DJ Twist has been tearing up the music scene for over a decade. Now 33, with over 2,000+ shows under his belt, he continues to keep the world dancing; from right here in NYC all the way to Greece, and everywhere in between . From performing live with artists such as David Guetta, LMFAO and Pit Bull, to opening for Jay-Z, he continues to rise to the top. We got a chance to chat with the busy DJ on past, present , and future!
Joonbug: So you started DJing really young. How did you get started?
DJ Twist: I fell in love with music, dancers and DJ mix shows at an early age. I used to mess around scratching on the record player attached to my Mom's home stereo. That didn't go over too well, so my next move was at a friend's house down the block who had a set of DJ turntables. I'd be there all the time messing around but never amounting to much of anything. When I moved to North Carolina at 15 and discovered Pawn Shops, I finally had a reason to spend the money I'd been making stocking shelves after school. I picked up the cheapest pair of turntables and mixer you've ever seen, but that put me on a path to meet DJ Tommy Tom. He was an amazing Battle DJ who, if social media was prevalent in 1995, would need no introduction from me today. He taught me everything but never let me DO anything. I wasn't allowed to touch his turntables, I was only allowed to watch. I'd pray for him to go to the bathroom while he was practicing so I can get a "wicky-wicky" scratch in without him knowing... I roadied for him to the clubs, carrying crates and crates of records and by 1996, he let me play my first 15-20 minutes in public, and so it began...
It's been a journey for sure. In summation it's been incredible. There's the performing and traveling and fun of course, but there have been many difficulties, setbacks, and obstacles along the way. Years of trying to prove myself, brand myself, dealing with competition, undercutting, a very long hiatus (2001-2007), rebranding myself, re-rebranding myself, building networks, practicing, practicing, practicing, hustling.... and I wouldn't change any minute of it.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
Inspiration is everywhere, but the bottom line is "the people." I am in this for the people. Making people move, dance, enjoy themselves. I try to create music, sets, performances that allow people to lose themselves in the moment. Some dance to remember, some dance to forget (The Eagles), and my inspiration is just to keep them dancing.
Who have you performed with?
My highlights on my list of co-bills is Jay-Z, David Guetta, Run DMC, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Backstreet Boys, LMFAO and Armin Van Buuren - however my favorite co-performance came in 2000 when I spun a club with Jam Master Jay. I was a huge fan of Run DMC and had opened for them twice before, but on that date it was just a DJ performance. Jay came up to the booth and rocking to my set. Now there's no laptop exchange or any of this going on, it's just vinyl, so Jay pulls a record and drops it on the left turntable... as I start gathering my stuff he's like "nahh, stay right there." We played about the next 15 minutes, him dropping the record on the left, me with the record on the right. It was without a doubt the most memorable performance of my career so far.
The City in Cancun. Mexico has these giant clubs and they're setup arena style with the DJ at the center of attention. When I took the stage there, the spotlight came on and somewhere near 4,000 people were all eyes on me. I dropped the beat, they all went nuts, and I think I may have knocked over a glass with my huge smile! When I was coming up, the DJ booths were on the second floor in a corner, or behind some tucked away secret wall. We needed those flexi-lights just to see the vinyl grooves. And now to be on stage, spotlights, performing, it was the most intense moment I've ever felt.
What is your dream collaboration?
I would say a studio session with Berry Gordy, Dr Dre, Todd Rundgren & Rick Ruben... oh and all the musicians they worked with would pop in to contribute.... can't dream anything much better than that.
What are you currently working on for this year?
I'm in the studio and developing my original production skills while continuing to put out mixtapes and remixes of course. I'm in talks with some major labels to start releasing official remixes of some well known as well as up and coming artists for them. A few big events are on the calendar including a lot of plans for Europe this summer. On April 13th I'll have some details to announce while I'm performing on a national broadcast, but until then you can keep up with updates, music and bookings on my website.
What do you think draws people to your music? What makes your music stand out?
I grew up as a hip hop DJ, but today my style has evolved and I'm sort of a chameleon to some extent. I play NYC events with a lot of indie rock/nu disco/hip hop and just that trendy hipster vibe. I play clubs in Chicago and brunch parties with smooth house and funky beats. I play west coast and drop hard house, old school hip hop and dubstep. I spin a format of any one genre (preferably house) or the combination of multiple. I consider myself an entertainer and whatever group of people you put in front of me, I will entertain them. MY biggest draw would have to be energy. I'm not doing this for a paycheck - I mean, I'm not doing it for free either, ha - but my motivation is not to hit the club spin a set and leave. I give my energy through the music I play and how I play it, and I think the people feel it.
You've traveled and performed all over the world! What is your favorite country to visit?
Greece has the most incredible islands, history, and parties. Australia is tons of fun, the people are great, the adventures are endless. To lay back and do nothing, the white sand beaches on Turks and Caicos is where you'd find me.
You said you like to give back to the community as much as you can, how have you been involved lately?
I compete athletically to raise money and awareness for various charities including The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Challenged Athlete Foundation. I also volunteer to the Wounded Warriors and I play fundraising events for The Special Olympics and FOCOS which provides orthopedic surgery in third world countries. There's nothing you can do better in this world than help other people. If me running a race or performing at an event allows somebody else to one day run that race or attend an event they otherwise might not have been around for, then there's no option in my mind but to get that done.