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With kits making the art of mixing accessible even
to kids, do-it-yourself deejays are setting trends
in music and culture.

They've Got 2 Turntables and a Lifestyle


Deejays. Until recently, they existed mostly in nightclubs and at raves providing mood music for discriminating dance and hip-hop aficionados. Now they're everywhere--in chain restaurants and in clothing stores, at backyard barbecues and in bedrooms.

"When I was clubbing, there was a certain set of deejays, and you just knew who they were," said Celene Lew, 29, who recently became a deejay herself. "Now there are so many deejays I can't even keep up. I don't even know who's who."

Thanks to the popularity of hip-hop and electronic music, vinyl records have not only experienced a comeback in recent years, but also have given birth to a new lifestyle: deejaying. Much like skateboarding, shopping for and spinning records is replete with its own look and lingo, and is now part of a daily routine for a growing number of teens and 20-somethings, including Lew.

Until last year, Lew, a.k.a. DJ Syrena, was office manager of a law firm. She gave it up to devote more time to deejaying, which she has been doing for about a year. Lew is now employed as a temp.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 17, 2000 Home Edition Southern California Living Part E Page 3 View Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Deejay information--A March 6 article headlined "They've Got 2 Turntables and a Lifestyle" misspelled a deejay's name and gave an incorrect location for an after-hours club. The correct spelling is Andrea Giardina. Flammable Liquid is located in Los Angeles.

"I realized I didn't want to work in a super corporate job anymore, and I needed to just kind of follow my heart's passion," she said.

That passion was drum 'n' bass, a style of electronic music popularized by artists such as Goldie. Lew's pair of Technics SL-1200 turntables and Gemini mixer are set up in the bedroom of her Mid-Wilshire duplex. Part of the L.A. club scene for about 10 years, she practices several times a week--anywhere from "a couple hours to eight" a day--and goes record shopping every other weekend.

"More and more kids are going to raves, going to see deejays, so when they're not doing that and they want to mimic their idols, they're spinning," said Todd Bachenheimer, co-owner of L.A.-based Kikwear, a clothing company that also sponsors deejays. "Pop culture has definitely turned more into a dance culture."

Many of today's top rock acts, including the Beastie Boys, Limp Bizkit, 311 and Kid Rock, include deejays in their bands. Instead of guitar solos, they feature deejay solos. Other mixmasters have become celebrities in their own right, like Moby and DJ Rap, both of whom are featured in a national ad campaign for cK Calvin Klein Jeans.

The phenomenon is "music-driven all the way," said Craig Merrick, president of Astro Audio & Lighting, a Glendale store specializing in deejay gear. Three years ago, he said, Astro's customer base shifted from professionals to "people who were just getting [equipment] for their bedroom to play with. People do it for recreation now. That's new."


And music equipment manufacturers are capitalizing on the trend. Bob Knight, a sales specialist in the deejay category for Technics' Western region, said the company's turntable sales have increased fourfold since 1995. The increase over 10 years ago is "off the chart," he said, adding that the deejay trend hasn't yet hit its peak.

Part of the appeal of deejaying is that it requires little, if any, musical talent. All you need, as Beck once sang, is "two turntables."

"This is an exciting time for youth culture," said Tom Calderone, MTV's vice president of music programming. "You're putting music back into the consumer's hands, and they're creating their own music."

Gemini now makes a deejay starter kit called Scratch Masters, with two turntables, a mixer and an instructional video all in one box. It sells for about $500.

Tim Woolworth, a salesman at Hollywood's Guitar Center, said he often sells the kits to kids as young as 7 and 8.

"They see their friends [deejaying]. They see it on MTV. They see it everywhere," said Woolworth.

"Deejays are becoming, for lack of a better term, rock stars," said Calderone.

Just as deejays have moved out of their booths and onto center stage in the music community, so has their iconography. Milk crates (to carry records) and needles (to play them) are featured in designs by Dank, a Costa Mesa-based skateboard apparel company. The logo for Suburban, a Laguna Beach streetwear line, is a cartoon representation of a girl deejay wearing headphones. Even those who aren't deejays can at least look like one.

Delia Hodson, designer and founder of Newbreed Girl, an L.A.-based clothing line targeting teenage ravers, also uses girl deejay themes in her wallet, bag, tank-top and T-shirt designs. Hodson said her inspiration comes from the club scene.

"There's a huge market in the music culture," said Hodson, who sells through Delia's, a catalog catering to young teens. "How many people go to raves? Like 50,000 girls."


Those girls are pushing deejay culture into the mainstream, though widespread acceptance is a couple of years off, Hodson said.

"Look how long it took for skateboarding to be recognized. I think the whole deejay culture is in that vein."

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