Happy to be unique

Local DJ explores the borders of techno music

It’s a well-known fact in the rave scene that after people have been partying a while, they generally travel down one of three paths: they become DJs, throw parties or leave the scene. By pursuing the first option and helping with the second, Tara Hapgood can now be safely referred to as a veteran in the Reno rave scene—a “graver,” so to speak.

Hapgood, known as DJ Happy when she’s behind the decks, had been going to parties in Reno and the Bay Area for about five years before she started messing around with her former boyfriend’s turntable.

“I never imagined myself spinning,” she said about the beginning of her DJ experience. “I just started playing with his records.”

Her ex-boyfriend only had one of the two turntables required for mixing, so Hapgood would practice by playing CDs on her stereo and a record on the turntable.

“It was really hard that way,” Hapgood said in an interview at the Pneumatic Diner.

After getting a second turntable, Hapgood practiced on a more regular basis, improving to the point that she felt comfortable spinning records in front of others. Her first time spinning in public was about three years ago at a rave held in “the freight house,” a spot in town where parties used to be held. Since that time, Hapgood has spun at many raves and has had a couple of club gigs as well.

While most DJs’ musical style can be categorized, Hapgood said she prefers to play what she feels like playing, instead of sticking to a certain style. Her track selection runs the techno gamut, from breaks to trance to two-step to house.

“I don’t really cater to what people want to hear,” Hapgood said. “I feel like people should be shown new aspects of what they hear. That’s why I try to play completely different sets and records every time out.”

And while many DJs want to play anywhere and as often as possible, Hapgood says she prefers to stay in town.

“I’ve been asked to play out of state, but I’m sort of a homebody,” she says. “I get really nervous, and I really like the [parties] we do here. For the most part, the people are all nice.”

Hapgood said she has enjoyed the growing number of people who attend raves in the Truckee Meadows, because they come to the scene with an open mind. She says that, for a while in Reno, people were jaded to the experience, and the scene was less friendly.

“I really like the feel to the parties now,” Hapgood said. “There is a lot of good energy in them. Most of the kids get pretty excited. There’s not a lot of negative stuff going on. No negative vibes.”

But Hapgood said her best party experiences were a few years ago at the freight house.

“It was different and so fun,” she said. “They had all these beautiful tapestries hanging on the wall.”

Hapgood said she used to attend a lot of parties, but now she is rarely out late unless she’s helping throw a party, which she does with the local collective D6. All of the parties thrown by D6 are benefits for one of the group’s organizers, Darren Barnes, whose daughter, Maisie, has a rare form of jaw cancer.

In her free time, Hapgood said she finds many ways to creatively express herself besides music. She also dabbles in graphic design, creating some of the colorful fliers used to promote local parties. She said she also makes jewelry, crochets and gardens.

"In the summer, I’m always in the back yard doing stuff in my garden," Hapgood said. "I always feel like I need to be making something happen."