Back when J.Espinosa was 17, he made his first appearance on WILD 94.9 and to his success, has remained there ever since. In addition to two shows on the station every week day, he can also be found at club gigs throughout the Bay Area, including one at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara on July 11.
We caught up with him to talk about life as a radio DJ, his approach to club gigs and his favorite eats in the South Bay.
With two radio mix shows on WILD 94.9 Monday-Friday, how much time on average do you spend DJing or preparing to DJ?
I DJ so much in the club and on the radio, my work is like my practice. I get off the radio at 9pm and practice until like 3am. The first thing I do in the morning, is look for new music, I check DJCity.com and follow a lot of people on my Soundcloud.
What’s your approach to radio broadcasts vs. performing at a club?
Clubs are where you test new stuff out to see if it is going to work. The radio is where you play everything that worked in the club. The risk in the club isn’t as high as it is in the radio. When you play a song that people don’t like on the radio, they are going to tune out. The radio is like the big leagues.
How did you manage to get on air at 17 years old?
It’s a long weird story. Back then I was DJing in my bedroom and I was listening to the radio all the time, it was my dream to be a radio DJ. Chris the Rebel, from 94.9 was coming to a club in San Ramon, called Club Access. I made a mixtape and took it to the club and I went up to Chris the Rebel and asked him if I could DJ on the radio and gave him my mixtape.
At the same time, some other guy gave Chris my mixtape, saying that it was their tape. It was found out that the original mixtape was mine and Jazzy Jim (the boss of 94.9 at the time) wanted to meet me. He had just opened up a record store in Fremont and I had no way to get over there. I ended up taking my mom’s car without her knowing. I got to meet Jazzy Jim and he asked me to come to the radio station with him. He told me to bring my records and I found out that I was going to DJ on the radio.
Back then, I used to DJ on three turntables and I made this crazy mix. It was the first time I got to DJ on the radio and I have been there ever since. That was in 2001.
What was your first paid gig?
It was Club Access. I got paid $50 to DJ from 9:30pm-10pm when no one was in the club.
How would you describe your technique and who in the industry was your biggest influence?
I always try to be unexpected. When you DJ at the club, you are going to hear all the new popular songs, but I always try to do something that is not normal. I will play something random and I want to give people something to remember. They aren’t going to remember the 49 songs that I play in an hour, but I want them to say “I can’t believe the DJ just dropped that track.”
I also try to do at least one trick, something crazy technically, that maybe only a handful of people in the club would know. I do something to make those guys happy and then I will do something that the majority of the people will remember. I try to take care of everybody and have fun at the same time.
The guy who made me want to be on the radio was Jazzy Jim. He is the same guy that did the 5pm mix that I do now. I used to watch a lot of VHS tapes of DJ battles, like Q-Bert and Atrak.
Who are some of your favorite DJ’s/producers right now?
I like a lot of the Soulection stuff. Whooligan is a friend of mine. Sango. Carmack.
Lambo. Kennedy Jones. Flume. DJ Snake. TWRK. And Falcons, my girl DJ Noodles put me on them.
You also had a gig Manila. Do you perform overseas much?
Not enough. I went to the Philippines twice and to Indonesia once.
How was the Manila gig?
It was amazing and kind of surreal. I never would have thought in a million years that people would fly me out and pay me to travel, anywhere. I’m on the plane going to another country and I’m sitting back in my chair thinking, “Wow, DJing took me to do this.” That was the first thought. Then there was the actual experience of being in another country and seeing how culturally things are different.
Being in the Philippines was great. They showed a lot of love. The clubs out there don’t close and they also sell food. I was ordering pizza and chicken wings.
You make it down to the South Bay often for gigs. Do you have any favorite stops before or after your set?
Taqueria Tlaquepaque, La Vic’s and a Vietnamese spot on Santa Clara that I can’t remember the name of.
What do you enjoy doing during your downtime?
Watching Game of Thrones, but it just ended, so I don’t know what to do with my life now (laughs). I like to find good places to eat.
Name three places in the Bay Area everyone should visit at least once?
Limon in SF. One of my gigs. Purple Kow in SF or in Berkeley or Tpumps in SF.
It’s officially summer, what are some of your top summer jams this year?
Disclosure – Latch, that song just kills it no matter where it is played. I feel like everybody loves it. Also, Childish Gambino – 3005, It’s not that new, but I really like that song.
What’s next for you?
I just did a remix of Sam Smith’s Stay with Me with my friend Drino. It is actually with Sam Smith’s label right now and we are waiting to get it approved as an official remix on the label.