Last weekend former Beat Drop student, Carsen Kendel aka Funkn'Right, won the 8th Annual Dirty Tones DJ competition. Carsen was enrolled in our DJ Program and successfully completed DJ 101 and Turntablism 101. He joins two other Beat Drop DJ students, Goodbar and Mystique, as winners of the Dirty Tones DJ Competition. Rick Cruz (DJ C-SIK), our head DJ Instructor, sat down with Carsen to learn what it takes to be the Dirty Tones champ and find out what the DJ community means to him.
RC: How long have you been DJing for? Walk us through how you went from an absolute beginner to feeling ready to enter the Dirty Tones competition.
FR: I've been dabbling with DJing for 5 years or so, but I've only been playing out for roughly 3. I guess it all really started to click after I took the DJ 101 course at Beat Drop. That was roughly 4 years ago and it really gave me a great foundation to build upon. Before Beat Drop, I would just jam on whatever gear was around, but really had no idea what I was doing. After the course, I had some confidence and technical ability to work with and I guess I just started to run with it.
"I guess it all really started to click after I took the DJ 101 course at Beat Drop."
I picked up my own turntables and mixer and played wherever and whenever I could. House parties, hall parties, you name it! Really wherever people would let me play, I would. I was in love. Completely enamoured with the energy exchange that only a live set can offer, and equally enthralled by the mixups and mashup that actually sounded good. I was hooked.
I knew I needed to pursue every avenue possible if I wanted to *REALLY* feel the feelings, I was feeling when I felt them. Ya feel me? This eventually connected me to some smaller gigs with the River Surfer Crew and Prop spinning communities, a few smaller shows at pubs and friend's bars, and then eventually on to some Space Gnome parties. My first "big" show, was the Space Gnomes/Grove 2014-15 NYE party where I had the pleasure of playing on PK Sound for the first time. And I thought I was hooked before... After you play on PK sound a few times, something inside you changes forever. In the summer of 2015, I got my first festival experience at Freezer Burn (the Alberta chapter of Burning Man). I was invited to play The Grove after playing the NYE party, which was the biggest and best sounding setup I have played on to date.
"Nothing to lose and a world to gain, you know? I guess what I'm saying is the opportunities are not going to seek you out, you have to go out there and get them!"
A few good friends and I also started the "Rebel Bass Camp" that year, a Star Wars themed camp for the same festival with a stage called the "Deaf Star". If you haven't been to Freezer Burn, you're definitely missing out. Now, with that experience behind me and a new found addiction to DJing big bass setups, I started searching for more opportunities. I went for every public request for demos that I was aware of and applied or a few smaller festivals. Honestly, I didn't really think about whether or not I was ready for the comp, I just wanted to do it. Nothing to lose and a world to gain, you know? I guess what I'm saying is the opportunities are not going to seek you out, you have to go out there and get them!
RC: Give us a quick background on the Dirty Tones DJ competition - a little bit of its history and what it’s all about.
FR: This was the 8th year for the comp and it has definitely seen some great DJs pass through it. Freddy J, Michelle C, and McTwist have all been through the comp and these peeps are all still out there killing it! It was all started by Adrien Dahnraj and his pal Harry Nijjar, not only to give local DJs experience and exposure, but to bring the entire community together to celebrate and support each other. That's what it's all about. Uniting the local electronic music scene and watching the magic happen. And it works! The camaraderie was palpable throughout this thing and I have nothing but mad love and respect for all of the competitors that I crossed paths with over the past couple of months.
"The camaraderie was palpable throughout this thing and I have nothing but mad love and respect for all of the competitors that I crossed paths with over the past couple of months."
RC: Was there an audition process to get in? How many rounds did you have to go through and what was the the competition like on the road to the finals?
FR: You bet. It all started with a demo and I went with a 10 minute mini mix. Adrien dug it and called me up! I was SUPER excited and started jumping up and down and screaming like a crazy person. This was my shot! After making the cut, I had a potential of three rounds of live DJ sets ahead of me; the Prelims, the Semis, and the Finals. I had to put together a 40-45 minute set for each round and I was to be evaluated on three criteria: technical ability, creativity, and crowd participation (the vibe of the room). I was seriously just stoked to be playing Habitat, it's a staple in the Calgary electronic music scene. Getting to play 3 sets there was amazing!
RC: Describe your preparation for all the rounds in the competition and the final round specifically.
FR: Oh man, this was unlike any show that I have ever prepared for. I love spontaneity on the decks and just seeing what will happen with a crate full of dope tracks, but I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to do for each of my competition sets.
When you are being evaluated on specific elements, you definitely are going to want to plan your transitions and tricks to make sure you are hitting the criteria, while still connecting with the crowd and managing the energy and vibe. I'm stoked to say that each comp set was completely unique and I didn't spin the any of the same tracks twice!
The final set was definitely the most challenging. Not only did I have to step it up and take some chances, I had already used a lot of my recent music on the last two sets. Had to dig deep and get really creative, but it paid off huge.
Ended up mixing in new ways, spinning in some acapellas, messing with my MIDIs more, and moving the tempo in ways that I had never done before. It's wild what can happen when you place a bit of constraint on yourself. I could have played a track or two from my other sets and no one would have noticed (probably), but I wanted it to be new. I wanted it to be fresh! This strait up challenged me to be a better DJ.
"I wanted it to be fresh! This strait up challenged me to be a better DJ."
RC: Describe your style as a DJ.
FR: I'm all about fun and funky party music and having a good time. I'm always looking to mash up tracks in fun and interesting ways, and I try to keep it fresh by varying my genres, tempos and transitions. I don't take myself too seriously and I'm all smiles on stage. I think this really resonates with people and I love it when I catch them smiling right back at me.
RC: What does the Dirty Tones DJ competition do for the community and rising DJs in the scene such as yourself?
FR: Dude. I can honestly tell you that I'm a much better DJ now then I was on day 1 of the comp. The Dirty Tones crew doesn't just facilitate the event and provide a platform. They provide professional, critical feedback, which was absolutely incredible. One of the comments that came out after the first round was "too many bangers" haha. Yes, it IS possible! Even though I kind of knew this in the back of my mind, having established, experienced DJs lay this on me really helped me reach an elevated understanding of set progression and energy management.
My sound and sets evolved quickly after round one feedback, and I really feel like showed them that I listened and incorporated their wisdom into my music in the following rounds. It doesn't just stop at the individual though. I feel like I made some really good connections with lots of local talent and I definitely made a few friends along the way.
"The comp celebrates local talent and brings people together. That's what it's all about."
Part of the beauty here is that the comp is multi-genre, so the Funk guys get to know the House guys, who get to know the DnB guys and so on. This is something that doesn't really happen at local shows because they are normally so genre specific. This mashup of peoples and genres is reminiscent of that feeling you get when you go to the festivals in the summer. Pretty amazing! The comp celebrates local talent and brings people together. That's what it's all about.
"People like to do business with people that they like and personality goes a long way. Take chances and follow your dreams."
RC: What advice would you give Beat Drop DJ students or any DJs for that matter who are thinking about entering the DJ competition?
FR: Do it! What have you got to lose? As I mentioned earlier, the opportunities are not going to simply knock on your front door. You have to seek them out and chase them down. Be brave and be confident, but always remain humble, honest, and respectful. Talent alone is not enough to win. You have to be the guy that people want to succeed. People like to do business with people that they like and personality goes a long way. Take chances and follow your dreams. You never know what's going to happen until you put yourself out there!
RC: What opportunities did this win open for you and what are your DJ plans for the near future?
FR: On day one of the DJ 101 course, Rick asked us what our DJ goals were. I said that I wanted to play Fozzy Fest within 5 years because it was my favourite festival. Well, it turns out that dreams actually do come true and I'm thrilled to announce that I will be behind the decks at Fozzy 2016!!! I can't tell you how happy this makes me, this one is very close to my heart.
I'll also be at TreeMendus Festival this year and I have a feeling you'll be seeing me at more and more local shows. You can also catch me at most Rebel Bass Camp shows, which happen every 4-6 months or so. We're taking over Monster Mini-Golf on May 6th if you want to come check us out! I'm also super stoked to get more into the production side of things, which Beat Drop will no doubt assist me with.
I just love music so much and this competition has provided me with the opportunities that every emerging DJ only dreams of. I could not be more happy or more grateful and I will never forget what Dirty Tones and all of the sponsors have done for me. BIG Love to all that continue to support me on the crazy DJ ride and to all of the organizers, sponsors, and competitors from the Dirty Tones DJ competition. If you want to check out my music, here's a link to my Soundcloud. I'll be posting the winning set in the next week or so! Much Love ❤
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