Welcome back, friends, to DJ of the week. This week's DJ is a multi-tasking party-starting fool, running DJ nights in many venues in many places all over town. Clifton (also known as DJ Soft Touch) does everything from 80s to hip-hop to soul to Brit pop and the catch is that he does all of it well! Oh and as you can see, he looks pretty damn good doing it. Let's meet him.
How did you get started DJ'ing?
I never had any intention of being a DJ. I was in a band that had a residency at a club and the club's DJ wouldn't start until he felt it was sufficiently crowded. I told him that people wouldn't show up and stay if there wasn't any music playing. I asked if it was ok for me to bring records and play until he was ready. That's how it started.
You DJ as a full time job. What are some of the challenges associated with doing that and what would you tell someone else thinking about quitting his or her job to start DJing full time?
The main challenge with full time DJ'ing is the money of course. There are always periods of feast then famine. Another challenge is constantly booking gigs. If anyone wants to DJ full time, they should save, save, save! You never know when the gigs will dry up. Also, be versatile. The more styles someone is fluent in, the more clubs and events they'll be able to play.
What do you think of Serato, DJing with Ipods, or DJing with computers? Does it matter?
I really don't have a problem with Serato or other computer programs. Its the music that matters not the medium. Having said that, I wish more laptop DJs would use higher quality files. There is definitely a noticeable difference between vinyl, CDs and low quality mp3s. I don't know about other people but crappy sound can ruin a night for me.
Tell us about the events you do on a regular. You do a lot–how are they different from each other?
I spin on the first Tuesday of the month w/ DJ Dia (Cafe Bleu/Bang/Underground/Super Soul Sundyas) at the Beauty Bar in Hollywood. We spin pretty much everything from 60s garage rock & soul, disco, 80s, britpop, indie/dance, hip hop. It really depends on our moods. My newest residency is Wednesdays at The Falls Lounge in downtown LA. My partner in the night is DJ Antwone from Bar 107's Ghettoblaster. We spin 60s/70s soul,funk and disco to boogie to contemporary soul and funk based music. Every Friday night, I'm a part of a Britpop/Indie Rock night called Club Underground at the Echo. Every Saturday is Funky Sole, where we focus on rare funk and soul records from the 60s and 70s and some newer funk records that are produced in that style. The current lineup is Miles, myself and DJ Chico on the patio.
What's the rarest record/tape you have?
I'm not sure how rare it is but I haven't heard anyone else play it so I'll say The Samurai's “Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer”. Its actually the B-side of a song called “Shu Shu”. Besides being a great song, its also notable because The Samurai were an early band of Tetsuo Yamauchi who later replaced Ronnie Lane in The Faces.
What song gets consistently the best reaction on the dance floor?
Depending on the night, the floor fillers vary. Two songs that I have noticed work every time are Blur's “Girls and Boys” at Club Underground and Lyn Collins “Rock Me Again And Again And Again And Again” at Funky Sole.
Why do you think some people get super judgmental on whether or not a DJ is using vinyl or serato or whatever? Why do you think the difference is or isn't important?
There are a multitude of reasons I've heard for hatred of Serato. Some reasons make sense and others seem like a fear of the new. There is the perception that Serato 'does everything for you'; that no real skills are needed to DJ with a computer program. That's not exactly true. The other criticism is that Serato and other programs make it too easy to obtain a collection and start DJ'ing. I agree. Because of these programs, any and everyone is a DJ now. A lot of them have no real respect for the music they play because its easily obtained. Many don't understand the work involved in carrying multiple crates full of records into and out of clubs, up/down stairs, etc. The care involved in picking out records for a night and then working with what you've brought rather than having thousands of choices at your fingertips. Also club patrons now view DJs as human jukeboxes more than ever. When they see a laptop, they assume you have whatever Top 40 hit they want at the moment. I could go on and on.
When you DJ, are you playing for yourself, the crowd, or both?
I definitely play for both. As noble as it sounds to just play for yourself, what good does it do if you completely alienate an audience with your selections? The flipside is what's the point of DJ'ing, if you're only going to play hits? You might as well let an iTunes playlist run. There's a happy medium between the two. I try to gain the crowd's trust with what I play and once I have it, I find they'll get into and dance to something new and unfamiliar.
What are your five favorite 45s, from any genre?
The Small Faces – “Tin Soldier”
The Samurai – “Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer”
El Shobey & Co – “Never Missed What You Got ('Til Its Gone)”
Claudete Soares – “Shirley Sexy”
Ray Charles – “I Don't Need No Doctor”
This list always changes though!
If you have an unlimited budget, which records would you buy?
Everything! Ha! If I had an unlimited budget, the first things I would want would be every Small Faces 45 from around the world in the original picture sleeves. All mint condition, of course!
What's the coolest record you've ever scored for under $2?
Hmmm. That's a tough one. I'd have to say Vernon Garrett's “You Blew My Mind”. I found it in a thrift store for a quarter. It's one of my favorites to play at Funky Sole.
You can see Clifton at work at the following places:
Tuesdays at the Beauty Bar in Hollywood alongside DJ Dia for Smash Hits
Wednesdays at The Falls Lounge with DJ Antwone for Hot Wax!
Fridays at the Echo for Club Underground
Saturdays at the Echo for Funky Sole