Damien McArthur, Disk Jockey

By Sofia Farooque

Once the sun goes down in Orange County, the party begins. Groups of tanned girls dressed in fitted mini-skirts and sky-high heels trickle into clubs. Guys follow closely behind the girls in hopes of meeting a new dance partner for the night.

Inside, the club is popping. The club is dark except for red, green and purple flashes of light. The dance floor is packed with people dancing to the music. Drinks are flowing and constant body-pumping electronic beats is blaring from the speakers of the DJ stage.

Damien McArthur stands on stage in the middle of the dance floor. Fans may know him better by his DJ name: simon_lefisch. Drunken girls yell to Damien for him to play their favorite song. The music is so loud that Damien cannot hear these yells and he listens with one headphoned ear for the next song change. He secretly counts beats to blend two similar BPMs together. He searches his music library to find the next song that he will play that will continue to keep the crowd excited and wanting more. He needs to make sure that the current song that brought everyone to the dance floor is not followed by one that will clear it.

Damien fell in love with electronic music back in 1998 when he saw Rabbit in the Moon perform in Hollywood. After going to a few warehouse parties and watching the DJs play, he purchased his first set of turntables and some trance records and began to explore the art of mixing. For the past 14 years, he has developed his skills and finally grown into his own style.

He started out spinning vinyl for 12 years and gradually switched to CDs and computerized DJing.

“Technology has totally changed the world of DJing,” Damien said. “New artists can just use a laptop with an online program that allows them to hit sync and every song is automatically beat matched for you and you just press play.”

Improvements in technology have drastically changed the craft of DJing. It has allowed individuals with little or no background of blending or scratching to buy an inexpensive DJ system and start mixing and learning. With improvements in technology, just about anyone can be a DJ. Rising young electronic music artist Porter Robinson is one of the youngest DJs to perform exclusively at the Wynn Las Vegas. At only 19 years old, he is not legally old enough to party at the club, but has snagged a spot as a DJ.

The emergence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter makes promoting music simple. Through Twitter, DJs can follow their idols and tweet them their opinions. This communication is crucial to both new DJs and DJs that have been in the business for years. With the ability to communicate with fans through social networks, DJs are able to get an idea of the type of new music the general population is looking for.

Damien has more than 17,000 songs on his iPod at the moment with even more on his laptop. As a DJ, he gets requests for bands he’s never heard of or songs he never thought he would play. If they only knew how hard it was to please a group of complete strangers with different music tastes, backgrounds and levels of drunkenness.
He normally spends about 20 to 30 minutes feeling out the crowd and then playing on the fly. Regardless, Damien says, “If people are digging my music, I get excited and come down and dance with them.”

Most DJs are self-taught. They are underpaid and overworked. They work all day and night to have the music and skills to make a night out one to remember. Despite all the work, a genuine passion for music is what keeps DJs doing what they are doing.

“If I could sit there and work with music all day and not have to work 9 to 5 every day, that would be the life,” says Damien.