since debuting at the unusually young age of 16.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 13, 1995 Orange County Edition Life & Style Part E Page 2 View Desk 2 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Nada Baytala--A story March 3 about Dana Hills High School disc jockey Nick Baytala incorrectly described his mother. Nada Baytala taught language at Columbia University and UC Irvine, but not at Pepperdine University. She received a master's degree there in December.

By then he was already a veteran of the house scene in New York City, where the Baytalas settled when Nick was 9. He and his parents have bopped around the globe according to the demands of his father's job as a chemical engineer, living in Nick's native San Francisco, Milan and Paris, among other places. Him mom is a language professor who has taught at Columbia University in New York and, most recently, Pepperdine in Malibu.

Nick was 12 when several friends took him to his first underground club. Raves, then, were based on the concept of global unity and communal happiness, a sanctuary from urban evils outside. There were drugs, as in any other scene, but they were not central to the vibe, and many opted to get intoxicated on the repetitive sounds that rang like a meditative chant.

The ballistic beat shot right into Nick. Here he was exposed to a diversity of music: jazz, acid house, techno. But house music and its variations would bend his ear.

"It's the range of it," says Nick, who's played the piano and saxophone. "The way it picks up and builds, like it's telling a story."

As compelling was the teller of these stories. Deejays in the realm of house, techno, trance and other computer-generated music can become international celebrities, as important to the draw and success of a club as any other factor. Those who earn a name for themselves often travel around the world, from a rave in the Arizona desert to an underground fete in Japan.

Nick says he knew within a few months of clubbing that he wanted to be the one rotating the vinyl, setting the mood, spurring revelers to get out on the dance floor. The star status and trips were secondary to the music, he insists.

"I never told anyone I wanted to be a deejay," he says. "I never thought I could be good enough. So I always kept it to myself."

He started collecting records and practicing on a stereo his dad handed down. "I'd always pay attention to the deejays, the way they mixed. I just taught myself." He befriended many of them and kept vigil near their tables, watching every move.

Finally, at age 16, shortly after moving to California, Nick got enough money together to buy his own turntables--Technics 1200, "the only turntables a deejay can use." Each table cost him $300; the needles ran $60 each. The money came from years of birthday gifts, baby-sitting and running errands for neighbors in his apartment building in NYC. "It took a lot of five bucks here and five bucks there to get it all," he muses.

All of the money remained safe in an Adidas shoe box. Nick's love for music seems rivaled only by his penchant for anything Adidas. On this day, he wears a long green shirt with the trefoil logo, green waffle shorts, black socks and flip-flops--all Adidas. Three pairs of sneakers, all Adidas, sit nearby, pointing in all directions. Adidas stickers are slapped on his speakers and record bags.

"I love Adidas," Nick says. "It's part of me. When people go to clubs they have to have a signature something that people know is their thing. I'm Adidas."

Within a month after buying the turntables, Nick was hired for his first public appearance. The move West hadn't dented Nick's social life, because he already knew several L.A. club crawlers from their holiday visits to NYC. Word about his ability spread via tapes disseminated to friends. It was a friend of a friend who enlisted him to guest deejay at a warehouse club in the Los Angeles area. The following weekend Nick was booked at three other clubs.

"My parents hated it, because it's all I would do," he recalls. "You can get caught up in it, the club scene." It's not just spinning, after all. He has to maintain a presence. "It's a lifestyle," he adds.

*

The bookings increased, as did Nick's clubbing. A few times he was dropped off at school after an all-nighter. When a teacher last year assigned poetry critiques, Nick was allowed to turn in a mix of music he felt reflected the poem.

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