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Laptop Jockeys' Mortal Enemy
Ron D Core has been deejaying the hardest electronic music for 22 years, operating (with his wife, Helen Liang) Dr. Freecloud's Record Shoppe for 13, and running his Atomic Hardcore label for 12. Time seemingly hasn't mellowed him out at all. His views slam as forcefully as the tracks he spins during his gigs, which occur mostly in out-of-town warehouses and one-off events about four times per month. He's had a massive impact on Southern California's rave scene and appeared in the 1999 documentary Better Living Through Circuitry.
I interviewed Core for last week's cover story about DJ formats, and he produced a great money quote. To get an idea of his vehement stance, check out this statement from his MySpace page: "Laptop deejaying is like watching a dog take a crap. . . . Real DJs spin vinyl!" The OC DJ vet has some other piquant thoughts that deserve airing, too.
OC Weekly:How is your business affected by the increase of downloading and the use of Serato among DJs?
Ron D Core: It's had a negative affect on the whole industry. It's put a lot of our colleagues out of business. Underground dance-music shops and even the major chain stores are victims of laptop/iPod/download/MP3/Serato-style DJs. It has taken a lot of the impetus out of record shopping, as opposed to Internet or download shopping now.
We've been in business long enough to know how to adapt. We've survived a lot of pitfalls in the industry and in the scene, due to format changes and the economy and changes in general. We've actually been buying more vinyl for the store—both new and used—as opposed to a year or two back, when that whole download style of deejaying was becoming more popular. We're catering more to the specialty market. We have a lot of people who appreciate actually going to a record store to get their stuff. Outlasting everybody has probably been our biggest asset. Little by little, sales are climbing.
House and trance are leaning toward fewer vinyl releases and going toward digital releases. On the other hand, the harder the music, the more the vinyl stays prominent. That applies to hardcore, drum & bass, hard techno, breakcore, even experimental to some extent. Ninety percent of our customers [in those genres] want vinyl. The more experimental the music is, the more people want vinyl. A lot of these releases come in limited pressings, and you see a lot of cool picture discs, colored vinyl, shaped vinyl, gatefold sleeves—a lot of effort is put into the vinyl [to make it collectible]. We've been promoting hard to that customer base.
Have you noticed any substantial changes in the DJ circuit over the past few years?
Yes. I still play vinyl only, but it's something I have to point out when I draw up my contract. I have to make sure there are turntables there, and I don't like playing after or before a laptop DJ. Basically, a guy has to go in front of you and behind you and unplug and plug in and do a test and check either before, during or after your set.
There are three kinds of DJs now: the laptop, the CDJs and vinyl DJs. I can't stand laptop DJs. The word "disc jockey" doesn't really apply to them. They're LJs—laptop jockeys.
People who play digital like to claim that people who play vinyl are dinosaurs. "Get out of the Stone Age and get with the future mentality," they say. Then there are people like us—purists. Sound quality versus accessibility and affordability. Vinyl is more expensive, but I would much rather own a Mercedes than a Yugo. I see the laptop DJ as purchasing Yugo-quality music. [A line so good, we're printing it a second time.] The files really aren't the highest grade. On vinyl or even on CD, you get a really nice bit rate. It's nice and punchy and loud. You can hear the difference, especially when you're playing in front of a big crowd.
I have more respect for vinyl DJs. It requires more skill to match beats, to scratch, to beat-juggle.
The funniest argument I hear is, "I have 100,000 songs at my fingertips." I like to say, "Are you playing for 15, 20 hours straight, or an hour set?" Why would you need 100,000 songs for an hour set? There's no way you can even make a nice mega-mix of 10-second edits and get it all in. It's overkill. Most good DJs can take roughly 20 records for an hour set. Frankie Bones can make a tiny stack of 23 records last for three hours. Why have more than you need? I own a record store, so obviously I'm biased, but regardless, there's nothing else like [vinyl]. I love the whole analog sound.
Ron says this last bit as if he were discussing a lover. Dude is strictly hardcore.
Dr. Freecloud's Record Shoppe, 18960 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 962-9787; www.drfreeclouds.com. The store carries underground electronic music, vinyl and CDs, DVDs, clothing, accessories, magazines, books, and art.