DJ Thomas James on the Most Important Skills That Every Club DJ Must Master
Drop by El Hefe in Scottsdale on any given Sunday afternoon and you'll find yourself in the middle of a party, and quite the epic one at that. The Saddlebag Trail spot is a bit infamous for its weekly 4-2-10 Sundays affair, which is one the wildest club events in Scottsdale on that particular day, and offers mass decadence, rowdiness, over indulgence, and revelry by those staying up late on a school night. Oh, and there's also inflatable zebras.
Mr Shots Entertainment DJ Thomas James at El Hefe in Scottsdale.
And pretty much every weekend, the man priming the party on Sundays at El Hefe is Thomas James. Besides serving at the bar's creative director, he is tasked with getting the crowd going and energy flowing as the event's resident DJ.
It's an important role that almost every single beat-juggler, knob-twister, mix maestro, or song selector placed in an opening slot has to learn, since it involves warming thing up for a headliner of just setting the tone for the evening. And James certainly adroit at it, as evidenced by the wild scene at El Hefe or the fact he was voted the top DJ by the Arizona Nightlife Industry Awards in 2012.
See also: 4-2-10 Sundays in Photos
Getting everyone at a particular party to go ratchet is something he's been doing throughout his career, from his early days spinning beats during fraternity and sorority soirees at ASU to his numerous off-the-chain club gigs with partner Mastamonk as the duo Collective Chaos. He's also opened for the likes of Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Benny Benassi, and Kaskade, as well as worked such big local EDM festivals as Soundwave and the Colossal Event.
We spoke with James about his wealth of experience behind the decks, as well as what the most important lessons and skills that every DJ should know and how he helped fuel the Sunday afternoon party scene in Scottsdale by launching 4-2-10 at El Hefe three years ago.
Name: Thomas James Hanson
AKA: DJ Thomas James
Preferred genres: All sorts of EDM. And I know that EDM can be a dirty word in the dance music community, but honestly, it's a good way to categorize electro-house, progressive house, trap house, [and] twerk. Pretty much any genre of music that's exciting and danceable, I like to play. I like it to be high-energy.
Current gigs: 4-2-10 Sundays at El Hefe Scottsdale is my biggest gig. I've been steering away from weekly residencies lately.
Although they've been good to me and I've played some of the best clubs in town, they're all in town, and the goal for myself is to professionally travel. In order to do that, you need to be able to do one-off gigs and play places that you wouldn't normally play. For example, I played TAO in Las Vegas October, which was a big gig for me. El Hefe Chicago has been great to network. That was a huge for me. And I played the American Junkie out in Hermosa Beach. Those are kind of the gigs where you're not a resident DJ anymore.
So what are the perks of being a guest DJ instead of a resident?
You're coming in as an artist, so you can play the sound you want to play. As a resident, you're hired by the bar to play the set that maximizes profits. That's the cold hard facts about it. Whereas, if you're a traveling DJ, people hire you because they like how you play, so you have a lot more creative freedom. And that's kind of where I'd like to go in my career right now.
Briefly, how did you get started as a DJ?
The short story is, I went to Monster Massive in 2005. Saw Paul van Dyk and Armin van Buuren, and was blown away at how much fun they were having. I managed to sneak backstage into the DJ booth and I remember watching Paul building up this massive trance buildup, the lights go dark, and then all of a sudden, this huge drop happens, the lights go crazy, fire shoots and he has the biggest smile on his face. When I got home the next day, I bought two turntables and a DJM-400 and Serato and got to work.