Farewell dj-DuKee: The End of an Era

This weekend marks the end of an era for me. It’s been a long journey, but now it finally comes to a close. I’ll be selling all of my DJ gear and closing that chapter of my life for good. This post will be part-photo blog and part-autobiography, chronicling the evolution of my DJ experience over half a decade.

I started DJing out of necessity back in 2005, when I was just a sophomore in high school. My group of friends and I started throwing our own house parties, and this required a DJ. Knowing that my uncle had DJed professionally in days past, I turned to him to borrow some equipment and get my hands dirty. Borrowing his equipment for a night, the adventure began. Right away the excitement of finding and mixing just the right music at a loud party proved irressistable to me.

Eventually, the number of parties we started throwing made borrowing my uncle’s gear very inconvenient. I had grown out of that first phase and was ready to invest in the next (and as anyone who’s bought music equipment knows, it’s a big investment for a 15-year old). Business picked up though, as Armenian mothers in my local community began passing my name around for their daughter’s Sweet 16′s.

This made a lot of sense, since I had just turned 16, too. I was basically paid (handsomely) to go play music I loved and have a good time. Make no mistake: these Armenian families would pay anything for their daughters to have the perfect Sweet 16, and I was being paid on the order of $400-500 a night. The referrals were so plentiful that till this day, I never invested in any business cards or other type of promotional material. Nothing. My margins were fatter than any teenager could imagine, and it was totally by accident.

My wide range and varied taste in music made me a versatile DJ. I even got a few gigs for the 40-50 year old crowd who were just as pleased as the teens I played for on my ‘fun nights.’ For a kid in high school, this was definitely the funnest job to have. As I said, I was getting paid (a lot) to do what I would have done anyway: collect all types of music and play it back with gusto.

Back in 2005 I had written,

“DJing is more of a hobby for me than anything else, I’m not dying to continue Djing. But i like it, and I’m good at it, so thats why I do it on the side to make some good cash and enjoy parties. I do my best and people always ask me what I’m playing and where I get it from.”

It’s also important to note that I got into the game at the start of the “digital DJing” revolution. Computer-based offerings were just starting to mature, and I took advantage of them immediately. All my setups had a computer in some form (as you’ll soon see.) As the software and the hardware evolved, I evolved with it, incorporating the new controllers and devices as they were released. At the same time, satellite radio and BBC’s streaming player had made it really easy to get the latest and hottest grooves that no other teenager had heard of in the San Fernando Valley. So all these factors conspired to make it really painless for a 15-16 year old to get into the mobile DJing business.

Without further hesitation, I present: the evolution of a teenager’s love affair with DJing (you can click on any of the pictures to view the high-res version):

March 2005

March 2005: The very first setup had no DJ speakers or a laptop. It was just my own desktop computer on an office desk; no mixers, controllers, or anything else.

November 2005

November 2005: The setup evolves. For our first big house party, I borrowed my uncle's equipment, a pair of Ramza 2-ways, another pair of Yamaha 2-ways and a CrestAudio amp to power them all. My old Gateway desktop was lugged around too. Here's the "DJ booth" in Lauran's bar.

Yes, I would actually lug around my desktop PC, the monitor, full keyboard, and everything! Here I am messing with an early version of Traktor.

We were very serious about our parties: here Eddie and Harout are taping the speaker wires to the moldings.

The party was a success! "Insayn Germain" as it was called set off my 5-year DJ adventure! One of the Yamaha speakers pictured in the back of the room.

February 2006

February 2006: The setup evolves. I put my dad's Dell laptop to use and bought a Hercules DJ Console Mk2 controller. Still using my uncle's speakers and amp, and mooching off clients' tables (didn't have my own).

These early parties proved successful right away. The money machine was in the 'on' position!

February 2006: My first sweet 16 was Eddie's sister Nataly's. Pictured here: the new portable setup, but still using borrowed tables! The headphone's were my dad's stereophile pair I had just taken from him, hah!

Talking shop with Lauran in 2006: we didn't know it back then, but he'd go on to partner with me and carry the legacy of my business for two years!

A closer shot of this setup: the Hercules unit was actually quite advanced for it's time (and it's incredible price). Five years later, in 2010, we're seeing a return to it's integrated model of controller+audio card. It wasn't the most reliable and full-featured piece of kit, but it fit the bill perfectly back then.

Spring 2006

Spring 2006: After the sweet 16's started to bring in some more serious money, I upgraded the playback gear. Pictured hear was the CDJ setup with my Ecler Nuo4 mixer, 2 Pioneer CDJ-800 Mk2's, and M-Audio reference speakers, sitting on top of a custom made surface that my friend Saro made for me.

I also had to stop stealing my dad's headphone's and bought my own pair of Pioneer HDJ-1000's. Pictured here on the lower right.

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“Constant Existentialist Crises”

On Time and Space
The fundamental question to the riddle of the universe is, ‘What does time have to do with space, other than the fact that they are on the same plane of existence?’ Matter and space are one thing. It exists in 3 perceivable dimensions. Time exists in only one dimension and moves in only one direction: forward. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Time is completely unlike this and just goes on, but in a similar fashion, can also neither be created nor destroyed. What is the true relationship between matter and time? When physicists examine black holes, all their equations go down the drain. Nothing makes sense. There is no equation to essentially explain the physics behind what goes on in a black hole. To find an answer to the question of the true relationship between space and time would be to find an explanation to the true nature of a black hole.

Imagine for a moment that I was able to bring an ancient Roman from his time period into ours. Imagine the wonderment he would exhibit upon looking at street lamps and other lit objects. He would ask how such things are illuminated. Then we’d explain to him about electricity. He’d inquire about electricity’s relationship to the Gods. We would then have to explain to him that electricity has nothing to do with such supernatural forces. Electricity is merely the interaction of electrons within atom, and we’d have to explain what atoms are to him as well. This would all seem extremely strange to him, but he would understand eventually. Most importantly, after being taught everything, he’d turn to us and exclaim how foolish all his notions of his pagan Gods were. He would be completely enlightened. Now let us stand in the shoes of this Roman, and project ourselves into the year 3,007 when humans have discovered the relationship between time and space and our ‘theory of everything’ is complete. Would we not then turn to our teachers of the future and proclaim how foolish we feel about our past notions of God and other absurd supernatural metaphysical beliefs? We would reflect upon our idea of death and the afterlife and connect with their discovery (for example, upon dying, our energy exits this dimensional plane of space-time and enters another one beyond it, or something to that tune). The answers are out there, and slowly we are unraveling the true nature of the machine we live in that we call the universe. One by one, we are dissecting each cog, figuring out how it relates to the other cogs and how the machine works. For there is no doubt, that the universe truly is a machine, governed by natural law and order, a divine law that supersedes all other laws. The laws of gravity, buoyancy, thermodynamics; these are all rules that something has set in motion. These are all mechanisms which drive this machine, and eventually we’re going to come upon the rule that explains what everything has to do with everything else: the nature of life, death, and the fate of the universe. It’s only a matter of believing that such a point in time exists, even if it beyond our own period of existence.

On the Significance of Alternate Realities
As Michael was descending down his hill to his home, he caught a glimpse of the San Fernando Valley after a day of rain. The evening had brought in clear skies and the weather was clear and crisp. The rain had driven out the smog that polluted and beleaguered the denizens of this giant pit in the Earth. The lights of the Valley were glimmering and sparkling. It was a beautiful sight for Michael, one that he had been accustomed to, having descended the hill in his car for years now. But this one particular evening was different for him. As he caught that glimpse of the shimmering extension of the suburban agglomeration below him, he thought for a moment, ‘What if what I were looking at isn’t really supposed to exist?’ He began to ponder the implications of living in an alternate reality, a reality that had deviated off the original ‘track’ of what had once been ‘true reality.’ As his eyes took in the gleaming lights and his mind churned with thoughts and contemplation, he began to place himself in different eras of history to help gain a better understanding of what he was pondering. He began to mark the different points in history that helped bring him to where he was now (for time is more than a when, it is also a where, as he had so come to believe). He thought for a moment that if the ancient Classical world was never re-discovered and the Renaissance were to have never occurred and that humanity had remained in the Dark Ages, the lights before him would turn to darkness. The city before him would never come to exist, at least not in the form that he had seen in it. What if the per-chance happening of the re-discovery of the Classical world never occurred?

Why did humanity take for granted the progress they had made? Why did they believe that such things simply ‘happened’ in the grand scheme of things, that electricity be discovered and lights be lit? What if this was merely an alternate reality that he had been born into, completely oblivious to the several alternate ones out there, including the ‘true’ one they had all deviated from? It is completely possible, if not entirely provable. Perhaps, he thought, that upon death, one simply slipped from this reality to another one. This ‘time period’ that he had been living in was merely one locale upon many locales existing simultaneously. He began to objectively examine a person’s lifetime, from start to finish. He realized that if you look at it in terms of a start-to-finish perspective, it becomes more like viewing a location than a period of time, because the way that time period looks is so drastically different from what other time periods would look like, either before or after that person’s lifetime. If one were to truly perceive a lifetime in this manner, then they would surely be able to envision the possibility of multiple instances of ‘time’ as well, existing along differing dimensional planes. There would be no way for humanity to be knowledgeable of this fact, but it could be possible. It could be possible, Michael thought, that there was another 2007 AD in which humanity never came out of the Dark Ages, that humans were living life just as they were in 1000 AD. For the first time, he acknowledged that there was no need to be ‘thankful’ to live in this period of time because it could just be one instance out of many, and that if he were living in a time prior to this, he’d be oblivious to the fact that such a time/place could exist in the future in the first place, making it a non-issue. If time and circumstance are non-issues, what was he pondering about in the first place? He looked on into the Valley before him, astonished that the glimmering lights had sparked such spontaneous, fervent mind-wandering. He knew he had to write about it as soon as he got home, and sure enough, he mustered the energy to do so.

Quotes of the Moment:

“A book, like a person, has its fortune with one; is lucky or unlucky in the precise moment of its falling in our way, and often, by some happy accident, counts with us for something more than its independent value.” -Walter Pater, Marius the Epicurean (1885); English Essayist [1839-1894]

“The victorious warrior enters battle knowing he has already lost.”

“Four and a half billion years after the planet’s creation, one of Earth’s life forms broke free of the biosphere. For the first time in history, Earth was viewed from the vantage of space.”