By Dana Getz
Rocking a mismatched, neon attire worthy of a Richard Simmons workout video, DJ Dainjazone looks at home among the clutter of half-empty glasses littering a corner table in Chicago’s El Hefe nightclub. The scene has become standard for the baseball-player-turned-DJ, who spent the last year or so on LMFAO’s “Party Rock” tour—but don’t let his leopard print harem pants fool you. A self-described “black sheep” of the group, Dainjazone doesn’t drink and prefers to spend his time researching music in his hotel room than partying until the crack of dawn. He’s a partier of a different variety, getting hyped on creativity and ingenuity, and he’s been high for a while now. Since the indefinite split of LMFAO last fall, Dainjazone has been doing solo shows and touring with Redfoo’s La Freak Crew. He most recently teamed up with Grammy winners Play-N-Skillz to produce trap house mixtape “Trap Hard Texas,” featuring artists such as Paul Wall, Juicy J, YG, Redfoo and Lil Jon, due out in the next few weeks. We met up with Dainjazone before his July 15 show to discuss tour life, staying hot and stereotyping DJs.
You started out on the fast track to a major league baseball career. What has been the best and worst thing about the changeover?
I feel like everything in life is relational. When I ended my baseball career I had promised myself that my approach to baseball wasn’t gonna be the same with DJing. With baseball there was this end result, there was this end goal, and I didn’t really think of much in between. It was college to pro. No steps in between. And I think mentally I was a bit immature to jump to get to that end goal. With Djing it started out as a hobby, and I told myself I’m just going to take it day by day—whatever happens, happens. So I started out in my bedroom in my dorm just messing around with music, then did house parties, then a local bar in New Mexico, and then house parties in L.A. when I got home. The transition was tough at first because my life was based around baseball. I couldn’t pick up a baseball for a year after I stopped playing because it’s like leaving your girlfriend that you’ve known your whole life. Other than the mental toughness and the challenge, it’s been a great transition because I’ve managed to keep that mindset on taking things day by day, and not look too deep. When you have expectations of looking too deep into something and they don’t happen as quick as you want them to, then it can piss you off and upset you and you can become an emotional wreck. So I just continue to take things day by day.
You describe yourself as a leader of the new school.
You know what’s funny about the phrase? I came up with that three years ago and that was my campaign, and I wanted to represent the newer generation of DJs. And I felt I had accomplished a lot at that time, for only DJing four years. I wanted to be a good example and be at the forefront for the new generation, so that’s how I came up with it and wanted to roll with it. But the funny thing is, if you listen to like Drake and Kendrick Lamar, a couple of their newer songs, they say they’re the leader of the new school and I’m just like ‘man, I was saying that three years ago.’ But you know, what I’m doing now compared to three years ago just blows everything else out of the water that I’ve accomplished, ‘cause I never thought I’d be the touring DJ for Redfoo or LMFAO or visit the world in less than a year. I still think that statement stands and I’d like to continue to be that example and inspire DJs to be a leader in their own right.
How do you stay on top of the newest innovations in DJing?
It’s a culture thing. It’s a combination of music, fashion, sports—obviously music being the key element because you have to have the stuff that nobody has to stand out and be unique, so that when DJs come out and see you or they hear your mix, they’re like ‘man, that guy he has something I’ve never heard.’ Everyone’s about what’s hot now, and it changes every day, especially in music. A remix two weeks ago can be considered old. If you’re doing what A$AP Rocky’s doing or Kanye, you know those guys are ahead of the curve, so if you’re on the same page as them in terms of style you’re looked at as someone that’s on top of his game.
In what ways do you try to set an example for up-and-coming DJs?
Managing myself with integrity, handling business appropriately—just being clean. Being honest about everything as much as possible. That’s the best way. You can blame it on competition and you can blame it on a lot of things as to why it’s tough, but at the end of the day it comes down to how hard you’re willing to hussle and how bad you want something. I came from nothing in this DJ business, you know? House parties, then rolled with a crew that was by no means popular. We were talented, but we didn’t have a reputation and we weren’t affiliated or attached to anything big. And then you catch a break, like I caught the LMFAO break because I went to high school with a friend that used to date their manager, but if I would’ve sucked I wouldn’t be in this position. He would have been like ‘It was nice meeting you, let’s hang out, but you’re not good enough to be our DJ.’ So you catch those breaks as you go, you just gotta continue to push hard and eventually something will happen.
What artists or DJs have most influenced your career? What aspects of their music did you connect with?
I’ll narrow it down to club DJs because there’s a lot of different DJs out there. I can go out any day of the week and listen to DJ Spryte, Five from Vegas, Scene from Vegas, Mellow-D, DJ Brie, DJ Presto. These guys, they’re just incredibly talented. Some are just incredibly skilled, like turntablist wise or scratching and being able to get tracks in and out at a fast speed and tell a story. I’m amazed by it every time. And then there’s some that their music selection and programming is just off the wall, and some of the stuff they play I’ve never heard of in my life. DJ Fog and Brie—their music selection always amazes me. They have mixes where I can just pop in and listen to over and over, and it’s far from commercial. I think guys like Spryte and Presto just kill it in the club—their scratching, their ideas. I love creativity. Same thing with artists—Kanye’s incredibly creative, A$AP Rocky’s creative. Jay-Z as a businessman is a genius. When I grew up I was never a big Jay-Z album-buying fan. I respected him, I thought he was talented, but I’m more of a business fan of him. So these are guys that are all creative and I’m a fan of that element.
You scored a spot on LMFAO’s Party Rock tour. What was that like for you?
It was overwhelming at first. The first two days felt like two weeks of touring because you live by a schedule. To hell with what you wanna do, you will wake up at this time and be out at this time and eat at this time. It was mentally exhausting because I don’t want to make a mistake. The first show in Sweden, I’m in the moment and it’s fun, but I don’t want to make a mistake. It took me two and a half weeks in Europe to finally get comfortable with the show’s set, so when we finally got back to America for the arena tour I was confident, I was like ‘All right, I got this, I’m ready to go.’
Where Redfoo and SkyBlu like what you expected them to be?
Yeah. I saw a business side of them actually. I never saw the business side of them—not that I doubted they had one because obviously they’re doing something right business wise—but I knew how much of party animals they were and how witty they were and creative and funny, but then I got to see the serious side of them outside of the show. It was refreshing to see that because it showed a balance.
What role would you say you play in the party rock crew?
[laughs] I’m like the black sheep. Everyone drinks and parties hard and just does the most, they act like full on rockstars, but I don’t drink. When the gig’s over I go back to my room. I don’t really after party. I’m not up all night. I fit in, I do what I have to do in terms of the show, but everything else I’m just the exact opposite.
What was the craziest show you guys played?
Staples Center. It wasn’t our best show, but because it was in our backyard we had hundreds of people. [There were] people that I knew [that] I didn’t even know were there. You know, all of us grew up performing in the Hollywood clubs. [Redfoo and SkyBlu] were DJs before they were entertainers. So to start from there and then be damn near selling out an arena is Los Angeles, it was quite an accomplishment. Like I said, it wasn’t our best show, but it felt rewarding and pretty emotional.
In our last interview you were pretty outspoken about your distaste for Hollywood politics, do you still feel the same way?
Yeah, I still don’t spin much at all in Hollywood. I feel like what I’m doing on the road is not necessarily “good enough, “ ‘cause you always wanna continue to do better, but I’m happy with what’s going on on the road. To be honest with you I’d rather have a broader fan base so I’m not just locked into one city, and I’d rather make $1500-$2000 in another city than make $750 in Hollywood. Hollywood will always be what it is. There’s a time and place for everyone to have their moment in Hollywood, and I’ve watched how Hollywood goes through different DJs. I feel like it’s just not my time and place. When I’m ready, and when Hollywood’s ready for me, I think they’ll be willing to play by my rules and do what I wanna do, instead of me doing what Hollywood wants. If I have to be that Hollywood DJ, then I don’t want to DJ in Hollywood. That’s not fun. Then I don’t get to be Dainjazone, I have to be “Hollywood DJ.” My time will come. People will eventually become aware of what I’m doing and see that I deserve to be doing big clubs.
You also said figuring out your niche is the biggest thing for a DJ. How would you describe your sound and style?
I don’t like to crystallize myself into one category of music, but right now it’s house. I like to mix it up, so thank god for trap house, because it’s the elements of both house and hip-hop, and it’s cool, it’s fun to play. But I like to play everything. I stress creativity to the most ‘cause I want to be able to play everything, so you have to be able to make it blend smooth without sectioning off within the mix. It’s almost to the point where people are like ‘oh, all of a sudden we’re in hip-hop and I didn’t even realize it.’ So I like to play everything: older stuff, new stuff, trap house, stuff that that they’ve never heard before. If I think it’s funky and it’s cool, it’s up for grabs.
What have you been listening to as of late?
I’ve been listening to a lot of albums: J. Cole, Jay-Z, Kanye, mixed tapes, Wale. I’m a big Wale fan, he’s so underrated. Migos’ mixtape is refreshingly ignorant. I listen to a lot of things: I listen to the stuff I’m gonna use in my set and then I listen to stuff I will never use in my set. I like indie, electro—I like the chill stuff.
What do you think is the largest misconception about DJs?
That we’re all alcoholics. I don’t know though because I feel like a lot of the stereotypes are true. Let’s break them down: we’re said to be divas, we’re said to be spoiled and we’re said to be alcoholics. I think people think we can be lazy, and that all we do is show up and play music, which isn’t false because you can literally throw your DJ career in cruise control and be good. I don’t like that stereotype for myself because I’m always on my laptop trying to think of new ways to present music, to present sets. I’m always digging, looking for new music—I do a lot of research. There are DJs out there who put a lot of effort into what they do that you don’t see, and then there are a lot of DJs that travel every day and who’d rather sleep and eat than look up music. And that’s understandable, because I know that feeling. When we toured Europe for seven weeks I hardly slept, and it was like, eat, sleep or look up music. I was like, ‘I’m going to sleep for an hour because that’s like gold to me right now.’ So there’s that misconception, but I think the others are fairly true.
If you could headline any club or event what would it be?
I think I’ve done the biggest clubs in America, so I’d have to think of something bigger. I don’t have a hungry interest in doing a festival like headlining EDC or Tomorrowland, but that’d be kinda cool because I would be myself more than anything. There wouldn’t be a promoter over my shoulder. I would show up, set up shop and be myself, and I would give the people something out of the regular.
You’ve also talked about venturing into modeling and acting. Have you taken any major strides into those fields?
Nope, haven’t taken any big strides, I’ve just been going to auditions. There’s a networking side that I’m still working on so I have to continue to beat that over the head. For now I think what I need to do is continue to make my DJ name a solid brand, make sure it grows, and I think eventually that will happen. It’s just something that will happen over time, it’s not something I want to force.
Are there any specific designers or actors you’d like to work with?
There’s some clothing brands I would love to be down with and represent. Off the top of my head, I would love to model for Y-3, Yohji Yamamoto, Skingraft. I don’t really care for the obvious, go-to brands like Louis, Gucci, etc., but there’s a lot of incredible brands that I would love to represent. I don’t really know too much about the acting world yet, so if I get the opportunity to work with some cool people, it’s gonna be all about learning.