Jay "Akshen" Valdez Talks Para One, Jam Master Jay, Fools Gold, and More
If you pay a visit to AZ/88 tonight, its urbane décor and trendy drinks won't be the coolest thing going on inside the haute Scottsdale hangout. DJ Akshen will be working hard on the wheels of steel providing a fitting tribute to the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys during his weekly gig Fluid Fridays.
Jay Valdez (a.k.a. DJ Akshen)
Frankly, the dude's big on that sort of thing. After Michael Jackson passed in 2009, Akshen put on many a tribute to the King of Pop. And now he's doing the same for MCA. Expect him to use AZ/88 as his personal canvas with Beastie Boys' discography being the paint.
When he isn't feting his musical favorites, Akshen fills his gigs with a scintilating mix of classic hip-hop cuts, laidback jazz and soul tracks, and even a bit of freestyle and moombah mixed in for good measure.
Up on the Sun spoke with Akshen, a veteran of the local scene, and got the lowdown on his life and DJ career, and other topics for this week's DJ Dossier.
Name: Jay Valdez
A.K.A.: DJ Akshen
Current weekly gigs: Fridays at AZ/88.
Which genres do you prefer? Anything with soul -- music is universal. For me, the only thing that separates one song from another is its BPM. If I'm spinning a hip-hop track and a rock, reggae or even electro track will blend well with it, I'm going to throw it in the mix. I want to try and play whatever the next guy isn't.
How did you get started in the DJ game? My brother Joe was a DJ back in the day and I was a b-boy and would dance to the music he played. One day, I snuck into his room, turned the turntables on and started to mess around. He came back and caught me and after his initial anger wore off he showed me how to mix. Growing up in California I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to the West Coast's first hip-hop radio station KDAY. That's where I heard scratching on the radio for the first time. They had live mix shows with legendary west coast DJ's Tony G and Julio G cutting up. I would tape record their mix shows and listen to how they would scratch. I caught on quick and began to listen and mimic other legends like Grand Mixer DXT, Jam Master Jay, and Jazzy Jeff.
What's the explanation behind your DJ name? I was on a boat in Marina Del Rey one day when we pulled into the harbor to dock and my brother saw this huge yacht with the name Action III on it. Out of nowhere he said, "DJ Action" and I liked the sound of it and decided that would be my name.
What are some of the cities you've performed at around the world? London, Manila, Puerto Peñasco, Atlantic City, Austin, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Los Angeles.
Best experience as a DJ? The first one would be winning the Phoenix Guitar Center DJ spin-off three years in a row. The second is showcasing the first ever "Father and Son" four turntable DJ routine with my son Cameron (a.k.a. DJ Yeah) at the 2005 DMC World DJ Finals in London, England.
Craziest shit you've seen at a gig? I've seen a lot of things go down, but the most recent that stands out was when I was getting ready to play and the DJ that opened for me was talking to some dude and it looked like he was wanting a request. All of a sudden the dude slams the Dj's face into his laptop and then sucker punches him, laptop falls to the ground and security rushes the stage to get dude out. It happened so fast, that hardly anyone even noticed.
What sites do you use for music? I get stuff emailed to me which I am always thankful for, but I also like digital digging on music blogs like Hype Machine, and wherever else I can find stuff that sounds good.
Favorite track of the moment? There are two actually... Cut Chemist's "Adidas to Addis" and Para One's "Toadstool (Jesse Rose Made to Play Dub)"
Which artists have also worked their way into your sets? Almost anything off the Fools Gold or Slow Roast Labels. I'm a big fan of both A-Trak and Craze and have followed their careers when they were the best turntablists in the world to now being some of the most sought after electronic remixers and producers in the world. Their transition from hip-hop to electro has been inspiring and shows you can still be creative in any genre of music you spin.
Do you have a mantra when it comes to Djing? Practice, practice, practice...network, network, network! "