Expat Baltimore DJ gives a boost to Huntington Beach’s street cred
DJ Charles Feelgood’s mere presence makes Orange County a good 50 percent more legit.
How did you get started as a DJ?
I started in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., when electronic music—house, dance, industrial—first came around. I played some of the first raves on the East Coast. People there heard me, and I started going farther west, over to the West Coast. I started producing in 1991; I put out my first dance record that year. Back then, it was an anomaly because things were just getting started. Now it’s pretty commonplace for DJs to play and produce music at the same time.
What was it that brought you from Baltimore to Huntington Beach?
I always liked the beach lifestyle. I spent a lot of summers in Ocean City, Maryland. I grew up in a beach environment during my summers, even though we lived in the city. I first moved to LA, but it was a bit too over-the-top for me. I had some good friends there, so I thought, “I’ll give Huntington Beach a try.” That’s where I planted my roots. I had a son there; He was born in Irvine. I figured it was a nice place to raise my son.
Baltimore to LA to Huntington Beach: Was there any sort of culture shock for you?
Actually, no. I’ve spent the past 10 years traveling. I’m so accustomed to playing in California that it was a really easy transition.
The international aspect of your career must help.
Exactly. It doesn’t matter where I live.
So how do gigs in the States compare to a gig in Europe?
There’s definitely a difference. There are some really good parties and clubs in Southern California. But overseas, you’re never going to have someone come up to you and ask you for a hip-hop song. Dance music is more mainstream in Europe and Asia. There’s no question about what they want to hear when they come to the club. Sometimes I find, when I play here, that there are not a lot of purists.
As someone who has been in the dance-music scene so long, how do you see the state of DJ culture today?
It’s changed, especially from a technology standpoint. Not too many of us are playing records anymore. We’re using Serato and playing with CDs and all kinds of digital formats. It used to be only records. There’s also been a progression to both deejaying and producing music. There’s a lot more music today because there are a lot more bedroom producers and DJs. Technology has afforded that.
Technology must make the life of a traveling DJ easier.
Absolutely. It’s changed drastically. I can remember so many times flying to a city and losing my records. I’d end up in a local underground record store at 1 in the morning, picking out records and trying to find what to play. Now I bring my CDs on the plane, and they never get lost. And it’s a lot less weight and money. A domestic record was at least $5.99; MP3s are $1.99. And I probably get 20 to 30 records e-mailed to me daily from producers. I still have a huge storage container full of records. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.
Do you still run into vinyl elitists?
There are definitely vinyl-only people. I’d rather play records, but the problem is that a lot of labels aren’t producing records anymore. There’s a lot less cost involved. One thousand records cost $1,800 to $1,900. And you’ve got to ship them, and you’ve got to store them.
How do you describe the music you’re producing lately?
I use funky house or electro house. You’ve got to be like Madonna and keep up with the times. Right now, electro house, house and fidget house are really big. It’s very ’80s, very synth-y, but funky and grinding dance music.
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How is life on the road as a DJ?
I did a tour a couple of years ago with a full swing band and burlesque dancers. Being on tour like that is rough. I get on the plane, I get picked up, and someone carries my record bag to the hotel. I get to sit and chill till I play the show. Musicians on the road have it a lot tougher than me.