The Eclectic Selector: DJ Laroj
Roger Campos aka DJ Laroj is one of the more popular and well-respected DJs currently spinning around L.A. A longtime resident at Funkmosphere, a weekly funk throw down in Culver City hosted by Stones Throw recording artist, Dam-Funk, Laroj also plays lead guitar for the film soundtrack-inspired indie psych band Papillon. Recently crossfadr dropped by Laroj’s Silverlake pad, and sitting amidst a pair of Technics 1200s, various DJ bags, and some towering stacks of records, we talked about DJing, Funkmosphere, vinyl, and modern funk among other things.
crossfadr: How did you get started DJing?
Laroj: I’ve always had a record collection and I think I started really taking it seriously when I moved to LA and I started to feel like ‘Wow I have such a large collection maybe I should learn to DJ.’ I didn’t have this overnight epiphany. It was just that I familiarized myself with certain genres and so I wanted to tell my own story, play records that I liked, play records that I thought people might be turned on to, and just create a vibe.
crossfadr: What do you mean by ‘Tell your own story?’
Laroj: DJing to me, I start to discover new things about a record that I’ve heard many times. There’s a lot you can do with playing records and I feel like it may be another way of playing an instrument. Since I’m a guitar player first and foremost I notice I tend to play albums that have a lot of drums and bass and I try to experiment with that. I use it as a vehicle to express another side of my sound. I think it’s my way of learning to play another instrument other than guitar.
crossfadr: Talk to me about Funkmosphere.
Laroj: Funkmosphere is in Culver City at a place called Carbon. I’ve been a resident there for about five years. It’s hosted and founded by Dam-Funk and it’s a great party. It’s probably one of the only nights you’ll hear that type of music on a weekly basis. In SF there’s another night called Sweater Funk that’s influenced by Funkmosphere.
crossfadr: What are some of the genres you spin at Funkmosphere?
Laroj: Modern funk from the late ‘70s to early ‘80s.
crossfadr: What defines modern funk?
Laroj: It’s funk with synthesizers and a mixture of drum machine and live drums.
crossfadr: Who are some of the key artists?
Laroj: I like to drop a lot of Slave, Steve Arrington, some Ray Parker Jr. and Radio, Luther Vandross, a lot of the mainstream artists like Tina Marie.
crossfadr: Ever have live acts?
Laroj: Occasionally. Dam-Funk has done it, he’s plugged in his synthesizer and vocoder and he’ll play to a backing track of one of his song and it’ll be what you consider a live PA performance. We’ve had other artists just plug into the DJ mixer and start performing on synths and drum machines. It’s pretty rare that we do that but when we do, people just go nuts. It’s like having that live element in such a small hole-in-the-wall club, you really feel like you’re getting something special.
crossfadr: What other genres do you spin?
Laroj: I’m really interested in everything. I’ve been getting into a lot of psych rock and glam rock lately. Another genre I’ve been really getting into is soundtracks but I think that’s a little bit more cerebral and maybe it’s about just enjoying it rather than playing it out. But I do like Ennio Morricone.
crossfadr: Are you a vinyl purist?
Laroj: I’m not a vinyl purist but I do prefer vinyl because it’s tangible, the sound quality is a lot better and I’m just a vinyl junkie.
crossfadr: How do you feel about Serato?
Laroj: I like to consider myself an all vinyl guy but lately I have been experimenting with Traktor, which is the equivalent of Serato. I use it because some gigs require that I have a really huge catalog and maybe some gigs will require me to have songs that I would never, ever wanna purchase. So I use it as a tool.
crossfadr: Do you beat match or key match?
Laroj: I have fun with beat matching but I would say selecting is my favorite tool. But I did learn how to beat match by watching DJs like Dam Funk and Billy Goods. They really inspired me to learn how to use all the bells and whistles of the mixer. But I don’t really like to use the beat counter because I think that sometimes it takes away from the actual feeling of the record. If you’re concentrated on just numbers then maybe that takes away from the soul or the intention of what you’re trying to do.
crossfadr: What are your other regular nights right now?
Laroj: Every Saturday at the Bigfoot Lodge, that night’s called Cabin Fever. It’s been going for a year now and it’s been consistent. It encompasses more garage and psych rock with a little post-punk and ‘80s thrown in. I think the ‘80s are definitely something that can be done and not so nostalgically. You can play a lot of ‘80s that’s not so radio friendly and I try to play some tasteful ‘80s.
crossfadr: Name the five tracks that define you as a DJ.
Laroj: “The Glow of Love” by Change, it’s sung by Luther Vandross; “Loaded” by Primal Scream; “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones; “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” by Ennio Morricone; and “Blowing Up My Mind” by The Exciters.
crossfadr: What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a DJ?
Laroj: Go to a record store, pick out some albums, get into real vinyl. I think it’s about discovering music with your fingertips rather than on a computer. Explore the aisles and the bins, discover music you’ve never heard before and make it an adventure rather than typing in and doing a search to find music. I think that you’ll be a better DJ once you have that experience of actually working to find something instead of typing a search.