Talking with Walker & Royce: DJing in Dorms and Libraries (Part 1)

February 5, 2015 -


Sam Walker and Gavin Royce have a lot to say. And what they say is poignant. I spoke with the Brooklyn-based duo in New York, reminiscing on house music and starting out as DJs. Here's the first half of our conversation:

Batch: What advice would you give to your younger selves about DJing?

Gavin Royce: I thought this was a puff piece!

Sam Walker: I would tell myself to start listening to certain music.

Gavin Royce: I would tell myself to have an open mind about what DJing actually is, and in the endgame what moves the dancefloor. When I started DJing, I was very focused on the underground, and then something that I think has helped me throughout my years of DJing: I was forced to do different kinds of gigs, and what that did was let me see what works on the dancefloor, and how I can reapply that to underground DJing. I would tell myself to be more open minded about the types of music and why people like different types of music.

Batch: How old were you guys when you first got into the music culture?

Gavin Royce: I was way younger. My family’s from England, and when I was about 12 years old I got my first rave tape. And it was like this jungle tape with an MC over it, and I used to listen to that wearing Adidas jumpsuits and call myself a raver even though I had never been to a rave. However, I really got immersed into it at 19. I think I started going to raves properly when I was 17, and then by the time I was 19 I was actually involved in the scene; in the sense that now I know people, I was interning for Deep Dish’s record label. I was involved.

Sam Walker: I wasn’t ever really into dance until I discovered the Mortal Kombat soundtrack. As cheesy as it sounds, that was the point of entry for me. And then the kind of music I could listen to and play videogames to open the door. That’s what got me into the scene in ’96. The first concert I went to was Fatboy Slim when I was 18. There were no drugs, no alcohol… I mean, I started drinking when I was 19, and everything else came later. Then I realized, “that’s what this is really like.” It puts you in touch with everything. And then once you’ve done that you kinda want to step away—you don’t have to do it—you’ve opened up a door in your mind. You don’t need to do that to keep opening it. But I think it really helps to have that first experience to know what it’s like.

Batch: Who were your biggest inspirations?

Gavin Royce: What really focused me on the house sound was Doc Martin. He was a famous DJ from LA. I heard him play a six-hour set when I was about 20, and from that moment on I considered myself to be a househead. It was a pivotal moment in my life where I realized, “okay, I’ve been listening to drum and bass, I’ve been listening to trance, I’ve been listening to progressive house, I’ve been listening to techno, and now I’m officially a househead.” It was the defining moment. 1999. I was just like, this is it. A week later, I bought turntables. A week after that, I had about four records. I was trying to mix.

Sam Walker: For me, it was Sasha. Sasha and Digweed. It was the first time I realized that I wanted to do that.

Gavin Royce: I never really paid attention to DJing, and then he DJs, and I realized that’s what I needed to do in my life.

Batch: How did you teach yourself the technical skills of DJing?

Gavin Royce: Vinyl, and lots and lots and lots of practicing. Literally four hours a day of practicing. I had college roommates that hated me, because I had bought turntables and I had a whole bunch of records. I would literally come home after class and play for four or five hours… with the same records every day. At the time, that was all I had. It was pre-MP3s. There were CDs, but I didn’t have CDJs. I was beatmatching with vinyl, and I only had about thirteen records. I was born and raised in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington DC. I went to university in North Carolina at Wingate University. I used to drag people to raves when I was 18, in random towns like Greensboro, needless to say it was a strange experience for everyone I think

Sam Walker: I figured out how to beatmatch on the library turntables. I brought a CD with me to the library and brought two pairs of headphones—they didn’t even have a mixer—I used the turntable that you would use to sample the records for music class. I wanted to figure out how to do it, so I brought over a Discman and I just pressed play, then I would try to sync up the records. And then after that I got a pair of turntables and I figured it all out.

Keep up with the guys here.

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