When David Tingle first started frequenting the rave scene at age 15, he was known for wearing a referee’s shirt. It became his signature ensemble, helping to establish his identity not only as a raver, but also as a teenager struggling to figure out who he was. He became known as “Dave the Ref.”
It was only logical that he christen himself DJ DTR years later when he turned from consumer to producer of electronic music. The name pays homage to those days when he was melding his childhood athlete self with his newfound interest in the dance scene. “At the time, the ref shirt looked really cool in the black light,” he also admits.
Now 23 years old, Tingle is the resident deejay at Club Bliss and co-founder of NRJetix, a production label he started with highschool friend Jesse Gurley. The pair produces their own tracks and has started organizing events around Reno to bring in notable deejays from out of town.
Tingle’s personal style still exudes a cross between youth cultures. Wearing the athletic shoes of a jock, the jeans and hoodie of a frat guy, and the wide belt and wrist bandana of an emo kid, Tingle is atypical for a music guy. He’s not even trying to make a statement with his hair. It’s short and looks normal.
This smattering of styles is also reflected in his music. His beats range from heavy and dramatic to streamlined and melodic. It’s constantly surprising.
“I don’t stick to one genre of music,” he says of his hybrid tunes. “I like to appeal to a wide spectrum of people. I like a wide bass sound to really hear the bass tearing through the speaker. The leads are unique because I try to make them really complex. I like coming up with things on the fly.”
As much as Tingle enjoys producing, he says that nothing beats performing live.
“It’s unexplainable,” he says. “It’s surreal, the energy when you’re in the deejay booth. You can feel the positive energy bouncing off the people you’re playing for. You can change how the audience reacts, when my beats are slow, people chill with it, then I bring the beat up and see them rocking out. You’re like a master of puppets. It’s empowering.”
As far as deejay role models go, Tingle doesn’t single anyone out.
“In the world of producing, a lot of deejays look up to other producers, but that doesn’t create an original sound,” he says. “So I look to myself and my co-producer, Jesse, for inspiration. To be a unique deejay, you have to do something different. … I don’t want to stick to the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, I love other music, and I get inspiration from other music, but I don’t use it for my success.”
The success is mounting. DJ DTR is playing consistently on the San Francisco scene and performed at last year’s Sacramento Music Festival. He’s got events coming up in Las Vegas and a West coast tour lined up for summer.
Does he ever get the urge to pull out the old referee shirt? “I just recently found it,” he says, smiling. “It was with this visor onto which I had sewn PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It’s the rave, neo-hippie motto.” Has he worn it to deejay? “I did the very first time for shits and giggles. Kids recognized me. It was fun, but I retired it after that.”