Used with permission, interview by Rick Jamm, original post date December 5, 2018
- When did you start DJing – and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: I started DJing when breakdancing was in its prime, that would be around 25+ years ago. Around that time Techno was evolving. My influences at that time were Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Jeff Mills, Eddie Fowlkes, and especially Juan Atkins. Back then, it was the tempo, plus the different deep and dark sounds of Techno that drew me in.
- For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own style?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Yes, I can say that I have went through my phases. Specifically, with music, but with everything in general. Although the love of DJing was mixing music non-stop with anything that was at least 127bpm. I started off doing house at backyard parties, and I can even say I was not a stranger to playing music at a couple of weddings. All of that was considering that Top 50 music was played, I enjoyed it, it was an experience for me. But I KNEW House Music and ONLY House Music was my goal and through the years I have reached that point.
- What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you??
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Some of my main challenges were when I started, was trying to find exposure, mainly finding an establishment that catered to House Music, and building a following. I humbly knew of the talent I held, I just needed a devoted establishment where I could claim residence and share my talent, and it happened from there. DJing and producing music are totally different situations for me. DJing, which is my favorite, pertains to interacting with people whether playing a set or not and even networking with other great talents. For most, when producing music, you are confined and in deep thought, which is considered a good thing too.
- How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: In my opinion the job of the DJ is to entertain people to the fullest, make them have good memories, keep them talking and come back for more. As a DJ, you must connect with people on and off the dancefloor. There is a way to do it, the influence of the DJ is a positive appearance and attitude. Being positive to people, they will feel enlightened and comfortable enough to support you as an entertainer. I am pretty much known as an approachable person, with a great attitude. That goes hand in hand when everyone knows they are dancing to the music that I play.
- What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: My first DJ set-up consisted of two turntables and a couple of crates of vinyl records. Through the years my set-up has evolved to keep pace with the changing times of technology. I still have most of my vinyl, turntables, CDJs, laptop with the infamous Serato, everything is ready and available in my studio. I am totally a hands-on DJ when it comes to playing music. My turntables are the most important pieces of gear for me. Not only for that reason, as there are a lot of memories also.
- How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: When making use of technology when it concerns music, it is usually in the studio producing music. Technology offers so much that you would only need a few pieces of equipment to produce music, even less if you are just starting. As mentioned before, I am hands on so, pushing buttons and turning knobs gets me going. Technology has allowed humans to work more efficiently, be more productive at what they are aiming to do. Machines allow for more space, and smoother productivity.
- Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other – do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Oh God, I am the predictable and boring person, in this scenario LOL, Monday through Friday consists of me getting up between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. I am not really into breakfast that early, but never a morning without coffee. During the week it is basically work, home, eat, and repeat. With an occasional light edit in the evenings, to any tracks I am producing. Heavy track producing is usually reserved during the weekends to avoid interruptions. But being from the big inner city I tend to blend life and creativity together. My interactions with people or how I felt on a day can influence my view musically. I tend to blend them seamlessly, I am a good example of person that can fuse negative energy into something positive through music. It has happened numerous times with DJing.
- Let’s say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: I would have to say, being used to holding a residency at a club/bar, it was not rare for me to play the same rotation of music for a few weeks, with a steady rotation of new tracks. There are always a few tracks that the audience will REALLY respond to and will be ecstatic if you played it the following weekend. But if I had a gig tonight, my tracks would have been prepared a month in advance usually. New tracks are reviewed constantly to know where the breaks and/or the music changes. When opening a set, it’s usually downtempo House Music, with a constant buildup of tempo towards “peak time”. After reaching peak time, I usually stay that level until the very end. With the last few tracks being very down tempo.
- Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter this state more easily?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Now this is a great question, it may be my favorite so far! My state of mind is that I am constantly vibing with the people on the dancefloor. You must mentally place yourself in the audience’s perspective and ask yourself, what do you want to hear next, and how do you want to hear it? With people dancing and are really into the music would feed this state of mind, especially when they respond and/or approve of the next song blending in. Although, if they approve of the music and are having a great time, there are those that are not too fond of a floor full of people looking at me play music. I respond progressively to dancers. Sometimes people wanting to make requests are obvious distractions, someone wanting to use the mic and has no approval. Otherwise, I have very few issues with distractions.
- What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: The next track I play solely depends on their reaction to a track that is currently being played, consistency is the key. The next track that is mixed in must have as much energy as the current, if not more. I never plan a set, the tracks I play are usually impromptu. I play according to the mood of the audience, when in doubt a classic track will help.
- Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: I can honestly say yes to that, as I have answered this in the previous question. Not to be judgmental on what another DJ does, but if he or she satisfies his or her audience, in my opinion a skilled DJ can play on the fly. When you pre-plan your sets I feel that you cannot get into a state of mind and feel your audience out.
- How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Playing music at home is compared to dress rehearsal, for me. Playing the songs in its entirety and finding where the parts to mix in, would prepare myself for a flawless performance once played in a club. Once familiarized at home, I can play the track at the club, only to constantly feed my state of mind with audience to boot and add effects where I want too.
- How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: That relationship I would say is close knit. One good example of this is, I know what people want to hear when they show up for one of my sets. When shopping for music, I meticulously pick out my music and certain mixes of those songs. I do not just pick a song because it’s popular. If I know the track is guaranteed to keep people on the dance floor, then it is in my playlist. Having consistent tracks in that manner, during a performance, you will always fulfill the expectations and desires of not only your main followers, but new ones also.
- Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: I am typically known to play up-tempo tracks during a performance. What marks the end of a DJ performance for me is that the last few songs I would play would be a laid-back jazzy type of House Music. It is my signal to say its winding down, and almost over. I am not sure if this answers the question, but the most satisfying conclusion to a set is when people hang around just to say how great the set was, and how much they have enjoyed themselves. This type of feedback means a lot to me, as I carry that on to the next performance!
15 Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Being that I am from Detroit, and I have witnessed how actual art and Techno can go hand in hand seamlessly. No matter what genre of House Music there may be, I consider it an art because it takes talent to create it. But it is the DJ who is the artist, to present all the art in front of an audience to enjoy.
- Tell us something about your most successful remixing and producing experiences? What do you enjoy most about these crafts?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Well, I would have to say that two tracks that I produced for Martone, entered in to the top 10 iTunes Fitness and Workout Charts with Love You I Do Auoo Extreme’s Deep Love Remix at # 5, and Groove Tonight Extreme’s Late-Night Remix at #9 in the same week. But I would have to say that my most successful remixing experience would be with Clayton Morgan’s track Taste For Love. It went #1 on iTunes Canada Electronic Dance Chart shortly after being released, working with Clayton is rewarding. But to top the charts with him is an experience, as we are looking forward to more similar goal setting in the future. Producing music to me is compared to an introvert that huddles and reads a book to get away. Well, I like to be in the studio creating beats and adding melodies. Sometimes it is like the getaway from the real world, and that is what I enjoy the most.
- How strict are you with genres? Are you comfortable working with most styles and what is your preferred EDM style?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: When I was first evolving into this culture, I knew what genre I wanted to play and be known for playing. Not being known that well, I had to cater to the general genre of the establishment I was working in. Whether it be Progressive House, Disco, etc. it was not until I was known there, then I could play what I wanted, usually. But times and years have changed now. I am known for playing a certain type of House Music. I am comfortable with most styles, I am strict with my genre solely for my followers. Although I may throw in a couple “off” genre tracks to kick it up a notch. My favorite EDM style would be Garage House Music! It is a very uplifting style of music and love the history of it!
- What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Not only do I love working with music, because music is my life. But the most rewarding thing about what I do is meeting all the great people this culture has to offer. Whether it be meeting people from my performances or networking with people in the industry. Interaction is important to me and the most rewarding.
- Of the music you have released thus far, what are you most proud of and why?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: I have a few releases that would tie in this category. But I would honestly say that my current release (remix), Clayton Morgan – The Beat Is Calling Me (Extreme’s Deep N Soulful Remix) would be the one I’m most proud of. For the simple fact that I went up and beyond my style of music and put together a smooth track to go with his seamless vocals. Doing my part to make it to #1 again!!
- What are your future goals for the New Year?
Marvin DJ Extreme Detroit Hairston: Aside of seeking more gigs, my goals for 2019 is making my bond with Enotram Records stronger. We have ultimate goals and with the CEO Martone, he will make sure that happens.