By Juliet Farmer
If you’ve ever been to a DJ night at Old Ironsides, The Townhouse, Golden Bear, or Blue Lamp,
chances are you’ve been in the company of local DJ legend Shaun Slaughter. Slaughter, who
attended Del Campo High School (my alma mater), has been entertaining the Sacramento area
with his musical mixes for over a decade.
Slaughter’s diverse musical interests run the gamut from Irving Berlin to Fleet Foxes, from John
Coltrane to Jeepster, and from Thelonious Monk to The Officetwins. His mixes (under D.A.M.B.)
include samples of Rafferty Gerry’s “Baker Street,” “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls, and Dee
Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart.”
Recently, I caught up with him to chat about what it’s like being a DJ in Sacramento. Here’s what
he had to say:
Q: When did you first take an interest in music? Why?
A: My family has always been really into music. My mom was a total hippie and my dad was into
Stax & Motown so I got a good mixture at a young age. Plus, we had this awesome music room
with tons of instruments I used to hang out in for hours.
Q: What did you listen to growing up?
A: At age six, I can remember listing to 45s of “Bang A Gong” and “Lucky Star” and playing them
until they were worn out! Ages eight to 14, all I listened to was hip-hop. Then I got into punk
in high school, later playing in a bunch of bands. After that (around age 17), someone took me
to an all-ages dance club called The Amazon in the suburbs, and the first song that caught my
attention was New Order’s “Blue Monday.” After that, I got heavy into electronic, and that’s
around the time I started teaching myself to beat match. Around age 19 threw my first “rave.”
Q: What’s your favorite music decade? Why?
A: Hmmm…That’s hard. Either Jazz 1920-1960 because it’s basically all I listen to at home and
I’m obsessed with that era, or the No Wave movement in NYC mid 70s-mid 80s, where so many
weird styles clashed (hip-hop, punk, new wave, etc.).
Q: What are your desert island music picks (5 albums)?
1. John Coltrane, My Favorite Things
2. Gonzales, Solo Piano
3. A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders
4. Elliot Smith, Roman Candle
5. Bill Evans, Everyone Digs Bill Evans
Q: How many CDs do you own?
A: I have no idea…probably over 1,500.
Q: What equipment do you use?
A: CDJ-850s and a Tascam mixer with a messed up sampler on it that I use to sample air horns
and what not.
Q: What song(s)/musical genre(s) will you never play?
A: Not a huge Top-40 guy. I can appreciate it from a production angle, but I just can’t see myself
doing that. Oh, and dubstep. I can’t stand dubstep.
Q: What musical genre are you dying to remix but have yet to?
A: Something by Gonzales.
Q: How did you get your start DJing?
A: I was going out to this all-ages club a lot and really started getting into house music, especially the French filtered disco thing (early Daft Punk, Cassius, etc.) and no one was playing it out where I was going. When my friend/roommate would leave for work, I would practice on her turntables using her trance records. Eventually, I started going to Imagine Music and In The Mix and maxing out my credit cards buying all this weird French stuff. Finally, I got a chance to DJ, which also happened to be a party I was throwing at The Amazon. It was so much fun. Then I just started doing it all the time.
Q: What’s a typical “DJ day” like for you?
A: Wake up, social networking – creating events, sending mass emails and annoying people, designing flyers, working on bookings for parties, downloading music, trading music with pals, and I try to save at least two days a week to work on my own music (as D.A.M.B.). On days I have a show, I am usually burning CDs, getting my gear together, and setting up lights and smoke at the club.
Q: Where do you currently DJ?
A: Every first Saturday of the month for 11 years running, I’ve been at Old Ironsides for “Lipstick!” indie rock, indie pop, Britpop and 60s soul). Every second Thursday at MIX is “Lights Down Low” (a monthly house night with touring DJs). Every second Friday at Level Up is “Ay Tan Sucia!” (moombahton night). And on the first, third and fourth Thursdays at Golden Bear is my revolving weekly 90s night, disco/funk obscurities, and Yachtrock, different each week.
Q: Tell me about these DJ nights—what kind of music do you play? What’s the vibe? Etc.
A: The vibe is always rad. Good people, ages 21 to 30, people not afraid to get sweaty, have
some fun, have too many shots and let go.
Q: What’s your pet peeve(s) when you DJ?
A: Requests, DJs who take themselves too seriously, and not enough drink tickets.
Q: What do you love about your job?
A: Even though it can be a lot of work, it’s pretty much the best job ever. There are times I’m DJing and I can’t believe I get to do this for a living. I get paid to play and expose music that I love to people, drink for free and hang out with some of the neatest people. Plus I play shows across the globe and bring cool parties and bookings to Sacramento! It can be heartbreaking at times but it’s worth it.
Q: Tell me about D.A.M.B.
A: D.A.M.B. came out after years of doing edits and remixes unsolicited until DJ Jon Droll told me to make my own music. I toyed around with a couple of tracks, then finished “Waiting,” which was promptly signed by DJs Are Not Rockstars and started getting support from Sinden, The BBC, etc. I was kind of floored how fast it started happening. After that, I just started plugging away on more tracks and touring more. I have a couple of EPs coming out soon, and I am playing a festival in Florida in October.
Q: What are some of your favorite original tracks (and why)?
A: Right now I’m really in love with cumbia. I’ve been listening to a lot of it. I really love the moombahton stuff coming out right now–so much more soul and groove to it than normal dance stuff.
Q: What are your future plans regarding music?
A: To just keep working on my music and see where it goes!
Shaun Slaughter’s work can be heard at www.soundcloud.com/damb.