DJ Dragn’fly on the record

DJ Dragn’fly, aka Dina Lammon

Photo by Larry Dalton

DJ Dragn’fly, aka Dina Lammon, is one of the most respected electronic music DJs in Northern California and also one of the busiest. The host of two weekly Internet broadcast shows (one trance, one techno), Lammon plays sets at parties from New Orleans to Seattle and still finds time to make the locals dance. A confessed high-school band geek and a one-time biotechnologist, Lammon turned to her turntables after leaving the lab. “I thought, ‘This is an icky life. The money’s good, but I don’t want to clone things. I’m screwing up the environment. Frogs are having three legs!’ Then I started getting paid for my hobby and I was back in the music again.”

How’d you get started as a DJ?

I started partying when I lived in San Francisco and I never even paid attention to a DJ for, like, nine years. Isn’t that funny? In ‘98, I went to a sold-out party and got stuck at the top of this maze. I had no choice but to just stand there and watch the DJs. I thought, “That looks fun!” Three months later I bought turntables. It was just going to be a hobby. I was going to make tapes for myself of all my favorite records. I started throwing BBQs with my friends on Sundays and DJs would come by with their records and ask to play on my tables. From there it got bigger and bigger. People started booking me because I was the only DJ they knew. It just evolved. I didn’t try to be a DJ. It was a fluky thing.

Is it your primary occupation?

That’s all I do now. I actually make a successful living as a DJ. I work hard, though.

You often do more than one party a night.

The parties are the least of my work. I run two Internet broadcast shows. Then there are mail orders to fill and promoting my butt. It’s mostly promotion.

Do DJs have agents?

Yeah, they do. I’ve been approached by a couple of major agencies, but I didn’t like their policies. This sounds cliché, but I’m in it for the music, even though I make a living at it. As DJs at my level go, I’m really cheap. The agencies that approached me were going to double or triple my fee to include the agency fee, and I wouldn’t have any say over where I was going to play.

How much do you spend on records and how large is your collection?

If there’s a lot of good music coming out, I’ll easily spend $1,000 a month. If there’s nothing coming out, it might be a couple of hundred. I always keep six bins, about 100 per bin, so I always have about 600 records on hand. Once I get over that, I have a sale. I advertise it as “Dragn’fly’s getting rid of her records again!” and I sell them for $5. So I get a bunch of that money back and recycle it.

What makes a good record?

Well, I’m not a big dancer. I have rhythm, but I’m too self-conscious to dance. So if I’m listening to something and my butt starts shaking or my foot starts tapping …

What’s the mission of the DJ?

The mission is to keep the energy up, entertain people and make them get lost in the music. I get up there with two records going at the same time and my job is to either create a third song or manipulate the songs to the point where they’re not really holding up on their own anymore. I don’t use a sampler. Everything I do is with the record itself. So it is kind of an art. It’s like doing that pat your head/rub your belly thing. Then you gotta look up and smile and do this [pumps fist in the air], so the crowd doesn’t feel like you’re cutting them off. You’ve got to get to the point where you’re not even thinking about it.

What’s your favorite party story?

I was doing a benefit in Humboldt County and this guy came up to me and said he couldn’t express how my music took him on this ride. I’d noticed him out there dancing because he had only one arm. He was telling me he was a surfer and he loved to dance because it took him away from all of his problems. I told him it was great that he didn’t let things hold him back and I said, “Besides, it’s not like you’re missing your legs.” He pulled his pants up and he had no legs! He had two prosthetics! I couldn’t believe I’d said that, but here was this guy just dancing away. I was high for a month just thinking about him. He changed my outlook on life. I used to be like, “I don’t know if I can pay my bills. Wah! Wah!” But now I think about that guy and everything’s way OK.

How did you get the name Dragn’fly?

My girlfriend of eight years, Terri, she’s an entomologist. Her favorite insect is the dragonfly. When I was just teaching myself to spin, I was grabbing the record and pulling it back and letting it go to catch a one beat. Out of nowhere Terri says, “So you drag it back and then you let it fly. Dragn’fly!”

Kind of like my life. I dragged my butt through school. Then I got my degree and was like, "I hate this." Once I started DJ-ing and stopped caring, everything just took off. I get to travel and have fun and get paid. Right now I don’t have a care in the world, really. So I guess I’m flying, right?