$mall ¢hange, Hardest Working Mofo DJ in Williamsburg
(“Won’t Stop, Can’t Stop,” be his motto)
On the scene since the early 90s, world-renowned DJ $mall ¢hange, 37, has a crazy amount of energy. He does weddings, corporate and public events, and alternative dance parties at undisclosed locations. He was featured in the New York Times with his huge collection of 40,000 vinyls, and has a long-running weekly show Monday nights from 11pm – 2am on WFMU. $mall ¢hange is also on East Village Radio on Wednesdays from 4-6pm His tastes run the gamut from house to 70s disco to variations of Michael Jackson in different languages, dub, and funk. I like him because he isn’t just one thing.
I’ve been listening to you on WFMU radio for a long time, and more recently on East Village Radio. I first heard you spin live at a wedding for a Williamsburg artist, in the Catskills. We couldn’t stop dancing. You mix it up, add your own sounds.
$¢: Well, I’ve had a parallel career as a DJ in both radio and clubs, and my show reflects that. Radio, at least non-commercial freeform radio, is a great medium because you can literally play anything you want. And I also play a lot of open-minded dance parties, where you can also play deeper shit but have to keep a vibe. So somewhere in the middle is where you find the mix for my radio shows, mostly in the pocket but sometimes straying off, because you don’t have to keep people drinking or dancing, just play some tunes.
As a professional DJ, you do more than spin records. You are the Music Director at APT, the hot nightlife spot in Manhattan. What’s that entail?
$¢: I do a fair amount of booking as well as doing a variety of professional DJ gigs, from weddings and corporate events to underground all-night loft jams. Booking is interesting, it’s almost choosing DJs like you’d choose a record at a party, trying to find the right fit for the right night or venue. Professional gigs also give you some perspective as a DJ. I’ve learned to appreciate certain records more by doing gigs, and got more insight into what people like, what moves them.
You organize some awesome loft parties like Lose Your Shit and No Parking On the Dance Floor
$¢: My heart is in the loft party scene, mostly in Brooklyn but occasionally in Manhattan and creeping into Queens. It’s a vibe that’s more my wavelength. People are open to more kinds of music. Things things go later, the spaces are funkier. For No Parking on the Dance Floor, the concept is very simple…if you’re on the dance floor, dance! I have a lot of dedicated dancers at the party.
Who are your favorite DJs or bands these days?
$¢: A hard question, there’s a lot of mofos killing it these days. Folks like J-Rocc and Peanut Butter Wolf are always doing cool shit. So are local cats like Jonathan Toubin, Geko Jones and Uproot Andy. I also like Simbad from the UK and Alex from Tokyo.
The way I see it, it’s your job to create fun. That’s an amazing ability. How’s your sex life (ha ha)? What’s your idea of entertainment?
$¢: Orgies. It’s 2009 after all people, let’s progress here. It is about facilitating a good time, and that’s one of my favorite things about DJing. I think overall it’s a very positive thing. If you’re thinking about a playlist for your iTunes then you’re a DJ. Like having a camera, even if you’re not “professional” per se, it’s good to document your life. Same with DJing, its a good way to hone in on what you really like. I used to shoot a lot of pool in college, so I’m trying to find time for that a bit more. Sometimes it’s a blur because I’ve got a lot of things going on.
Your dress style ranges from polyester clad lounge lizard to California hippie. How would you describe your dress aesthetic?
$¢: An extension of fun, with style. I would describe myself as post-MODern. I was wearing 3-button suits and porkpie hats as a kid, and while I still rock that, I also enjoy a lot of 70s disco shirts, 70s Cali surf style like OP, Hang Ten, 80s track suits, 90s rave. If you have enough funky pieces in your wardrobe just mix and match until they make sense.
Your email blasts are written in a rather distinct lingo. It’s fun to interpret, like poetry with a funny but intelligent way of naming things, but you spell “werds” in crazy ways. It’s very visual.
$¢: Yes it has developed over the years, finding that ‘voice.’ Really I think about how it would sound if I was talking, so it has a kind of rhythm to it, mixed with a lot of wacked out references. Language itself is a very wacky concept, what does any of this shit mean anyway? It’s nice to change people’s concepts of what is proper, especially if you can follow along, then essentially I’m still communicating. And if you don’t get it, well it’s not that important anyway. It’s just an invite. I do want to do some more structured writing, but again, time is a mofo these days.
You’re famous for having a crazy amount of vinyls. What couldn’t you live without?
$¢: Again a hard question because they change over time, but there are records you always go back to. The Heath Brothers on Strata East. Fred Williams’ ‘Tell Her’, some deep midwest funk ballad. Horace Andy’s “Girl I Love You,” a smashing smashing dub. Alice Coltrane with Pharaoh Sanders. Def some Billy Childish. Remarc. Too many records really.