Lincoln Park is known mostly for frat bars, and all-night eats, but walk into AliveOne’s back room, and you’ve discovered the neighborhood’s hidden gem. Behind the pool tables, and through a small doorway is where you’ll find a safe-haven from Top 40 Radio, and cheesy 80′s jams. Grab a drink and you’re likely hear a plethora of independent Hip Hop, classic 90′s cuts, and a diverse selection of soul and funk. The man behind the music, and the vibe is DJ Castle. He’s been holding down AliveOne’s back room for nearly 6 years, and on the low, is one of the city’s most talented DJ’s. He’s been a guest of Digital Freshness many times dating back to the Lava Lounge days, and will join us tonight for Record Collection at Beauty Bar.
Get to know DJ Castle in our latest Record Collection interview. And see him tonight at Beauty Bar 1444 W. Chicago Ave. 10pm-2am. No cover.
RubyHornet: Let’s start with your start? Where are you from, do you remember your early introduction to music, and your relationship with the art?
Castle: I’m originally from Chicago, bounced around the suburbs and north side for a while and landed in Humboldt Park. I’ve been introduced to different types of music by different folks all my life, but my earliest musical memory puts me in my dad’s station wagon waiting for him to pick up Pete’s Pizza and rewinding his Gladys Knight tape over and over. As for the art, and I assume we’re talking about DJing, I got started in that early as well- I bought my first pair of techs from a roller rink that went under when I was 16 after doing a bunch of gigs for two of my uncles (both DJs). I was rocking block parties and quinceñeras and such off of mini disc players and discmans and shit.
RubyHornet: What stuck out to you about records and DJing?
Castle: I was more interested in what the DJ was doing at parties than anything else, you know, moving the crowd and controlling the mood. More than that, I was always the kid who wanted to put people up on music, spending all my money on tapes and CDs. By the time I was 15, and my boy JayPee got turntables, I started buying records like crazy just to play at his house. His mom would let me in even if he wasn’t home just so I could practice scratching in his basement. It was pretty much a wrap after that. I’m still in love with the sound and feel of a good record.
RubyHornet: What do you love most about Hip Hop? What draws you to the artists you like the most?
Castle: I love all different types of music; funk, soul, jazz, disco, R&B, reggae, rock, you name it. I feel like Hip Hop has the ability to distill my favorite parts of other genres down to this powerful, immediately gratifying essence. I love jazz, but Hip Hop can take the most memorable part of a solo, cut through the journey there, and extend it forever. It’s almost too easy, but I love it. My favorite artists are the ones who keep it interesting, but always sound good. I don’t like when an artist is so consistent that it’s stagnant, but I like it even less when artists are so technical and ground breaking that it doesn’t please my ears anymore.
RubyHornet: You’ve been quietly holding down Alive One for a long time, what’s the key to your success there? How would you describe your Friday and Saturday nights?
Castle: It has been long, almost every Friday and Saturday for 6 years now! DJ Mental let me play there when I was still in high school and basically handed me that back room. He established the format where you could really play whatever you wanted as long as it was rooted in quality Hip Hop, and the managers and owner have always respected that. It’s nice when the whole staff is behind you when you’re rejecting Britney Spears requests, and even cooler when I can clear a room occasionally and nobody gets mad. It’s an eclectic funky party back there more often than not, and that’s a testament to the establishment, the regulars, and a bunch of word of mouth. I can’t remember making a flyer or Facebook invite for that place in 6 years. I tell friends when I’ll be there, and that’s about it.
RubyHornet: You also book DJ’s quite a bit, what do you look for in a DJ in bringing someone into your night?
Castle: I like DJs who don’t always play the obvious, and I’m definitely one to talk s**t if I’m out anywhere and the DJ can’t blend, so that should go without saying. Seriously though, if you can’t blend or slam records on beat you need to stay home… Unless you are a master selector playing the rarest gems known to vinyl or something like that. Basically I just book DJs who can rock a party without relying on top 40 and let them do their thing.
RubyHornet: You also have gotten into production, and I see your credits popping up more and more. Is that a strong pursuit, or more something for fun?
Castle: I’d love to have more time to produce music and work with artists, but for now it’s definitely on the side. Maybe one day though… That being said, I do have a few beats coming out on the new Roy Kinsey EP, some tracks I did for Sulaiman, and a couple with Bug$ Money, so watch out!
RubyHornet: You are working most closely with Sulaiman it appears. How would you describe him as an artist, and your relationship with him?
Castle: Man, Suli was a great rapper when I met him years ago and just keeps getting better. He’s got to be the most versatile MC in Chicago, and I’m trying to step my production game up just so he’ll rap on more of my beats. Him and the musical mastermind Mathien have a group called Local Nobodies, and the debut they’re about to drop is nuts. I just want to be their tour DJ when they’re doing stadiums in Japan.
RubyHornet: When you think of the Chicago DJ scene, what comes to mind? As a culture and as an community, how would you describe it?
Castle: It’s burgeoning, as is every DJ scene with the advent of all this accessible technology, but there’s still a good sense of community among the DJs who didn’t just pick up a laptop last week. Everyone I know and respect is pretty cool about sharing nights and doing it for the love of music. This Record Collection night is a prime example, as are folks like the Cutz on Cuts crew, who get it in with guest DJs every week on Ustream on that ill music and scratching tip.
RubyHornet: What’s your favorite part of being a DJ? What part do you put up with because you have to?
Castle: I love playing for an open minded, probably drunk, dancing crowd. When I’m flying through some of my favorite records and everyone is having a good time, there’s not much better. I often have to put up with appeasing the less open minded when I’m getting paid to do so, which is fine too, but that’s the “job” part of the job.
RubyHornet: Record Collection is all about digging into your own personal library of music, your “collection”. If given the chance to play anything you can, what is your number one vice or head-collection so to speak?
Castle: That’s tough, and depends on the night. I’m a sucker for old school R&B, and I love playing boogie and disco, but I get to do that any Friday and Saturday I want. I think I’d just like to be able to play a funk and soul 45 night without people requesting something completely different.
RubyHornet: Lastly, where can people see you, and what do you want someone to think of when they see DJ Castle on a flyer?
Castle: You can catch me at AliveOne on most Fridays and Saturdays, Angels & Kings on the 1st Thursdays of the month, and I’m starting a new monthly at The Bedford on December 14th. If someone sees my name on a flyer I’d like them to think of hearing something they haven’t heard in a while, plus something new, all blended tastefully with some DJ skills? I don’t know, mostly I just play things I like and hope the crowd agrees.