Growing up in an environment where many were making risky choices, Bay Area DJ Alex Mendez, aka Audio1, credits DJing with saving his life."I could have been out on the streets doing crazy things, but instead I was either at a record store buying records or at home learning how to mix them together," he says. Two decades later, the open-format DJ still uses the same pair of Technics 1200s he did when he started his career. With numerous residencies across the Bay, including House Nation Saturday nights on 99.7 NOW, he recently made the leap to pursue his musical career full-time. We spoke with Audio1 about choosing his passion, underrated genres, and his pick for song of the summer. He plays Saturday, May 31, at Mr. Smith's for his monthly residency.
Tell us about the first gig you ever had.
This was around 1996. It was a frat party at Cal State Hayward. I was tagging along with some friends who ran a mobile DJ crew, AIM 2 PLEEZ. I helped them set up the turntables, mixer, speakers, and lights. At one point, they were like, "Yeah, we're going to talk to some girls. It's on you bro." Oh my god, my heart was racing. I barely knew how to beat-match records together, but I got it done. I would prepare the records, turn around and pick out more records, and they would come around and change the pitch on the turntables. They taught me to always pay attention to the mix.
You recently left the nine-to-five job to pursue full-time DJing. What were some of your initial feelings going into it?
For a good part of my adult life, I worked a full-time career and also DJ'd as well. I'm turning 35 this year. I'm not getting any younger, and I've always wanted to dedicate all my time into my DJing, music, promoting, marketing, and developing myself as a DJ and producer. I was a bit scared at the uncertainty. I had a long talk with my mother about it, and in the end, she said that if I feel it in my gut, to pursue my dreams. Get busy living or get busy dying. One of the best decisions I have ever made.
What are some obstacles you didn't anticipate encountering?
For the most part, it's been financial obstacles. I've had to tighten up my wallet and make sure bills are paid first before anything else. DJing doesn't pay nearly as much as my career in technology did, but I know at the rate I am going, it's bound to surpass that sooner or later. I am blessed that a lot of the local DJ community, promoters and venue owners, believe in my talents. My calendar stays full and I am very happy to be making an honest living as a DJ. I should have done it sooner. Investing in yourself is the only way to find out.
You're an open format DJ, and have never really settled for just one genre. How does your recent "JAMMIES V1" mix reflect that?
With "JAMMIES" I took it back to my roots as a DJ. Hip-hop and rap music. Getting on two turntables, a mixer, and hitting record. I'm simply capturing the spur of the moment, live, off the top, freestyle-type mixing. It isn't the cleanest mix, but it wasn't meant to be that way. For me, it's about creating a vibe and playing songs I truly like. Around these parts, I often am labeled an "EDM" DJ, since I spend a lot of time playing dance music, but in reality, I play a wide variety of music genres and scenes. I love music. I can't be contained to one genre. One night you may find me playing at a local S.F. bottle service venue, the next I am playing '80s/'90s music at Butter, then playing Motown on Mondays in Oakland or Return of the Boom Zap in the South Bay. The sky is the limit with music in my opinion.
The term "EDM" has really become an umbrella term for dance music in general. Why do you think the term has taken on a bad rep in some DJ communities?
In all honesty, I hate the term "EDM, Electronic Dance Music." It's a corporate term. A few people with a lot of money found a way to cash in on America's appetite for cheesy dance music, and they've won. There are millions of gullible young adults paying outrageous prices to see the same DJs and acts at corporate sponsored festivals, all playing the same music. "Look Ma, rave music, brought to you by Samsung!" I just call it dance music and keep it specific to the genres; whether it's deep house, U.K. garage, techno, electro, dubstep, trap, moombahton, or drum 'n' bass. I am not one to cut everything down into a simple term. It can be disrespectful in many ways. Unfortunately not many people see it that way, and that's why I love to keep my musical options open at all times. This "EDM" trend won't last forever, and the signs of wear are starting to show. Only time will tell. Refer to SNL's latest spoof on EDM. Props to DJ Sam F who is a local Bay Area DJ/producer, who made the original track "Turned Up To Death."
What's a genre that you think is underrated?
Believe it or not, I still believe that moombahton is underrated. It's one of the genres I still have a lot of fun playing out, and a lot of super popular dance music these days is within 100-110 BPM range. Some people are quick to say that the genre died, or that it didn't blow up, but I guarantee you play one track in the club, and it still gets them moving. I see it all the time. Things change a lot in dance music on the daily. Hundreds of tracks are released every single day. It's hard to keep up and easy for certain genres to get lost in the popularity shuffle. Moombahton to me still continues to be the one genre that still packs a mean punch, plus ladies love the rhythms.
You're also known for putting together edits packages for fellow DJs. What gave you the idea to do so?
I began sending edit packs in 2007 as a way to promote myself as a DJ. It's opened a lot of doors and plenty of opportunities for me to DJ, travel, and meet amazing people all over the world. The moment I got positive feedback emails from big DJs such as Vice and Diplo, I knew I was onto something. I make the edits for my own sets to have my unique sound in the clubs, but I share them with the world. Sharing is caring.
What's currently your favorite jam to drop in the club?
"Jealous" by Chromeo. Expect to hear that all summer.