by Gabriella DePinho, News Editor
After seeing an Instagram story by Alex Nieves, host of WRCM’s CREW (Crediting Rappers Everywhere) radio show, I got in touch with him and quickly arranged for me to head down to the radio studio the night of his next show. Nieves had been advertising that Christian Roodal, a shortly graduating senior, who goes by the name DJ ROODZ would be DJing his show the night of April 8.
Nieves’ show, a two-hour block on Monday nights, started and he and I hung out, listening to DJ ROODZ spin, mashup and work in requests from student government representatives. A little over halfway into the set, Roodal faded the music out and Nieves and I did an on-air interview with him. For those of you who follow Rock The Quad, you would know that this is a first time collaboration between this column and WRCM but hopefully, this won’t be the last.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Some slight radio talk show banter was edited out.
Alex Nieves: All right everybody. So we’re live. I have DJ Roodz. You were just hearing his set. Christian, how you doing, man?
Christian Roodal: I’m good. How you doing?
AN: I’m doing good. Gabs, you were mentioning Tiny Desk Concert. So how close is this to a Tiny Desk Concert?
The Quadrangle: Probably the closest we’re gonna get.
CR: I don’t know. This is a pretty sizable desk. I imagine heard that the NPR Tiny Desk is actually like a normal-sized desk. And I’m kind of like I have trust issues.
AN: We haven’t had too many live shows, and so you guys don’t actually see what’s going on here, but we actually got a speaker here and then everyone’s kind of vibing out. And it’s amazing. I love everything that’s going on here. If you have any of your own questions as well they go back and forth, I say shoot you know a hundred percent
TQ: My first question is how did you get into deejaying? How did we get here?
CR: How did we get here? So I got in my car … Music has always been a really big part of my life. I grew up, my parents exposed me to everything under the sun. I grew up listening to a lot of Motown, a lot of jazz, a lot of alternative and classic rock. So music was always kind of prevalent. I started playing the saxophone, guitar, bass drums, steel drums and then going into college and then kind of I guess at the end of high school I just kind of picked up deejaying and it just kind of happened. Going into college I was like, “Oh my God, I can do this for money.” Since then I got these turntables – these actually are my first vinyl turntables – but I learned how to deejay on CDs. And it was exhausting really.
AN: What was that like? How is it different from here?
CR: So each CD, I had to burn doubles of it. They would have like 15 songs on it usually, and they would be called like pop one, pop two, then pop three and then I would have a big binder and literally an Excel spreadsheet with all the songs, the BBM or tempo, and the key and I would literally like control f, find the next song I needed, go find the CD, pop it in, scroll to the right thing and then like mix that track and then I realized you could also deejay with the computer. I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t have to do this.” So I did that, and then as I kind of got into it, I started out doing school dances, Sweet Sixteens, maybe one or two bar gigs until I kind of got lucky started meeting the right people and I got put onto a bar circuit up in Rockland. Now I’m on another bar circuit down in the city – mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn – and that’s kind of how I just kind of ended up in it. I do want to say I ended up in music but I just ended up in deejaying specifically.
TQ: So when you’re like making mixes do you incorporate what you learned with all those instruments or anything?
CR: Definitely. So I love deejaying because it’s as much creation as it is curation. I am working with other people’s products, so it’s very fun to kind of manipulate that in a way that I interpret to be logical and then kind of see if a crowd would interpret it the same way. I mean hip hop is also rooted in jazz, but a lot of deejaying has I feel like has those kind of improvisational elements that make it so fun and unique and interesting. You can take a solo forever on jazz a tune with whatever one instrument you have, but you’re kind of limited to the capabilities of that one instrument. Out here I can play with like songs that have the same samples or wordplay or tone play or hopping across genres or hopping across eras. There’s so much I can kind of work with, and yet it’s still kind of fits in those musical frameworks I guess.
AN: What attracted you to come on the show?
CR: So I started MC in 2013, and at that time WRCM had just kind of died again. There’s a long long history of it and it had literally died like the me before I came in. We tried to bring it back again in 2014. It died out again very quickly. When I heard you guys had brought it back, I was like “Wow, you know this is really my last this my last lap at MC.” I’m graduating in May. I’ve always been so drawn to the energy and the space. Playing on WRCM has been on my bucket list since I got to MC. It’s come full circle. I feel so validated.
AN: Did you plan the setlist that you’ve been doing for us? I know there have been some song recommendations here and there but how much of this is on the fly and how much of this are in your head?
CR: So two answers to that question. My general answer is that for a gig, none of it is preplanned. I do have routines I’ll go through like mixing that that old Kanye new Kanye acapella into “Gold Digger” because it’s wordplay. Or the “Where Brooklyn At” into “Juicy” like those are little things that I always have in my back pocket that I know I can kind of fall back on. But 99 percent of my gigs are 100 percent off the cuff. The one percent would be like I started deejaying and light house music and techno and disco so most of those sets are like an hour to 90 minutes and I would plan anything from my first four songs, my first half of the set and then see where it goes because I have such limited time and I know there’s a direction I want to take and I know there are certain things I want to do with certain tracks. For this one, specifically, I think that I kind of wanted to take the best of me and get an opportunity to showcase some of my favorite routines. So a good amount of it was very casually planned … I kind of loosely sketched out a set. But once we got maybe like 20 minutes it just became mostly off the cuff. it’s a flow state.
TQ: What’s the process like when you’re trying to come up with new flows or are they trying to find new tracks incorporate? How do you figure that out and how do you start messing around with that?
CR: Some of it is planned, like I was talking to somebody at MC today but we were saying oh you know that old town road song came out and it’s trending but I was like I watch every Dj flip “Old Town Road” into “Pony” because it’s kind of a wordplay thing. It’s pulled from kind of what’s around me. In terms of building my library some of it – a good bit of it – is watching the charts and seeing what’s hot on the record pool and seeing who’s remixing what and what sounds better than what. Part of it is you know my own work like the “Slide” remix I played earlier on, that’s one of mine. I was building that remix for set before in February. So I’m like “Okay, I want to do an old school remix of “Slide”” and that kind of came into its own in its own little process but sometimes things just happen. I’m going to quote a deejay I interviewed because I blog about music and music culture and deejay culture and he’s like you know it’s not like I’m a mad scientist sitting in a lab with a bunch of index cards to figure it out. It’s not like that. Sometimes it gets like that though. I spend like a good two hours a day trying to figure out how to make “Old Town Road” and “Pony” work as I thought of it as a joke How can this actually work? How can we get this to make harmonically happen? So there’s a little bit of mad scientist in here.
AN: If there’s anything else if there’s anything you want to plug right now go for it.
CR:Yeah I’ll go for a couple of quotes and shout out plugs first my Instagram Facebook and Twitter are at DJ Roodz. My website is djroodz.com. All of my remixes go there, all my blog posts go there, all my calendar stuff, my about me, my press kit, everything is there.
Alexander Nieves contributed to reporting.