Hillcrest is For Record Shopping

 

Vinyl records are a medium that is, technologically, considered outdated. Even so, they have been making a comeback in the last few years, and are now trendy. There is something about owning a physical copy of one’s favorite music that seems to make it more personal and meaningful, a feeling that a person can’t really get with streaming or digital platforms. Sure, records can be pricey, and aren’t convenient if you’re on the go, but that might be a positive. It’s a positive because records force you to spend quality time with them. Listening to music becomes a process; you have to open the sleeve, pull the record out while being mindful of not touching the grooves (which can compromise the sound), place it on the mat, find the right RPM, and finally, place the needle, sit back and listen. That is certainly more involved than just clicking play, right? In any case, if you’re new to records or already have a well rounded collection, here is a short list of great record shops in Hillcrest for you to enjoy. If you stop by, I’m sure you could get the shop owners to tell you why they think vinyl is better. 

Record City

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Record City is my go to place for records, especially on Record Store Day. They have a large collection that is pretty neat and is organized by genre. They have plenty of records in every catagory, and you can find some pretty rare gems for as little as a buck. This store has a great oldies/blues selection that you can browse through for hours, but they stay current too. They also have a pretty big selection of CDs and DVDs. Record City is right on 6th Avenue, waiting for you to check it out. 

 

M-Theory

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This store is located on the main street (Washington St.) that connects Hillcrest to Mission Hills. M-Theory has a really good collection of indie favorites, and they carry new music from underground bands that you may not be able to find at any other record store. But, like Record City, they have a great selection in all genres. Plus, they occasionally have in-store performances.

Taang!

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Click image to view source.

Unlike the rest, Taang! is actually its own record label, operating in San Diego. Located on 5th Avenue in Hillcrest, Taang! is much smaller than the other two shops. It’s usually not as organized, however, this makes you dig around, which can lead to surprising (and fun) discoveries. Taang!’s specialty is definitely punk, but they also have a large selection of rap and hip-hop. 

Learning to DJ

This past Wednesday, I had the amazing opportunity to mix live for my radio show! Behind two decks, spinning songs, now feels naturally to me. Now, unfortunately, I didn’t have my usual set-up with me, so it wasn’t my best run, but performing live for an audience is a feeling like no other.

Ask any dancer, singer, actor, or musician: it’s exhilarating.

Since a lot of people lately have been asking me about mixing, I figured I could break it down here.

Before we even touch the hardware, there’s one basic skill when it comes to DJ’ing, and that is beatmatching. You have to feel the rhythm of a song, before lining up the next one. Like the ever-so-talented Zach Efrron revealed, “I like to start them off at 122 bpm, before locking on their heartrate and bumping it up to 128”.

Something like that, that movie was lame as hell anyway.

Once you learn how to beatmatch, you’ll be able to phrase songs together. Sure you’re on the beat, but if you’re not lining up phrases, it won’t be as clean as it can be. You want sounds to enter when other sounds exit, ok?

Most music deals in Four-Four time, Four counts for Four beats. The most basic of songs follow this structure. Particularly in electronic music, everything is built by groups of fours. In house music especially, a new sound is added or subtracted every 16 beats, or some multiple of four/sixteen. Next time you’re listening to a song, start counting in your head four counts and repeating, and see what lines up.

Of course, not every single song ever made adheres to this. And that’s where it gets tricky, and what separates the Carl Cox’s from the Steve Aoki’s.

Once you nail those basic principals, you can focus on song selection. Anybody can play any song, but it’s how you play it, how you mix it, any personal flair you add, that really makes you stand out. Prove those kids wrong that say, “Oh DJ’s just press play.” They’re not even worth your breath arguing.

A mantra I’ve always lived by, is that “A good DJ plays the song you want to hear. A great DJ plays a song you didn’t know you wanted to hear”. I strive to surprise my listeners every time I get behind the decks. It keeps things fresh. But of course, everyone always has those “go-to” songs/song combinations/transitions.

Now you have your songs, you know how to mix them together, what do you mix with? You don’t even need a physical controller. There are a lot of similar DJ softwares out there, which all accomplish the same thing, and if you know the basics I mentioned, then you can fly behind any deck, real or virtual.

Here is a picture of my personal controller, which runs on Serato DJ (Serato DJ Intro is the free version).

 

I work with the Pioneer DDJ-SB “Portable 2-Channel Controller”. Behind the decks, I can control and cue up to two songs. I can mess with volumes, or even individual layers of songs to intermix the two songs together, for whatever desired effect I want. Sometimes you want to weave them in together over a stretch of time, other times you want to slam in a drop right on beat.

We’ve got effects too. FX let you get creative, and put your own personal flair on a song. You’re not always just pressing play! For example, a high Pass filters cut out any low portions to a song, and an echo FX will…well give you an echo.

I’m a huge fan of this mixer because of how versatile it was for the price. Retailing for around $200-$250, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of my DDJ-SB over the past year.

Of course there are bigger and better models out there, but they all accomplish the same basic principle. Four decks and fancier FX sure would be nice to work with.

And of course there is always the traditional vinyl route. DJ Snake spins vinyls (bet you didn’t know that), and is an artistic form in it’s own. Peep the grandmaster, A-Trak’s hashtag, #RealDJing to get an inside look of the lifestyle. There’s nothing sweeter than hearing some scratching and cutting in 2016.

DJing is a fun hobby to learn and a good skill to bust out at parties. Be more than just “an iPod”. Flex your musical knowledge, educate the crowd, take them on a journey. Who knows, maybe even one day you’ll be headlining the main stage to thousands of people, or the underground with a hundred people packed into a tight club.

Vinyl of the Week – Introduction

I don’t know if you know this, but KCR is kind of a big deal. It’s been around since 1969, and was one of the premiere college radio stations in the nation. In its heyday, roughly 1975-1990, KCR received record service from dozens of major labels, as well as vinyl submissions from countless local bands. The albums would arrive at the station, DJs would listen to them, pick what they liked, and play it on their show. Some of it was music that eventually got picked up by mainstream stations and is still known and loved today, but much of it has faded away, never breaking the college radio circuit or simply going out of style.

When music shifted to primarily digital format, promotional records became promotional CDs. At KCR, like other radio stations, decades of vinyl albums got locked up and forgotten and clunky turntables put in storage to make room for new, more user-friendly methods of playing music on air.

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

(image via kcralumni.org)

What this means for us at KCR in 2014 is that there are a whole lot of vinyl records stored away, many virtually untouched since the year they were released. And I’ve been possessed by the Spirit of DJs Past to catalogue it all, making me KCR’s Head of Inventory.

There are over 15,000 vinyl albums in the collection. I’ve only scratched the surface cataloging them so far, but I’ve already found so much mind-blowingly amazing music that I can’t bear to keep it to myself. I want to tell you about it! But writing about music is like dancing about architecture, as the saying goes – it’s nearly impossible to evoke the characteristics of one form of art through another. So I’m not gonna try! What I’m gonna do in this weekly column, Vinyl of the Week, is tell you about the neat albums that I find and why they’re so neat. I’m not a critic, I’m just a fan of old music and appreciator of vinyl. You can judge them for yourself – I’ll be linking a recording of each album I write about.

This column will be incredibly biased. I’m picking whatever albums I find and fall in love with to write about, so they’ll be specific to my taste. Lucky for you, I have good taste! Right now I’m mostly into ‘70s and ‘80s punk, so expect a lot of that. Albums that stand out to me from the collection are local records, rare records, valuable records, underrated records, records by bands that only released one album, and records that look particularly beat up (meaning well-loved!). Also, most of the records have comments from KCR DJs written on them from when they were first released. I’ll listen to anything that’s highly praised or fawned over (there were some ‘80s girls with a SERIOUS thing for Nick Cave). Some albums I choose will be somewhat well-known. Others may only have 100 copies in existence. Everything will be good.

I can’t wait to share all this great music with you! Check back every Wednesday for a new post.

Photo by Danielle Quinones

Photo by Danielle Quinones