Q&A with DJ Behrouz
DJ Behrouz, the San Francisco native and now Miami Beach transplant, will be spinning live tomorrow night at Mansion to celebrate the release party of his two-disc mix CD Pure Behrouz. We sat down to talk with him about how the album came about, as well about his new label Nervous Records and how it was working with them. Also how he prepares for his DJ sets and why every DJ should eventually become a producer.
New Times: Talk about your new album Pure Behrouz.
Behrouz: I was doing my residency at Cielo in New York and Kevin Williams who’s one of the guys who works with Nervous [Records] used to come to a lot of the shows. He came up to me and said to me, "Why don’t we do a CD?" Because I do Cielo and Pacha, we were going to call it Cielo and Pacha, that was the idea. But when I met Michael Weiss [founder and owner of Nervous Records] and he came up with the idea to do a double CD and call it Pure Behrouz.
The concept [behind the album] is basically what I do all over the country. From the beginning of the night all the way to the end of it; I play deep house all the way to techno. The whole thing behind it is I get to play different genres of music in one night. It’s like having 2 or 3 DJs in one night. The set is like 8, 9, or 10 hours and a lot of preparation and different styles of music combined together. That’s why we came out with a double CD. The first CD starts out with classic house and it shows the range of different genres of music that I play. It starts with deep house and goes down to club stuff. The second CD is more techno but very nicely done because I try to keep it interesting so people can listen to it.
NT: How has been your experience working with Nervous Records?
B: It’s been great! Nervous used to be huge label and when they approached me I figured I can do my thing. They let me do what I wanted to do. I didn’t have any restrictions, and it was real nice to work with Michael Weiss and everyone at Nervous. I felt like this is comfortable for me to do what I want to do. It was great.
NT: Have you gone through the vaults of Nervous and found any old school rare gems?
B: I went through some of the old stuff from Nervous. I pulled out an old record from like 14 years ago Brothers Vibe. The first track on the first CD is a very old record. Michael was kind shocked asking where did I pull it from. I pulled the masters and made it sound better. It worked out very good.
NT: How did you get into DJ?
B: I was collecting records since the ‘70s. When I was really young, after I going to the flea market, I bought two turntables. One of them didn’t have pitch control and one of them had knob. I started making tapes. I didn’t know how to mix yet. I started doing that.
A buddy of mine was doing a fashion show in San Francisco in 1984. He asked me if I wanted to make a tape for the fashion show and also play it. I made the tape and he started playing it. It was very successful. He started doing these events once a month. The next he asked me if I wanted to do it live. I said OK and I was very nervous. I still didn’t know how to really mix, but I was willing to come out. I started teaching myself how to mix. It took a long time because it wasn’t like today it was very difficult. After a few months, a club owner in San Francisco, one of the best clubs in San Francisco DVA, his name was Dr. Winky, gave me a residency. I was DJing three nights a week, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. I had my own DJ booth with my own records. I was a regular DJ there for eight years. That’s how I got started.
NT: How do you prepare for your DJ sets?
B: I do my research and try to find out what country, club I’m playing at. For example clubs here in the States are a little bit more commercial than what you can play in a club in Italy. Over there you can be very experimental and cutting edge. I try to do my homework, see what DJs have played in that room or in that club. I prepare for it beforehand so I know exactly what’s going on, not just go there and be shocked.
My DJ sets are crazy; I prepare 8 to 9 hours beforehand or sometimes sit in the hotel room at the last minute downloading music making sure I have the right stuff. I still play vinyl in certain clubs that I know I can play vinyl and it’s comfortable. I still believe the sound of vinyl is great and you can do great programming because it’s so visual. I have my CDs and I have my vinyl as well. I usually go before to see what time I play and the vibe of the place. If I play the middle spot or peak time sometimes I may need peak-time music. If I play the whole nigh,t it’s completely different than if I’m doing a two-hour set.
NT: What equipment do you use for DJing?
B: I use 3 CDJ-1000s, two turntables; I prefer Uri or Rane. I do use Pioneer 800 mixer, because that’s what the majority of clubs have. I use Cycle loop for sampling and the ESS 4000.
NT: What is your approach to do production and remixes?
B: I was playing a lot with the Deep Dish guys in San Francisco. They used to tell me, “Behrouz you’re a sick DJ, but you have to learn how to make music.” I started working in the studio with Chris Lowe at the Third Floor. Which was Jay J [Hernandez’s] studio; actually the first track I did was with Jay J never came out. You just get encouraged. I made my first track and those guys [Deep Dish] loved it that they put it out their label. Once you get a pat on the back and they tell you it’s great, you say, “I’m doing the right thing and I’m going to go back and do it again.” That’s how it started. The first track I did was “What We Do in Life” by Echoes in Eternity. It came out through Deep Dish’s label and it was on one of their compilations. You can be the DJ in world but you still have to produce music. The remixes came from that. You do a record and then everybody wants you to do remixes. It just snowballed from there.
-- William Hernandez