Lucas Talebli, aka DJ Haunta, has fans around the world and some 2,600 followers on his Soundcloud page.
Other DJs sample his dark brand of dubstep in their sets, and it really works on the dance floor.
Most of these people don't know he's 14.
Talebli is a high school freshman, and dubstep is his thing. Datsik and the artists on his Firepower Records label are favorites, but outside of that, Lucas' tastes veer largely towards the underground.
As influences and favorites, he lists a bunch of obscure acts he discovered through the online music community.
Check out how he got his DJ name. It's adorable.
"I went to this DJ name creation website that told me to choose a word and add an 'a' at the end," Talebli says. "My music is dark, and I wanted a name that fit with it."
Talebli lives with his mom Andrea Zito and his eleven-year-old brother in a condo out in the suburbs of Canyon Country, on the fringes of L.A. County. In the family's living room are two Deadmau5 style mau5heads, which Andrea made for her sons to wear as Halloween masks a few years back.
Lucas is cerebral, serious and well spoken. "He's never been like anyone else in his class," Andrea says. "Most of his friends are older than him, and they really respect him and his work."
Although his dad initially encouraged Talebli to become a lawyer, both of his parents are now supportive of his music career. (His mom proudly plays me a dubstep remix of Coldplay's "Clocks" that Lucas did when he was 12. "It's not representative of my work now!" Lucas yells from the kitchen. In any case, it's good.)
While he'll be releasing two EPs in the near future, Talebli has never played a live set or even been to a live show. He's too young to get into the clubs, obviously. (Though that doesn't stop all underage DJs.) But that will change when he plays Cobalt Café on December 7.
Outside of a few local DJs he works with, Talebli's community of peers and fans largely exists online. (He also produces more experimental music under the name Kingsh*t). He collaborates with artists in Europe and fields fan mail from around the world. (He notes that he gets too much of it now to respond to most messages individually!)
As far as high school goes, Lucas gets mostly B's and tries to finish all of his homework during the school day so he can focus on his music at home. "He does't really go out much," his mom says of her son's work ethic.
Lucas began writing computer code when he was ten years old and says he can now type faster than his typing teacher. (His mom also says he used the website Ning to create a social network site for his classmates -- when he was in kindergarten.) While Lucas dabbled in guitar and piano, he feels more natural on a computer.
One of the proudest moments of his career so far came when a song he posted on Soundcloud got a thousand plays in one night. "There were hundreds of comments," he says. "I read them all."
While Talebli would love to go on tour with a huge stage production à la Datsik, his primary goals are more pragmatic: to make enough money to support his family and one day, to also support a family of his own.
And although his music is moody and dark, Lucas says making such aggressive sounds is how he channels all of the negative stuff inside of him, which allows him to lead, he says, a positive lifestyle. "I'm not saying my music is negative though," he adds, "because it makes a lot of my fans happy."
Haunta plays an all ages show at the Cobalt Café on December 7.
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