With over 13 years of DJ experience, 10 years of teaching under his belt and a smile that could headline it’s own festival, A-Tonez holds the position of Head Trainer at The Academy in Melbourne. We recently sat down with A-Tonez to talk about his early years as a DJ, lessons learnt and what it takes to make it in Australia’s music industry.
Music is such a huge part of who you are, what inspired you to begin DJing 13 years ago?
It all started when I was shown a DMC Championship (Big scratch championship) VHS tape… that’s right VHS we didn’t have DVD back then. I saw guys like DJ Craze and many others doing all these crazy things that I had never seen before on these huge things called “Turntables” I was playing in bands prior to DJing but once I saw the decks I was instantly hooked.
What was the first piece of DJ equipment you learnt on?
I had quite an interesting setup compared to most people. I had an “American DJ” turntable that I bought second hand after working a weekend job when I was 12. I picked up a little 2 channel “American DJ” mixer from the same 2nd hand store and to finish off the setup I had my disc-man plugged into the other channel.
Where was your first residency? And how long did you have it for?
Well I started DJing as a mobile DJ. After spending a few years in my bedroom I began travelling around doing Weddings/School Discos and house parties. After about 6 years I moved to Sydney and after 9 months of hard work I finally got my first gig at Chinese Laundry. To this day – 8 years later – I still have a residency there!
Do you still sometimes get pre-set jitters before a show?
ALWAYS!!! I don’t think I’ve played a set where I walked up to the decks without butterflies. Sometimes more than others but I feel that it’s the best thing as it proves you care about what you are doing and how much it means to you each and every time.
There is so much talk about the various skills a DJ should have, what is something you personally focus on when playing a set?
Personally I think the most important skill to have when playing is plain and simple: Keep a great groove for the dancefloor. You can be an amazingly technical DJ but if you can’t keep a groove then people won’t stay to dance. In my sets I like to incorporate Scratching and Sampling to help keep it more interesting.
What is a recent highlight of your career?
One of my most recent highlights was being asked to mix the “Ministry of Sound” Clubbers Guide to 2016 with one of my best friends and we got to do a full national tour together along with it also which marks my 5th AUS/NZ Tour in the last 3 years!
Have you ever made any big mistakes whilst performing? What happened/How did you fix it?
Oh I’ve probably got too many to list hahaha. The joys of playing live always brings new challenges each and every time especially for me as I have never once planned a set track for track. My worst ones I think are pressing the cue button on the wrong deck and stopping the music completely! Usually I’ll just throw my hands in the air and pretend it was meant to happen… I guess that cat is out of the bag now.
What is your favorite equipment to use whilst DJing?
My tech setup is 4 x Pioneer CDJ2000Nexus and a DJM900Nexus. Nothing ever comes close close to the quality and the capabilities this setup provides. The new Nexus2 range from Pioneer is absolutely amazing too and can’t wait for them to appear in more venues.
What do the next few months have in store for A-Tonez?
Well for the next 6 weeks I’ll be here in Melbourne teaching all the Your Shot Contestants everything they need, plus I’ve got some killer shows lined up while here in Melbourne too. Got a couple tunes in the works also should hopefully be out soon… real soon!