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Behind the Beats: A look into the lives of student DJs

For student disc jockeys (DJs) Christopher “Chris James” Percy, Kirk “Captain Kirk” Sandstrom and Jonathon “Avadya” Havey, their passion for Electronic Dance Music, and the art of making it, has been a long time coming.

Due to their life-long love for music and a more recent love for the art, becoming a DJ happened almost naturally for the three.

“My grandfather was a band manager and radio station owner, so he got me into playing guitar when I was eight. I then grew into playing the drums and bass. I got into electronic production more recently, mostly due to just sheer curiosity,” Percy said.

Like most young musicians, the three DJs’ taste in music has changed over time leading up to their most recent admiration for the electronic scene and the DJing that comes with it. Many musicians play multiple instruments in their lifetime, helping their overall skill and feel for music.

Many musicians garner interest in music at a young age often times from a parent, older sibling or someone in his or her extended family.

“My dad has been playing guitar for most of his life and always plays way too many songs by Rush. My brother has also been getting into playing guitar lately,” Sandstrom said.

Though being a student DJ may sound fun, finding the time to balance academics and music takes discipline and motivation.

Courtesy Photo
Junior DJ Kirk “Captain Kirk” Sandstrom plays a mix. Sandstrom, along with Christopher Percy and Jonathon Havey, is a member of the UNH Electronic Dance Music Community.

“I pretty much just stick to working on music in my spare time. I treat it as a reward to studying hard, as believable as that sounds,” Havey said. “I spend a significant amount of time during breaks working on production. I also spend time playing guitar or even watching tutorials.”

Electronic dance music allows artists to find influence in a plethora of different genres. Often times, DJs will sample sounds and vocals from different tracks to incorporate into their own work. Combine that with being able to sample almost any musical instrument and you’re sure to get a unique song

“My dance music fundamentals draw from producers such as Don Diablo, Steve Aoki, Vicetone, OVERWERK, Lemaitre, Syn Cole, R3hab, Dillon Francis and Zonderling. They span quite the spectrum of dance music, but when drawing from their workflow, sound engineering techniques and production skills, as opposed to basic composition tactics, I can learn a lot,” Havey said.

He also added that he takes influence from artists outside of the EDM community, such as Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, ZZ Top and The Steve Miller Band.

In his spare time Percy participates in the rugby club as well as student senate while Sandstrom enjoys rock climbing at the Whittemore center or occasionally at Pawtuckaway. Havey, on the other hand, struggles to even find free time outside of producing music and balancing his civil engineering degree.

“One of the reasons I consider this music good is its expressibility. There is so much opportunity to be unique. Granted most of the music you hear in the top 40 in the past 15 years or so are just copy and paste songs, but underground dance music has some real creative talent. Uniqueness and exclusiveness is what I look for in all ‘good’ music. Now that I know the technical aspects of creating a song, I look for good production in music. Unfortunately, for me, I can hear a lot of these poorly produced songs on a Friday or Saturday night house-party,” Havey said.

The respective DJs all gained interest in the craft after seeing others perform and listening to electric dance music, thus sparking their own personal interest for how it works and how to get into it. 

“I chose to play this kind of music because I make it and have a connection to it. It is also a little hobby of mine to DJ on the side of producing,” Havey said. “I definitely do not DJ nearly as often as I work on production. And when I perform it, I have the choice of what comes up next. I get to be the one playing the music. Is it an ego thing? Probably a little bit. But, hey, if everyone is enjoying it, does it really matter?”

The DJs will get a chance to put their EDM skills to the test at the UNH Electronic Dance Music Community’s (EDMC) show, “The Galaxy Getdown” on Friday, Feb. 24 from 8 to 11 p.m. in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Entertainment Center.

Other than Percy, who has performed at fundraisers and social events around campus, this will be the first time that Havey and Sandstrom are performing at an actual venue other than the house parties that they’ve performed at in the past.

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