English on the ball
DJ Chris English
What does a nightclub DJ do, really, besides play a bunch of Top 40 hits for drunken people to dance to? How hard could that be?
“The thing about being a nightclub DJ is you have to keep people dancing from 9 to 4,” says DJ Chris English, 210 North’s resident DJ. “It’s definitely harder than people think.”
Born in London and immigrated to Reno six years ago, English acknowledges the common misunderstanding about what club DJs actually do. He’s enthusiastic to talk about his influences, including local club DJs Freeze and EJ, who he says taught him the basics of DJing.
When he first moved to America, he studied how DJs used the wheels of steel.
“Not just because I loved the music,” says the 26-year-old. “Technique-wise, what they were doing with the music really amazed me.
“I was like a religious clubber in England,” says English. “I would go five nights a week. Just lived the clubbing life.” Of course, nightclubs in South London—"Saff” London, with the accent—are run a bit differently than in the states.
“The scene, it’s night and day to here,” he says. “It’s a lot more electronic in England. And obviously house music being the main format of the night … that whole rave scene. I came here knowing nothing about hip-hop.”
English explains that the hip-hop scene in London is dormant. He acknowledges that rappers come out of London on occasion but says little of it is noteworthy in comparison to America.
But, for a guy from the UK, Chris English sounds like a pretty good hip-hop DJ.
“Scratching, I mainly do it because I love to do it,” he says. “You don’t have to scratch to be a good DJ.”
Scratching—the act of manipulating sounds or making new sounds by physically moving a record while it plays on a turntable—started with hip-hop in the 1970s. It isn’t as popular in mainstream hip-hop today but is still prominent in the underground hip-hop scene.
“Scratching has to sound good … without taking too much attention from the product you want to hear, which is the song,” English explains.
A DJ has to know what to play and when to play it. He’s mixing songs seven hours a night and does his best not to play a single song twice.
“You gotta keep the energy,” he says. “You gotta put all these factors into your decision into the songs to play.”
It’s not just a guessing game of which songs people will like.
“You have to make every song flow into the next one … which began the term ‘blending’ music together,” says English.
English DJs at 210 North Thursday through Saturday. Thursday nights are cool because they have a kegger party. Five bucks gets you in the door and a cup for all-you-can-drink until the kegs run dry. They even have Belgium-imported Stella Artois on tap.
It can get pretty crazy in the club, as English explains and a blurry memory confirms.
“Saturday night, some chick felt like she wanted to take her bra off and throw it at me,” he says casually. “I was DJing and a bra landed directly on my mixer.”
It’s just part of the job.