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Q&A: DJ E-Rock Talks About Friendship With Colin Kaepernick, the Importance of Being Nice and What He Loves Most About Spinning

In Clubs
DJ E-Rock plays Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale on Sept. 12.

DJ E-Rock plays Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale on Sept. 12.

It’s hard to get a moment of DJ E-Rock’s time. Known to close friends and family as Eric Nagrampa, he is better known by his stage name in clubs all over the country—from the Bay Area and Las Vegas to Atlantic City. He’s performed for the likes of Barry Bonds and John Legend, and counts Colin Kaepernick, E-40 and Jazzy Jim as friends.

The San Francisco based DJ will be performing at Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale on Friday, mixing up club hits with big EDM sounds to keep the party rocking. Recently, Metro was able to catch E-Rock for a few moments to chat about his music,his philosophy on life and what kind of food he and Kaepernick eat when they hang out.

You have a pretty busy schedule—Saturday night resident DJ at Haze Nightclub in Las Vegas, monthly residencies at Fluxx Nightclub in San Diego, AV Nightclub in Hollywood, and Infusion Lounge in SF. You also keep quarterly residences in Scottsdale, Sacramento, Atlantic City, Chicago, St. Louis, Reno and other cities. Is this pretty much a full time gig for you?
I have a few things going on and doing gigs is definitely a huge part of it, at least 60 to 70 percent of it. I also manage “E-Rock” as a brand and business. I do all the bookings and marketing for Infusion Lounge in San Francisco.

I have a radio show on Club 99.7 every Friday from 1am-3am and I am also the brand ambassador for Shoe Palace, where I work directly with the marketing team—coming up with new and fun ways to raise brand awareness.

I DJ for the San Francisco Giants and currently have a record out with Clayton Williams featuring Nayelli called Move it All Around, as well as a remix that I’m working on with E-40, Problem and T-Pain. So there is definitely a lot I am doing, in addition to all my gigs.

How do you manage travel life and being away from home?
I live in San Francisco, and to be honest, I live two extremes. When I am at home, I focus on my family, but I also run a business from home. Everything is pretty centralized and with the way the cards are dealt, I’m blessed and have an extremely supportive family.

People always ask me, “How do you do it?” and it all really falls into place. When I’m on the road I do miss my family, but I’m never really torn. I have such a great support system, so it’s easy for me.

I know I’m out there trying to make them proud and at the same time they have their pom poms up, cheering me on. It makes it easy to tackle new ventures. E-40 had it the same way and I feel like that is the heart of everything—the support system. Growing up and having Jazzy Jim and E-40 as my mentors, and seeing how they did it, really helped me.

You really emphasize having a solid support system, having mentors and how things fall into place—how has that made a difference for you and your career?
Well here is the thing. Three years ago I lost my father. He was remembered as one of the best dudes you can ever know. People knew him as one of those class-act, stand-up kind of guys. Going through all that and soaking it all in, I got to reflect on “How do I want to be remembered?”

At the end of the day, the plaques I have on the wall or my extensive sneakers collection, they don’t go with me. I learned it is more about doing good deeds, your character, the acts of class and who have you helped. All that really started that matter to me, because you don’t always understand the impact that someone can have.

What words do you have for DJs coming up, or anyone going after their dreams?
Realize that with all the good also comes a little bit of the bad—and with the bad also comes some good. If you can’t handle things at their worst then you can’t handle them best.

It’s more important to be nice. To be a great DJ, baseball player, a great whatever—really means being a great person.

I went through things in my life  and I had to really reevalute how life was going for me. The key takeaway I got from that time was this “partial disobedience is complete disobedience”

If you can get past that threshold of pain, then you can do anything.  I’m not ok, with just being ok. When you start getting that, you will raise some eyebrows around you.

Could you talk a little bit about how you started DJing?
I got into it when I was 11 years old. I had a friend down the street that I would play video games and skateboard with. One day, I was over playing Duck Hunt or Super Mario Bros., and his brother and a friend were in another room. I just kept hearing these noises and I peeked through the door to see what was going on. They were DJing and so they invited me in. At that point, that was it for me.

I would still go over to my friend’s house to play video games, but I also wanted to sit there and watch those guys DJ. I started learning the basics and one day I got handed the headphones—and boom—that was it.

One thing led to another, and one day I had this mixtape from Rick Lee. At the end of the mixtape, Rick Lee would leave his phone number and I got bold and decided to page him. I think I paged him “911”—he ended up calling me back and I started picking his brain and becoming the annoying kid that wanted to learn. I ended up interning for Rick Lee, like I carried records and speakers for him. My first experience on TV was actually when I was carrying records for Rick Lee, when he was on First Cut.

When did you first get noticed in a major way?
Jazzy Jim has been really helpful with all that. I remember I was chatting with him through AOL chat and what he would say was just so inspiring. I knew one day I wanted to work for him, and I have been working for him since I was 17 years old—I am 35 years old now.

One thing about him is that he wasn’t scared to share his insights. I would work with other people, but I felt that some of them never really wanted me to understand things. But with Jazzy we would be in the office, manifesting the next move—every day for years, he wasn’t scared to give me a shot and set me up for success. He holds me accountable, pushes and inspires me.

You are also good friends with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick—so I am assuming you’re a 49ers fan, right?
Yes. My grandma was a diehard fan and so it’s in my DNA. I remember when I was with my grandfather and I was showing him some pictures of Kaepernick. He was speechless. My grandma always wanted me to be a 49er, so it’s amazing how it circled back this way.

And yes, Kaepernick and I are are good friends. He and I (and a few others, like Kaepernick’s older brother) are on this daily group text. We never talk about football, it is all about motivating each other. We get along so well, because we share the same story and work ethic, we all share the same values. We see eye to eye, and it also stems from this whole “no pain, no gain” mentality.

Have you been to Levi’s stadium yet?
No, I haven’t yet, but I am going this Sunday. I’ve been so used to going to Candlestick, so I am excited.

What do you enjoy the most about it DJing out in Vegas?
I have been at one club for three years, and every night it is a brand new night. You are never entertaining the same crowd. A whole new set of thousands of people, week after week, and it is always fresh. You meet people from different backgrounds and different walks of life. It is a big driving force for me when someone from somewhere like Boise, Idaho, goes to my show and loves it, and they go on to become a fan of Infusion in SF and what’s going on in the Bay Area.

People go to Vegas to have the best time of their lives and I love being able to enhance that experience for people. I seriously get at least 20 high-fives every time I DJ there. It is rewarding when people want to come back and become a fan of what I’m putting out there.

Where do you think music is headed now?
You see it go through many cycles. At one point it was nothing but hip-hop and wondering when all the dance music will come back. Nowadays with genres getting mashed together or meeting each in the middle, it’s cool. I never thought that deep house would be as big as it is now. The jist of what I play is twerk and trap, but I am an open-format guy. I just have to be aware of what is big in every genre, never leaning just one way. So we are just in a cycle right now. Who knows what the next big record is?

Being from the Bay Area, do you have any favorite spots to eat in the South Bay?
I don’t hang in the South Bay much. I come down there when I have a gig at Taste, Pure Lounge, a meeting at Shoe Palace or when going to Kaepernick’s house. We usually just order Chipotle—all the way. And I text him to ask if he wants black beans or pinto beans (laughs).

Any closing thoughts?
To be a successful at anything, everything has to click. For me to be on the phone with you right now and to talk about my accolades and all the things I have learned comes down to attitude. I believe your attitude about life, will be a reflection of your life.

After my gig in Vegas, I get off the plane every Monday—same plane same gate—I always take the same escalator and there is usually a kid or man at Oakland Airport playing the piano. I have a lot of time to reflect when I am in flight and one day I had $40 in my pocket and I just handed it over to the piano guy. It is all about paying it forward. What you put out there, is what you receive. It is not a form of manipulation. Just help and inspire as much as you can.

DJ E-Rock plays Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale on Sept. 12. More info.

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